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Are New IPs Becoming A Risk For Developers?

It’s fair to assume that new IPs can be a big risk for major developers. But does this mean that modern games are becoming stale? Well, it’s not uncommon to see a lot of sequels, remakes and straight-up re-releases at the moment and not a whole load of new ideas. You just need to look at recent and upcoming games to know that the money clearly lies with franchises. Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, are prime examples of franchises that seem to be neverending and often get annual releases.

However, it’s not just sequels. Skyrim, the game that has seen numerous re-releases throughout its ten-year lifespan, is about to receive a 10th Anniversary edition. We have also seen a slew of remasters – everything from Grand Theft Auto to Shadow of the Colossus.

Sequels And Remakes And Remasters, Oh My!

Of course, existing IPs (Intellectual Properties, in case you didn’t know) offer a lot to the average consumer. Remakes and remasters not only allow us to relive our favourite games from days gone by, but also top-notch graphics, refined controls and other quality of life changes.

Image Credit – Bluepoint Games

Similarly, sequels offer something just as familiar. For the casual gamer who has to choose between a few $70 releases, this can be a major advantage. You know what you’re getting into right from the start and exactly what sort of experience your money will buy. A number of the aforementioned upcoming sequels follow pretty much the same basic template as the various incarnations that have preceded them.

Successful New IPs

So, it begs the question: are new IPs becoming a thing of the past? Well, not exactly. Some companies are still willing to take a risk. A great example of this is the phenomenal Horizon: Zero Dawn – although it too is receiving a sequel at the start of 2022. Horizon Zero Dawn was a huge change in direction for Guerrilla Games. For a company that had previously worked on the linear first-person shooter series Killzone, moving on to a third-person action-adventure set in an open-world was a drastic change.

In-game Screenshot (Immortals Fenyx Rising)

Ubisoft, again known for their long-running series such as Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, also released a whole new IP recently titled Immortals Fenyx Rising. While Immortals Fenyx Rising perhaps didn’t fare as well as Horizon, it was still generally well-received. Many considered it a light and fun mash-up of Assassin’s Creed and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The 265 Million Dollar Question

So, why do companies fall back on old staples instead of moving forwards? It’s likely because games cost so much to make these days. Regardless of budget, developers have to decide whether to create something new, but not have an established fan base or template to follow, or make the same old stuff but be guaranteed to at least break even. Basically, the fear is that they’ll spend millions only for their idea to flop.

Reportedly, GTAV cost in the region of US$265 million to develop which is of course a huge amount of money. However, it more than made it back in sales, making over US$1 Billion in the first three days. Comparatively, Horizon Zero Dawn had a much smaller budget at an estimated US$53 million. It sold 2.6 million copies in the first two weeks.

New IPs - Horizon Zero Dawn
Image Credit – Guerrilla Games

Now of course this is comparing two widely different sized companies with vastly different budgets. But the point remains that developing a sequel to an already successful franchise is likely going to make a bigger return than an original game. I mean there’s a reason we’re getting a sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn and not a new title from Guerrilla Games. You don’t really need to look much further than Call of Duty to solidify this point. Call of Duty is the best-selling gaming franchise of the past 12 years. Why would those developers ever make anything else when they know that these games are guaranteed to sell?

Something Borrowed, Something New

So is the “New IP” a thing of the past? Of course not. New and exciting games are being released all the time. Games like Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Deathloop, Elden Ring and Forspoken, are all being released over the next few months. However, at the same time, sequels and remakes are going nowhere either. New games in both the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises are coming later this year as well as Far Cry 6, Dying Light 2, and Tales of Arise.

New IPs - Deathloop
Image Credit – Arkane Studios

So, for the time being, we’ll just have to celebrate everything new and continue indulging in what we already know. Either way, whether you want to stick to what you know, or you want to go all-in on something entirely new, the future of gaming is bright. I’m sure that new IPs and decade-long franchises will happily coexist for the time being. I for one am looking forward to games from both new and old IPs in the very near future.