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REBOOTY CALL – Safer Bets for Intercourse with the mass market
by Andreas Ahlborn on 03/09/13 06:46:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Rita and Dexter, making out

Having just played through the newest spawn of the Tomb Raider Franchise here are some thoughts about what a developer needs to successful make this squaring-the-circle-routine happen.

Brands are easily the most recognizable success factor of any mass media. While Movies and Popmusic have managed to create Stardome, meaning Persons (Actors, Directors,Musicians) that sometimes surpass the Popularity of a franchise (who would consider a Die Hard Sequel a true Die Hard movie without Willis? Who can imagine Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford?), the game-industry has to this moment no such success-gurantee-factor besides the brand-name. Tinhat might change if developers like David Cage are to be believed if the Industry manages to pass the Uncanny valley (and Beyond with Willem Dafoe and Ellen Page makes a strong argument for this). So in 5-10 years we might see ads like: The new Chloë Moretz-Game, but until then it`s any studios best bet to count on the IP as the most important sales-benefactor.

The 2 Tiers of Rebootdome

Here is a list of games in recent memory that I would consider attempts to reboot a franchise, some of them have not been published, but this gives us an excuse to speculate how they might have to turn out, if they want to rise like Phoenix from the Ashes. The term “BSD” means Beauty-Sleep-Duration and measures the Time (in years) that has passed between the last Highprofile-Release in the series, and the Reboot.

Released: DMC (BSD:5), Tomb Raider(BSD:5), Halo 4(BSD:1-2, depends if you want to count the CE-remake), Deus EX: Human Revolution (BSD:9), Splinter Cell:Conviction(BSD:4), Max Payne 3 (BSD:9), Assassins Creed 3(BSD:1), Resident Evil 5 (BSD:4)

Unreleased: Bioshock Infinite (BSD:3), Thief 4 (BSD:9+)

Some of the mentioned games have even aimed for a higher goal: Not only to reboot its own, but the whole genepool of the genre they belong to. This is what I call the 2 Tiers, where the second tier is the Metagame of rebooting sth. like the Stealth Genre (SC:Conviction, DX:HR).

We could even gone so far as identifying higher tiers like: How Farmville, Bejeweled and Co, “rebooted” the casual gamemarket, and what games would be able to reboot the JRPG market and musing about how Minecraft “rebooted” the Indie market, but I don`t want to stress my luck with readers that got this far in the text…

Signs when to reboot

  1. Your sales decline (obviously)
  2. Your fanbase rants (a lot)
  3. The critics are starting to hate on you (despite being bribed)
  4. You find yourself unable to squeeze sth. fresh out of your formula (remember this guy?->)

Indiana Jones - Turned to dust

Time is of the essence

Don`t fool yourself. You can`t grant a break to, milk, make cheese of , skin and slaughter your cash-cow at the same time. There has to be a market-absence of at least 3-5 years that might hurt your revenue, this could be the sole reason why Halo 4 and Assassins Creed 3 failed to be recognized as a Reboot of the series: Because they never took a leave of absence, they had become a mere bulletpoint on the average gamers annual calendar. It doesn`t help (like in the case of AC3) that you stress the fact, that you started to work on the project in secret for many years with a second development team. While Halo 4 and AC3 were very successful games that managed to squeeze a lot of freshness out of their formula, they certainly did not Reboot their franchises. They managed to gain some extra time for their lifecyle , that`s all.

Breaking the Genre Walls without tearing the house down

SC:Conviction and DX:HR managed to reboot their respective franchises with Style and some simple trick: While stealth was an essential part in the predecessors it now became an optional but rewarding aspect of the gameplay. It didn`t force it down your throat, so when you did it tasted even better than in the elder games. Stealth purists might have the opinion that its not a real stealth game if it doesn `t make stealth the main ingredient, but the fact that Ubisoft tied the most rewarding ingame-mechanic (Execution Mode) to the requirement of stealth and Eidos made a whole skillbranch in his Augmentationtrees that was solely dedicated to enhance stealthiness should make clear that they thought this trough (Besides the boss fights of course).

Max Pyyne/Dante Clone

Of Alcoholics,  Albinos and Archaelogists

What is with the video game industry and hairs? Ironically enough the secret  ingredient of how to successfully reboot a franchise might be: Try a new Haircut or slap a beard on your main character.

It worked for Max Payne, Sam Fisher, Lara Croft and Dante at least.

Jokes aside: If you want to change something its best to change something iconical in a radical way. It takes some guts to do it, but don`t make the mistake to cling to superficial things. Whether Max has a Beard or a Belly or a bald head is by no means part of the DNA of this particular brand, in this case it`s: Bullet Time and this guy (and Rockstar surely recognized that)

Take Dantes White Hair away, trim Lara Crofts bosom (that was a Handicap anyway, considering all the climbing and jumping she always had to do), and for heavens sake make that shockfrozen pony-tail move (Thank god for TressFX).

Behold: The Future could be Infinite

The release of Bioshock: Infinte is at our doorsteps and begs the question: What will be the crucial element that the Reboot succeeds? And I´m talking big time here, “Bioshock” is considered by many one of the Top 10 games of all time and a Reboot has a hard time to reach these heights of gaming perfection (it has a Reason Valve has thrown away the keys to the cellar where they locked Half-Life years ago). It`s sure a lot of pressure.

In my opinion the solution can be summed up by two terms: Relationships & Religion. Two things that are perfectly teased in the first few seconds of this clip.

If these seconds are a hint at what we will actually have a chance to experience, then it’s a sure winner in my book. Literary quality in Videogames is truly sth. I have been looking for a long time. And what a bold move of irrational to take the players breathe away without even showing a damn thing! (Understatement is not exactly the most valued property in Videogames-Marketing)

The relationship between Booker (the player), Elizabeth and Songbird will have to fuel a journey that should lead the player to questions about “the Infinite (with a capital I)”. (Not cryptic enough for you?).

Anyway, Irrational, I`ll shut up and better prepare to start throwing my money at you. Make it happen!

Bioshock : Infinite


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