Created By: cbaron0 on November 2, 2011 Last Edited By: cbaron0 on November 3, 2011

Developer's Dilemna

When a developer has a hit title in its hands, creating the next title will likely evoke a lose-lose-lose situation

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Do We Have This One??

Assume you, a game developer, have a hit title on your hand. It is raking in millions of cash and has garnered universal acclaim from both consumers and gaming publications. While the company executives are congratulating you on your hard work, you now face a major dilemma: what will you do for the next game?

  • Option A: Keeping the formula the same
    • However, repeated use of Option A will lead to disappointment from fans and critics that the game is the same old after the nth iteration. Fans will eventually get tired of shelling out money for pretty much the same game over and over again.
  • Option B: Pioneering innovation
    • Not much better. If you somehow change even one minor thing, including Eye Color and Hairstyle, that everyone apparently loved, be prepared for major fan backlash.
  • Option C: Retire the series and create a new IP
    • While this has been done successfully in some, many executives would find it a complete waste of money not to follow up such a popular hit and likely veto such an idea.

As seen, you are in a lose-lose-lose situation, as all three options will lead to some major complications and disappointment. This dilemma becomes increasingly severe with the number of titles in the series, as the call for innovation and the potential for major disappointment grows. Since you already have several acclaimed titles in the series, you pretty much have perfected the genre and there's not much new you can introduce without drastically altering the entire game.

This trope is near-universal in the gaming industry and can haunt game developers whenever they go. While developers might get away with reusing the core game mechanics a few times, by the time the sequels get to 4 or 5... oh boy, the developers better have something up their sleeves.

Video Games
  • The Legend of Zelda - Nintendo has been haunted by this trope since the release of Ocarina of Time in 1998. Universally acknowledged as one of the best games of all time, Ocarina meant high expectations for sequels. Nintendo chose to walk a thin line between mixing Option A and B equally. When it chose to innovate with Majora's Mask and Wind Waker, purists called the games boring and cartoony and too different from the Zelda they were used to. However, when Nintendo chose to return to Ocarina of Time formula with Twilight Princess, many fans still called them out for their lack of originality and being too similar to Ocarina of Time.

  • Final Fantasy - While the PS era was bad with fans bitterly divided over Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX, the debate got turned Up to Eleven in the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 era. After a successful hit in Final Fantasy X, Square Enix chose Option B for the sequels Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XII. While XI became an MMORPG, XII led to major internet backdraft for abandoning the classic FF turn-based system. Square Enix eventually went with Option A and returned to a system similar to Final Fantasy X for Final Fantasy XIII on the PlayStation 3. This didn't help calm the fans at all, as critics and gamers alike called the game for being too linear and being way behind the times of open world RPG.

  • Tony Hawk - After Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 and 3 were major successes and scoring numerous 10s on gaming magazines, Activision decided to use Option A for the next six releases. Cue declining sales and critical reception. When Activision FINALLY realized what was wrong, it tried to correct it with Tony Hawk's Ride by adding on a skateboard peripheral. Well, let's just say it failed.

  • Devil May Cry - Given the major success of Devil May Cry, Capcom tried to make the game a bit easier for Devil May Cry 2. Cue Internet Backdraft. Then Capcom returned to Option A with success with Devil May Cry 3. However, when Capcom tried the same strategy again with Devil May Cry 4, fans were much less impressed with the perceived "staleness" of the series. So what does Capcom do? It decides to shed off the series' past and reboot the franchise by giving the next game to British developer Ninja Theory. This game DMC Devil May Cry has not even been released yet and fans are already crying about Dante's new perceived "emo look" and how different it is.

  • Guitar Hero - The first Guitar Hero pretty much set off a cultural phenomenon. Thus, Activision decides to Option A as much as it can. However, the lack of innovation, along with competition with Rock Band, pretty much killed off the entire franchise with a few years leading to a rare Option C.

  • Sonic the Hedgehog - Once Sega's beloved mascot, Sonic has fallen upon hard times since the Sega Genesis Era. When Sega tries to change up the classic formula by adding human princesses, werehogs, cars, guns and god knows what else, the backlash almost killed the franchise. It wasn't until Sega returned back to Option A that the franchise got at least decent reviews.
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • November 2, 2011
    captainpat
    I think examples should be backed up by Word Of God. It's very easy to make assumptions about why certain issue were made in a creative process.
  • November 2, 2011
    ChunkyDaddy
    • Averted by World Of Warcraft. It just announced it's fourth expansion and keeps getting stronger
  • November 2, 2011
    CharacterInWhite
    ^ YMMV on that since this troper has been rather rapidly turned off of the series by its last two expansions.
  • November 2, 2011
    cbaron0
    @captainpat

    Not sure what you mean here. It doesn't really matter WHY they chose to innovate or stay the same. I think it's pretty clear that Sega adding guns to Sonic is an attempt at innovation and Tony Hawk using the same formula is an attempt at well, using the same formula. I don't think it's even possible to hear Activision say "Tony Hawk Underground 2 is identical to Tony Hawk Underground because we made a ton of money off of it and don't want to change that". From the top of my head, here are some comments I recall that I can dig up if you really want:

    • Miyamoto saying Twilight Princess was basically going back to Ocarina Of Time after Wind Waker backlash killed sales in America
    • Aonuma saying Twilight Princess is the last Zelda as you know it (ie we're changing up the classic formula)
    • Capcom saying they gave DMC to Ninja Theory because they wanted the franchise to innovate. They especially wanted Dante to look different, which pretty much caused the whole "emo" Dante thing out there
    • Tony Hawk saying that the series is adopting the skateboard peripheral to change up the classic formula
  • November 2, 2011
    Lyendith
    I feel there is this issue with the Ninja Gaiden series, but even more complicated.
    • Ninja Gaiden, and overall its extension Ninja Gaiden Black were acclaimed by hardcore beat-them-all fans for the responsive gameplay and demanding yet fair difficulty.
    • Ninja Gaiden 2 tried to keep a similar formula while increasing the pace of the fights and getting the violence and difficulty Up To Eleven (notably with the infamous dismemberment mechanics). But because of this hesitation between innovation and continuity, it was largely seen as a half-finished product and the difficulty was considered much cheaper.
    • Now for Ninja Gaiden 3, the new director Yosuke Hayashi wants to refresh the formula by changing many things; but the game is not even out that fans are complaining either that the game differs too much from the previous game, or that it is too similar. At the same time.
  • November 2, 2011
    captainpat
    Well, ok but I don't see how this is different from Its The Same Now It Sucks or They Changed It Now It Sucks if this is simply dealing with the blow back of the two choices.
  • November 2, 2011
    Unknown Troper
    ^ Eh, Its The Same Now It Sucks and They Changed It Now It Sucks are causes of this trope at best. This trope basically states that every series will be driven to the ground as time increases no matter what the director does because of fans always make comparison to previous releases, which now that I think about it is actually closer to Unpleasable Fanbase than anything. Hmm
  • November 3, 2011
    captainpat
    So then this is just Unpleasable Fanbase but for videogames.
  • November 3, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Mmm, I've read that it's speculated that people think that Futurama failed to gain a big following in its initial run because people (especially Meddling Executives) were unhappy about its difference from The Simpsons, also by Matt Groening.
  • November 3, 2011
    Psychopulse
    Isn't this basically Tough Act To Follow? I'm getting that vibe...
  • November 3, 2011
    cbaron0
    ^ Ah, there we go. That's the one I was looking for.
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