Mat Langford’s Gaming World: If You Don’t Upgrade, Do You Get Left Behind?

Sequels. Trilogies. In certain game franchises, they’re a welcome addition. I can’t wait for the conclusion to the Mass Effect trilogy or the latest addition to the Elder Scrolls series – Skyrim – to come out. They all have stories and plots that I’m fully invested in, cliffhangers that have made me salivate for the next game as soon as I had my final click of the one before it.

What bothers me about some franchises is when they release games that are no more than slightly upgraded versions of the ones before, and in order to continue enjoying your gaming experience within said franchise, you HAVE to buy the new version.

Take NHL for example. Online play is their bread and butter, with tons of people playing every day. When a new NHL comes out, most players immediately switch over to the new game and leave the old one, creating a barren wasteland of online match lobbies for anyone that doesn’t instantly pick up the latest version. For some people, immediate upgrading isn’t in the budget, and they’re forced to sit at the online matchup waiting screen trying to find another player who hasn’t yet made the upgrade.

And the gameplay – usually – has only been moderately tweaked to justify this years $50+ price tag. It’s generally just the same game recycled in a new pretty package.

Look at Call of Duty. Usually after a quick play through of the single player campaign – some skip it all together – most players head directly into the multiplayer lobbies. You work for days and weeks of in-game playing time to earn achievements and upgrades, logos and tags, perks and finally prestige. Oh prestige, how glorious it is! Then you do it 10 more times to reach the highest level possible! Now you’re entering matches with the hard to get logos and emblems, the best weapons and opponents can see that you really know what you’re doing, that you’re a guy to be feared on the battlefield.

Then the new version of the game comes out, every year, and boom – you’re right back at the beginning. Nothing carries over; none of your hard work is recognized from the previous game. And – save for those that still play MW2, which still has a legitimate following – the matchup screen for your character with all the perks and bonuses is empty as everyone moves on to the next game. You’re now just a level 1, way back at the beginning, with weeks and months of playing to look forward to in order to obtain that elite status that you worked so hard for already, yet no longer have. The work now begins again.

This is fine for hardcore gamers that spend hours upon hours per day in front of their console or PC – I used to be one, so I can understand it – but for the casual gamers or weekend warriors, sometimes the prospect of trying to get all of those achievements/perks/levels back is off-putting.

If you do make the jump to the new version, you can at least get some money back by trading your old game in, right? Wrong. Most game retailers will give you little to nothing for used copies of last year’s addition to a franchise, especially sports titles. I ended up keeping my copy of NHL 09 last year after I was offered $3 for it.

That’s why I enjoy series’ like Mass Effect, whose game developers allow your old save game data to be imported into the new games. All of your decisions from games prior are carried over and have consequences right out of the gate. Alliances forged are still in tact and plot lines that you’ve worked hard to follow are usually accounted for. If someone hated your guts in the last game, they still do in this one! It makes sense! More developers should give the player a way to make their purchase of the previous games relevant. It would make the gamer feel as though he’s actually continuing through the course of a franchise, instead of just throwing away all of their hard work to start from the beginning.

Let us know where you stand on the issue!

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