Video games need fresh ideas

In 2010, the biggest name in video games is “2”. That’s right, the number two. We’ve already seen it starting: Bioshock 2, Mass Effect 2, No More Heroes 2, Army of Two: The 40th Day (okay, so it has a “2” in the title, but it really is the second in the series). We are only three months into 2010, and it’s obvious that sequels are going to dominate the markets this year.

The video game industry has long been criticized for turning away from original IPs (intellectual properties) for tried and true franchises known to be big blockbusters, but this year it seems even more intense than previous years.

Every year gamers will wait with baited breath for the big franchise games of that year, and this year is no different. This year boasts sequels to such popular franchises as Final Fantasy, Prince of Persia, Halo, Splinter Cell, God of War and there are even rumors of a new Zelda. Smaller sequels await us throughout the year as well: Super Mario Galaxy 2, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, Dead Rising 2, Dead Space 2,  Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Crackdown 2, Fallout: New Vega – the list goes on and on.

Now, if you are familiar with video games you will be aware that it is probable that not all of these games will come out this year. The long awaited release of Starcraft 2 is supposed to happen sometime this year, but Blizzard is known to push back its release dates.

Even Batman: Arkham Asylum, one of last fall’s most talked about games, already has a sequel set to release this year. All these sequels hitting the market begs the question, “is this good or bad?”

On the one hand, new and original ideas are obviously hampered by heavy hitter sequels garnering most of the attention and development. Two of the biggest new IPs in the first two months of this year, Bayonetta and Darksiders were dwarfed by sequels Bioshock 2 and Mass Effect 2 in both hype and sales despite having similar critical ratings overall. It doesn’t take much imagination to believe that this might be the trend the rest of the year.

There aren’t many big new IPs being talked about this year aside from the PS3s dark mystery adventure game Heavy Rain, but everyone has at least 3 sequels they are getting amped about.

On the other hand, these games get sequels for a reason. Bioshock and Mass Effect were two of the most critically acclaimed games of 2007 and made great strides in video game storytelling, immersion and game play. They made a big step in changing the way we look at consol RPGs and helped add to the giant backlog of great games keeping the 360 a relevant and sought-after gaming system. If anything deserves a sequel, these games do.

Sequels can also affect good original games. No More Heroes was one of the most unique, creative and original games released in 2008 or that decade, for that matter.

It was a flawed but intriguing mature hack and slash for the Wii, but it suffered from low sales and mixed reviews. Most critics and consumers found that the design flaws of the game got in the way of the awe-inspiring creativity.

All the more surprise came when this year No More Heroes 2 was released and was actually really good. The sequel addressed almost every flaw found by critics in the original and still kept its originality, creativity and overall tone.

So the question still remains, “are sequels good?” I suppose it all depends on the game. So far this year most of the sequels have wowed the critics and the gamers, but we will have to see what unfolds.  Maybe I will write about “3” next. Lets see, there’s Fable 3, Max Payne 3, Postal 3

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