Next week thousands of gamers and gaming professionals will swarm to the Los Angeles Convention Center for a hot, sweaty time at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (better known as E3). It's here that they will get their hands on Naughty Dog's newest sequel, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for the PlayStation 3. This Sony-published action game will no doubt impress fans of good looking video games and those who grew up loving Indiana Jokes. But don't get too excited yet, because unless Sony sees real sales this time around, chances are good Nathan Drake won't be around for a third installment.
I hate sounding the sound of alarm, but Sony has a bad habit of leaving us wanting more when it comes to some of their most creative properties. Oh sure, they throw at us a half dozen Twisted Metal games and I have lost count at how many times we've seen a different Gran Turismo, or Syphon Filter game released. But every one of those franchises were continued because they were overwhelming success stories, usually
Even with what has to be the single worst cover art of all time, Syphon Filter was a success!
ending with a loving audience buying everything they can get their hands on. As much as I wish it was the case, that's just not the case when it comes to the underappreciated Uncharted franchise.
This two-game pattern is nothing new; we saw this happen early on with the original 1995 PlayStation. Sony would release a game that did moderate sales and then offer up a sequel to see if they could capitalize on the situation. When they realized that this would never be anything more than a niche title, they put their workers on something else ... something that will ultimately make the return on investment they are going for.
Forget Pixar's Cars, I want to see a movie based on this motley crew of animated vehicles!
A perfect example of that is Motor Toon Grand Prix, a often forgotten racing game from the makers of Gran Turismo. While American gamers only had the chance to buy the sequel, it's true that Polyphony took two stabs at this franchise before moving on to the more realistic flavor. The game was incredible, full of cartoon-influenced cars and over-the -top race courses. It managed to capture the fun of Mario Kart, but never feeling anything like a rip-off or another "kart racer". And just about the time it was showing its potential, Sony cancels the project and moves on.
The same can be said about Jumping Flash, another PlayStation launch title. Talk about an intriguing concept, you are a space-wary giant robot bunny rabbit who is trying to bring order to the universe. You control the game like a first-person shooter and are able to jump a hundred feet into the air. In a world full of expensive tech demos, Jumping Flash felt like a genuine video game. It was also the game with the best
Prediction: Metal Gear Solid 5 won't be at E3, but Jumping Flash 3 will!
original art direction. It's hard not to look at the Hawaii-themed enemies and not bust up laughing. But Sony lost interest in the franchise and called it quits for the main series after only two installments.
Unlike Motor Toon Grand Prix, Jumping Flash did have life after the two main installments. Sony did release Robbit Mon Dieu, a game sometimes inaccurately referred to as Jumping Flash 3, but the gameplay is different and it's hard to consider this a true sequel. Would you call Sony's
Now that I look at it again, Frequency's cover art wasn't as tragic as I remember it!
game Daxter the proper Jak & Daxter sequel? Of course not, because it's clear that the game is more of a spin-off than an actual sequel. I doubt gamers would be satisfied with an Uncharted series that was nothing more than a spin-off; they want the Nate Drake storyline and like the characters.
Sadly it's not just original PlayStation games that suffer from the two-game blues. Sony managed to screw up some of their most promising PlayStation 2 franchises, including action and music games that were way ahead of their time. A perfect example of this is Frequency, one of Harmonix Music Systems' earliest games. This 2001 release mixed incredible electronica music with the button pressing gameplay we've come to know and love in the Rock Band and Guitar Hero releases. Yet for some reason Sony could never make this product popular . Perhaps it was the uninformative name or the terrible box
The last time Blink 182 was ever used as a selling point!
art, but people just didn't buy Frequency. They didn't even buy it a year later, when Sony packaged a demo of it with their just-released PlayStation 2 Network Adaptor. Frequency just didn't sell.
Thankfully Sony ignored the lack of enthusiasm and released Frequency's sequel, Amplitude. This release was also dogged with a confusing name, questionable cover art and a complete lack of excitement. It did offer online support and is still considered to be a cult classic, but it wasn't popular enough to warrant a third installment. Even years later Sony reportedly turned down the chance of making a third game in the installment, freeing up Harmonix's time to create two of the biggest music games of all time. These days you can get your Frequency fix by playing the extremely similar PSP game, Rock Band Unplugged.
Games like The Mark of Kri and Jumping Flash should have been reborn as PlayStation Network-exclusive sequels!
It's not just obscure music games, either. The Mark of Kri seemed to have everything going for it. The game looked like a Disney cartoon, only that this cartoon featured extreme violence and a much more interesting storyline. The game also offered a unique gameplay technique that had you mapping enemy positions to the four face buttons on the Dual Shock's pad. As complicated as that all sounds, the end result couldn't have been any easier. But Sony canceled the game after releasing a disappointing sequel that failed to produce any of the advanced gameplay modes (two-player co-op, etc.) that were originally promised. Four years later Sony doesn't even acknowledge this franchise's existence.
Sometimes it's obvious why Sony would cancel a franchise after two stabs. For as much potential as The Getaway had, it failed to perfect what it was trying to be. Few remember that Sony's ambitious open-world sandbox game was announced (and introduced to the
Sony would have had better luck just making a game based on this classic action film!
press) long before anybody had even heard of Grand Theft Auto III. It was hard not to be impressed by what Sony was trying to accomplish, recreating a large chunk of real world London and incorporate a gripping Guy Richie-inspired gangster flick. The Getaway failed, it had sluggish controls and this virtual London was never as much fun as it should have been. The same hold true for the game's ill-advised sequel, Black Monday. And the less we say about the game's PSP spin-off, Gangs of London, the better. For awhile it looked like we might actually see The Getaway 3, however it was canceled along with a number of other potential Sony IPs.
Speaking of the PSP, one of Sony's evil tactics is to remind you of the good times by re-releasing these two-game franchises. That's exactly what they did with PaRappa the Rapper, one of the earliest music games. Released in 2007, this PSP PaRappa features all of the songs from the first game, along with a few exclusive (and terrible)
You gotta believe ... that Sony will eventually make a PaRappa the Rapper 3!
remixes. It completely ignored the PS2 sequel, PaRappa the Rapper 2, which is one of those games that never got the attention that it deserved. With the PSP release it felt like Sony was prepping a return of the 2D dog, but so far that hasn't been the case.
Another example of this is MediEvil, an original PlayStation 3D platformer that featured a creative character and a fantastical world to explore. Sony released two installments of this franchise and then completely ignored it ... that is, until they re-released the first game on the PSP. Like PaRappa the Rapper, it felt like Sony may have been testing the waters to see if people still cared about MediEvil, but either not enough people did or they weren't excited enough, because so far we have yet to hear anything about a MediEvil 3.
It doesn't matter what the system or genre is, Sony's cut off mark is at two. If your game doesn't hit God of War numbers by the first sequel, then you're out of here. While many of the games I named were moderately
Supporting Uncharted doesn't mean that you are entitled to buy issues of Game Informer!
successful, their failing was never stacking up to the bigger releases of the day. For example, Sony expected Alundra and Legend of Lagaia to match Final Fantasy VII numbers, ignoring the lengthy history that precedes every single Final Fantasy game. And did I mention that no matter how good the Alundra and Legend of Lagaia, were, they simply couldn't compete against one of the most impressive role-playing games of the time.
So who's next? I doubt that Uncharted will be the only PlayStation 3 franchise to be left behind in favor of more promising franchises. I think we're already seeing that with but Genji (which featured Dawn of Samurai and the PlayStation 3 sequel, Days of the Blade) and Warhawk (which featured
Don't let this fate fall on Little Big Planet!
Warhawk and, well, Warhawk). What incentive does Sony have to continue these franchises, one is a generic samurai game with a giant crab and the other had its single player modes stripped out in order to rush it to retail. I would also include the PSP franchise Pursuit Force, which featured two games that only rang up modest sales. Who is next, Little Big Planet? Resistance?
After almost 15 years of watching Sony as a first-party company, it's clear that this is a publisher that doesn't believe in fixing what doesn't work. While another company may give control to another developer or spend time trying to fix what didn't work, Sony just cancels the game and moves on to something more successful. Don't let Uncharted end like that. Get out there and buy the original Uncharted ... it's dirt cheap these days. Support Nate Drake on his quest. Get excited about the upcoming PlayStation 3 game. Tell your friends about it and show Sony why they need to learn how to count to three.