Annual Releases

Every year, a new FIFA comes out. Every year, a new Madden comes out. For the past few years, a new Call of Duty comes out. A few years ago, a new Guitar Hero came out every year until the market became over-saturated with music rhythm games and the new releases stopped in 2011. These games are considered to be annual releases, which means a new version of the game is released every year. This year we got FIFA 13, Madden 13, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and many more “annual releases”. These games, essentially, keep on being released every year until they become unprofitable which in the case of the Guitar Hero series they “die”.

Sport titles such as FIFA, Madden and NBA2k will essentially never stop being released every year until either interest in those sports suddenly die, a new form of game ‘updates’ gets popular, their publisher goes under and no one buys the license or the entire human population on earth dies due to some horrible (or pleasant?) event. Until any of these events happen, sport titles will continue to be annual releases because there really aren’t any other ways to update team rosters cough dlc cough or release new songs and fancy new menus.

But to be fair, some of these sport titles do make some changes to the actual game play year after year. FIFA seems to be the best of the sport titles (I heard NHL does a good job as well, but I only play FIFA) in regards to the “real” changes that get made with every release. FIFA tweaks the physics of the players and the ball to create a more ‘realistic’ game, improve graphics to the point where you can tell which player is which just by their game model and improve the overall futbol atmosphere of the game. Still, even with all the small changes that FIFA does, it’s getting harder to justify paying $60 for a video game that’s slightly better and different than the previous one.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Do you know who that is? (if not, hover over the image)

Call of Duty. The game gamers deserve, but not the one they need right now. So, we’ll hate it, because it can take it. Because it’s not just a game. It’s a guardian. A watchful protector. Call of Duty.

It is the Black Ops...2
It is the Black…Ops…2

Call of Duty is probably the only non-sport title video game to currently get the annual release treatment since the Guitar Hero series. Call of Duty also tends to be hated among gamers who usually consider themselves to be “True gamers”. Call of Duty gets hated on mostly because of the inherent weakness that all annual releases seem to share: innovation. Call of Duty lacks innovation because it is essentially the same game except with a different single player campaign and maybe better graphics. Call of Duty is the sport title of first person shooter video games. But the question with Call of Duty isn’t whether or not its different from its previous iterations but if it’s still fun to play. Apparently it is. Call of Duty continues to break sale records every year because its fun for million of gamers, causal and hardcore. Call of Duty will continue to be made every year until it also meets the requirements for death, which is probably loss of interest in gamers and loss of profitability. Just like how Guitar Hero died.

Guitar Hero. Guitar Hero, when it first arrived in 2005, was one of the most innovative games released in the 2000s. Guitar Hero single handily hooked a bunch of gamers to the music rhythm genre because of its concept of making anyone an Air-Guitar God. Guitar Hero did what Dance Dance Revolution couldn’t and became a critical success commercially and game play wise. What other video games allows you to rock out to Free Bird(it’s 10 minutes) on a plastic guitar? This continued to happen for a couple of years until 2011 in which Guitar Hero got put on ‘hiatus’ (read: cancelled and buried in a ditch somewhere in Arizona). The reason for Guitar Hero’s death? Ironically, lack of innovation. Also, the price of the new games ($150 dollars!!).

Annual Releases are usually considered evil by gamers because they tend to lack real innovation and are usually the same as the other ones before. But as we can clearly see, once lack of innovation become apparent to gamers and they lose interest, any game, no matter how big of a title, will cease to exist. Everything must come to an end, even you.

  4 comments for “Annual Releases

  1. jleake33
    April 18, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Seeing as how I’m sitting here looking at my games for my PS3 and all I see is FIFA and NBA2K games, I felt that I had to read this blog. Sadly, everything that you said is in fact true. Each year, a slight adjustment to the rosters, or a new feature, followed by somewhat better graphics, gets put together and makes me spend 50 plus dollars on the new game. The 2013 games of FIFA and NBA2K13 were definitely the best releases of the “annual release” series. Like with what you described in FIFA, NBA2K13 also added a lot more features and made the overall gameplay seem more realistic which is what I feel like I’ve been waiting for for the past eight years. NBA2K13 also added a feature where rosters can update themselves (if you have the intelligence to know how to do it). Sports games are always going to stay true to the annual release, and if people like myself are going to keep paying that 50 or 60 bucks for the game each year, nothing is going to stop them.

  2. Ethan Stackpole
    April 18, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I am really glad you brought up the concept of the annual release game. The concept of cookie cutter productions released on a yearly basis to feed the hivemind of videogame loving America has always been a pet peeve of mine. From a business structure standpoint, the trend of the annual release game is pretty hard to beat, I mean as long as Call of Duty updates it multiplayer and allows 12 year olds to keep screaming obscenities over Xbox live, the hunger for these games will unfortunately continue to exist, even though annual release games are usually some of the games that I feel stop certain members of the general population from seeing videogames as anything more than mind numbing. The one question I have for you is, how long do you think it will take for American kids to become unaddicted to the multiplayer FPS of Call of Duty? If these cycles truly do work in dumping old games and making space for new ones, how long will it take for a new space for games to be created?

  3. Kip Casper
    April 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Gamers have every right to fear annual releases… it drives the industry too severely. Sport games and Call of Duty are in the same boat as World of Warcraft in that they all hit a cultural nerve at the right time. The problem is when games enjoy the success of being “that franchise,” they do inevitably decline. They become safe. They become complacent.

    Call of Duty, despite losing innovation with each title, won’t likely be seeing this same decline in sales. Call of Duty has joined the ranks of Xbox Live, World of Warcraft, and other services/products as the thing to have. I think World of Warcraft is still a fantastic game, but I hated it for years before I finally gave in and played it. I won’t get into why I was so vehement in my dislike, but what lead me to eventually pick that game over RIFT, Warhammer Online, or anything else is that everybody I knew played that. It is that simple. The same applies to Call of Duty. Sure, Red Orchestra and ARMA are amazing franchises, but because all of your friends get Call of Duty, when the next one comes out everybody will buy it. It can choose to be as uninspired as it wants to across each title, because short of a major controversy (not just server issues on PC, balance issues everywhere) it will stay there.

    RIP Guitar Hero, I still play you (but mostly Rock Band, which your commercial spam also killed).

    While I’m here, let me get off topic and rant about MW1 vs. MW2.


    In Modern Warfare, one of the biggest moments of gaming that year was when the nuke killed your character. You thought you had retreated, saved the day, and you are torn out of the sky in a jarring and emotional moment. For Modern Warfare 2, I have to invoke Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation on this one. Their solution to one of the most innovative scenes was to replicate it several times. The EMP strikes were interesting, but not only was it a blatant attempt to recreate the nuclear blast from the previous title, they had several EMP strikes across the levels to try and re-recreate it! Imagine if the nuclear blast hit you, your player was crawling around before dying, and you join the new character only to BE HIT BY ANOTHER NUCLEAR BLAST! NO WAY, HARDCORE! It’d lose all meaning.

  4. quigles
    January 29, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Annual titles really are a headache to deal with. However, I think there is more reason as to why these series are so popular. Don’t get me wrong this post hits the nail on the head, but I think there is more to see here: Any EA Sports game: Well, they’re sports games, so you should already know how to play them before you pop the disk into the system, which gives it a more pick-up-and-play appeal. Also, since the sport is well known anyone can start in with almost no explanation either. Call of Duty: Call of Duty preys on its own popularity. It’s a huge name, it advertises like crazy, and by now it knows that by making the graphics slightly better and levels slightly different, people will play it and praise it. Sell each game at $60 each, then make DLC that costs more than the actual game itself and you have the most stupidly successful and formulaic franchises. It is sad that these series have to get an annual release status and I am afraid of other series becoming just like the two above. To name a few: Super Mario (mostly the platformers), Five Nights at Freddy’s, Assassin’s Creed, and Final Fantasy. I would hate to see these series milked just because of their big names and suddenly become sick of them all due to repetitiveness. I would much rather developers take their time with each game to make a memorable and high quality title.

    -Mark Quigley

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