Another strange entry, if only for the fact that Blur came out just over a year ago. That’s not nearly long enough for a franchise to be dormant, right? Well, when the studio that created it is shuttered in light of poor sales (as well as poor sales of their subsequent release), then a game’s chances of flourishing into a great new franchise shrink considerably.
After being acquired by Activision, Bizarre Creations poured an awful lot of hard work into making Blur. When the game had a bad showing at E3, they asked ATVI to let them push the game back to polish it into something, you know, fun. The finished product reflected the extra work that they put into it, and arcade racing fans celebrated it’s mixture of grown-up Mario Kart and Call of Duty multiplayer. But the game flopped, and it flopped hard.
What makes the sting hurt just that much more is that the game was released in a hornets nest of game releases. The week before (May 18th) saw the release of rival Split/Second, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, Alan Wake, and Red Dead Redemption. On May 23rd, Super Mario Galaxy 2 came out. Releasing on May 25th was ModNation Racers and UFC 2010. While Red Dead Redemption and Super Mario Galaxy 2 cleaned house, everyone else struggled to get a foothold, with Blur all but forgotten.
The official line from Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg is that “the racing genre had shrunk,” making Blur a victim of a shift in the market. As much as I’d like to believe that, seeing games such as Gran Turismo 5 and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit just months later tell a different tale.
While I’d be sad to see the franchise continue without Bizarre Creations, the framework for a legitimately great game is here. Updating the car selection and keeping the fusion of Mario Kart and Call of Duty is the hardest thing that a new developer would have to do; the easiest would be to release the game when there aren’t 40 other games coming out to give it a fighting chance.
Rock Band Unplugged
Finally, let’s finish this sucker off with a franchise that, by the looks of the marketplace, no one misses but me and a few others. I understand the sentiment completely: Activision absolutely saturated the market with waaaaaaay too many Guitar Hero games between Guitar Hero: World Tour and Guitar Hero 5, and nobody really needed LEGO Rock Band, did they?
It seems that we won’t get another mainline entry in either series until their respective developers can come up with something that they think will revolutionize the genre, but realistically that’s probably not going to happen. And does it really need to happen? The games are fun just the way they are, but the genre was killed by a classic case of too much of a good thing.
Perhaps the Unplugged route is the way to go. When the game was first announced, it seemed like Harmonix had decided to take Gamespot’s April Fools’ joke too literally. What it ended up being was a spiritual successor to HMX’s very first games, Frequency and Amplitude. Where those games were techno, this was rock. Obviously.
It wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to release a sequel to Unplugged on home consoles; at that point, you’d may as well just develop a full-on game compatible with the plastic instruments. It’s a perfect fit for handhelds, where you can slap on a pair of good headphones and just lose yourself in the music that you’re quite literally playing.
There are obvious roadblocks to getting a new Rock Band Unplugged out the door. First, you’d have to license a list of songs. Not necessarily as mammoth as the 80+ that you’ll find in a console release, but enough to keep players interest; 30 to 35 songs would probably do it. Second, the fact that it’s a smaller, portable release doesn’t necessarily make it easier to develop; while simpler than their console counterparts, there are still several tracks for each individual instrument.
I was sort of hopeful on seeing a new entry in the Unplugged series before writing this up, but the more I type the more that hope dwindles. On that note, I think I’ll just end this here.
So those are the five games that I want to see sequels to. Surely you have games you’d like to see; sound off below, or in our wonderful forums.