Community Answers: Do you still buy into annualized games?

1 Posted by - November 11, 2013 - Opinion, Player Insight

We asked. The community answered.

It’s that time of year again…new editions of well-established franchises all start dropping like clockwork. The annual Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty literally hit store shelves one week after the other just twelve months after the last time they did it the last time. And year after year, they’re among the best, most consistent sellers around.

That made us wonder what makes people return every time…or why they didn’t.

And the very first response essentially equated first-person shooters with comfort food.

That’s not an unusual sentiment. When you’re talking about paying $60 for a game, a new IP might generate excitement, but gamers place a lot of stock in simple reliability.

Wayne Benjamin cited, “A certain level of consistency” as his go-to expectation which the regulars tend to deliver on, while Matthew Anthony Cicchetti specifically noted Assassin’s Creed as the game he can’t stay away from. “I just really love those games,” he wrote, adding that it’s the series’ “historical tourism” pillar that tends to always draw him back.

“I’m always waiting to see what awesome new features they’ll add,” wrote Eduardo Mendez, and certainly each new game tries to move the needle in some manner…some more than others.

Eric Bourdreau listed his chief reason for his regular return to annualized franchises as, “You know what to expect from the game,” and his reason for dropping out as “You know what to expect from the game.”

We came across that kind of tipping point quite often.

“The last yearly franchise I bought was ESPN NFL 2K5,” wrote Timm Sinnen, “and that wasn’t a yearly purchase.” David Baker also tends to skip out on most annual fare, with the exception of fighting games. “New characters, new mechanics,” Baker wrote, “It’s neat stuff.”

In their cases, something meaningful had to change to warrant a new purchase — in Sinnen’s case, a two-year wait made more sense; in Baker’s, the fighting games he enjoyed reinvented themselves in small but subtle ways each time, giving him a good median between the familiar and the exciting.

Missing that middle ground tended to be the big reason respondents checked out of annualized franchises. In many case, they felt reliability turned to complacency. Worse, the aforementioned needle sometimes moved in the wrong direction. And unlike other franchises with two-year gaps or longer between installments, the memories of last year’s game are still fairly fresh when the time comes to decide how the new game compares.

Or, as Mack Hersman put it, “Haven’t bought Call of Duty since Modern Warfare 2 and realized it was just the same game. I’ll just keep playing Counterstrike: Global Offensive as my FPS.”

Others still bought in, but the reduced innovation resulted in a reduced value. Cody Elford told us he always rents annualized games before even considering a purchase. David Serrano takes an even more patient route. “I only buy after the price drops to $30 or less,” he wrote.

Of course, most of the annualized franchises out there are still highly lucrative, if not at the very top of the best-sellers list on a regular basis. But it’s also becoming increasingly difficult to keep the quality — and the interest levels — consistent year on year. It remains to be seen if it’s a sustainable a model over the long term, but one thing is definitely changing…the gaming population’s instant acceptance. Demands are increasing. If the products start failing to meet those expectations, the fall could be both sudden and dramatic.