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The Challenge of Following a Hit Game


It is obvious to say that every game developer fantasizes at some point about their game becoming a success, both critically and commercially. For the relatively few where that fantasy becomes a reality, they find great happiness. However, what happens when a developer or studio sets out to create a second groundbreaking success? How do they top themselves and fulfill customer’s expectations now that the bar has been set so high? These are questions that seem to serve as a constant undertone within the video game industry and are especially prevalent with two recent announcements for new games. Telltale Games has announced their next title is going to be called The Wolf Among Us as well as Supergiant Games announced their next title is going to be called Transistor.

The Wolf Among Us is a prequel to DC comic Fables. The premise of the game is that players play as Bigby Wolf, aka The Big Bad Wolf, and patrol a community inhabited by fairytale characters. Fables has a strong following within the comic and graphic novel community, and Telltale Games clearly showed they are capable of producing a strong licensed product from The Walking Dead. But how will they follow up to their smash success?

To clear the air on a technicality first, The Walking Dead was not technically Telltale Games’ first game, but it was by far their most successful game, so I lump that into this same category as being a hard one to follow. The Walking Dead had such a unique gameplay style that it will be interesting to see if Telltale can seemingly revolutionize a genre two times in a row. The writers are clearly capable of formulating a compelling story based on a established franchise, but how will the gameplay differ or stand out? If the gameplay is exactly the same as The Walking Dead just with new characters, there would plenty of people that would still play the game, however, there would also be plenty of naysayers who would attack the game for not progressing. What The Walking Dead had in its favor was that it was a style of gameplay that no other game used and it really utilized the episodic release of chapters instead of an all at once release like other games. Personally, I have no idea what to expect from this next title. I do have faith in the fact that Telltale will find a new, intriguing way to tell this next story.

Supergiant Games released the hugely successful Bastion in 2011 as a digital download. The game sold millions of copies since its release and has since been ported to iOS devices. Unlike Telltale, Bastion was Supergiant’s first and only game to date. As a very small team based in San Francisco, Supergiant may not have the luxury of riding out a poor title release – every title they release has to be quality. Transistor is a sci-fi adventure game that honestly seems similar in style to Bastion. From the trailer (below) there are some new gameplay elements like side scrolling action and potential vehicle usage, but the overall art and feel of the game seems similar.

This is the catch 22 that exists with a studio’s second game. Bastion‘s formula proved successful, so I assume the strategy is to use that strong foundation as leverage for a new experience. There is a fine line between leveraging and repeating though. In order for Transistor to be massively successful, I believe that it much create a distinguishable difference between itself and Bastion. Supergiant already has shown their carrying over some of what made Bastion strong by using Ashley Barrett as vocalist for the Transistor trailer song and who also sang many of the unforgettable songs from Bastion. But the gameplay is what it will come down to. Hopefully, Transistor doesn’t feel like a Bastion sequel with the same fighting mechanics and just new enemies. I personally have high faith in Supergiant Games and believe they will release a strong product – a product I fully intend to purchase, but history has sometimes shown us that developer’s second games sometimes lack compared to their original launch title.

A developer’s second major release is a tricky thing to master. Progressing their brand while still capitalizing on their customer foundation is never easy. Two companies as strong as Telltale Games and Supergiant Games have momentum on their side from their last titles, so hopefully, their follow-ups are just strong.

Lucas has evolved in his video game preferences. With a foundation in predominantly sports game, action adventure games are now his favorite to play. He is a competitive swimmer and likes to play volleyball, basketball, and golf.

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