Electronic Arts loves your money and it’s not going to stop trying to take it from you. The company’s E3 2012 conference was light on new announcements (a UFC partnership with no game was the biggest) and heavy on sequels that further denigrate once proud series (Dead Space 3’s obnoxious noise fest). There was, surprisingly, not a single announcement of a big franchise reboot. Bringing back the distant past has been a 2012 trademark of EA with the Starbreeze-made Syndicate and a return to the mountain with SSX. EA promises though that it hasn’t given up strip-mining the past.
EA Labels head Frank Gibeau spoke with Computer and Videogames UK on Wednesday and explained that while its 2012 reboots had mixed success, the studio definitely plans on revisiting other dormant properties. “Syndicate was something that we took a risk on. It didn’t pay off—it didn’t work. But in general it doesn’t change my appetite for wanting to go look in the library and see what we have and maybe bring back some IPs for the next-generation,” said Gibeau, “That’s the nature of the business; some stuff works, some stuff doesn’t.”
SSX apparently worked quite well, guaranteeing that the franchise won’t disappear for another five years. “I think SSX was a very successful launch for us and there was some online innovation there that really showed why it made sense to bring that back,” said the executive, “It’s done well and you’ll probably see more in the future. There are numerous IPs that I think about all the time like Command & Conquer and Sim City—which is a brand we’ve brought back after 7 years.”
Gibeau’s comments illuminate how to properly reinvigorate a franchise. SSX was at least reminiscent of the PlayStation 2 originals, like SSX Tricky, even though it broke much of what was wonderful about latter day entries. Bottomless pits have no place in SSX, EA! The failure of Syndicate meanwhile demonstrates yet again that resurrecting a brand completely free of the game style of the original will do you no favors.
In the Internet age, you’re never starting from scratch in marketing a name. When people Google “Syndicate” they’re going to find out that the original was a tactical game, not a multiplayer shooter. The same problem hampered Microsoft’s attempt to resurrect Shadowgate. EA themselves cancelled an all but finished game, Command & Conquer shooter Tiberium, that strayed too far from its source material.