Two of the biggest franchises in the industry offered up new games in March 2013, to a collective “meh” from players. Gears of War found a game without Marcus Fenix to be a tough sell. Prequel Judgment sold only 425,000 copies in March, compared to the 2 million units Gears of War 3 sold in its first month. Despite Epic Games’ insistence that GOW faithful really wanted to know more about Baird, the numbers did not back up that claim.
This leaves the series in a quandary. Delta Squad’s story came to a pretty conclusive end in GOW 3, and Epic has repeatedly stated it too feels their tale has been told. There’s nothing stopping Marcus Fenix from finding a new group to hang out and slaughter aliens with.
It wasn’t just the story that bothered Gears of War lovers, however. Judgment launched with the fewest maps and modes since the first game. One of the shooter’s signature modes, Execution wasn’t available at launch, coming later as free DLC sponsored by Maxim. This game might as well as have had a big red label marked “cash-in” on the cover.
God of War: Ascension suffered from that same profound lack of must haveness. Kratos has killed all the gods, where does the series go from here? The answer is apparently not 10 years back in time, which is when Ascension takes place. The story didn’t offer anything about Kratos we didn’t already know, and only sold 360,000 units its first month.
This game’s main-selling point was multiplayer, which actually got decent reviews. Still, it is such a radical departure from what GoW is known for. My reaction to hearing about it was the same as when 2K announced multiplayer for Bioshock 2. Some games are better suited for single player only, especially those with characters such as Kratos. He’s not exactly a team player.
Perhaps there’s an upside and publishers will be more cautious before greenlighting prequels as a way to continue series. It seldom works in movies either. There will still be plenty of people waiting to get their hands on Gears 4 and God of War 4, and we’ll just pretend these prequels didn’t happen.