How franchising hurts originality in gaming and film industries
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 21:10
The entertainment industry was founded on originality with different mediums to express a wide variety of ideas. However, the industry has started to revert and is now destroying originality by design rather than fostering its growth. There has been a shift in both the eyes of the consumers and producers that has lead to an enormous amount of franchising, especially in the film and video game industry.
If you look at the movies that have been dominating the box office the past few years, you’ll see that a lot of them are sequels or have a sequel on the way. Marvel alone can represent the amount of franchising that happens in Hollywood nowadays. The studio is already set on releasing “Iron Man 3,” “Thor 2,” and “Avengers 2.” There is no telling if there will be even more sequels following those releases. Of course, Marvel isn’t the sole culprit in franchising. Look at “The Hangover,” “Taken,” “Paranormal Activity,” “Die Hard,” “James Bond,” “Shrek” and the ongoing number of other movie franchises and soon to be franchises such as “Avatar.”
Sequels aren’t the only way originality is being pushed aside in favor of profits. Movies are also turning to remakes and reboots. Over the summer the “Spiderman” franchise was rebooted and there have been others such as “Total Recall,” “Dredd,” and even the upcoming “Man of Steel.” And frankly you can’t blame Hollywood for doing this. As movie goers we become attached with certain characters and story lines, and associate them with franchise titles. As unnecessary as another “Dark Knight” or Batman movie would be, masses of people would still buy a ticket to see it on opening night. Why, then, would Warner Bros risk a new original idea over a franchise guaranteed to make nice profit?
The same “sequel syndrome” can be seen in the video game industry. Nintendo has been doing it for the past 15 years. The “Legend of Zelda,” “Mario,” and “Pokemon” franchises have always been guaranteed money-makers and no one ever seems to get tired of them. Only now have Sony and Microsoft caught on and started to milk their fan favorite franchises. Microsoft has already released multiple “Halo” sequels, prequels, spinoffs, and will continue to do so due to the astronomical sales numbers the game puts up with every release. Sony has also done it with their go-to franchises such as “God of War,” “Uncharted,” “Killzone,” and “LittleBigPlanet” to name a few. The same can be said about third party franchises such as “Assassin’s Creed,” “Need for Speed,” and a little known game by the name of “Call of Duty.”
The game industry also has two other factors that hurt originality. One is the way it treats new Intellectual Property (IP)s. Most of the time they are overlooked, but every now and then a new IP breaks through like “Borderlands,” “Infamous” or “Dead Space.” These games are then immediately franchised and are turned into another money maker for the developers. The aforementioned games have all already received sequels and will likely receive more. The other factor is that developers will add in features that are popular even if they aren’t necessary. For example, multiplayer has been put into many recent games just to say they have it. This kind of mindset creates a shift where game development becomes less of a creative endeavor and more of a procedural checklist of game elements that are currently popular.
This is something that has been going on in both industries for years now. We all have assorted connotations with our favorite franchises. This in turn makes us trust a game or movie with a slapped on franchise name because we know there is a greater chance we are going to enjoy it. As much as I love my franchises and understand why they are so abundant in the industry, I can’t help but notice this continuous motif of “more of the same.” It has caused originality to take a back seat to profitability, frankly to the detriment of the industries as a whole.