Last week, our esteemed panel took at look at videogame sequels. This week, with more than a little irony, we bring you the sequel to that piece.

imageJim Sterling
I think we differ on Silent Hill 3, as I found it narratively quite interesting as well as superior gameplay wise. As a more direct sequel to the first game, I think it beat its predecessor on both counts. I will add, however, that it's very nice to see someone else with respect for Silent Hill 4. Incredibly flawed, but I adore it for the creepy little game that it turned out to be. As to your point about becoming shackled to a property, I fear that may be where compromise is a necessary evil. I think some developers recognize that the best way to push bold new ideas is to dress their wolves up in wool and sneak them out to the public under a familiar name. It's not ideal, I know, but when has ideal ever been within easy reach?

At the very least, we still have the PC to save us when we want new IP that doesn't compromise. I highly recommend that you give E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy a go. It's becoming quite popular on Steam right now, and it's an absolutely perfect example of a new IP that just wouldn't appear anywhere else. While sequels are still craved on PC, it's still a wonderful atmosphere where new ideas can flourish. They don't all work, but bless that medium for the quirky wonders it can produce. Unfortunately, when it comes to the retail space, publishers just can't be quite so bold.

To continue the price discussion, I fully appreciate that there's an obstacle there, concerning the inferiority misconception. Unfortunately, that's not a mentality that will change while people do nothing about it. Again, I feel titles like Call of Duty is dominating while the games of Suda 51 and his eccentric ilk disappear without a trace. You simply cannot put a game like Shadows of the Damned on a store shelf for $60 and expect it to fly off the shelf. I'd love a world where it did fly off shelves, but that's not reality. You say it's risking its potential profit if it releases as a lower price. I'd say the risks are far greater when a publisher expects people to pay the same amount of money for Shadows of the Damned as they would for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Which one of those titles will gamers wait to see in the bargain bin? It won't be the one with random dragon spawns.

imageMovieBob
This kind of gets to the root of the problem, though, doesn't it? What exactly constitutes a sequel - as opposed to just something that's part of a franchise - in gaming, and is that lack of clarity what's causing some of the problem?

Look at the Call of Duty franchise. Hardcore CoD devotees and people who follow gaming news are aware that there's the Modern Warfare games, the pre-MW WWII games and the stuff that gets made in-between MW games now and that the style/quality/development doesn't follow a straight progression... but does the broader audience? Why is the new Mario Kart called Mario Kart 7 when it's neither the 7th game nor a direct continuation of the previous installment?

It's as though the problem is less about sequels and more about how the sequel designation gets used as an excuse to continue releasing the same basic game. I can understand the impetus for that to a certain degree - if I could get away with Activision's business model, you bet I'd do it. But it's possible that its taking away from the good things game sequels could otherwise do by association - at some point even the thickest consumer is going to get wise to this, and it's not going to be Call of Duty: It's The Russians Again that suffers for it.

As to pricing, I'd say we're LONG overdue for the whole pricing structure to get looked at. The fact that we even HAVE a uniform price-structure is laughable - this is the last form of retail where that still flies. I'm convinced that this, more than anything else, is what's making life hard for the 3DS - portable gaming jumped into digital distribution before consoles, and the effect is that people are MUCH less willing to drop $40 on a maybe. It's also hurting the perception of otherwise good games that don't deserve it. Off the top of my head, I'd call Epic Yarn and Donkey Kong Country Returns both pretty damn close to perfect in terms of what they are... yet I still recall feeling resentful at shelling out $50 for what are essentially SNES games, which isn't really fair to them.

What's messed up is, publishers HAVE to know that selling the right product at an individual unit loss can lead to turning a profit overall, particularly if you're realistic about your initial pressing. You KNOW that people have suggested this at board meetings for this or that game, but we never see it happen. Would it surprise ANYONE if it turned out that various publishing side bosses had a gentlemen's agreement going to make sure that this never happened, lest the whole house of cards topple over? With all the crap that goes down in this industry, would we even bat an eye at price fixing?

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