It feels sometimes that modern media relies more heavily on reboots than it really should. Anyone who’s seen the movies from their childhood make their way back to the cinema, or seen their children watching rebooted versions of their favourite childhood shows, will know what we mean. This problem, however, seems even more prominent in the world of gaming. With gaming as an industry being one of the youngest entertainment industries out there, why do they keep rebooting their franchises?
There have been several high profile reboots of popular video games, most recently the recent release of Doom, the latest title in the Doom franchise. Like some other gaming series such as Tomb Raider, this is actually it’s second reboot, after Doom 3.
Doom has released to mostly positive reviews, and it’s not the only reboot to do so. There have been some very successful reboots made, such as Fallout 3, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. What we’ve seen from these releases is that the reboot does something new and interesting with the game, rather than rehashing the same old mechanics. Fallout 3 took the franchise from a turn based RPG to a first person shooter with phenomenal success, and Prince of Persia introduced 3D platforming and the ability to reverse time itself.
As well as the gameplay, some developers have tinkered with the way the game is released to the public. The reboot of Hitman, released initially in March, was released in episodic chunks, as will the reboot of Final Fantasy 7. Both announcements caused some controversy, Hitman because the announcement came so late before it’s initial release date, and Final Fantasy 7 because fans felt that it would hurt the game. So far, the opinion on Hitman is that it feels ‘unfinished’, rather than episodic.
Of course, not every reboot goes well. For every success, there’s a handful of disappointments and downright failures. Notable mentions are 2006’s Sonic The Hedgehog, which awkwardly tried to mash the cartoony platformer of the originals with a more modern, human setting, and Dungeon Keeper, which came out as a free to play app with unreasonable paywalls. The most famous failure out there, though, is Duke Nukem 3D. 15 years in development and countless developers, platforms and console generations later, it’s generally considered to be a sprawling mess, out of date and appealing to gamers that weren’t around anymore.
So, reboots have a rather mixed history, their success based on whether a developer can create something new and interesting with a franchise, and whether there’s still an audience for it. In an interesting twist on the normal reboot formula, Timesplitters Rewind is being created directly by the audience that wants it. Heartbroken by the cancellation of Timesplitters 4, they petitioned Crytek to allow them to create the game themselves, and surprisingly, they agreed. Now you can follow their progress on their website, as well as donate towards the project, as the licence agreement doesn’t allow them to use crowdfunding such as Kickstarter.
So, is the gaming industry relying too heavily on reboots? Quite possibly. However, when a reboot is done well, it can kick off a whole new, entertaining, and successful franchise. With more original ideas being found in indie games, and the rising costs of triple A game development, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing more of them. If we can get more Fallout 3’s than Duke Nukem 3Ds, we’ll be doing ok.