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Should classic franchises be allowed to die? [roundtable]
 
Jeremy Parrish has an interesting blog post at USGamer.net covering a topic I've discussed a few times on this site in the past: Classic video game franchises and the default assumption that they should continue in perpetuity. He makes an argument similar to one I've made. Namely, a series doesn't have to keep going on and on forever. Those that have run their course should be fondly remembered, replayed and recommended to newcomers, sure, but don't need to be kept alive with new installments just for the sake of it.

He mentions the likes of Mega Man, Castlevania, and even Metroid as beloved series that he wouldn't mind being put out to pasture. That doesn't mean that what makes these games great needs to die as well. Games like Mighty No. 9 will continue the spirit of Mega Man, games like Axium Verge will continue the spirit of Metroid. But the characters and worlds of those games don't need to continue.

As you may have guessed, I agree full-heartedly. I want a new Metroid game from Nintendo as much as the next guy, but I want it because I like the way Nintendo makes those kinds of games, not because I need more adventures from Samus in her iconic ship. If Nintendo released something like Shadow Complex would the new style and setting make it less of a game? As Parrish says, it might make it even better because the developers will be free to break the mold of a franchise's staples in a way that they wouldn't feel comfortable in making a new Metroid game.

From Nintendo's perspective, I understand why they are quick to slap one of their IPs onto most of their new games. Brand recognition is important and all things created equal, Mario Paint Attack would likely outperform Splatoon. So I don't think we'll actually see franchises that are still money makers like Mario disappearing anytime soon. But a series like Metroid which was never a blockbuster and has had recent flops? It's a possibility (although I think they probably realize that a new Metroid can rejuvenate their base in a way that makes it worthwhile even if the sales aren't overwhelmingly strong).

I understand it from a fan's perspective, as well, but in the end I think it's coddling. Consumers these days seem to want to be kept in an artificial childhood. They want everything from their formative years to remain forever so that they don't have to deal with the brutal reality that time passes, we get older, things change and people die. This might make people feel more content in a world that forces you to reckon with these realities in plenty of ways outside of media, but I think it ultimately lessens what we can get out of our interaction with art and media. It might seem trivial, but I think forcing gamers to cope with the fact that Samus has blasted Ridley away for the last time would do them some good. At the very least, I think fans need to come to terms with the idea that Nintendo doesn't owe it to them to keep these series running and that they are not entitled to a new Metroid game every generation.

What do you guys think? How would you feel if Nintendo officially signaled the end of some of their long lasting franchises? Should Mario and Zelda games keep coming out long after Miyamoto is dead and gone? Are there any series which you would rather see call it a day than continue on their current trajectory? Bonus Question: Does Seasons 11-30 of the Simpsons diminish what made the first third of the series great?

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Posted: 04/11/15, 05:24:44  - Edited by 
 on: 04/11/15, 05:27:20
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Guillaume tweeted that post earlier today. I agree with it and everything you wrote. A third Chrono game wouldn't be any good, and MGSV stands to be much more poignant if it's the final one.
Posted: 04/11/15, 06:10:34
Nintendo, particularly since around the Wii era, has become aware of a golden goose of modern culture: nostalgia sells. With a history as rich as their series, it would be difficult (if not outright impossible) to expect something as immediately appealing to consumers as, say, the first Twilight Princess trailer. Folks weren't cheering and screaming because the footage immediately looked like something entirely unprecedented in gaming--it was because they have such a devoted love of the series and were excited to see a modern (and/or gritty) follow-up to their favorite characters. I can't imagine a new IP reveal from any company ever getting that sort of reaction.

At the same time, I do think that Nintendo uses its established series as a crutch sometimes. Mario is perhaps most guilty of this, but Pokemon and even Kirby have also had non-traditional games that could've been used as launching points for new franchises (like Epic Yarn). I'm actually really glad that Splatoon is 100% new. It's great to be enveloped into a world and cast that we know nothing about.

At the same time, though, there's a reason why these characters and worlds are still so appealing to so many people. I don't think games really have to follow "movie" or "novel" rules where the focus is entirely on a character's story with a clear beginning and end. The enjoyment of games comes from more facets than that--they have the benefit of mixing both story-related stuff (plot, characters, themes) with visual elements, gameplay elements that can be tweaked and expanded upon, nostalgic aspects (like exploring the ruined areas of the first Metroid in Super Metroid)...oh, and the music! That's a big one.

In short, since most games are less story-driven, I don't see why they need to retire some series. There are also new IPs popping up pretty frequently, even from companies like Nintendo who have a wide variety of franchises. I love seeing new IPs from the Big N, but there'll always be an appealing aspect to revisiting older series in refreshing ways. That's a big part of Smash Bros' popularity, after all.
Posted: 04/11/15, 06:12:27
I dunno. I don't necessarily think franchises need to go on forever, but I can't think of a single franchise I like that I'd be ok with just calling it quits forever on. I suppose we really don't need a new Battletoads, but my only objection there is that I doubt it will be done right at this point.

My preference is take enough breaks to keep things fresh.

With that said, not every game needs to become a franchise to begin with.
Posted: 04/11/15, 08:30:06
I would agree if Nintendo's franchises were too similar from game to game. Since, in most cases anyway, that's hardly true, I'm good with them sticking with established IPs.
Posted: 04/11/15, 08:32:25
I'm happy to see franchises which have clearly run their course be put out to pasture - while Mega Man 9 and 10 were an excellent way for Capcom to end the franchise, later instalments of the franchise (X7 and X8 in particular) struggled to find an audience; or tried to simultaneously appeal to fans of modern 3D action games and fans of classic Mega Man gameplay, and didn't really manage to do either of those things. As long as what made the franchise itself great remains - and the successes of Mighty Number 9, Azure Striker Gunvolt and Shovel Knight prove that it does - most people are happy.

To be honest, I could use any example of a once-great franchise there - Silent Hill, Castlevania, Final Fantasy... in all cases, the great games aren't going anywhere - heck, with the rise of services like the Virtual Console, they're getting out to even bigger audiences than ever before; and what made those series great is just inspiring other developers to go back and make games based entirely upon improving the already-great examples they have to look up to (Bravely Default, Axiom Verge, so on so forth).

Nintendo are the one real exception to this, for me - I don't want to see any of their core franchises go. They are one of the few companies to properly "get" a balance between the expectations of a certain franchise, and the requirement to still keep things fresh. Kirby's Epic Yarn/Mass Attack/Rainbow Curse could have -easily- been a new franchise, yes, but it's the balance between new, untested stuff and the forever tried-and-tested platformer formula the series has had since Super Star (Squeak Squad, Triple Deluxe, Return to Dreamland) that keeps me interested. That said, I do still welcome new franchises from them with open arms - Chibi Robo is one of my favourite games of the past fifteen-or-so years, Wonderful 101 (while technically a Platinum game) has some of the most funny and engaging characters I've ever seen in a character action game... not to mention the most polished and satisfying gameplay of any Platinum game to date, Splatoon looks set to be the game that convinces me I should probably finally get an Internet connection that doesn't baulk at the concept of Online gameplay... and in all cases, I'd probably be just as endeared by the game were it Chibi Mario or Wonderful 101... with Nintendo Characters or Legend of Zelda Paintball; which speaks volumes of the sheer quality Nintendo puts out.

Thirteen Mario Party games, including the handheld spinoffs, is a bit ridiculous though. Fifteen if you count Wii Party. Who even needs that many party games?

Also - to answer the bonus round - The Simpsons could continue until well after the heat death of the planet, and that still wouldn't cheapen the widely-considered peak of the show. When episodes that were clearly written to capitalise on current events of the time still hold up and remain relevant and funny to this day, that's a sign of quality.
Posted: 04/11/15, 14:55:17
When Donkey Kong Country Returns came out I didn't see it as another sequel to the classic SNES games instead I saw it as a new attempt at the franchise. Maybe this is an approach some companies could do to aging franchises. Maybe its time to start Metriod anew.
Posted: 04/11/15, 16:14:57
An interesting paradox that I've often pondered in other forms of media. I will note that this seems to apply more to games that have a tangible narrative aspect to them though ( no matter how secondary that aspect may be to the game itself.) No-one is going to feel hollow inside if we never see another Pac-Man game. But how many gamers are wondering just what happens to Samus after Metroid Fusion?

Basically on the one hand, I seek closure to the story. Having a coherent beginning, middle and an end is what makes a story satisfying. You're not left hanging wondering what happens next. Its done. It's finished.

But at the same time I wish for the story to continue on so I can spend more time delving into the universe that I loved. This is why Star Wars didn't just stop at the original trilogy (although many may wish it had ). Prequels, sequels, TV shows, EU novels, games. All because fans are clamoring for a return of those characters, that universe.

So how do you resolve the paradox? How do you choose between ending a beloved franchise once and for all, or keeping it going in order to enjoy a new adventure? I still haven't solved that one.
Posted: 04/11/15, 16:29:35
Meh. I don't care, really.

Yeah, on the surface I can see the appeal of saying that franchises should quit while they're ahead. It's better to burn out than fade away. Maybe it's a better world where we have a thousand wannabe Metroids all doing their own variation on the thing rather than one flagship series that may or may not be the best possible iteration of that thing. In the context of movies, should we sacrifice GoodFellas to get a Godfather IV? Most of us would say no.

But I also think there's an arbitrary nature to that point of view. If there's something that's still artistically vital - let's ignore the commercial force for a second, here - should we kill it off just to prove the point that it was a good thing? I wouldn't say so. I wouldn't sacrifice Mario Galaxy to prove that Mario 64 was great. And even when things fall apart, I'm not sure I totally sign on. In answer to your Simpsons question, no I don't think the Simpsons have been cheapened, whatever the value or lack of value the later seasons have. Generally, I don't believe later entries in a series tarnish the original, unless it's something like the Matrix where the narrative of the original is still unfolding, throughout.

Not to mention, you bring up Shadow Complex as a kind of ideal replacement for Metroid. Problem is - what the hell is Shadow Complex? Never heard of it. Suddenly if I want to play a Metroid style game I have to expend energy keeping up with the video game market, and I don't care about video games enough to read about them that much. I'd rather just go, "Ooooh! New Metroid. Will play," than read through paragraphs and paragraphs of reviews of Metroid copycats to find the one that might whet my whistle. And that's before we even ask if having Metroid on the market prevents any of its copycats. Shadow Complex exists if you want to play it, after all. (Allegedly. I've never heard of it. You could be making it up.)

Let me add, though, that I think this discussion will grow for the next decade or more - and not just in video game circles. We've lived in interesting times, where technology has allowed readers/viewers/gamers to "experience" things that, before, had to be merely suggested in films or games. The result of that? Tons of rehashed crap, as every good idea from pop culture, from Killer Dinosaurs to Transforming Robots to Dr. Manhattan's Big Blue Penis, has gotten its moment of full realization on screen or in games. I read an article once that tried to explain the superhero boom in movies within the context of 9/11, saying audiences are aching for heroes in a world without them. I call bullshit on that. Audiences were simply aching to see onscreen things that had been impossible to see only a decade before. It was the novelty that drove the success. When we were kids, you could only read and imagine Spiderman swinging through New York City. Now we can actually see that.

The result? Franchise rot and market flooding. Is that bad? Well, of course. But the degree to which it is a problem depends on how much you care about these things. I'd like American culture to be more than Avengers tie-in movies. I'd like to see more new ideas in gaming. Frankly, I'd like to see more ideas that appeal to my adult brain rather than my kid's heart.

But then, on the other hand, who cares? This is all just imaginary crap that we're shoveling into our lives to fill the hole that was left when we, as a nation, abandoned Jesus.
Posted: 04/11/15, 17:04:21  - Edited by 
 on: 04/11/15, 17:05:08
Some franchises need to be laid to rest I agree, but not Metroid. I'd rather see Mario retire, there have been like, what, 6,000 Mario games? Samus has only 5 games in the main series, 4 Prime games, Other M, and Pinball. That's only 11 games. It's far from running it's course.

Also Axiom Verge is no Metroid. Just like Guacamelee and other recent Metroid-likes, it's a good game and I'm enjoying it highly, but... no. The mainline Metroid was Fusion, and we've never had a sequel, and I'm sure this has everything to do with sales figures and nothing to do with passion or the lack of new ideas. To say that Axiom is a 1:1 replacement for the never-made Metroid 5 makes me think that Parish doesn't appreciate Metroid on many levels.

I've never played Shadow Complex because I think that's a Microsoft exclusive, but I also have a hard time believing it's as good or better than a true Metroid.
Posted: 04/11/15, 17:25:29  - Edited by 
 on: 04/11/15, 19:33:37
To me, Metroid just has too cool of a world with interesting lore and characters and races to let die. I don't know if the same thing can really be said about Star Fox.

I also think that as tech gets better, Metroid is just one of those franchses that benefits greatly because they can really play a lot with the atmosphere and its effect on the player. There are some locales in Destiny for instance that feel super underground and claustophobic and I could totally see them fitting right into a Metroid game.
Posted: 04/11/15, 19:23:47
@PogueSquadron
Yeah I'm kind of wondering if Parish just looks as games as pure mechanics and doesn't really care about art, design, world-building, music, atmosphere etc., because it's hard for me to believe that he really thinks Axiom is as good or better than Metroid and basically means Metroid doesn't need to exist. Sure, Other M was not that awesome, fine, but that's thin reasoning to wish death upon such an awesome franchise. If Nintendo had made Metroid 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 etc. and all of them had zero new ideas or were terrible games then I could understand taking the stance the franchise has run it's course. But that hasn't happened. There has never been a bad 2-D Metroid game, never, which is what Axiom is paying homage too, saying Other M (an experimental hybrid of 2-D and 3-D gameplay) sucked + Axiom is good = Nintendo has no ideas and can't make a good 2-D Metroid game, is just poor logic IMHO.

My guess it that tons of folks at Nintendo have great new ideas for Metroid, both classic 2-D and new style 3-D games alike, but that Nintendo sees more $$ from Mario so it makes a million Marios and Metroid gets a one-way ticket the dump. Simple math. Either way Metroid is essentially dead already so kicking Samus when she's down seems really harsh.
Posted: 04/11/15, 19:44:31  - Edited by 
 on: 04/11/15, 20:15:27
It depends. I don't think a series or franchise needs to disappear just for the sake of it, but if the developers have run out of good ideas then it may be time to retire it. Though, I don't think there's a need to call it definitively dead, but rather just let it lie dormant until new ideas surface, or new technology allows for something worthwhile with it. Like how Metroid once went 8 years or so between releases. Similarly, I also don't think a new IP should be created just for the sake of making a new IP, and if it'd be very similar to an established IP then I wouldn't see the point. But that may just be because I value gameplay above all else.

That said, I don't think that sequels or other franchise games need to be so formulaic, and so new concepts and elements can still be introduced into a series or franchise. In fact, I prefer that to a degree, as my big complaint with the New Super Mario series is how derivative those games are. It's probably best to keep introducing new stuff so that a series or franchise doesn't grow stale. However, I'm not sure how common is this opinion, as I tend to see a lot of talk about how so-and-so game isn't a "real" {insert franchise here} game if it's too different. I guess it can be a tough line to walk.

Ideally, I want both new IP and new games in established IP. I recognise this can be tough to do, and I'm also not sure what kind of balance I'd like between the two either. It can also create a problem after a whole lot of IP is created, which is sort of similar to Nintendo right now. I mean, they have hundreds of IP under their belt now, most of which people want to see get new entries. It's tough for them to make a new IP as they pretty much have to leave others behind.

@TriforceBun I don't think it's just about the money for Nintendo, I think there may be some staff members there who are nostalgic for Nintendo's early days themselves, particularly the NES and SNES eras. It sometimes feels like that anyway.
Posted: 04/11/15, 21:23:13  - Edited by 
 on: 04/11/15, 21:35:53
@Mop it up Yeah see that is the thing... what is the point of saying a franchise is officially, 100% over? If you have no new good ideas for it, give it a break, sure. And if you never get any new good ideas for it and it never comes back, fine. But why declare that in advance?

Then again this might be an academic question because I'm not sure many developers ever outright state that they will NEVER bring back a franchise. And even if they do, that doesn't mean they won't change their minds. Anything can come back...

This message brought to you by the campaign to bring back Advance Wars, F-Zero and Kirby's Dream Course.
Posted: 04/11/15, 21:45:31
Maybe this is me being extra cynical but I don't think ideas have anything to do with whether or not a game gets made, Nintendo didn't decide to make Mario Kart 8 because the anti-gravity idea was so incredibly game changing that it simply demanded a whole new game be built around it, it made Mario Kart 8 because Mario Kart Wii sold like 30 million copies. If Metroid games sold 30 million copies you bet your bottom dollar we'd be playing Metroid U this very moment.
Posted: 04/11/15, 22:08:41
You know what series I think gets around this problem nicely?

Final Fantasy. It doesn't continue on with characters from installment to installment (unless it's a direct sequel like X-2 or whatever) but the franchise has some very clear long running themes throughout its history. That allows them to have great flexibility to introduce new mechanics or elements in each installment as well as drop ones that don't work. From a plot perspective it is just understood that this game tells these characters' story and that next outing that they will be replaced with a new cast. It definitely is an established brand within gaming though with all the luxuries that go along with that.

Some modern franchises have kind of set themselves up for a similar refresh with each sequel. GTA and BioShock come to mind.
Posted: 04/11/15, 23:06:06  - Edited by 
 on: 04/11/15, 23:09:24
If a franchise or a series stops being fun or compelling, then yeah. Kill it. Or at the very least, give it a rest until new, engaging ideas emerge. Or a new audience can be reached with a new installment.
Posted: 04/11/15, 23:22:18


kill it. Bury it, never speak of it again.

If you need to reboot a series in a completely different genre just kill it.
Posted: 04/11/15, 23:26:51  - Edited by 
 on: 04/11/15, 23:28:23
@deathly_hallows I think it depends on the franchise. I mean, are we even really talking about the money printing franchises? Those aren't going anywhere regardless. I think the most realistic discussion takes place around the franchises on the edge... the Metroids and Star Foxes and such.

I vaguely recall reading a Miyamoto interview where someone asked about a new F-Zero and he said something about not easily being able to come up with a new hook for it? Not that a new hook would guarantee it gets made, but it might make Miyamoto think twice about it. Like, probably the only reason Star Fox is coming back right now is someone at Nintendo was like hey Miyamoto, check out what we can do with the GamePad yo.

Miyamoto is weird like that. It's actually a tad frustrating at times, because I don't necessarily need a new hook in Star Fox, Star Fox 64 part II would be fine by me. But Nintendo likes its hooks.

PS. I'm using "Miyamoto" kind of in place of anyone at Nintendo who has some weight in these decisions...
Posted: 04/11/15, 23:51:29  - Edited by 
 on: 04/11/15, 23:52:34
Posted: 04/12/15, 01:49:08
@deathly_hallows

I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the guys at Nintendo would really prefer to be allowed to make their own thing with their own characters and worlds rather than having everything shoehorned into games that some old guys made up 25 years ago. Even if you think none of these Metroid-like games can live up to the original, you have to at least consider it in the realm of possibility, right? I mean, a talented developer at Nintendo could make a game that does everything you want from a Metroid game from a gameplay perspective and still have its own feel and atmosphere that is as awesome as Yokoi and Sakamoto's take on Ridley Scott's Alien. Or is nostalgia so important to you that you'd take Samus and the gang again over anything anyone could possibly come up with?

I don't know what's going on inside Nintendo. We know they've turned down a Metroid proposal from Next Level Games but we don't know if it was any good or not. Maybe it was amazing and Nintendo thought Luigi's Mansion would make more money, or maybe Nintendo didn't like what they were doing with their baby. Maybe it wasn't much like what we think of when we think of a Metroid game at all.

To me, the tragedy is that Nintendo has recommitted to 2D games but hasn't gone back to the particular kind of 2D game that Metroid embodies. A game could be set in the Old West and still fill that hole for me. Metroid Prime Hunters 2 could never fill that hole. Nintendo might just think that it's something more suited for indie developers and maybe they're right. There's no guarantee a new 2D Metroid made by Nintendo would be better than Axium Verge, even if Axium Verge isn't as good as Super Metroid. There's not a lot of games better than Super Metroid made by any developers.
Posted: 04/12/15, 02:03:18
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