Pity the video game sequel, perpetually scapegoated as an evil of the industry. To the rescue of its reputation this week came Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick. The exec recently explained what sequels are good for, besides profit.
During his hour-long—and highly quotable—presentation on Monday to the Deutsche Bank Securities Technology Conference in California, Kotick was asked by attendee whether he considered the gaming industry to be a hit-driven business.
"It is hit-driven business, but it's not as volatile as you would think," he said. "If you look at the top 10 products this year, eight of the top 10 products are based on franchises that were out last year and the year before that and the year before that.
"There's always been a confusion about the value of new intellectual property and also the difficulty of introducing new intellectual property. You still have the great challenge every year of innovating in your franchise, but one of the great benefits of having franchises is that you have a road map for innovation. When you are developing a new intellectual property from the ground up, you have to invent the story, the characters, the gameplay dynamics, and you're doing it without the benefit of audience knowledge.
"If you're really disciplined, as we are, about spending time surveying your audiences, you can take a lot of that knowledge — and the audience can give you a lot of guidance about what they want in their innovative new products. The pathway to innovation on a franchise is easier and better defined than it would be in something new.
"The companies that have proven franchises and have the discipline to leverage them are always going to do better and have a greater level of success. The single hardest thing to do in the video game business is to introduce new, original intellectual property and that's why it doesn't happen very often."
Who among us can deny that some highly innovative games were also sequels? Most games must be born without a number at the end of them, but Kotick makes a strong argument that when they get that numerical appendage, they get...better.
You can listen to the full Kotick presentation at the conference's official site. The quoted excerpt above begins close to the 42:00 mark.