In a perfect world, they would both grow up to have many sequels and retire together into platinum bliss. They would both have long legacies as franchises and be fondly remembered in our gaming history.
But enough of the niceties, one will reign supreme. Here's why Horizon Zero Dawn will grace us with many more sequels than Nioh.
The number one reason Horizon Zero Dawn will have more sequels is the recognizability, popularity, and uniqueness of its protagonist.
Aloy is absolutely crushing William on Google Trends. William Adams currently has a tenth of the interest Aloy is continuing to garner. The only time they were remotely comparable was at Nioh's release, and the height of the game's overall interest -- and this was well before HZD released.
Some of you may find this a really irritating reason, as it has nothing to do with game play, development or overall quality of the games. The truth is that these qualities all matter to a point, but a popular main character makes multiple sequels much more likely. There's a reason we're about to see a 9th Mario Kart game even though Diddy Kong Racing was clearly of overall better quality.
Ok, that's an arguable point but it's pretty obvious that a main character's popularity has a huge impact on generating sequels. Guerilla Games has really knocked this popularity contest out of the park.
We could have a long discussion on the ins and outs of Guerilla Games and Team Ninja and why exactly their timeline is so different. The basic comparison I would like to make instead is that Nioh was announced in 2004, while Horizon Zero Dawn was conceived in 2011.
Clearly, the development process was quite different for Nioh and was postponed several times. The initially speculated release date was actually all the way back in 2006 and then it continued to be postponed for 11 years.
This may have ensured that Nioh is an excellent and well-developed game, but when tackling a sequel, huge gaps in development usually don't work as well as studios that are able to produce on a more consistent schedule.
Guerilla Games turned out Horizon Zero Dawn in 6 years.
Sales vs Cost
In the same vein, a clue to who will garner the most sequels lies in how many copies each of these games has sold.
Specifically their profits, or how much each games sales outweigh their development costs. There are no hard and fast numbers released that would let us solve this math problem in a simple way, but with estimations and speculations, we can try to paint a picture.
Horizon Zero Dawn is currently being praised for its estimated development cost of $46 million. To give you a reference point, Grand Theft Auto V is estimated to have cost around $270 million (adjusted for inflation). A very moderate speculation on Horizon Zero Dawn's first-year sales is 6 million copies.
Nioh's development costs are a little more difficult to find, likely because of how long it was in development. Originally the budget for both the game and (canceled) movie was an estimated 3 billion yen. This is around $27 million or $34 million after it's been adjusted for inflation. It is very unlikely they didn't increase budget over 13 years, but to be moderate, let us assume Nioh cost around the same as HZD to make.
Nioh is being praised for selling 1 million copies already, but there are no estimates that put it anywhere near HZD's sales projections. While it will still be a very successful game, HZD is a monstrous money maker.
Money makers definitely get the most sequels.
Media Coverage (AKA Free Marketing)
Consumers and critics don't often agree, but in both of these cases, they overwhelmingly do. These games are both great, but the sheer amount of coverage Horizon Zero Dawn is getting will have an impact.
The games have almost identical aggregate critic scores (87 for Nioh and 88 for Horizon Zero Dawn), but Horizon Zero Dawn has been reviewed by quite a few more critics and twice as many users on Metacritic. We don't know what came first, the public's interest or the media coverage, but clearly, somebody was paying attention to pre-review numbers, review numbers, and hype.
Horizon Zero Dawn has 7,350,000 "news" search queries, while Nioh lands at 280,000. This is a pretty bare bones way to look at media coverage, as it doesn't factor in the quality of the news sources, but with numbers that different it will serve our purpose.
Clearly, the media is paying quite a bit more attention to Horizon Zero Dawn than they did to Nioh when it was at its peak. User interest and media coverage have a tendency to snowball on itself, and in Horizon Zero Dawn's case, this will surely mean more sequels.
Looking into the future is no easy task, especially when we're still lacking quite a few crucial pieces to the puzzle. As for Guerilla Games and Team Ninja, video game studios keep their numbers ambiguous and their crises under wraps.
With the information we have available now, we'll just go ahead and make an assumption anyway on which series will reign supreme. Playing both of these games is a no-brainer, but in the long run, Horizon Zero Dawn will spawn the stronger franchise.