Building new IPs is both the most difficult and risky manoeuver one could make in the video games industry as it is currently. While people on the Internet are asking for some more properties from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, they are striving to offer even a few of them because they don’t want to embark on expensive project that could not lead to the hoped results.
Just to make a couple of examples, Xbox 360’s Too Human was a massive investment last generation for Microsoft and even a trilogy was planned at Silicon Knights. The original game revealed a huge failure for both gamers and critics, anyway, that trilogy thing was cancelled, the Canadian software house went bankruptcy shortly later and it all ended up as a waste of money. No one could afford something like that anymore, even giants like Microsoft and Sony, so they’re all investing very, very carefully because they know that, also with their best developers put to work on unexplored ideas, they could fail.
This is way, nowadays, new properties are getting rarer than ever and, even when they arrive on the market, they’re not that special because publishers ask developers for something familiar. Something they already know people would appreciate… and that’s why, just to make another example, a game like Sunset Overdrive, which I personally loved, wasn’t received as well as it deserved and Bloodborne, a title that sold very well and was acclaimed by critics, didn’t impress gamers as the Souls saga.
Should we have to worry about what’s going on with this generation of consoles, then? At this point, after almost two years from the official PS4 and Xbox One release, we’ve yet to see great titles from Sony and Microsoft. Just to make a comparison, we’ve played games like Sunset Overdrive, The Order: 1886, Ryse: Son of Rome, DriveClub, Knack – productions that will hardly see sequels in the future – on both the current-gen consoles, something that hasn’t been capable to impress gamers, while after two years from their day one Xbox 360 and PS3 have been much more lucky. At this point of their lifecycles, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 had already received titles like Gears of War and Uncharted, and we were all more than happy about them, because they were going to be games able to define an entire generation.
Looking at it from the point of view of first party exclusive games, so, this is not going as well as we could expect. Anyway, third party developers and publishers are being much more successful, managing to launch new IPs that are going to define the current generation with sequels, prequels, spin-offs and whatever else. Just to name a few, in two years titles such as Watch Dogs, Dying Light and Destiny have already launched, and actually witness external developers and publishers’ interest in producing and launching on the market new, more profitable properties.
This mainly happens because video games industry’s protagonists like Ubisoft, Techland and Bungie have resources and expertise to enter new genres, that hopefully would provide them with more possibilities to make money and re-invest it on other games. When I say “new genres” I basically refer to open world games and MMOs, genres that allow producers to expand the core title with new premium contents, both secondary or story based, and to gain not only when releasing the game or its sequels but all over its lifecycle. This is why even franchises like Metal Gear Solid, which have made a name in the solo and story driven genre, have become open world.
Talking about Microsoft and Sony, finally, they have delayed the true start of this generation to 2016, when new, solid first party IPs will arrive on the market (Quantum Break, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and more). PlayStation 4 has almost skipped 2015, only releasing Until Dawn and a little else this fall, while Xbox One is betting big on its most popular franchises to fill the gap in sales with its direct concurrent. What happens after 2016, with new properties getting increasingly more expensive and time consuming for developers, is still a mystery.