What if the video games industry was more like professional sports? Think about it; what if our favorite video game series and characters were able to be traded or drafted from one company to another? Imagine if Mario was playing for the Microsoft team, or if Master Chief suddenly became the iconic symbol of all things PlayStation. It sounds really crazy and is something that would never happen in this industry but it certainly is a fun thing to think about.
A lot of people complain that our industry is too dependant on sequels, especially games that fall into the dreaded annual-update cycle. Like it or not, sequels are an inevitability, especially when it comes to blockbuster titles. Companies are going to put there money in places where they feel it is “safest”, and behind a title that has already proven itself is one such place. The problems arise when the later installments end up becoming more of the same and fail to break new ground in the same manner that the original titles may have.
How do we prevent this monotony? How do we keep things fresh for future installments? Perhaps one way that we do it is to let someone else take the reigns on some of these titles. If you keep the same group(s) working in the same franchise over and over, that are going to start getting tunnel vision; the games end up becoming formulaic and repetitive. If you need proof that this idea could actually work, take a look around the industry and you will see that the concept isn’t as crazy as it sounded up above.
If you don’t think this would work, take a look at the manner in which Activision has handled the Call of Duty series over the past couple of years. Sure the game has become an annual release, and critics of the series argue that each installment is merely a minor update of the previous, but look a bit closer at the actual content and the sales numbers and I think that you will see things speaking for themselves. Each year over the past 7, Activision has done a very smart thing in flipping the series back and forth between Infinity War and Treyarch, the the series has been flourishing ever since.
Why has this method been so effective? I would argue that the biggest reasoning for the success has been the friendly-rivalry that has evolved between the two studios. At the end of the day, they are on the same team but you can’t tell me that each team doesn’t go into their development cycle with the intention of showing up the other’s previous release. There was a time when Call of Duty fans dreaded the hand off to Treyarch in the coming year, such as the year before World at War was released. Now, since the blockbuster Black Ops, they are waiting for it to be handed back.
If such a a system works so well for Activision and Call of Duty, why wouldn’t work for others? EA has started shopping the Need for Speed series around between a few different development houses and the results have been equally as impressive. Installments of the series have been coming from the likes of Criterion, Black Box, and Slightly Mad Studios, each looking to raise the bar of the development team before them. As a result, we have seen more frequent releases in the series, with each one being afresh take and bringing something completely new to the franchise.
Capcom is also toying with this concept. Ninja Theory has been given the reigns for the Devil May Cry series, a franchise that has traditionally been handled internally in the past. While we have yet to see the results of this partnership, we can say that what has been shown is refreshing and serves to inject a bit of life into a series that was growing stagnant. Though, you could also argue that Capcom can also serve as a symbol of how this concept can go wrong, such as handing the Resident Evil franchise over to Slant Six. Even though the final product (Operation Raccoon City) is less than stellar, it still turned some heads and brought a new angle to a traditional formula.
In a recent brainstorming session, the Gaming Nexus staff took this concept of new development houses taking control of different franchises to a different level: an intellectual property draft. What is a company took one of their beloved franchises, such as Halo or Grand Theft Auto, and put it out there for different development studios to take a shot at crafting a new installment in the series? Would you pay attention if Infinity Ward had control of Halo? What if Rocksteady hung up the batsuit and put on Iron-Man’s? Just thinking about the possibilities will spawn endless debates and intriguing discussions.
As it turns out, this is actually something that the collective Gaming Nexus staff did a few years back. In 2007, six members of the staff decided to actually test the theory of drafting franchises and held a mini-draft. Staffers John Yan, Charles Husemann, Dan Keener, Cyril Lachel along with then-staff members Ben Berry and Rachel Steiner took the time to run a mock draft, running through 6 separate rounds and laying claim to the series that they considered the most promising in the industry. The results were interesting to say the least, and you can find the two articles that ran on the site here
As interesting as that project turned out to be, the fact is that was 5 years ago. This is 2012 and a lot of things have changed in the world of gaming since then. We have seen a lot of new series introduced and rise to the top as well as numerous staples (at that time) fall to the wayside. Because of all of these changes, we figured that it was time to revisit the idea of a draft and run another one this year. Say hello to the 2012 Gaming Nexus IP Draft!
Beginning tomorrow morning, we are going to run a series of articles where a group of us will be flexing our creative muscles and taking theoretical chances with some of the industry’s biggest franchises. We are going to raise the bar a bit this year though and it won’t just be about picking our favorite IP’s. This time around, we will make our picks, try to give a little bit of insight to our thought processes, and pick apart everyone else’s throughout the next 4 days. It is all in fun and we have had a great time running through the process behind the scenes and hope that you will have just as much fun reading through the results.
Check back tomorrow as we run through the first and second rounds of the draft and see who actually has some fresh ideas for the industry’s most storied game series and who is just looking to make a quick buck!