Sports games. Call of Duty. Assassin’s Creed. They all have one thing in common. Every year, we see a new one. At least, we used too. After Assassin’s Creed Unity soured many on the franchise, Ubisoft decided the franchise needed a retooling. 2016 is the first year since 2009 without a new mainline Assassin’s Creed game.
Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick chatted with investors at an MKM Partners event recently and didn’t mince words about certain franchises.
“One of the things that’s best about Take-Two is our franchises seem to be permanent. They’re beloved and permanent. Whereas our competitors burn off their franchises, which means they have to create new ones, which is incredibly difficult to do,” said Zelnick (via GameSpot).
Zelnick is clearly talking about Red Dead Redemption and GTA here when he says “our franchises.” I agree with Zelnick’s comments, but we already see a shift away from annualized franchises.
When Ubisoft opted to give Assassin’s Creed a breather, they had other franchises ready to fill its place. The Division might not have lived up to everyone’s expectations, but it pulled in record sales at launch.
The shift to “games as a service”
This is the future of the gaming industry. Take-Two’s biggest money maker is GTA V without a doubt. More specifically, GTA Online. It routinely ranks as one of the most played games regardless of platform, and just passed 70 million copies sold. That’s not sold-through, either. That’s 70 million sold to people.
And GTA Online continues to year-over-year growth three years after its release. All thanks to continuous updates for it. GTA Online fans must feel like they’re in heaven. Those of us waiting for story DLC? Ha! Keep waiting.
GTA Online is the perfect example of games as a service.
But it’s not unique to just Rockstar. The same publishers he’s calling out about annualizing franchises are embracing long-term support for games. Take Rainbow Six: Siege. One of the best shooters on the market and serves a smaller, but loyal niche in the genre. Ubisoft’s year-one content was a huge success with more players diving into the game now, then at launch. It was so successful; Ubisoft is giving Siege fans another year’s worth of content.
The past year has been an incredible journey, and we are excited to have you join us for another full year of content! pic.twitter.com/2W9youloDJ
— Rainbow Six Siege (@Rainbow6Game) November 13, 2016
Single-player games are starting to get the same treatment. Look at what Io Interactive did with Hitman. How many of us wrote that game off for taking an episodic approach? Now it’s up for Best Action/Adventure Game at The Game Awards 2016. And there’s a case for it being Game of the Year. By the way, the Hitman – Complete First Season is down to $30 on Xbox One.
From Destiny to Rocket League. Overwatch to Hitman. Developers and publishers have plans to support games longer than its first year. Io Interactive shows the same concept can work for single-player games.
Does that mean the days of yearly Call of Duty games are over? Hell no. But Activision is about the only one outside of sports titles that will do it.
While not every publisher will have the top end quality franchises like Blizzard and Rockstar, many are developing enough good franchises to space releases out 2-3 years. I don’t want to wait seven years for the next Assassin’s Creed, but I also don’t want to see a new one every 12 months either. Games need a little breathing room. Both for us, and so developers can innovate.
Red Dead Redemption 2 tidbits
Take-Two’s CEO can’t talk without mentioning something about Red Redemption 2.
“The conventional wisdom [before Red Dead Redemption] was that a western wouldn’t work,” he said. “We took a different point of view, which is that very occasionally westerns capture the imagination of the public. When we launched Red Dead, it did. And those times were right for that. And I think the times are right for a big, sprawling, optimistic view of America again – and that’s not meant to be cute.”
First, who the hell thought a western wouldn’t work? Second, can we see real gameplay already?
Zelnick promised RDR 2 will offer “incredible emotional depth,” and “great story elements and great gameplay elements.” With a giant helping of Red Dead Online or whatever they end up calling it.