Having too much of a good thing is a very real issue in the gaming industry. Flooding the market with yearly release schedules is a good way to ensure that a popular franchise is continuously being played and talked about by consumers, but given enough time, these properties become stale and repetitive. Some of the most revered franchises, such as Fallout, Uncharted, and Grand Theft Auto only see new releases every few years or so, which not only ensures that each game isn’t rushed to market in an unfinished state, but also makes it an event when these games finally do come out (there’s a reason Fallout 4 is currently getting massive coverage from media outlets).
Other franchises turn around new releases much quicker, but this practice comes at a price. Creativity starts to suffer and consumers begin to grow tired of playing pretty much the same game year in and year out, leading to once great series becoming shells of their former selves. Although most of the following games are still lucrative from a sales perspective, they’re increasingly becoming hollow experiences that are reaching the point of oversaturation. We’re not necessarily arguing that these games need to go away for good, but it would be a benefit both to fans and the development teams working on them if these series stopped for awhile and gave everyone a much-needed break.
The Battlefield franchise, known primarily for its outstanding multiplayer suite, is not quite at the point of oversaturation, but it’s getting dangerously close. From the groundbreaking first title in the series, Battlefield 1942, to the enormously entertaining Bad Company 2, the series was firing on all cylinders and was the go-to online shooter for anyone craving epic battles on a grand scale during the 2000s. 2011’s Battlefield 3, while a great game in its own right, felt too much like an imitation of its main competitor, Call of Duty, and was a step backwards for the series overall. Problems really started to arise with Battlefield 4, which shipped in a nearly unplayable state and looked and played too similarly to Battlefield 3, despite the two year gap between releases. After the controversy surrounding that title, Electronic Arts arguably should have held off on releasing a new game for a few years; instead, the cops and robbers spin-off Battlefield Hardline came out in early 2015 to mixed reviews. Despite Hardline doing well from a sales perspective, it’s time that Battlefield was given a chance to regroup and wait a few years before dropping the inevitable Battlefield 5.
9. Dynasty Warriors
Dynasty Warriors is pretty much the definition of a niche game series, with its mind-numbing hack and slash gameplay and over-the-top interpretations of ancient Chinese history appealing to a small, but passionate subset of gamers. There’s nothing wrong with sticking with what you know and for all of the criticism they receive, the Dynasty Warriors games actually have some solid gameplay fundamentals. Unfortunately, a combination of far too many games that look and play almost identically and no real forward momentum have given the Dynasty Warriors franchise a notorious reputation of recycling itself continuously and often. We’re not exactly sure how this series could be improved or if its fanbase really even wants it to, but that doesn’t change the reality that clearing out a battlefield of identical enemies lost its luster back in the PS2 era and it’s high time Dynasty Warriors joined the current gaming generation.
Once upon a time, the WWE games were something to look forward to. Even if you didn’t like the sport, the local multiplayer and sheer breadth of customization options were enough to give this wrestling series a try. Unfortunately, something happened when 2K picked up the series from the dying husk formerly known as THQ, when they not only dropped “Smackdown” from the title, but also started dropping more and more features that many had come to love about the series. Now, much like other annualized sports games, WWE mostly stands for roster updates and little else. Recent titles have been wildly inconsistent in the visual and gameplay departments, as developer Yuke’s seems unsure whether to make an arcade brawler or a simulation experience. While the most recent release, WWE 2K16, reintroduced a number of features that were stripped from last year’s game, the fact that 2K is positioning this as something new and innovative makes it clear that the WWE series has lost its way and could really use a year off to figure out what kind of game it wants to be going forward.
Pokemon was a cultural phenomenon back in the mid to late 90s and a major reason for that was due to the strength of the Gameboy games on which the franchise was based. It’s not hyperbole to say that Pokemon saved the Nintendo Gameboy and the Pokemon series has remained a driving force in Nintendo’s handheld gaming strategy ever since. Despite a number of visual enhancements and the addition of new creatures to catch and locations to explore, Pokemon is essentially still the same as it was almost 20 years ago. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the games still sell in the millions and the traditional turn-based combat is still compelling enough, but it’s come to the point where if you’ve played one Pokemon game, you’ve pretty much played them all. While new Pokemon games are almost guaranteed to sell at this point, it would be nice to see Nintendo go back to the drawing board with this franchise and see if they can come up with a fresh experience for a new generation of gamers.
6. Need For Speed
Is there any racing series more yawn-inducing than Need For Speed? While Electronic Arts’ premiere car racing property has been a staple of the genre for over two decades now, there has been a new title almost every year since 1997 and franchise fatigue has definitely started to set in. The main problem with Need For Speed is that it never seems to know what kind of racing game it wants to be; one year it could be a celebration of tuner culture; the next, it’s about a giant race that travels across the United States. At this point, the only real constant in Need For Speed is its inconsistency (well, that and cars). In an attempt to get the series back on track (no pun intended) developer Ghost Studios did a hard reboot and simply called this year’s release Need For Speed. Unfortunately, this new title also suffers from a lack of focus on racing fundamentals (no cockpit view in 2015 is basically unacceptable) and has received mixed reviews. EA and Ghost Studios should make a return to the Burnout franchise, as it’s begging for a follow-up to 2008’s Burnout Paradise, and put Need For Speed in storage for a few years.
5. Sonic the Hedgehog
Back in the early 90s, Sega used to offer Nintendo real competition in the console space, with their Sonic the Hedgehog franchise representing the Genesis’ leading charge against the Super Nintendo. While Sega has had a few hits with the character in the decades since, Sonic is largely a series on life support that nobody seems willing to pull the plug on. A handful of good games over a span of multiple console generations does not a good franchise make, with the last legitimately solid entry in the franchise being 2011’s Sonic Generations. Sadly, that game was more of an anomaly than anything, as most new Sonic games have been met with derision and scorn from gamers who dimly remember a time long ago when the Sonic brand was synonymous with the word “cool.” Sonic Boom was the not the answer; Sonic died years ago and it’s about time that gamers — and Sega — moved on.
4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
There was a brief time in the early 2000s when the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series was unstoppable, seemingly rewriting the skateboarding game formula with each subsequent release. Many gamers who grew up with the franchise will defend those early titles to their graves; sadly, the same cannot be said for pretty much every title released after 2004. Each new Tony Hawk game after that point got further and further away from the core mechanics and gameplay fundamentals that made THPS such an addictive high score-chasing experience. The last five years or so in particular have been especially bleak for the franchise, first with an ill-advised (and terrible) skateboard peripheral in Tony Hawk’s Ride and its equally terrible sequel, and most recently with this year’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, a last ditch attempt to return the series to its roots that turned out to be an abomination that may have finally signaled the death knell for this once great franchise.
3. Madden/EA Sports
The only guarantees in life are death, taxes…and a yearly Madden NFL game. Back in the early 2000s, Electronic Arts, who publishes the series, had some stiff competition on its hands with 2K’s NFL games, which kept both series in check and helped ensure that each new release in both franchises was bringing new ideas to the table. Of course, all that changed once EA gained exclusive licensing rights to the NFL, effectively killing the 2K series after the stellar NFL 2K5 and giving EA a monopoly on football gaming. Unsurprisingly, this has led to many years of marginally-improved sequels that barely include more than some roster updates and a few tweaks to gameplay systems. A similar situation has begun happening with some of EA’s other sports franchises, particularly the NHL games. Rather than force teams to turn around an entire game in one year development cycles, EA would do well to put out a new game every few years and instead simply offer some DLC to update the previous year’s game for the new NFL season. This way, EA’s development houses can focus on making better games and consumers won’t be gouged by purchasing largely the same game year after year.
2. Assassin’s Creed
It’s hard to believe now, but Assassin’s Creed used to be a groundbreaking series, with the first few titles being heralded as some of the greatest games of the last generation. Eight years and multiple sequels later though, Ubisoft’s historical adventure games have become just another series stuck in a yearly development loop, meaning that a once novel concept has turned into a repetitive slog that demands too much of players’ time and money. To be fair, this year’s addition, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, is one of the best Assassin’s Creed titles in years and is a welcome return to form. The problem is, it came out only a year after Assassin’s Creed Unity, which was so riddled with bugs and design problems that it came to be the last straw for many fans. Asking these same people to purchase yet another game only a year later is a tough proposition and as much as Syndicate deserves the praise it has received, the entire Assassin’s Creed franchise needs to take a break, having long ago became a parody of its former glory.
1. Call of Duty
The scapegoat for oversaturation if there ever was one, each entry in the Call of Duty series is admittedly a solid gaming experience at its core, but if ever there was a series that could take a break to regroup, it’s this one. Call of Duty used to be one of the most vital, innovative franchises in gaming, with the incredible Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare revolutionizing adversarial multiplayer for first-person shooters back in 2007. While the influence of that title is still felt almost a decade after its initial release, Activision has pretty much been content with reiterating on Modern Warfare‘s central concept every year since, to the point where the “if you’ve played one Call of Duty, you’ve played them all” mantra rings largely true. Each new game bleeds into the last and with every passing year, the series becomes less and less relevant, despite its continued widespread popularity. Admittedly, Activision has alleviated some of the issues that come with a yearly release schedule by introducing three year development cycles with three separate teams focused on making Call of Duty games, which ideally will lead to better games in the future. That being said, if Activision doesn’t do something soon to stave off franchise fatigue, diminishing returns will only continue to escalate until Call of Duty goes the way of Guitar Hero and goes into a years-long hibernation.