Blizzard: A Case Study in Avoiding Sequel-itis

With the entire Internet still posting and speculating on Blizzard's recent official unveiling of Diablo III, I think it would be a good time to mention a characteristic of Blizzard that few other developers can claim. Blizzard is one of only a handful of companies that doesn't pump out sequels year after year. There is usually a significant gap between their major releases. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that Blizzard is juggling several popular, well-respected franchises. But I'd also like to think this extended wait between sequels is due to the quality and care Blizzard takes in crafting their games. Let's briefly look at a few of their franchises.

Warcraft: Orcs and Humans - Jan. 15, 1994
Warcraft II - Nov. 30, 1995
Warcraft III - July 3, 2002

Diablo - Nov. 30, 1996
Diablo II - June 29, 2000
Diablo III - Just announced (2009 at the earliest)

Starcraft - April 1, 1998
Starcraft II - TBA (probably early 2009)

With the exception of Warcraft II, Blizzard tends to have lengthy waits between their major sequels. They range from as little as 4 to as much as (potentially) 10 or 11 years. As much as I love many of Blizzard's games, despite not having played them too extensively, I think it's healthy for the game industry to not be glutted by repetitive sequels. Not only do Blizzard's releases tend to be quite spread out, but they also necessarily make many significant improvements and changes to the games to provide a largely new experience.

Of course, the biggest example of types of games that flood the market are the yearly releases of major sports franchises. I get that they're meant to coincide with the start of a new *actual* sports season. But most of those sequels aren't substantively different from previous versions. And even if they are, did you waste your time perfecting your skills in one Madden game, only have to relearn some things a year later?

Also, I know that Blizzard is not the only company to spend more time on their games and have lengthy waits between sequels. Obviously Rockstar (GTA), Kojima Productions (MGS4), and even Square-Enix (Final Fantasy and Draqon Quest series) have similar release patterns.

A healthy wait is good for us. And it can only help when a developer spends some extra time polishing off a game. What other developers avoid the "release a sequel every year or two" syndrome? As much as it pains me to wait for a highly anticipated game, isn't the wait usually worth it?

Note: The Blizzard release dates were taken from a combination of Gamefaqs.com and Wikipedia.

1 comment:

ckuettner said...

Off from the big mainstream players, Sid Meier is also not rushing too fast to bring out the next sequel.