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Thread: "Sequelitis" and Shortening Development Time

  1. #1

    "Sequelitis" and Shortening Development Time

    This is always an interesting debate, but usually it's shitting up another thread. Since it's hit the news wire a couple of times recently with major publishers weighing in, I thought it was worth revisiting.

    Exhibit A: Electronic Arts

    Quote Originally Posted by Eurogamer
    Mega-publisher Electronic Arts has excused its current sequel-laden line-up by saying there's a lack of "reward" for launching new game IPs this late in the console generation.

    EA Labels president Frank Gibeau admitted that the drought of actual new games would continue until new hardware arrived.

    "If you look at the market dynamics: as much as there's a desire for new IP, the market doesn't reward new IP this late in the cycle; they end up doing okay, but not really breaking through," Gibeau explained to GamesIndustry.biz.

    "We have to shepherd the time that our developers spend, as well as the money that we spend on development in a positive way, so we're focused on bringing out a bunch of new IPs around the next generation of hardware.

    "Right now, we're working on three to five new IPs for the next gen."

    EA's release schedule for the next twelve months includes Dead Space 3, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Criterion's Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Maxis' SimCity reboot, Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, plus FIFA 13, NFL 13 and NHL 13.

    And, following that, we already know of Battlefield 4.

    Not all developers are following the same tack. Square Enix just launched open-world Hong Kong adventure Sleeping Dogs to chart success. Bethesda is set to launch the extraordinary-looking Dishonored next month, while Ubisoft is still assuring us that Watch Dogs will launch next year on current hardware (although maybe on next-gen as well).

    And what of Naughty Dog's The Last of Us and Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls? Both are PlayStation 3 titles due for release next year.

    "The time to launch an IP is at the front-end of the hardware cycle," Gibeau argued. "If you look historically the majority of new IPs are introduced within the first 24 months of each cycle of hardware platforms,"

    Regardless, Gibeau acknowledged that some had grown tired of what current hardware could do.

    "This is the longest cycle that any of us have ever seen, and we're at the point where a little bit of fatigue has set in, and people are wondering what they can possibly do next. I've seen the machines that we're building games for, and they're spectacular."
    Exhibit B: Capcom

    Quote Originally Posted by Eurogamer
    Capcom's annual report is out, and one of the big ideas for the future is to shorten development cycles and pump out sequels more often.

    Gulp.

    Capcom president and COO Haruhiro Tsujimoto put it best:

    "We launch sales of popular series titles held by the company approximately every 2.5 years. This is because the development of a single major title usually requires 3-4 years.

    "In the event that there are few hits, it will be difficult to create a series title every year and earnings will be adversely impacted. For this reason, it is important either to maintain a large number of popular titles or shorten the sales cycle to ensure stable earnings.

    "Among the multitude of major titles held by Capcom - such as Monster Hunter, Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Lost Planet, Dead Rising and many others - we will promote shortening of the sales cycle in pursuit of further earnings stabilisation and growth."

    Specifically, he went on, teams developing "major titles" will be "limited" to 100 people, "with multiple sequel titles developed at the same time".

    It will be "necessary to create a large-scale development structure for shortening the development process", so Capcom will "strengthen" in-house development by hiring an additional 1000 staff over 10 years, most of which will be graduates.

    "In addition, we will increase the number of titles released in a single year and expand earnings using a hybrid development model whereby the core portions of the project are developed in-house by Capcom and the process-work is outsourced to outside development companies," he wrote.

    Capcom's proprietary MT Framework engine will play a key role in all this. Apparently, 80 per cent of the development process using MT Framework is common across PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, which "significantly reduces costs and shortens time to completion to one-third of the traditional time required for development". And now, MT Framework is compatible with 3DS, Wii and iPhone development.

    In addition to there being less time between games, Capcom wants to keep you involved with a series by beefing up DLC. This will ensure that "users will be captive fans until the release of a sequel, as we acquire revenue from the sales of additional items to maximise profits".

    Tsujimoto also wrote that, "All major titles will be put online and made available for download." And added: "By introducing a system that enables users to play one another across the globe, and by continually introducing additional downloadable content (DLC), user playing time will increase, and we can acquire new users who cross over from package users while receiving addition revenue in the form of additional item purchases."

    Next-gen

    Capcom had a couple of passing comments to make about next-generation gaming.

    Kenzo Tsujimoto, chairman and CEO, noted: "Furthermore, we must invest in our developers to strengthen foundational research in next-generation consoles."

    Hahruhiro Tsujimoto added: "We will create new popular next generation franchise, allocating 20 per cent of development investment to new products through efficient development."

    "As for the outlook for the next fiscal year," Capcom went on, "although Nintendo will release the new game console Wii U and the market will be continue to be invigorated by the increase of DLC, time is required before the next generation console cycle begins in earnest."

    For Capcom, all eyes will be on Resident Evil 6, which has been worked on by 600 people, and is expected to sell 7 million units. Capcom's even opening a Resident Evil restaurant, as well as releasing a Resident Evil: Retribution film and Resident Evil: Damnation animation. "Also," the company added, "we will continue to try new ideas, including a tie-up with a real escape game." OK then.

    That's the home console video game market. Capcom's other business boosting ideas are to expand in the PC online space through browser games and things like Monster Hunter Frontier Online.

    Mobile and social gaming is a huge new frontier for Capcom, too - as it is for most Japanese and Western companies.
    EA's arguments and approach seem to make a lot more sense than Capcom's. Shrinking the development teams and releasing sequels more often is exactly the opposite of what I want. It seems to me that's trading one AAA for two AA ones at best, and that trade sucks. I guess if the games become closer to serial and re-use assets it could work, but then you potentially wind up with New Super Mario Bros syndrome.

    However, my planned purchases are largely a counterargument to EA as well. During those awesome NewEgg preorder sales recently and prior Amazon ones, I ordered myself five new IPs (The Last of Us, Dishonored, Beyond: Two Souls, Ni No Kuni, and Code of Princess), six sequels to three series (Epic Mickey 2, BioShock Infinite, Castlevania: LoS2, Luigi's Mansion 2, Epic Mickey: PoI, and Castlevania: LoS - Mirror of Fate), and then the two that are somewhat in the middle with old IP but not really sequels (Aliens: Colonial Marines and Metal Gear Rising). For full disclosure, I would have also preordered Tomb Raider and Hitman had they had the PC versions available, so the sequel count would be higher.

    Metal Gear Rising is an odd one, because I would have bought it maybe with less reservation had it not been a MG game but an original Platinum IP. Aliens is the opposite; I would have zero interest without the license. I'm buying a lot of the new IP and very few of the sequels being released. But if you look a layer beneath, all of the new IP I preordered is because of the developers, except for Ni No Kuni, which is for the visuals. And I'd buy whatever Irrational and Junction Point released too; they just happen to be BioShock and Epic Mickey sequels.

    Relating my list back to the articles, I didn't preorder any EA or Capcom games, because I don't care about their developers or series... at least the ones Capcom will actually still make (obligatory Dino Crisis and Darkstalkers reference). I'll probably get Resident Evil 6 and Dead Space 3 on the cheap, as I still haven't finished RE5 or DS2. At least both companies have joined the likes of Square Enix and Ubisoft in saying that it's either time or past time to direct resources at next generation games.

    So what about others? Is now the time for new IP, or should publishers wait for the next generation? Do you want annual sequels with smaller development teams? Do you consider the series or the developer more important when basing your purchases on history? Are you a Cylon?

  2. This will end badly for Capcom. Their AAA games are already so rough around the edges that cutting dev time/team-size is a seriously awful idea. We'll see how RE6 goes.

  3. #3
    Good point. The other thing that didn't come to mind until now is that if Capcom is talking about having smaller development teams for their next gen games, they're nuts. It doesn't explicitly say that, but how many annual sequels could possibly be left to this generation?

  4. EA has never been about new IP, except for that weird time from like 2007-2009.

    Gibeau's right, normally new IP is not rewarded, except, well, maybe this time it is? Did anyone see Sleeping Dogs becoming a hit (even though that, originally, sort of, wasn't a new brand)? Even Lollipop Chainsaw has far exceeded expectations. Thing is, these are games started years ago. It probably is too late to start working on new brands for PS3 and 360.

  5. #5
    I hope Sleeping Dogs is a hit. Would serve Activision right.

  6. #6
    Capcom has been a sequel-churning factory for years, I don't even understand them doing it faster than they have already done.
    HA! HA! I AM USING THE INTERNET!!1
    My Backloggery

  7. Quote Originally Posted by Some Stupid Japanese Name View Post
    I hope Sleeping Dogs is a hit. Would serve Activision right.
    It is a hit, I think. And yes, it would be nice, especially after they were proven right with Brutal Legend.

  8. Quote Originally Posted by Yoshi
    Do you consider the series or the developer more important when basing your purchases on history?
    In terms of myself: the developer. In terms of most people who are supporting the industry right now: the series. I'd be willing to bet that most people who buy Call of Duty don't care who the developer is and are buying it on title alone, and that most people who buy the upcoming DMC game won't care that it's Ninja Theory and not Capcom. Yeah, there will be plenty of people like us who log onto the internet and discuss this sort of thing, but that ends up leaving out the amount of people buying for themselves who don't want and/or care about discussing the game with anyone besides friends along with families blind-buying for their kids based on name brands who could easily outweigh the people paying attention.

    I think this could be a very good move for Capcom. They're usually at their best releasing things which are slightly janky, so if nothing else this should at least add a shotgun spread to the chances of getting more decent stuff out of them. As long as it isn't just the constant deluge of terrible RE titles that they seem to love this generation (and apparently keep selling just because of the name), anyway.

  9. #9
    It's like comics.
    Mainstream people buy it because it is X-Men, Spider-Man, or Batman.

    People who are a little more inside buy it because it is Grant Morrison, Dan Slott, or J.H. Williams III.

  10. #10
    I am ashamed to say I never reached that level of maturity with comics. I liked certain writers' story arcs more, but I was pretty locked into the series. Of course, I stopped buying comic when I was like 16, so that may have been a factor.

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