Videogame makers banking on big hits with sequels

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters Life!) - Sequels may not always match up to the original in Hollywood but videogames can often get better the second or third time around.

Visitors try out new software for Microsoft's video game console Xbox 360 at the Tokyo Game Show 2008 in Chiba, east of Tokyo, October 11, 2008. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Videogame producers are hoping it will hold true with the latest games that will hit store shelves soon including Insomniac Games’ “Resistance 2” PlayStation 3 exclusive, Epic Games’ “Gears of War 2” Xbox 360 exclusive, Microsoft’s “Fable 2,” and Bethesda Softworks’ “Fallout 3.”

“Developers can hit the ground running with sequels,” said Ted Price, president and CEO of Insomniac Games. “The game’s story and art style have a solid base, the tech and tools are stable and the basic gameplay mechanics have gone through plenty of tuning in the first game.”

The second or third time around developers can devote more energy to building game assets instead of trying to get things up and running.

“It’s certainly a liberating experience when you’re no longer arguing over the main character’s name, or waiting for basic systems to be implemented,” said Price. “The end result is usually a game that’s bigger, more polished and has more innovative features than the original game.”

“Resistance 2,” thrusts players into an alternate 1950s America invaded by aliens called Chimera. In addition to a single-player campaign, the game offers an eight-player cooperative campaign and online gameplay with battlefields filled with 60 players.

Aliens also feature in “Gears of War 2”, which sends gamers into the depths of the planet Sera to tackle a race called the Locusts. The sequel offers a story that can be played with a friend. Online gameplay modes like “Horde” also pit up to five players against waves of heavily armed Locusts.

“We want casual gamers to play the game and be sucked into the universe and finish the game,” said Cliff Bleszinski, lead games designer, Epic Games. “We want them to potentially finish with a friend and become a fan of the characters and the setting.”

Attracting the mainstream audience was also a major goal of Peter Molyneux, creator of Microsoft’s “Fable II” for Xbox 360. He’s crafted a game that he believes will satisfy the 3 million gamers who bought the original, while opening up the fantasy role-playing adventure genre to anyone.

“We’ve designed this game to allow the player to do whatever they wish, including getting married and having kids, playing mini-games and creating a custom character that will evolve as you play,” said Molyneux.

“Call of Duty: World at War,” the latest game in the franchise focuses on the bloody Pacific Front and the Russian invasion of Nazi-occupied Berlin during the Second World War.

“The developer spent two years working on the technology behind this game, which includes four-player cooperative play and the introduction of new weapons like flame throwers and flame tanks,” said Daniel Suarez, executive producer of the game at Activision

Gamers have been waiting 10 years for Bethesda Softworks’ “Fallout 3,” for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

“I think it’s good for people to miss things,” said Todd Howard, executive producer of the game. “Ten years between ‘Fallout’ is a bit long, but I think there’s this nostalgia factor.”

Fans of the post-Apocalyptic game, set in Washington, D.C., won’t have to wait another decade for “Fallout 4.” Howard said he believes three years is a good time frame between games.