Opinion: Designers, Analysts Battle On Game Franchises

Following the recent Gamasutra news story summarizing the latest issue of Jason Kraft and Chris K...
Following the recent Gamasutra news story summarizing the latest issue of Jason Kraft and Chris Kwak's 'Video Game Journal' for the Susquehanna Financial Group, which asked the question, "What dooms a franchise?", and designer Tadhg Kelly's response to the piece, a number of other designers, as well as the original writers, have written Letters To The Editor weighing in on this intriguing question. Firstly, Midway designer Brian Freyermuth gives his response on the issue, noting, among other things, that: "First off, let's look at the first contention: "video games have largely been driven by developers' desire and consumers' appetite for greater realism." This is almost universally false. Games do not strive to be "realistic", they strive to be "believable" in the context of their own world." Freyermuth continues: "The second contention, and most dangerous for game companies to believe in, is the mind-numbing theory that "online play will lead franchises designed for a solitary experiences the way of the dodo." Do these men play games at all? Have they tracked games like Half-Life 2, Doom 3, Morrowind or Oblivion? These games either had weak online play or none at all, and they all sold 1 million+. Not to mention Knights of the Old Republic, Resident Evil 4... the list goes on and on. The single player story will not go away." In addition, game professional Phil O'Connor added his perspective, commenting: "I agree with Kelly's point of view on what kills a franchise except on one point. Subject matter doesn't exhaust itself as content for a franchise." He continues: "Subject matter like WWII has been a key inspiration for games of all kinds, long before Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, and will continue to be a popular subject long after the clone army has exausted itself. What makes these kinds of games trite over time is how close the come to each other, duplicating the exact same 'World War Two Themepark Thrill Ride' that increasingly begins to feel like a canned experience." Finally, the report's authors, Jason Kraft and Chris Kwak, also weigh in on Kelly's response, noting: "The Franchise Extinction issue of our Video Game Journal is focused principally on consoles. Therefore, Tadhg Kelly arguing that: "A 3D on-line 20-million-dollar-budget Nintendogs would be a disaster, for instance, because it violates the basic values of the brand (portable cuteness in your pocket), complicates the game massively (and alienates its target audience) while failing to define a new value proposition for itself" -- while interesting and convincing -- is not the scope of our most recent issue." The duo concludes: "We encourage readers to read the entire piece. You are welcome to a copy by emailing [email protected] As always, we encourage feedback. We do take them to heart. As we noted in the issue, "We acknowledge up front that the analysis we lay out in this report is merely one of many that could be put forward. It will no doubt be controversial for some.""

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