The release of Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia this week shone an interesting spotlight on frequent game releases. The rate at which new Total War games have been releasing has been increasing exponentially as Creative Assembly has sized up. It’s meant we get plenty more Total War games, but it’s also meant we’re becoming increasingly used to iterative changes rather than grand overhauls.
To all intents and purposes, Thrones of Britannia is pretty much a reskin of the Total War games that came before, albeit with one or two new mechanics such as per unit food upkeep. At its heart, this is Total War: Attila in a new setting. The core game is still as great as it always was, but there's a feeling we've done all this before.
Creative Assembly isn’t alone in this though. Any time a series achieves considerable success, the developers and publishers are going to look to replicate this as much and as quickly as possible. And they’ll keep doing it, again and again, until the money dries up and a fresh start is needed.
We’ve seen many game series go through this same process over the years. Assassin’s Creed arrived and proved a blockbuster success. It didn’t take Ubisoft long to release it could milk a new game out of this franchise each and every holiday season. Eventually, these gradual iterations proved too much for the fanbase though, and sales began to decline. Ubisoft decided enough was enough, announcing the series would be taking a break before coming back stronger than ever with Assassin’s Creed Origins.
Look too, at Telltale Games. Having stumbled on a winning formula with The Walking Dead, Telltale Games absolute ballooned in size and quickly began releasing four or five episodic series within a single year. It felt as if any and every franchise it could get its hands on was being turned into an interactive adventure, from Jurassic Park to Batman, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Game of Thrones. The result was a string of games that couldn’t hold a candle to the first season of The Walking Dead, each becoming more derivative than the last. Eventually, the penny dropped in November 2017 and Telltale announced a major restructuring. Around 90 staff were unfortunately cut, with the aim being to “focus on delivering fewer, better games with a smaller team.”
The counterpoint to all of this is we love to get more of the games we adore. Who wouldn’t want another Half-Life? Would you really turn your nose up at The Witcher 4? At the end of the day, money talks, and if fans are buying up these endless iterations then it’s a recipe that works, but there is a feeling that these constant tiny changes, such as we see with Total War, is taking away from the expanse, sweeping updates that we’d love to see in a sequel.
So are you happy to constantly get more games in the series you love or would sacrifice waiting a few more years to get a sequel that fundamentally offers a new experience rather than a retreading of an old one? Get voting and let us know why in the comments below!