The Modern Day Reboot: What we can learn from Bethesda's successes
Reboot is a term that sends a chill down many people's spines. When a market has become so dependent on well-established franchises, as opposed to trying to reinvigorate the genre by creating a new franchise, things tend to feel a bit overstuffed.
The entertainment industry has become so over-populated with reboots and or re-imaginings that anything original or inventive nowadays feels like holy intervention. However, most consumers would agree that as long as the products are good, it doesn't matter how many chapters are released in a franchise. This is where Bethesda Softworks succeeds with flying colors.
The last few generations of consoles have been a massive testing ground to see if certain game characters and their core mechanics still work with the ever-changing industry. Classic franchises like Mega Man, Earthworm Jim, and Paperboy have basically died off because their journeys into 3D territory couldn't match the quality standard they were known for in 2D.
Even the seventh generation of consoles, consisting of the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii, was a giant laboratory for publishers to experiment on. Remember classics like Golden Axe: Beast Rider? Perhaps the 2010 reboot of Splatterhouse? If none of those ring a bell, what about the massive success that was Sonic 06?
All of these titles have two things in common:
- They failed to reinvigorate their franchises with the success of yesteryear (even though Sonic games are still made, few of them are of a notably good quality)
- They're all terrible.
Yet, with Bethesda Softworks having reworked the Fallout series to critical acclaim, reviving the Wolfenstein franchise with The New Order, and even releasing the rebooted Doom in early May, it's evident that Bethesda knows how to get a proper remake out the door. Since the gimmick of a reboot isn't leaving anytime soon, we might as well demand them to be as top quality as possible, instead of getting another Duke Nukem Forever. With this in mind, what has made Bethesda's recent reboots such a resounding success?
1. Quality, Quality, and QUALITY.
The Elder Scrolls and Fallout have been some of the most critically acclaimed series in gaming to date. With entries such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim and Fallout 3, it should come as no surprise that the majority of Bethesda games released nowadays have to meet high standards. Sure, every now and then you get something unsuccessful like Brink, but those little missteps aren't enough to offset the impact Bethesda has left on the market today, and it's because of these quality games.
The worlds of Skyrim and Fallout 3 are vast and endless, giving players numerous hours of content to enjoy. You can tell this company cares first and foremost about making the best games possible. For example, as with the recently closed Doom 4 Open Beta. Players from around the world were able to come together and enjoy a free multiplayer mode for a few days, helping the developers figure out what all needed changed before the release. While the majority of reactions were positive, some did point out that a few guns needed to be balanced out more (especially the Static Rifle, which many proclaimed as "useless" in multiplayer modes.) A lot of developers don't care about releasing the best game possible so much as releasing it as quickly as possible, but Bethesda Softworks is one of the select few that do wish to make these games wonderful.
2. Change is Good!
There's a reason Fallout 3 was such a resounding success, and something like Space Raiders on the Nintendo Gamecube wasn't. Bethesda Game Studios took what made the original games so good, and improved them in multiple areas (graphics, aesthetics, core mechanics, etc.) They even added some new game-play elements, such as the VATS targeting system, to set Fallout 3 apart from previous installments. Space Raiders just took Space Invaders and put it into 3D, doing nothing inventive or creative with the core mechanics. If you're going to reinvent a series, don't just copy and paste a previous title for the modern generation. Take what made these titles so good, but improve and upgrade it to the point where the audience should feel this entry was absolutely necessary.
3. Never abandon your fan base.
Listen up Capcom. Players have been asking for a new Mega Man game for years now, but you've decided to stew on your franchises because you drove them into the ground a while ago. However, that's not to say there has never been a bad Fallout game, just look at Brotherhood of Steel on PS2. You learn from your mistakes, and you move on. Also take note Konami, especially with 90% of your fan-base despising you after parting ways with Hideo Kojima. Your companies have all these franchises to explore in a new generation of gaming systems, but instead you're cancelling Silent Hills or releasing a half finished Street Fighter V. Do you know how many shock waves would be sent around the world if Fallout 4 had been cancelled?
4. Use past mechanics as back bone, not as a gimmick
The biggest complaint I heard about the 2010 reboot of Splatterhouse was those side scrolling levels. As a bit of an homage to the original titles, Bandai Namco decided to include the aforementioned levels that fit nowhere with the new game mechanics. This isn't inventive design, this is what's called a "gimmick." For whatever reason, the studios expect you to buy games that aren't technically good or even mediocre at best, so long as they have these little bits of flashy ideas that'll grab a player's attention. Lair on PS3 relied on the gimmick of being entirely motion control based, and the game was critically panned.
That's not to say Bethesda doesn't throw a few gimmicks here and there within their titles, but what separates something like Fallout 4 from Golden Axe: Beast Rider is that you're left with a lot more to experience well once the gimmicks have worn off. Once all the gore and the nostalgia wares off from Splatterhouse, all the player is left with is a messy, rushed to market video game.
Bethesda Softworks is a mortal game company just like any other. Someday, possibly after a massive mistake is made in management, it could all come tumbling down with the likes of THQ or 3DO. However, as long as their track record holds strong, Bethesda will be a continuously prime example of how games should be made. However, they aren't alone in creating the quality reboot territory. Rockstar Games spawned the critically acclaimed Red Dead Redemption from a lesser known, lesser enjoyed title known as Red Dead Revolver. With rumors surrounding an upcoming Red Dead prequel, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out that, so long as a a reboot is good, the audience isn't going to care how many entries there are in the franchise.
After all, for a game series like The Elder Scrolls to stay strong from the early days of 1994, or to re-create success out of old franchises like for Fallout or Wolfenstein, you have to be doing something right. Companies shouldn't be bickering on why their low quality titles are failing, take example of Bethesda's hard work and dedication, make some of the highest quality games and spawn some of the highest quality franchises. Just make sure you try to create as few games like Rogue Warrior as possible (that's right Bethesda, I haven't forgotten that atrocity.)