Here’s something I wasn’t really aware of until recently: the Need for Speed franchise has released a new game every year since 1997. That’s over 15 straight years of racing – a longer streak than Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed. This year, though, marks the first time since then that a new game in the racing franchise will not be coming out. What does that mean for video games franchises with yearly installments, though?
Aside from sports games such as Madden NFL and FIFA, and games that feature “spin-off” installments (such as your Mario Karts and Mario Parties), this streak makes Need for Speed one of the longest running yearly franchises ever. Now, we don’t have all the facts regarding why EA has decided not to release a Need for Speed game this year, but let’s speculate a little.
It’s entirely possible that this is restricted solely to the Need for Speed games, that they simply aren’t selling as well as they used to, to the point that releasing a new one every year isn’t worth the monetary investement. Or, even less catastrophic, it could simply be that this year just happens to be an off year for the game franchise, and the yearly release model will resume in 2015.
But it’s also possible that this deterioration of the release cycle is heralding something bigger for the games industry as a whole. Maybe it’s a sign that consumers are no longer willing to fork over $60 a year for a new game when last year’s installment satisfies their needs.
The sales numbers for the latest installment of Call of Duty, while still an impressive 14.5 million units sold, show a marked decrease from previous installments’ 24+ million. Assassin’s Creed IV also sold fewer copies than Assassin’s Creed III, although the drop off for that franchise wasn’t quite as steep.
Some people may blame these recent drops in sales numbers on the fact that we saw a new console generation launch this past year, and that’s sure to affect how many units of a game are sold. Still, with Steam sales and the rise of cheap, often free, mobile gaming, it’s easy to see the possibility of growing discontent over $60 price tags, let alone price tags that recur year after year.