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GDC: Bungie, BioWare On Creating Blockbuster Franchises
GDC: Bungie, BioWare On Creating Blockbuster Franchises
March 10, 2010 | By Kris Graft

March 10, 2010 | By Kris Graft
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    10 comments
More: Console/PC, GDC



There isn't a secret formula to creating a blockbuster video game franchise,‭ ‬but game developers like Bungie and BioWare know a thing or two about creating commercially successful games.

At GDC on Wednesday,‭ ‬BioWare general manager and CEO Ray Muzyka said that today,‭ ‬developers should be thinking in the long term, and more broadly when creating intellectual properties.‭ “‬We think of our games now in our group as franchises,‭ ‬we really do.‭ ‬Franchises include a lot more than just games,‭ ‬for that matter."

That means bringing the game's world to books,‭ ‬TV,‭ ‬film and other mediums.‭ And all‬ of this needs to be coordinated carefully so that all representations of an IP are consistent and true to the original idea. BioWare thinks far ahead into the future, even as far as a decade, although ideas slated for nine years from now are certainly subject to fleshing out.

Joseph Staten,‭ ‬design director at Halo house Bungie said that his studio "absolutely [did] not‭” have a 10-year plan when they originally released Halo for Xbox in 2001. ‬They made games because they were fun and they created a world that people wanted to revisit, he said. Bungie is currently working on Halo Reach for Xbox 360.

‭Staten said that today Bungie plans further ahead. "We didn't have a lot of time for looking forward,‭ ‬but now we do," he said.

Creating a franchise also typically means creating sequels, but sequel development should be approached carefully in order to avoid franchise fatigue or general developer burnout. Halo, Staten said, avoided this pitfall by focusing more on creating a world that players want to keep on revisiting.

‭"‬If you think about building a franchise around a character,‭ ‬that's a problem," said Staten, whose Halo franchise is home to one of the more iconic video game characters around. But the studio proved that Halo isn't all about Master Chief with Halo 3 ODST, which introduced new characters.

‭"‬...‭ ‬If you focus on building worlds where you'd like to spend time,‭ ‬no matter who you are‭ [in the game]‬...‭ ‬we can tell whatever story you want.‭ ‬...‭ ‬When franchises don't succeed is because the focus is too narrow from the outset,‭ ‬too singular," Staten said. “...I think Halo from the very beginning was an IP where you could tell any story you wanted.‭”

"To be fair,‭ ‬developers want to see sequels too," he added. "For us it's not that we have to make sequels every year.‭ ‬We enjoy making them. ... It doesn't matter if it has a two or three at the end."

‭Muzyka also stressed that innovating from game to game is crucial. For instance, there were major changes from Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, driven by fan feedback. “‬If you're not going to take the innovate risks that you need to...‭ ‬then yeah, you're setting yourself up to be in a death spiral,‭ ‬and that's a bad thing. ... You have to invest and innovate.‭ ‬...‭ ‬That what's keeps sequels selling more."

He added, ‭“‬You gotta listen to fans.‭ ‬That's the most important thing you can do."


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Comments


Hillwins Lee
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‭“‬You gotta listen to fans.‭ ‬That's the most important thing you can do."



Well said!

luke ward
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@Jerry



Well of course it is case by case when taking feedback. But like adding the cover system in ME2, this was a big thing that fans wanted, and it works so much better now.

Matt Wilson
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I would most certainly have to agree with the idea of creating franchises through multiple mediums, the more support a new IP has in whatever form the more likely it is going to succeed in my opinion. I think Final Fantasy is probably the best example, the amount of merchandise, soundtracks etc available is absolutely amazing and this support helps the fans become more connected emotionally and physically.



Fan input is important however I would say that sometimes going against the most dedicated fans wishes is good for the series especially if a developer is trying to open up the product to new demographics ala Banjo Kazooie K and B.

Kevin Patterson
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I hope Eidos is really listening to the fans for Deus Ex 3, and Thief 4.

Thomas Lo
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Only bioware has any experience creating blockbuster franchises. Bungie only made one which was a mediocre game that only exploded because of Microsoft's massive marketing push. If Halo had only been released on PC as was expected it would've been quickly forgotten.

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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Hillwins Lee
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@Bob



I think most games are getting blurred when it comes to genres, but having choices, action consequences and character development is pure FPS? I think not.

Robert Gill
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ME 1 and 2 are third person shooters, and ME 1 and 2 are definately RPGs.



Maybe you should play a game before you judge it.

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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Luke Skywalker
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So @ Bob dillan



One design element overrules the rest? Interesting "philosophy". There's plenty of story for you to sink yourself into in Mass Effect 1 + 2 and I think you are being myopic. Try out the game, it is a great experience that stands out more for the story than the action (though the action is enjoyable too).


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