Why Franchise Reboots Can Be A Good Thing
Reboot. It’s a dirty little word in the gaming industry on par with “DRM” and “microtransaction.” Hell, it’s a dirty little word across all forms of entertainment, be it movies, comics, television, etcetera. Whenever that word – look how I’m avoiding actually saying it again – gets thrown around, a collective eye roll commences that has Obi-Wan Kenobi feeling a greater disturbance in the Force than when Alderaan was blown to smithereens.
Okay, that’s kind of a loaded question. We know why people hate reboots.
Some Most of the time they just aren’t as good as the original, oftentimes even going as far as to do absolutely nothing special to justify their existence in the first place. To many, a reboot feels like a soul-less attempt to snatch up as much money as possible with minimal effort, playing off the preestablished popularity of a specific brand. That’s where the venom stems from, and it’s justified to a certain degree because a lot of entertainment providers do nothing to change our perception. Because, you know, that would take some honest work.
But that doesn’t mean everyone is comfortable just riding the money train to Cash-Grab Town (not a real place). There are people, especially ones in the realm of game development, that are doing their absolute best to buck this trend of a reboot being this forsaken taboo. And it’s because of these efforts that I’ve kind of come around to the idea that reboots can honestly be really, really great things.
Wait. What’s a reboot?
Let’s back up for a second and define a reboot. If you’ve stuck around reading this article this long and don’t even know what a reboot is, let me first tip my hat to you. It’s taken me a long while to get here, so your patience is appreciated.
A reboot, or relaunch, is a popular trend where developers strip away all the fluff and excess and start completely fresh with a franchise, in theory distilling it down to the core that made it such a success in the first place.
Reboots are important for a number of reasons. For starters, they allow fresh eyes to be set upon your property, and this is the big one for publishers/investors who are funding these games; they want to get as many potential costumers interested in the product as possible so they can make those dollar bills back. But on the consumer end, reboots act as an introduction to a franchise that otherwise was too daunting to try out because you’d feel lost picking up Water Soaker 4 when you haven’t played the first three Water Soakers – and don’t forget the spinoffs!
We’ve seen quite a few reboots lately.
With video games becoming more and more expensive to make – at least the “AAA” variety – it’s no wonder publishers are turning more frequently towards the idea of franchise relaunches. Just off the top of my head I quickly can name DmC: Devil May Cry, the recently released Tomb Raider, and if you think about it, The Legend of Zelda, where every new games in that series is a fresh take on the same classic story – Link must save Princess Zelda. Shit, even the Super Mario games are, by definition, reboots, too.
Then there’s the newly announced Thief relaunch. In fact, it seems like Square Enix is kind of cornering the idea of the reboot with their properties. Again, Tomb Raider comes to mind first, but even Hitman: Absolution and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, neither of which are technically relaunches, check off many of the same boxes a reboot would – new setting, new characters, new gameplay elements, and a new story free from the constraints of previous entries in the series, etc. Thief is just the latest from Square, and one I’m personally interested to check out simply because I’ve never been a big Thief fan but am always open to trying out something new that’s easily accessible.
There’s the key word – “accessible.”
Games, much like all forms of entertainment, need to be accessible. Not only from a gameplay standpoint, otherwise you would hate playing it and that’s kind of a sticky conundrum in and of itself, but also from a story perspective so people can actually understand and appreciate the work put into it. It’s the balance that must be delivered on; give something that will draw in newcomers while simultaneously catering to the legions of fans that made the franchise what it is to date.
As much as I adore the Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil franchises, both are prime examples of series that would benefit from a series reboot. I touched on this briefly elsewhere in regards to Resident Evil, but in the case of Metal Gear, it really needs to be done there, too. Look, I love the Metal Gear Solid franchise and its entire overly convoluted mythos. I eat up all the codec conversations and the history lesson-esque cinematics that take hours upon hours away from my life. But there’s no denying that franchise is in need of a refresh. As a litmus test, try explaining the entire plot of Metal Gear Solid to a friend who has never played any of the games. Does it elicit a response similar to that on the right?
Yea, that’s what I thought.
The Metal Gear brand is big business, no doubt, but it could be even bigger business if a new entry actually had something for new and old-time fans alike. That’s just one simple example, as there are plenty of other franchises that could benefit from this same train of thought.
Reboots are not the devil.
Look, the point of this article was simply to cast the word “reboot” in a different light. It’s not the devil; sometimes it can actually be beneficial for everyone involved. Just look to DmC and Tomb Raider for your most recent proof. I never gave two shits about either of those series before the new titles released. Yet, now I’m a fan, one that will return for the eventual sequels. And I’ll probably love them just as much, up until both franchises are rebooted again in another ten years.