As the current generation of consoles continues on, companies should do well to remember to honor the past by celebrating upcoming franchise anniversaries.
While not quite old as other industries in the world, video games have formed a large base of users thanks to pioneering companies like Atari, Nintendo, and Activision to name a few. Gamers are typically passionate about franchises, which makes celebrating certain achievements like anniversaries an important step. Just this year, Nintendo helped its most well known character and company mascot, Mario, celebrate his 30th anniversary, with two special amiibo figures and a community driven website all culminating in Super Mario Maker – a Wii U exclusive that allows players to build their own stages using themes and items from four iconic Mario games.
Believe it or not, Ubisoft also fits into this category as well. Long before they were known for the Tom Clancy games or mega franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft plucked the limbless hero Rayman from the creative mind of Michel Ancel. 2015 marks Rayman’s 20th anniversary and to celebrate Ubisoft announced smaller items such as fan driven contests, an infographic, and a brand new game called Rayman Adventures – the latter of which was greeted with ample excitement. Unfortunately, after watching the debut trailer, it was revealed that Rayman Adventures was a mobile based game, and not a traditional game in the same spirit as the well regarded Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends. The comments under that YouTube trailer spoke volumes as almost universal disappointment quickly set in with fans. At the very least, this shows that fans are hungry for another traditional Rayman game.
As I mentioned before, Nintendo is a company that embraces its past by continuing to develop franchises like the Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros among others. It’s because of this long running success that fans were hopeful the company would do something special for the 25th anniversary of the Metroid franchise, which came after celebrations for Zelda and Mario the previous year. Unfortunately for fans, August 6, 2011 came and went without even a mention. Things have not improved since for the franchise, with only the announcement of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a first-person shooter on the Nintendo 3DS, which was met with overwhelmingly negative reception from fans after it’s announcement at E3 2015 thanks to the lack of a single-player mode and no sign of the series’ mainstay, Samus Aran.
With Nintendo’s next console effort, NX, being rumored for release in 2016 and that year also being Metroid’s 30th anniversary, there is renewed hope that something will come about, either a proper new entry in the long running franchise, or some sort of bigger event to help bring the series back into public view. I know I’d be happy seeing a remastered or HD remake of the original Super Metroid.
Companies also find ways of promoting games by using tie-in methods with these celebrations in hopes of utilizing that fan base excitement to purchase merchandise. Back in 2011, Nintendo used the Legend of Zelda’s 25th anniversary to help promote The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword with special edition 3DS consoles, merchandise, and released a special edition bundle with a gold Wii controller and a CD featuring classic Zelda music performed by a live orchestra. Meanwhile, Sony celebrated the PS4’s anniversary with an incredibly limited PS1-themed console and controller.
Most would argue that declining sales are the biggest reason why franchises are left behind, causing companies to shy away from creating new entries in a series. To me, the bigger issue here is that companies are completely missing out on golden opportunities by not taking franchise anniversaries seriously. Gamers tend to be a nostalgic bunch, so on one level, celebrating a big milestone will immediately resonate with a faction of gamers. Not only does this attention help with the IP itself, but it reinvigorates the fan base as well.
What about you? Would you like to see more thoughtfulness and care put into celebrations that honor beloved franchises?