A recent discussion came up in the Gamer Giving offices. Upon the mention of a…somewhat controversial addition to the Metroid series of video games, the erstwhile Mr. Problems and the verbose Captain Murphy began talking about the validity of the fans reaction to the announcement of Metroid Prime: Federation Force. For those who missed this small internet fire, a new Metroid Prime game was announced for the Nintendo 3DS at E3 2015. It was met with a vociferous amount of negative feedback due to the perception that it was completely abandoning most (if not all) of the things which people loved about the original game series. No longer a single player action game with a deep and resounding storyline, but a 4-player action co-op with cartoony graphics and a mode skirting the fast-paced action of Rocket League. It was so controversial that a change petition was launched to attempt to persuade Nintendo to pull the game from release. Fans had been clamouring for a new Metroid game for half a decade, the last entry being the not-exactly-stellar Other M. So many years of waiting for a new game to be greeted with something that the fans didn’t want. The petition says the following:
“What we got however is a disgrace of a game with the name “Metroid” slapped on the title. It has no elements at all of what Metroid is about and its a disrespectful manner to old and new fans of the series of showing them that the Metroid franchise is not dead afterall. This is not the Metroid we asked Nintendo to make.”
The discussion which followed (as Bemadwen was attempting to navigate the incredibly fun-looking puzzle-platformer Deadcore) raised some very interesting questions. How much right do the fans have to demand a specific game from a company? Do companies have responsibility to make games which solely honour the roots of their franchises?
In simplest terms, video game producers live to make money. That’s all. Just like cinema and music, it’s a medium where the highest-grossing products are milked for a quick turnaround. Artistic merit and the singular vision of a particular creator is becoming a rare thing in major AAA games, we’re left with somewhat tired and repetitive games being rehashed year upon year. People want to make money, and if they find a successful formula, you bet it’ll be reused until we’re sick of it. Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed…they’ve all fallen victim to their own successes. The zenith of those two franchises (Modern Warfare and Assassin’s Creed 2 respectively) are now far cries from what people think of when they bring those two franchises up. In the gaming community, they’re seen as just iterations of the same game, rarely bringing anything new or innovative to the table. To quote Dr. Ian Malcolm:
“You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it…”
People have now come to expect that. I for one no longer expect to be blown away by the latest Assassin’s Creed release, despite the second game being one of my favourite console experiences of all time. They don’t get a massive backlash, not like the above case of Metroid got upon it’s announcement. So what’s the difference? Why do games which might show a lack in effort and innovation not see the same outpouring of anger and bile? Ultimately, video game companies have to walk a very fine line in order to make a successful product. People want what they’re used to, it’s the benefit of something being comfortable and familiar. The Grand Theft Auto games for example underwent a massively successful shift in style & gameplay in the early 2000s, but since then, they’ve more or less just refined each iteration with the subsequent releases. In that case, they saw an opportunity to overhaul the mechanics and enter the 3D realm as the technology allowed, to a massive critical and commercial success. Since GTAIII they’ve not been radically different, but nonetheless people don’t object to the games being too similar, or pushing the same crap out each release. The clear and obvious difference here is that there’s no GTA release every single year. Yes the mechanics and gameplay may be similar, but it’s so apparent how much care Rockstar take in crafting the world, the story and all the details that make a game great to begin with. If we ended up with GTAV: Part 3: Redux: Trevor Goes to Malibu, people might be a little more vocal in their objections to the developers in that case. But GTA is an example where they’ve stayed true to the core of the series throughout. What if, for example, they released a Grand Theft Auto MOBA? Much like the Metroid example above, it starts to enter slightly fuzzy territory.
Video game companies ultimately have the right to make anything they want. Be it sticking to the core principles of the franchise or not, they can do whatever they please with their IP. They have no responsibility to make a particular game at all. It’s why I don’t expect Half-Life 3 will ever come out. Yes, the story remains unfinished, and it would be one of the most anticipated games of all time, but frankly I feel as though it just doesn’t interest Valve any more, they’ve moved onto other things. If, however, they released a game in the Half-life series that totally went against the style and tone of the series, I’d absolutely expect a backlash. People have been waiting over a decade for the next installment of this game, and if they get Half-Life Kart, they might not be all too pleased. Do they have a right to be annoyed? Certainly. Do they have the right to tell Valve they can’t make it? Nope.
If it’s clear that a company has been lazy and just slapped an existing IP on a completely alien game just to make a quick buck, that shows a complete lack of respect for the audience, and we should do the one thing that really will make an impact….vote with our wallets. Just say no, don’t buy it and move on. Innovation and experimentation has led to some of the most intriguing and incredible gaming experiences of the last 2 decades. It’s also led to some real disappointments too. All I ask for in the end is for them to put some effort in. I don’t mind whatever they produce, be it a departure from the series or not, but I work hard to earn my money. So should they.