Gamers may not enjoy sequels to their favorite shooters, but they usually jump back on board for installment number three.
When a developer wants to make a sequel to a beloved game, the team has a very hard and thankless road ahead. No matter what you do, somebody's going to be quite unhappy - either it sucks because you changed something, it sucks because you didn't, or it just sucks because it was popular enough to warrant a sequel in the first place. For whatever reason, says Epic Games front-man Cliff(y B)leszinski, this is a mentality that is especially prevalent in fans of shooter games.
"For some reason in the shooter world, there's this thing about hating sequels," Bleszinski told OXM as part of a Gears of War 3 feature. "Everyone loved Halo and a lot players were like: 'Halo 2 sucked!' Everyone loves Counterstrike and then Source comes out, 'that sucks!' Quake 2, Gears 2, every single shooter...'"
Whether gamers dislike a given sequel or not, though, Bleszinski thinks they come around for the inevitable trilogy. "[Then] the third one is somehow the one where everyone's like: 'Oh, it's going to be a lot more like 1, remember you like 1, right?'"
The trouble, says Bleszinski, is that even if a game is superior to its predecessors, it can never live up to the memory and nostalgia of the first time through. "[You're] competing with the memory of your own success - which is a very difficult thing to do."
I'm not going to disagree with good ol' Cliffy here, really - but I think it goes beyond the shooter genre, doesn't it? Prince of Persia, Ace Attorney, Metal Gear Solid - there are plenty of series where the second game isn't as beloved as the first or third installments.
On the other hand, you could argue that it isn't just fan preference, either. A developer could try something new in a sequel that fans simply don't like - but by the third game, it has a sense of what worked and what didn't and is able to incorporate the best of both worlds.
It's an interesting argument either way, and I don't think you'll ever get a definitive answer. Gears 3 is out in fall 2011 following a recently-announced delay.