Franchise Fatigue: How Many Sequels is Too Many?

By | 1 year ago 

This past week marked a big one for massive budget franchises across all media. On the movie front, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron hit international theaters and prepared for its big domestic push. Conversely, video game juggernaut Call of Duty put its own marketing plan into motion with the release of the Black Ops 3 trailer. However, while Avengers’ arrival has been mostly met with enthusiasm, the Black Ops 3 reception was mixed to say the least.

Now, the goal here is not to compare a movie franchise with a game franchise, but rather to explore why one property built to deliver sequels succeeds and why the other fails. More specifically, what triggers that moment when a game series turns from “highly anticipated” to “derided?” Franchise fatigue has clearly set in on Call of Duty and a number of other franchises, but why?

Why So Much Hate?

Before trying to uncover what exactly draws out this franchise fatigue, it’s important to set a simple base line. When we talk about franchise fatigue there are a few notable examples. Call of Duty is obviously the first that comes up, and some would say rightly so.

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Activision puts out a new Call of Duty every year, and every subsequent iteration typically riffs on the prior release. There aren’t many big sweeping changes and the game’s visuals and design typically remain unchanged. That’s no concern to the fans that gobble up Call of Duty’s annual release with reckless abandon, though. Sales are slumping, sure, but even in a slump Call of Duty is still able to top the yearly sales charts, like it did with Advanced Warfare last year.

So, when Activision released its Black Ops 3 trailer over the weekend there was a mixture of reactions. Some were excited, while others were dismissive. It’s a song and dance we’ve seen several times before, and there is no indication detractors’ tune will change any time soon. For them, franchise fatigue set in long ago, but when exactly is unclear.

Are Some Properties More Vulnerable?

While plenty of movie franchises can escape franchise fatigue with minimal effort, video games aren’t nearly as lucky. Even so, there are some game series that seem more prone to criticism and sales fluctuations than others. Games from beloved developers, for example, tend to get an easier road, while those that come from Activision and Electronic Arts are met with a more discerning eye. While Halo was under Bungie, for example, it seemed like the franchise could do no wrong, but now that the series has moved to 343 Industries fans are more critical, and by and large they are much less excited.

Is franchise fatigue more an indictment of the people working on the game more so than the game itself? If a developer like Bethesda took over a property like Call of Duty would interest change? Maybe not, but it’s certainly something to think about. There have got to be reasons why certain games are more susceptible to franchise fatigue.


Page 2: Are Annual Schedules to Blame?


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