Coin-OpEd: Putting the 3 in E3
Between Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Max Payne 3, Gears of War 3, Mass Effect 3, BioShock 3, Uncharted 3, Saints Row 3, Ninja Gaiden 3, Resistance 3, and Deus Ex 3, which sequel are you most looking forward to?
One nice thing about being opinionated is that you rarely ever get stuck on a single one for too long. Some may call that a lack of conviction. I'm going to call it an open mind. Here's what's going on in my head:
Not too long ago, I donned my Angry Man Hat and began casting about GameSpot HQ, hoping to find a sympathetic ear willing to endure my impotent fist-shaking at the State of the Industry. People gave me weird looks and a wide berth, of course, but I attribute this mostly to the fact that my Angry Man Hat is of the Royal Wedding kind.
My ire, though! The NPD Group had just released its monthly US retail sales report for April, and while, yes, money was made--to the tune of $961.2 million (+20%)--the best-seller chart was disgraceful. Of the top 10 games, nine were part of sprawling franchises, and the one original game--Ubisoft's Michael Jackson: The Experience--was, who are we kidding, a reskinned version of Just Dance 2.
"Why?!" I raged, to the cleaning lady. "Why is this industry so creatively bankrupt? And why do these, these, these people--why do these people insist on purchasing the same game over and over again?! Don't these people understand that purchasing a sequel marks their complicity in rewarding publishers for making safe bets and stagnating the game industry's growth?"
The cleaning lady then mumbled something about enjoyment and escape and that I should seriously not wear a hat inside. God, she's rude. But she's also right (not about the hat, obviously).
The thing is, when you're caught up in the day-to-day slog of reporting on the industry, it's easy to zero in on its vast and mighty flaws. It's easy to get bogged down in the incremental reveals, the non-information teases, the but-wait-there's-mores.
But every once in a while, an event like the Electronic Entertainment Expo rolls around, and to be perfectly honest, it makes me reflect on those vociferously delivered protestations. And I feel shame.
Occasionally we here at GameSpot put together something that's worth your time. I'd like to direct you to one such something: The Most Anticipated Games of E3. Please, peruse. Don't worry about me; I'll be here when you get back.
Here's what I've reconciled myself to: Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Max Payne 3, Gears of War 3, Mass Effect 3, BioShock 3, Uncharted 3, Saints Row 3, Ninja Gaiden 3, Resistance 3, and Deus Ex 3. And then of course there's Forza 4, Elder Scrolls 5, and Final Fantasy XIII-2 (creative naming solution there, Square Enix--high fives, high fives). There have been so many installments in the Mario, Zelda, Star Wars, and Tomb Raider franchises that to be perfectly honest, I'm afraid to commit to a firm number for this year's installments.
The path to reconciliation: One thing I can say about the game industry is that unlike, say, the movie industry, the word sequel usually is not synonymous with the term cash-in. Looking at the above list, I can say with some measure of confidence that many of those games will be at least as entertaining as their predecessors.
One basic reason for why sequels aren't necessarily an awful thing in this case is that our industry remains young and dynamic, and it's constantly being infused with better, more powerful technology. Take Epic Games and the Gears of War franchise. The Unreal Engine 3 has come a long way in the five years since Epic released the original Gears in 2006, and the proof is in the viscera.
Naughty Dog's Uncharted series presents an equally compelling example, if you consider the degree of pissing and moaning surrounding the PS3's esoteric Cell processor back when that system launched in 2006. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Naughty Dog simply could not have done, from a logistical standpoint, Uncharted 2's acclaimed falling-building sequence in 2007.
Also, to a large degree, developers for the aforementioned games have proven, through consistently high review scores, that they can maintain or improve the quality in their franchises to justify more installments. Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was excellent, and I sank more than 60 hours into Oblivion. If I said no to Skyrim, a court could legally rule me incompetent. No joke, that's a thing that could actually happen.
So for me, E3 acts as an exciting enema. While absolute hell to cover, I come out of the experience feeling refreshed, flushed of the dreariness of the day-to-day, and ready to absorb all the precious new morsels of information publishers dole out. I'm curious, dear readers, what does it mean for you all?
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