Readers discuss successful video game franchises that they don’t see the appeal of, from Halo to Pokémon.
The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Focus, who asked what game’s success do you struggle to understand the most and is there anything it could do to change, to get you interested in it?
A lot of sacred cows were mentioned, with Call Of Duty, Pokémon, and FIFA being the most common, with each of them being criticised for their too frequent sequels.
Growing out of it
There are plenty of franchises that aren’t for me, but less that stray into actively dislike territory. There are a couple though.
I don’t like the way Ubisoft pump out pretty much the same Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed games every year; Far Cry has some really cringeworthy dialogue and characters at times also.
I sort of fell out with the Grand Theft Auto series after GTA 4. I just thought it became a bit of a one trick pony where the world building was the only selling point. I appreciate the size of the maps, the music, the satire, and those other elements that give the games so much personality and texture, but the gameplay just feels like an afterthought, which I don’t like. The way Rockstar have handled the series since GTA 5 has soured me further on it.
Lastly, I’m at an age now where I’m coming to not like Call Of Duty very much at all. I used to enjoy playing those games as a student in the noughties and they are great fun in an arcadey way, but I haven’t played any of them seriously for years now and have come to find the way they fetishise warfare at times to not sit very well with me anymore.
I’ve tried so many times to play through the Final Fantasy series and no matter what I do, I can’t enjoy them because of the random battles. I think the most I have played of one was halfway into 6 but for some reason, I didn’t continue past that point. I have also tried to play Final Fantasy 7 and I never even got as far as getting out of Midgar and I’ve also given 8 a bash and it all comes down to the same random battle nonsense that you have to put up with.
I keep looking at Chrono Trigger knowing it’s not quite the same and feeling that I’m probably missing out on tons of great stories by not being able to get over their mechanics.
To be fair, it’s not just a problem with Final Fantasy but Japanese role-playing games in general and I can quite happily get along with computer role-playing mechanics just fine.
GC: It’s been years since most Japanese role-players, including Final Fantasy, have had random battles. It’s now very uncommon.
The long wait
With the games listed. I used to be a big Pokémon fan in the Game Boy Color days. I bought Red, Blue, and Yellow. I completed each version many times. Back then I always imagined how the game would look on a console. When I saw Pokémon Snap on N64 I thought it was near reality to have a fully 3D adventure, but it did not happen.
Then I was banking the GameCube would provide the ultimate Pokémon adventure but that never materialised. By the time Wii came out it was quite evident that sort of game would not be a priority. Even now that dynamic open world Pokémon adventure still eludes me. My own expectation has put me off the games.
I was big on GTA on PS1, GTA 3 and San Andreas being my favourite. I was super hyped for GTA 4 and was majorly underwhelmed. Poor characters, dialogue, dull city, and mission structure put me off the franchise forever. I am now over fetch quest games where you go to a location, get the order, and then travel to the mission. I prefer a linear style that gets straight to the point to focus on story, gameplay, and design.
I played Fortnite once and was underwhelmed by the gameplay but I do like how they incorporate all different franchises in their game. League Of Legends I’ve never played and do not know how it even plays.
I would like of liked for Team Ico franchises or Japan Studio games such as Puppeteer to be popular, to ensure those sort of games would still be developed, but unfortunately that is not what happened.
‘Titan’ Bobby LashLee
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Big in college
I’ve always been bemused by people’s love of Pokémon. When I was at college I heard about this mysterious game that was big in Japan and was going to make the Game Boy relevant again. It sounded so good.
Then all the cartoons came over and kids were going crazy over Pokémon cards. I really wanted to play it. Then I played it and it was awful. I tried several iterations up to the 3DS and they were all awful.
Also, GTA Online. Yeah, it would be a reasonably good game with all its modes and freedom, but you spend 75% of the time sitting in lobbies and another 20% in loading screens.
One game that is not my cup of tea is the FIFA games, because although I am not into football in the real world I have enjoyed the various arcade football games over the years on Amiga, Mega Drive, SNES, and Saturn.
I’ve enjoyed Sensible Soccer (which has a spiritual sequel on consoles next year called Sociable Soccer), Kick Off, Sega Worldwide Soccer on the Saturn and I am sure there is at least one or two more games that I have not thought of from that era that aren’t coming to mind, as I write this email. I find the current FIFA games too serious and prefer the arcade experience of said games I have played. There used to be loads of choice for football games, now there is just one or two.
I miss the days of having simulations and arcade games. I think I did play FIFA possibly on the Mega Drive or SNES but they are quite different to the games of today because of the hardware they are running on and the technological advances.
In the past few years I did try Call Of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered, which was included with Infinite Warfare at £10, as I had never played a Call Of Duty game beyond a couple of brief goes on demos years ago. First person shooters are not my favourite type of games, although I have enjoyed games like Half-life 1 and 2, Bioshock 1 and Infinite, System Shock 2, MachineGames’ Wolfenstein games and Deus Ex 1, Human Revolution, and Mankind Divided.
I did like the campaign for Modern Warfare but I didn’t want to go on to other Call Of Duty games as it was not my thing. I do plan to try Infinite Warfare at some point as that is quite different to other Call Of Duties. I didn’t play online multiplayer on Call Of Duty as I first played online 20 years ago on PC on other non-Call Of Duty games and found that the text chat or audio could be quite toxic and I have heard in the past 10 years or so that is still a problem with online gaming to an extent.
Trying something new
I have never played Minecraft, Fortnite or any MOBA.
MOBAs and battle royale games hold absolute no interest to me. I did try Apex Legends briefly but could not understand the appeal. Both genres seem utterly impenetrable to me and as someone that generally prefers solo experiences I doubt I will ever try them.
Minecraft is a little different as I am fairly certain I would have loved it as a child. As a middle-aged adult though I know that my ambition to build something epic would far outstrip both my skill and my patience. Playing Minecraft would therefore just make me miserable as I fail to achieve anything worthwhile.
For example, I had grand ideas for a pirate themed level in LittleBigPlanet, where platforms and the water level would need to be altered multiple times to allow a ship to be freed from a cavern and would be required to reach the exit. I spent hours on that over many months and just could not get it to work.
There are other popular games like FIFA, Far Cry, Call Of Duty, and Assassin’s Creed that I am increasingly indifferent to. I used to love these series in the past but now only play a new entry every three to five years. The last games I played were still good, but I have not touched any this year. Instead, I have played more inventive titles such as To the Moon, Unpacking, Mini Metro, Slay The Spire, John Wick Hex, Deathloop, The Witness, New Pokémon Snap, and Disco Elysium.
Not everything I have played this year has been great, with a fair few missteps like A Hat in Time, Bugsnax, Blossom Tales, Haven Park, Solitaire Conspiracy, Island Farmer, and Gris which range from poor to good but not really for me. Yet I would rather play a broad range of games I might not like, than the same thing over and over. I can understand wanting a sure fire thing that you know you will at least like though, high profile games are expensive (which is also why most of those previous games I listed were picked up in sales or were on PlayStation Plus).
I am not completely stuck in my ways or against big franchises. Despite only playing 15 minutes of Forza Motorsport 3 (which I did not really like) and generally having very little interest in racing games, I still want to try Forza Horizon 5, it looks fun. Not having an Xbox Series X is a bit of an issue though. I am hopeful that Games Pass will encourage people to try new types of games but equally fear it will just lead to people being more forgiving of high profile flawed games.
PS: Can GC please run Xbox Series X stock update stories too in addition to all the PlayStation 5 ones? Yes, Series S are available but X, although not as limited as PlayStation 5s, are still a long way from easily available.
GC: We would if we could but, unlike the PlayStation 5, there never seems to be any advance warning of Xbox Series X restocks. If there ever is we’ll report on it.
Topical perhaps but I have never understood the appeal of Halo. This is despite generally being an Xbox gamer, so I have played quite a few of them, but the boring art style, even more boring level design, and same old enemies and weapons has always put me off.
I have an Xbox Series X so will give Halo Infinite a go on Game Pass, but I’m not excited about it and having played the multiplayer already expect it to be more of the same, again.
I have always understood why franchises are good in the eyes of some and not in the eyes of others. If football or Formula One, or party games like Mario, aren’t your cup of tea, then don’t get them. I see MMOs as something I would not touch with a bargepole but perfectly see the addictive fascination of them without having to have any kind of deep thought process.
What I kind of don’t understand is every year’s release of sport franchises like Madden and FIFA and probably other sporting games. Assassin’s Creed could be a contender but at least it shows obvious reasons making it different from the last title.
The sporting franchises are good games, no doubt about it, even if I would not buy them personally, but I feel that buying every release, making the previous one redundant, is a bit sad for the previous game. Maybe to download an update with the same game would be better than buying a whole new game! Currently you have to get the new release that year to keep in sync with your online friends and the gaming world in general.
I like sequels maybe once every two to three years for something fundamental new and exciting, like the Final Fantasy series and the recent Resident Evil series, and of course FromSoftware’s releases. You can then get something which quite possibly will be new and exciting but in the familiar game world you have been a part of for years.
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