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Published May 4, 2010

Last week’s announcement of the Activision/Bungie partnership had some forum pundits scratching their heads or fearing the worst, and not without good reason. After all, Activision’s exploitative business practices and rocky relationship with Infinity Ward have created a PR nightmare for the infamous mega-publisher. However, Bungie’s not out to bury itself. I see this recent news as a huge step forward. The move means getting to create an entirely new universe, one that the creator can call its own. While Bungie is seemingly locked into this new franchise for the next decade, right now, everything seems fresh and exciting. I have enough love for Master Chief to fill six cat helmets, but that doesn’t mean I’m not extremely interested to see one of the most talented developers in the world set out for new territory.

Ditto for Respawn. These guys had been working on the Call of Duty franchise for ages, and I’m sure that Zampella and West are eager to explore different settings or even genres. Activision likely wanted those guys to give us more Modern Warfare whether we did or not, but now Respawn has teamed with Electronic Arts. Again, another gigantic publisher, but EA has a strong recent track record for original IPs and supporting interesting ideas. This doesn’t always work out sales-wise – Brütal Legend, Mirror’s Edge – but I’d be shocked if Respawn’s first project is another humdrum military shooter.

I guess I don’t have much else to add on these recent developments, other than that I’d like to see other developers in similar positions cut ties with the franchises that put them on the map. There are teams that have been working on the same series for the better part of a decade. That’s a sign of high quality (since we wouldn’t see so many sequels if the foundation was rotten), but it’s also a sign of stagnation. Here’s a few choice developers that I’d like to see move on:

  • Retro Studios - As much as I adore the Metroid Prime trilogy, I don’t know what’s left to do with Samus from a first-person perspective. Retro proved itself by making a worthy successor to Super Metroid, but I think back to its early Gamecube days when it had a wide variety of other games on its slate. All of those were canceled in favor of Metroid. I want to see what the team’s incredibly talented artists can do when not tied to a classic character. Maybe this would mean venturing away from the Wii?
  • SCE Santa Monica Studios – You know them as the God of War folks. Though all three games in the trilogy have had different directors, the core team has remained the same. They’ve killed Kratos off three or four times now, but maybe it’s time to let another developer revive him. I love the series and think that GoW III ended on a (mostly) high note, but Santa Monica Studios must be as sick of Hades as we are. After watching the making-of documentaries, it is clear to me that this developer is brimming with inventive ideas and has the skills to execute them. I’m not sure this can happen until it gets out of ancient Greece.
  • Guerrilla GamesKillzone hasn’t gained quite as much traction as Metroid Prime or God of War, but Guerrilla has been grinding away on the series since its inauspicious 2004 debut on the PS2. The second main game had a pretty dreary story, but it was also a graphics powerhouse, and the glowing Helghast eyes are iconic. Guerilla Games is technically gifted, but I wouldn’t be sad if it hit the reset button on its trademark series. (Not happening, given that the third game is on the way.)

I want to hear what developers you think should move on; there are many more options in this sequel-happy industry. Speak up in the comments or on the boards.

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