To Hell with Reboots

Seriously. No more of this crap. If a series has gone so far off the rails that it has to be reset, it should be left to die.

Business-wise, starting a popular franchise over from square one makes solid sense. Brand recognition is king, and that brand gives consumers some idea what to expect regardless of how the characters and setting are changed. We know Star Trek is going to be a space epic that spends almost as much time exploring human nature as it spends exploring outer space. We know Devil May Cry is going to involve angels and demons and lots and lots of shooting. Reboots provide a sense of familiarity and a sort of implied seal of quality that new IPs lack.

In terms of narrative, a reboot gives writers a firm starting point for building a story. Rather than completely inventing a new world, creative types can simply tweak parts of an existing structure that doesn’t work or that they don’t like. The events of the original provide ample fodder for in-jokes and nostalgia, the cheap go-tos of hack writers everywhere that dedicated fans, nonetheless, will appreciate.

All that’s the theory, at least. In practice, reboots often involve changes that offend at least a portion of the dedicated fan base. Check out the user reviews of DmC: Devil May Cry on Metacritic for the most recent example of this. There are complaints about the low level of difficulty and the character designs, most of which are built on the idea that the user knows Devil May Cry games and this, sir, is not what a Devil May Cry game should be. In a world where fans are more invested in their favorite IPs than ever, is the brand recognition of a reboot really worth it when said reboot is sure to piss off a large percentage of the original game’s fan base–especially when you consider the tendency of modern fan bases to be very publicly vocal about their dislike of things? Some might be tempted to write these individuals off as just silly, angry fanboys who shouldn’t be posting reviews because they can’t remain neutral toward the topic at hand, but here’s the thing: brand recognition is built on the backs of fanboys. What’s the point of reusing an IP if it isn’t going to appeal to its hardest-core fans? Perhaps a clean slate would be for the best.

Then there’s the flip side of brand recognition: brand prejudice. I long ago wrote off the Devil May Cry series as trashy, exploitative, and ridiculous and not worth trying. This was probably unfair and I like to think I’ve grown past such silly, preconceived notions, but I couldn’t help feeling the same way toward DmC when I first heard about it. I didn’t initially give the reboot a chance because of my thoughts toward the original series. I’m sure I’m not the only one who didn’t give Dante’s new game a fair shake for similar reasons.

If a series needs to die, let it die. Free game writers and developers from the shackles of dying franchise tropes so they can give us something new and exciting. Brand recognition isn’t everything, especially when developer recognition is carrying more and more cachet. Billing a new IP simply as “the next big thing from Ninja Theory” appeals to a broader set of interests and opinions without the baggage of a series title. With more and more gamers pining for new IPs and turning to the independent scene to find them, it’s time for the big developers to learn how to cut the cord and move on.


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