Brand Fatigue and the ‘Risk’ of New IPs
Dragon’s Dogma, possibly one of the most fun action-RPGs of the generation, let alone of the year, has now become what Capcom refers to as a “Major Franchise”. This pleases me greatly, and not just because I loved Dragon’s Dogma.
I was supposed to review the game, but 70+ hours in and I had barely begun to scratch the game. I was, and even am, still journeying between the starting village and the first main town, just hunting monsters to get items to get better weapons to hunt scarier monsters to get better items to get even better weapons to hunt even scarier monsters and so on and so on. Yes it sounds like Monster Hunter, but the main difference between the two is that Dogma has a focus.
Rather than just repeating the above steps and calling it a game, Dogma also includes a main story line, hundreds (if not thousands) of side quests, and is generally a tighter game overall. Granted, Monster Hunter has the pick-up-and-play on the bus quality that makes it perfect for handhelds, and does have the co-op mode that makes the adventures even better, but Dogma is a console game, one you can sit down alone with and suddenly lose tens of hours in a row.
If I had to give it a score for this mini review it would be a high 8 or 9 without a doubt. It isn’t perfect, but it is damn close. If you have an interest in Elder Scrolls or enjoyed Kingdoms of Amalur or even like the idea of Monster Hunter then you should definitely be thinking about giving this game a go, it’s fantastic and addictive and, when some of the larger creatures decided to turn up for a scuffle, can even be truly epic in every sense of the word. That’s a lot of adjectives for the first entry of a new IP.
Yes, as you may have overlooked with the similarities to Monster Hunter, Dogma is in fact a brand new IP. It’s a heavy fantasy game. It’s from Japan. All these facts are often things that companies use to avoid making or translating a game. Why risk spending money of creating a new action RPG when people are still talking about Skyrim, nobody will buy it right, especially not from an eastern company? Over 1 million people have now proved the naysayers wrong. Over 1 million people, in the middle of a recession, in the middle of summer, put down their money for a game they’d never heard out that didn’t have anything to do with first person or shooting.
Gravity Rush, another new IP released just last week, is again more proof that new titles can sell. Despite being both a new IP and a PS Vita exclusive it entered the UK charts at number nine. While not particularly high, and with its staying power yet to be determined, for a title exclusive to a handheld that doesnt what you could call a large install base this is a good sign.
Thank you Capcom and thank you Sony, you have now proven that as long as you make a good game there are no reasons it won’t sell. High fantasy? Who doesn’t want to wield a sword bigger than them while raining meteors on chimera and griffins! Nobody wants a Japanese RPG, let alone a Japanese attempt at an action (predominantly western) RPG? Dogma has sold over a million copies, Monster Hunter is still a big cult hit, Ni No Kuni is looking to be one of the most anticipated JRPGs this side of a PS1 Final Fantasy. It’s a new IP, nobody will buy outside of recognised brands will they? Again, Dogma, over 1 million. As long as you show that your new IP is interesting, and it is a genuinely good game, people will be willing to put money down for it. More so perhaps, because in the current age of gaming people are even starting to suffer from brand fatigue, look how many people have turned on Call of Duty. Not to mention that if you want to try new ideas but use a brand name to gain sales you run the risk of alienating fans. A bigger risk than a new IP because not only will you lose sales, you’ll lose the fanbase, and they can be a hard group to win back.
I guess what I’m trying to say with all this is that more companies should be willing to follow Capcom’s example, a company famed for milking its franchises, and take a risk on a new IP that’s a little different from other things on the market, especially western developers. Platinum Games is a great example of this as well, most of their titles are new IPs, and most, while being defined by set genres, offer something new to that gametype, just look at the speed and excitement Vanquish injected into the cover based shooter.
Meanwhile, we have western companies such as Epic who’s onto their fourth Gears of War game where the only new feature appears to be classes for the multiplayer, or 343 who are developing the sixth main Halo game, and have not only kept the gameplay overly similar but have also tried to implement new ideas that I personally feel clash with the series status quo. If this had been a new IP that tried out the new visor modes, and made a more set piece based sci-fi shooter I would be excited for that, but it’s Halo, and it feels off, all because the brand moves copies.
This is a fact I cannot deny, a brand name will always sell games, or more precisely will always sell a game. Eventually brand fatigue will always set in, it’s just a matter of time, and even if you try to stave it off with new additions and experimentation, you can only change so much before the fanbase becomes alienated and moves away. At that point you’ve lost the people buying the games with your name on it, even a new IP at that point may be too little to win them back from a new franchise they’ve already invested in.
So bottom line? Risk it, take away the defined brands, start a new IP, try out some new ideas rather than copying what the current standard is, and see if you, like Capcom, can’t also start a whole new franchise to last out a few more years before the brand fatigue, move your fans onto something else of your’s before you lose them completely. Its about time we had a paradigm shift in the genre norms, and I for one am willing to put my money down for change, and so are at least 999,999 other gamers.