Now that the newest FIFA game is out in the wild, I once again got to thinking about the nature of annualised games. In particular, sports games, since they seem to be the most common perpetrators of this. Games like FIFA, PGA Tour, NFL and NBA come out every year without fail, but what do they really add over the previous games? Can you really justify the purchase when more often than not the newest release is just a glorified roster update?
I feel like if these series skipped a year and came out every second year, everyone would benefit: developers would get a less nerve-wracking schedule and gamers would (hopefully) get an improved game when it does come out. Especially now, in a world where most consoles are constantly connected to the internet, could developers not simply release an update with roster changes in it, and call it a day until the newest game comes out? Then once the game does come out, the time between games has not only created some anticipation, resulting in increased sales, but also gives developers time to actually work on meaningful updates to features, or add new ones altogether.
Just look at a series like Assassin’s Creed. The only game in the series that had more than a year gap before it was the second one. Not coincidentally, I feel, that game is widely regarded by fans to be the best in the series. Even though subsequent games usually had totally new settings, stories and characters, fans still got franchise fatigue and lost interest. And that’s a series that actually did try to change it up as they went along.
Contrast this with how Rockstar treats Grand Theft Auto. There was a five year gap between the fourth and fifth games in that series; Rockstar used that time to make an entirely new engine and game world. They also added the ability for you to play as three separate characters throughout the game, and switch between them whenever you want. Due to their work, and the break between games, GTAV has sold over 65 million copies. That puts it at the fourth best-selling game of all time. The original Super Mario Bros. is in fifth place at 40 million copies. That’s quite the gap. If Rockstar had done what they did back in the PS2 era and kept releasing games every year, they most certainly would not have reached such monumental sales numbers.
Obviously, it wouldn’t make sense for sports games to only come out every five years, but I can’t help but feel that giving these games a bit more time in the oven would only mean good things for everyone.