How to kill a franchise

Want to know the best way to kill off a valuable franchise? Let it run its course. Be the impatient child at bedtime who never tires of saying, “And then what happened?”

Just look at how Sony terminated the Syphon Filter series. A decade ago, Syphon Filter was king shit — perhaps the most bankable action/espionage title on the original PlayStation. As the daring American agent Gabe Logan, you would tool around shooting evildoers in grim, darkly-lit settings. Gabe had a personality, some core sidekicks, and a shtick that gave him a huge head start over Johnny-come-latelies like Sam Fisher.

What went wrong? Put simply, Sony let Gabe get old. The last Syphon Filter game of note, The Omega Strain, didn’t let you control Mr. Logan at all. He’d been promoted to NPC status, putting the player in control of some new kid. Fan interest in the game tanked, because this sort of move seriously miscalculates the value of the name character to a franchise. Remember the fan reaction to Metal Gear Solid 2, where you played girly-man Raiden instead of Snake? Same thing. You don’t go to an Indiana Jones movie to watch Shia LeBoeuf — not unless you want to see your precious memories raped.

Back to Metal Gear: the second sure-fire way to kill off a bankable pop-culture sensation is to alienate newcomers. While MGS 2, 3, and 4 were all arguably quite enjoyable without any prior exposure to the milieu, they were all highly geared to deliver referential jollies to folks who’d been playing the series since the beginning. That pool of players can only shrink over time. The more in-jokes and convoluted intergenerational plot-points you cram into a game, the more you are chanting, “I hope this baby I have nurtured for years will grow sickly and die.”

In this way, many game designers kill their children.

For the true heroes of fiction are immortal. They may die (over and over, in the case of video games), but they never grow old. Mario never grows old. James Bond never grows old. Batman never grows old. Their tales are simply re-tooled and retold for each new generation.

New video games in an ongoing series don’t need baggage. Above all, they must be made accessible, for as older gamers lose interest (or die, for that matter), clueless noobs will take their place. Games must welcome them, not slap them with a cliqueish rubber cock.

If a game designer takes pleasure from watching his creation die, then maybe he should get out of gaming, and into modern art. Those tossers sculpt huge mounds of decaying crap all the time…

  1. 14 years ago

    Well I was a noob to the MGS series, and I have to say that MGS 4 was probably my favorite game this year.
    I have to say that I don't agree with what you said about heros never growing old, or dying, sure that may be the case for Mario or Batman, But this is Snake we are talking about and I think his story is aimed at a more mature age group than say Mario, who's story hasn't evolved much past the stage of saving a princess from a beast.

    You're the man Snake I enjoyed your game even if this hater didn't.

  2. 14 years ago

    All I think is that it's a bit unfair to have a heading 'HOW TO KILL A FRANCHISE' and a picture of Snake underneath it, because I don't think it's killing a franchise, but more like evolving one.
    I don't mean to hate on Mario or Zelda, because I love both those games, but if I wanted a game with an intriguing story they would not be my first choices.
    Besides all good things come to an end on day, and there's no hiding from it.

    • 14 years ago

      Whilst I don't entirely agree, I think you raise a valid point.

      This article seems to target snake, but I guess in the end it's down to preference. I mean you could want a deep and meaningful story that continues from one game to the next... or you could pull a zelda/mario where each game is essentially a re-skined version of the past.

      I believe story is playing a bigger role in the industry these days because it moves sequels, and sequels = big bucks.

      • 14 years ago

        I wouldnt say that this article was meant to target the MGS series but simply provide evidence for 'how to kill a franchise'.

        I think no better example is the tomb raider series. Although as of recent the entries in the series haven't been overly bad, for me the series died at 3. I remember playing tomb raider when I was young. I also remember playing other games whose sequals were anticipatingly spaced apart. But when you pump out the next installment in a series so quickly you know its not gunna be as big a hit.
        I hate the EA philosophy of annual franchises. Yea it makes money, but not reputation. And on that note.... oy EA.... bring back LAPD cop....that robot fuled PSX title was tits awesome.

  3. 14 years ago

    What the ****? First off, Omega Strain isn't the last game in the series. Secondly, the last 2 SF games, Dark Mirror & Logan's Shadow, are bloody awesome and show that the series is far from dead.

Your email address will not be published.