While this console generation has brought the gaming community a number of innovations that have improved the way we play in almost every conceivable way, it has also had its share of drawbacks - one downside being the massive budget required to produce a top-tier retail offering. This reality has lead many publishers to divert resources toward proven franchises that can be safely released annually. The worst of these offenders have put their credibility and long-term viability at risk by flooding the market at every opportunity. The following list represents a group of franchises that are dangerously close to reaching that point of no return, and are listed in alphabetical order.
Let's face it: We all know Ubisoft is not going to give Desmond a well-deserved rest, but that's not going to stop me from venting. Creed's increasingly angst-filled protagonist has been putting in overtime for many moons now, somehow managing to keep the series relevant under the pressure of a yearly release cycle. Unfortunately, there's only so long even the largest army of internationally-assembled studios can keep this act up and remain honest to the series' roots.
I know what you're thinking, "Battlefield 3 just came out and changed the first-person shooter landscape forever! How can it be overdone already?" It's not so much that Battlefield 3 has done anything wrong in isolation, more that EA appears willing to stretch the series' name to a dangerously thin degree. Over the past few years, we've seen Battlefield 3, Bad Company 2, 1943, Heroes and so on come out to a generally positive reception. Regardless, that's a lot of Battlefield to absorb. It would be a shame to see the series push its luck one too many times.
Call of Duty
There's not much to say about Call of Duty. Activision has structured itself for one purpose: To put out, for all intents and purposes, the same game once a year and happily collect the billion $USD or so as a reward for showing up. Maybe that's a bit harsh and it's certainly simplistic, but it's the view of an increasingly resentful core of gaming enthusiasts who wear disdain for CoD as a badge of honour. Eventually, this sentiment will come back to haunt Kotick and Co.
Full disclosure: I am not a Final Fantasy guy by any stretch, so my apologies in advance to the avid fans of this esteemed site. That being said, one of gaming's formerly marquee franchises seems to have been wandering aimlessly for quite some time. Whether it's the absolute mess that has come to represent IV Online, or the polarizing nature of XIII's design, Final Fantasy is in need of a long period of reflection if it wants to regain a place among the industry's most-revered.
Halo's another franchise that at least feels to have been quietly annualized without much fanfare. Counting the much publicized release of Halo Anniversary, Microsoft has ensured a fresh iteration of Halo hits store shelves over the past few years. Maybe it's the combination of Call of Duty eating Halo's multiplayer lunch, but the arrival, Master Chief or not, just doesn't feel as significant as it once did. Here's hoping Halo 4 proves everything I've said above wrong.
Including Lego on this list may be an especially fruitless endeavour, considering the franchise is aimed at a younger audience which naturally lends itself to repetition. However, many of the Lego games have managed to capture the imagination of older players as well, with ample charm and acceptable execution. The series has grown to cover a number of high-profile licenses, but what's needed to keep it fresh is more experiments such as Lego Universe.
A list of overdone franchises would not be complete without at least one Nintendo offering - some could argue the entire list should be theirs to claim, but that's a can of worms I'm not willing to open here. That being said, I settled on the most egregious offender to represent Nintendo's larger pantheon of franchises. All you need to hear is Mario Kart 7... That is, until you realize there have been far more than seven to grace our shelves. Enough said.
Need For Speed
Need For Speed is an interesting one, because its been so schizophrenic as of late. Many of its recent attempts at originality have been admirable ones with some promise, but have either fallen just short in execution or been strangely left behind before they had time to properly develop. Recently, we've seen Shift's more realistic, simulation approach, Hot Pursuit's arcade-ish focus on customization and The Run's narrative experiment, to name just a few. It all creates a very muddy picture of what Need For Speed stands for these days.
Ratchet & Clank
No disrespect to Ratchet & Clank - two of the most-beloved adventurous characters to have survived the last console generation and thrived throughout the current one - but I can't help feeling the well may have run dry, for the time being. 2011's All 4 One was the first time a Ratchet game didn't seem to receive the triple-A polish typically associated with Insomniac's body of work. Beyond that, it simply seems the Ratchet story has been told successfully and can stand on its own.
Before the internet arrives at my door with pitchforks, let me say that I fully recognize the achievements of Sonic Generations. However, it seems whenever Sonic displays any semblance of competency, the hedgehog's legions of faithful proclaim a golden age is on the horizon. Even if that were realistic, do we really want it? I say let Sonic have a moment in the sun where the last iteration is remembered fondly, because we've seen how quickly things can go the other way.