Sunday, January 25, 2015

The P Diagram (or how to kill a franchise)

There is a relatively common trend that has been getting stronger and sweeping gaming as we know it. It is often an unexplained phenomenon, but at least we can quantify it so I came with a visual way of seen this aberration and that is the P diagram. Today we are going to see the how this kind of thing is happening based on this simple image:

This is the P diagram and it is how many game companies are treating their games. This is the process in which many great franchises are just buried as if they never had any success. The P diagram is not a complex thing to visualize as a whole, but let's start from the very beginning which is the sweetest spot on this cycle.


Birth is the step in the cycle that all game fans love. It is the moment a game releases and becomes a staple of your life as a gamer. At times we don't expect the game to be so good and we just take a leap of faith that is greatly rewarded once we start playing. This step is the part where the community, gaming media and others start praising the game for it's great content and presentation up to a point that it creates believers out of skeptic and although it may not be a perfect piece of software, it was good enough to spawn it's own strong fan base. After this initial success, the company may release a sequel or spin off just to keep the ball rolling, so this is where it all becomes hectic (in a good way) just before it all calms down.


Gaming companies should avoid saturating their franchises or else their quality will be affected (like those silly 1 game per year releases), so after the initial positive reaction goes cold, there is a set amount of time where there are no news about the franchise, but the fan base remains strong. It is the same as a blacksmith letting a red hot blade he just took out of the furnace to cool off in order for it to get solid. It is at this point of the cycle where brand loyalty (same as the blacksmith's sword) will solidify and become even stronger, causing a lot of hype and expectations. As this happens, fan fiction, speculations and rumors begin to flourish as well as a lot of fan service coming from the fans themselves. Now after some time passes, fans start running out fuel and will ask for new material and this doesn't mean more fan based stuff, but the real thing.

In a perfect world, companies would use this hype to boost public interest in their next production to unprecedented levels before releasing a new entry in the franchise that would shower them with money. Sadly the reality is that most of the time the spike in hype is just used to keep gamers interested in the company and not the game itself, so in a scum bag type of way they are using the franchise as a cheerleader rather than an official company product.


At this point hype is still very high, so the gaming media prepares itself to shoot some direct questions and sadly, company employees and higher ups get prepared to block or dodge them. This is the part where we find out that they have no intention of actually releasing the game or that they are just dragging their feet hoping that we just forget about it. This not only applies to making a new entries on a franchise, but it also to other forms of publishing like localizing a game from one region to another (because if a game stays out of your region it is basically as if the game didn't exist and it becomes nothing more than an annoying tease).

It is the murder part of the cycle where company officials come with the most ambiguous or plain dumb excuses. Sometimes they say things like "it isn't in our plans to release it" or they just go with "yeah, we are developing the game, but it is not a priority" or even with "we are waiting until we make another game that surpasses it". These are just some of the "great comebacks" that corporate fellow come up with, but if we throw some logic to those replies we would say that publishers are:

A) Oblivious to the fan base they have created.
B) Making the game one line of code per day.
C) Shoving unwanted stuff to us just because (like saying "Oh you want pizza? Well, here you have some plain crackers. Maybe if you eat enough crackers, we will get you a slice")
D) All of the above

Also at this point companies start making illogical "surveys" by releasing an HD version of an old game and using that as a barometer to see "if people have enough interest". Going back to the pizza/crackers example, this is like they are giving us a left over pizza slice from two months ago and expecting us to savor it as if it were freshly out of the oven, just to see if we still like pizza or not.


This is where the fans lose hope and brand/franchise loyalty takes a hit. Publishers can say whatever they want, but at this point nobody believes them other than those with the biggest sense of blind faith. At this final part of the cycle we finally figure out that we've been fooled. They talked a lot about it, showed us a glimpse of what probably was just some work that was left undone or some previously canned concept just to stir the hive and make us look towards them in order for them to show us their "new" stuff. At this point, fans of the game leave the bandwagon like fans of a losing baseball team in the bottom of the 9th inning and it is at this very moment that it becomes very typical to hear somebody come with the dumbest of remarks. A remark that would be like:

"Hey, I told you guys that people didn't wanted that franchise anymore"

So there we go, we get out empty handed while the publisher loops directly to the hype point again and the fan base gets thinner and thinner until there is really no more interest for what would had probably been one of those franchises that stood the test of time.

So now that all the explaining is done, let's end this by seen a list of 20 games that are currently stuck in the P loop, just to prove that this is indeed real and not something that was just made up:

  • Half-Life 3 (a lot of teasing, but nothing so far, it has become a joke).
  • The Last Guardian (not a priority, says Sony).
  • New Mother / Earthbound (Nintendo seems to be scared of their own game).
  • Final Fantasy 7 remake (remember the massive trolling at the Sony conference?).
  • Legend of the Dragoon 2 (Yoshida said that project started in 2001, but was left unfinished).
  • Mega Man Legends 3 (project probably canned just to spite Inafune for leaving).
  • Mega Man Universe (suffered the same fate as Legends 3).
  • Zone of the Enders 3 (project canned because the HD collection did not sold well).
  • Crash Bandicoot (Sony teases with the mascot, but doesn't get it back).
  • F-Zero (Mr. Miyamoto says that he doesn't "know" how to make another one that works).
  • Wild Arms (studio says they would like to make a new one, but nothing so far).
  • Suikoden (Suikoden 2 sells really well on PSN, yet Konami says nothing).
  • Metroid (it seems that Nintendo will use the old prime series as a barometer).
  • Contra (MercurySteam said would make it then fell silent).
  • Super Mario RPG 2 (in 2006 Square Enix said that if Nintendo wanted, it could happen).
  • Any Mistwalker JRPG (they say they have interest, but nothing else happens).
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 on the west (Sega says that it is not on their future plans).
  • Shenmue 3 (Sony and Microsoft flirt with the idea, but neither of them confirm anything).
  • Legacy of Kain / Soul Reaver (talked about it, then came with Nosgoth instead).
  • New Fatal Frame (not even the developers know why Nintendo has kept it in Japan).

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