imageJim Sterling
Oh, of course publishers know. Did you know that John Riccitiello once said that the $60 pricing model was something that had to change within the next five years? He said that in 2007. Here we are, in 2011, and EA has its own service in Origin where it can set any price it wants ... and it's charging $60 for digital copies of games it could sell far cheaper, and probably should if it wants to compete with Steam. EA's own CEO said, four years ago, that prices needed to lower, and when the company had a chance to lower those prices, it didn't. In fact, since PC games are usually ten bucks cheaper, it actually brought prices up. That is some amazing compartmentalization right there.

This has happened twice, recently. Bethesda's Todd Howard said the average videogame price ought to be around $19 and Twisted Metal director David Jaffe said $60 was a "shit ton" of money to ask from a gamer. But are they reducing their own prices? Nope! According to them, their games are worth the $60. This is the issue right there -- developers and publishers who clearly know that the $60 average MSRP is too high, but are too proud to take the first step because they deserve to charge that much. No way anything's going to change with that kind of double think going on.

imageYahtzee Croshaw
I think pricing is a great topic, it just isn't our current one. So allow me to steer this wayward party boat back to port.

I guess my other problem with sequel culture is that it taints even original games. With the expectation that sequels could be on the cards, ensuring that everyone still has a job after the project's finished, there's a rather upsetting eagerness to not end games properly. Both Crysis and Crysis 2 end on disappointing cliffhangers to name but two. God of War 2 seems to decide at the very last minute to end on a cliffhanger and then God of War 3 realised too late that it didn't have enough plot to carry a whole game and just faffed around for six hours. The ending to any experience is the most important part of it, because it's the thing you take away and will remember the clearest. Even if you're not into game stories that much, tell me you've never been disappointed by reaching the end of a campaign and being told that you're not going to get any payoff just yet because they want to do a sequel (or, god help us, DLC). It's worth remembering that Star Wars: A New Hope, despite being left open for sequels, managed to have a self-contained story with a beginning, middle and end.

This is why I have tremendous respect for Sucker Punch for what they did with Infamous. Infamous had its own story but left a very clear sequel hook, and then Infamous 2 was exactly the sequel promised, which ended the story definitively with no further hints of continuation. Mind you, I wouldn't put it past Sony to hold out for a third one anyway. And then we'll end up with a Bioshock scenario where the unnecessary sequel even manages to taint the original retroactively by messily trying to turn a full-stop into a comma with a big fat permanent marker that isn't even the right colour.

I once jokingly suggested that all sequels should be banned. Perhaps that should be tried for a bit. It wouldn't solve every problem and It'd mean sacrificing the actually good sequels, but it'd definitely be an interesting few years.

Oh, absolutely - if I could, I'd make it a rule that you are NOT allowed to end on a "to be continued" without A.) Already knowing where its going and B.) Having a satisfactory initial payoff storywise.

I think a big problem with this is that serious gaming - whatever the fuck that is at this point - has sort of internalized the idea that because gameplay comes first even TALKING about story-quality is verboten. If a game has a bad story, you're dealing with a HUGE segment of gamers who don't care and another HUGE segment that would rather it didn't have a story at all - and thinks the very act of discussing it somehow taints the purity of the medium - versus a relatively small segment that likes narrative and wants it to be better.

imageJim Sterling
It's funny -- we hate on sequels a lot, and people complain about cliffhangers, as if they're a major problem that is holding videogames back, and then I consider the fact that I don't think I've read a single book in the past two years that has had a conclusive ending. They've all been part of a series, some of which run the risk of outliving their writers. I'm sure a fair few of them are better planned than videogames (they'd need to be, since story is all they have) but still, I think there's an automatic aversion people have to cliffhangers, like they are inherently a bad thing, which I disagree with. I'm pretty tolerant of them, and if it's a good cliffhanger, I'm all for it.

Sometimes a cliffhanger can be a satisfying payoff in its own right. Again, I bring in books, specifically the Song of Ice and Fire series. Some of those books end with cliffhangers so thoroughly intense that they are worthy endings in and of themselves. I don't think games have pulled those off quite yet, but I am sure they could. Infamous, as much as I felt the overall plot was lame, does come close. I wouldn't go so far as to ban all sequels, but a law that says you can't have one if you didn't write an impressive and satisfying sequel hook in the last game would definitely cause a few people to sit up straight and pay attention.

Again, I maintain that the problem is not so much sequels as it is the way sequel designation is used to market what are really glorified expansion packs.

We used to joke about Capcoms 50 million SFII revamps, but at least they didn't try to sell "Champion Edition" or "Turbo" as Street Fighter 3. Today, they could absolutely get away with that - Activision got away with it with Madden fans full price for a yearly roster update. Is it any wonder people groan at any "Part 2" title that doesn't come with the Valve/Miyamoto/whoever blessing at this point?

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