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Key disappointing factors of video game sequels in the eighth-generation era

Authors:
  • Humind Labs

Abstract and Figures

This work discussed the key disappointing factors of video game sequels in the eighth generation of video game consoles. The video games considered in this study have successful prequels. Examples and evidence indicate that current-generation video game sequels are less popular and disappointing to gamers. The study analyzed powerful games and platforms played by the majority of gamers. Major video gaming websites with prominent reviews, along with Dedoose software, were used for content analysis. The list of selected games was provided by a questionnaire survey among players. The Metacritic scores of these games versus those of their predecessor were compared to compile a final list of games. With the Dedoose software, reviews of the games were analyzed, and 289 excerpts were extracted. The findings reveal that the factors affecting player experience are mostly regarding gameplay, narrative, and technical aspects. Character design has a significant effect on the perceptions of players as well.
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Key disappointing factors of video game sequels in the eighth-
generation era
Amir-reza Asadi
1
,*
Antidisciplinary Research and Development Association, amirreza@antidisciplinary.org
Abstract
This work discussed the key disappointing factors of video game sequels in the eighth generation
of video game consoles. The video games considered in this study have successful prequels.
Examples and evidence indicate that current-generation video game sequels are less popular and
disappointing to gamers. The study analyzed powerful games and platforms played by the majority
of gamers. Major video gaming websites with prominent reviews, along with Dedoose software,
were used for content analysis. The list of selected games was provided by a questionnaire survey
among players. The Metacritic scores of these games versus those of their predecessor were
compared to compile a final list of games. With the Dedoose software, reviews of the games were
analyzed, and 289 excerpts were extracted. The findings reveal that the factors affecting player
experience are mostly regarding gameplay, narrative, and technical aspects. Character design has a
significant effect on the perceptions of players as well.
Keywords: Video Game, PS4, Xbox One, Brand Equity, Content Analysis.
1. Introduction
Many popular video game series have disappointed their fans, according to video gaming website
GameSpot [17]. Although eighth-generation video games have a huge processing power compared
with previous generations, gamers have reported feeling disappointed with sequels of praised seventh-
generation video games. For instance, [28] listed the 14 most disappointing video game sequels in the
eighth generation and noted that these “didn’t meet the criteria” of what gamers expected from a “new
generation title.” Video game companies may have sold many units and have broken chart records, but
the conditions and circumstances of such feats merit investigation. These companies may have lost
user satisfaction and the brand equity of their franchises. Video game reviews represent one of the
sources for understanding the critical reasons of user dissatisfaction. As such, this study aimed to
analyze the different reviews to shed light on the cons of major video game series.
Brand equity is the value provided by a brand to products and services that it presents [32], and is
considered one of the most important elements necessary for the success of any product and service
[25]. Video games are examples of information technology (IT) products [39] and as such, brand
equity is important for video games series and exclusive game franchises of video game consoles.
Indeed, the importance of brand equity is apparent in the list of the top 10 best-selling games from
2016 in US: eight of the video games listed are sequels [33]. Marchand and Hennig-Thurau [29] called
branding “the essential part of games’ communication strategies.” Brand equity in video games
represents the two sources of value of the game brand and consumers’ prior game playing experience,
which incrementally influences consumers’ game evaluation [39]. Thus, any increase in the number of
negative factors in a video game series can influence game experience and brand equity.
In this sense, Thompson [40] stated that gamers have a huge influence on the purchasing decisions of
others, in contrast with the common misconception that underestimates gamers. Gamer experience is
1
,* Amir-Reza Asadi: President of Antidisciplinary Research and Development Association, MSc in IT Management
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influential on the possibility of recommendation, and Storgårds (2015) indicated that game playing
experience influences the possibility of recommendation of game brands.
With the influential role of reviews, game developers should pay attention to them in a positive
manner. However, Bethesda, a well-known game publisher, recently implemented the policy of
sending copies for reviewers only one day before the release date of games, beginning with
Dishonored 2 (Bethesda, 2016) and Skyrim Special Edition(Bethesda, 2016), which caused the late
release of reviews [24]. Although the Bethesda decision is not positive, it shows the important role of
reviews on video game demand. Dhar and Weinberg [10] showed that critics’ ratings have a
significant effect on box office attendance, especially in economic downturns. Cox and Kaimann[9]
also concluded that professional critics have a significantly positive influence on sales, overshadowing
that from consumer reviews (2015). Therefore, in this study, the professional reviews of video games
are used for unraveling the most important factors that caused disappointment in customers. As
mentioned before, a number of eighth-generation game sequels have disheartened their fans. For
instance, the score of the PlayStation 3 version of Mass Effect 3 in Metacritic, a review aggregator
website, is 93, whereas the PlayStation 4 version Mass Effect: Andromeda received a score of 71.
Fans posted negative comments on social media [30]; the video game developer has four years to
make their fans happy again. Similarly, the results of a poll in Gamespot indicated that 73% of
participants are disappointed with eighth generation games, with 22% of respondents pointing to the
quality as the main issue with the current generation; only 7% of respondents believe that this
generation is the best console generation so far [9]. Given the negative reception of video games in
this generation, the main reasons for such poor response should be discussed.
1.1. Eighth-Generation Video Game Sequels
The eighth generation of video game consoles includes the WiiU from Nintendo, PlayStation 4
from Sony Entertainment, and Xbox One from Microsoft. In addition, micro-consoles, such as Ouya
and Apple TV 4, are part of eighth generation [22], but they are noticeably different, as they have been
designed for different target markets. Most professional gamers are not interested in micro consoles,
and as such, the video games of micro consoles are not discussed here. Similarly, the WiiU has been
dropped from this research because its hardware is inferior to that of Xbox One and PS4, and few 3D
party games have released for Nintendo’s eighth-generation platform. A survey indicated that only 5%
of game developers are working on Nintendo Wii U [7].
2. Method
This study is descriptive in nature and applies content analysis, defined by [23] as “a research
technique for making valid inferences from data to their context.” As the most accessible sources of
data suitable for content analysis are texts, this study uses reviews of video gaming websites. Various
sites offer reviews of video games; the study compiled a list of top video game review sites on
alexa.com [2] and presented it to a group of gamers to select their trusted sources. IGN, GameSpot,
and Eurogamer have been selected because of their original, influential, and prominent reviews.
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Figure 1. Google Form for collecting the names of the preferred video game series
To identify the main reasons of gamer disappointment, the reviews of video game sequels for eighth-
generation consoles from these sites are studied. First, the list of video game sequels is created. For
this purpose, the study tapped gamer groups on instant messenger Telegram, who reported being based
in the Middle East but preferred to retain their anonymity were sent a link of the Google form created
for collecting the names of the best video game series (Figure 1): one group is dedicated to Xbox One
gamers, and the other to PlayStation. The gamers were asked to list their favorite video game series in
PS4 or Xbox One, excluding sports-themed games such as FIFA, which have annual releases of new
squads that gamers purchase regardless of content. A total of 53 responses were received. Meanwhile,
the game series list compiled is presented in Table 1. The list includes games not appropriate for this
research, as only video games that have made their fans upset should be used. Thus, the
metacritic.com scores of the most recent prequels of these video games in the seventh generation have
been compared with those for sequels in the eighth generation; the video games with lower eighth
generation scores have been selected for analysis. Games released between generations have been
omitted from the study because these may not be designed for eighth-generation consoles. Lastly, as
the score of video games may vary according to the gaming platform, the highest score of each game
is used, as reflected in Table 1.
Table 1: Favorite video game franchises of a group of gamers
Eighth
Generation Title
PS4/XBO
X ONE Score
Seventh Generation
Title
PS3/XB
OX 360
Score
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Killzone:
Shadowfall (Guerrilla
Games, 2013)
73
Killzone 3 (Guerrilla
Games, 2011)
84
Uncharted 4
(Naughty Dog, 2016)
93
Uncharted 3 (Naughty
Dog, 2011)
92
Gears of War 4
(The Coalition, 2015)
84
Gears of War 3 (The
Coalition, 2011)
91
Mafia III
(Hangar 13, 2016)
68
Mafia II (Hangar 13,
2010)
75
Assassin’s
Creed Unity (Ubisoft,
2014)
72
Assassin’s Creed III
(Ubisoft, 2012)
85
Need for Speed
(Ghost Games, 2015)
66
Need for Speed: Most
Wanted (Ghost Games,
2012)
84
Mass Effect:
Andromeda
(BioWare, 2017)
77
Mass Effect 3
(BioWare, 2012)
93
Street Fighter V
(Capcom Dimps,
2016)
74
Steer Fighter IV
(Capcom Dimps, 2009)
94
Dragon Age:
Inquisition (BioWare,
2014)
89
Dragon Age II
(BioWare, 2010)
82
Call of Duty:
Black Ops III
(Treyarch, 2015)
81
Call of Duty: Black
Ops II (Treyarch, 2012)
83
Rise of the Tomb
Raider (Crystal
Dynamics, 2016)
88
Tomb Raider:
Underworld (Crystal
Dynamics, 2008)
80
Halo 5 (343
Industries, 2015)
84
Halo 4 (343 Industries,
2012)
87
The Witcher 3:
Wild Hunt (CD
Projekt, 2015)
92
The Witcher 2:
Assassins of Kings (CD
Projekt, 2011)
88
Note: Uncharted 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and The Witcher 3 have
received better scores in the eighth generation, and as such, they have been removed from the final list
of games in this study.
2.1 Coding
Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR) [13] has provided a list of variables that are
shaping professional reviews and review scores. This set of variables covers all aspects of video
games, and has been adopted in this work. Table 2 shows the callouts that EEDAR’s analytics team
has identified regarding game reviews.
Table 2: EEDAR model of video game reviews[13]
Gameplay
Controls, level design, combat system
Market
Expectations
Social features
Multiplayer offerings, sharing with friends
Narrative
Dialogue, plot, ending
Graphics
Aesthetics, fidelity, animations
Technical
aspects
Performance, bugs, physics
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Value
Price, downloadable contents, breadth of content
Audio
Voice acting, music, sound effects
3. Data Analysis
To analyze the data, the study used Dedoose, a cross-platform app for analyzing qualitative and mixed
methods research with text, photos, audio, videos, spreadsheet data and more (dedoose.com). The
elements of Table 2 were added as codes in Dedoose. All of the reviews of the eighth-generation
version of the selected video game series (Table 3) from the top 3 review sites (27 reviews) were
imported to the application. Next, all of the sentences in these reviews were read, and all negative
sentences were assigned to their respective codes. The total number of negative sentences was 289.
Further, new codes were created in the case where sentences could not be assigned to a single code or
sub code and their repetitive occurrence made creating new sub codes reasonable.
Table 3: Selected video games
Genre
First-person shooter
Third-person shooter
Action-adventure open world
Action-adventure open world
Racing
Action role-playing, open world
Fighting
First-person shooter
First-person shooter
After the codification of all sentences, Dedoose was used for analyzing the data. This application
provides various charts, and a descriptor X code count table was generated for this research. Table 4
displays the occurrences of problems in various aspects and their relation with different review
websites. Most issues are revealed as related to the gameplay and story of the video games. Figure 2
shows the percentage of negative sentences on different aspects of the selected video games. Similarly,
gameplay, narrative, and technical issues encompassed 82% of the weak points in the selected video
games. The negative factors of each code are explained in the discussion section.
Table 4. Descriptor X code count table
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Figure 2: Chart of the coded content.
4. Discussion
This section discusses the negative sentences on the selected video games according to their
related codes
4.1 Issues in gameplay
Issues in gameplay accounted for the largest share (43%) of negative sentences in the reviews
compiled and analyzed. At present, there are various definitions for gameplay, with no widely
accepted standard definition [16]. Nonetheless, gameplay is a core element “within a video game and
seems closely related to the game quality in the mind of many players” [11].
Combat system is part of gameplay that is critical to gamer experience. Issues in combat systems
could make playing exhausting. This phenomenon is seen in Assassin’s Creed Unity , which [4]
described on Eurogamer.net as follows: “The best moments are often drowned out by a procession of
frustrations with traversal, combat and stealth.”
Control system is the means through which users can interact and direct their virtual characters in
the games. Its mechanism and design are likewise vital to gameplay satisfaction. Issues in the control
system of Street Fighter V , Halo 5 , Assassin’s Creed Unity , and Call of Duty: Black Ops III have
been identified. If the developers had paid more attention to testing, these issues could have been
prevented.
Level design is defined by [21] as the “process of creating a game environment in which the
game player interacts with the game universe.” This complex concept is important for consumers, and
critical issues in the level design of all of the studied video games have been pointed out. Particularly,
Mafia III and Gears of War 4 are guilty of the most issues in this regard. Sliva [37] called Mafia III a
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repetitive open world that lacked interesting side quests. Gears of War 4 is accused of having boring
chapters and situations, and of a campaign that seems intent on repeating situations [27].
Most issues in gameplay were placed in the sub codes of other aspects in gameplay. One notable
theme is game modes, such as the lack of essential game modes, which was noted as a major
disappointment for fans of Street Fighter V (Capcom Dimps, 2016). Yin-Poole [45] lamented, “It’s
just a shame that features you’d expect to be included [in Street Fighter V] at launch are missing.” To
prevent the overlapping of units of content assigned to this sub code and other codes, the discussion
provides separate sections for the explanation of these units of content.
4.2 Issues in Audio
Occurrences of issues in the audio segment were few. Mass Effect: Andromeda is noted to have
audio issues; most notably, multiple lines of dialogue play at the same tim[6].. Issues were also noted
with the voice acting in Assassin’s Creed: Unity. The story of the game is set in Paris but instead of a
French accent, the voice actors speak with a thick British accent, which is deemed distracting ([4]-
[41]).
4.3 Issues in value for money
When a user pays 60 USD for a game, then he/she seeks an AAA-rated game. AAA-rated video
games are generally considered of high quality, made by large studios with massive budgets [8]. Street
Fighter V (Capcom Dimps, 2016) was criticized for its breadth of content because it offers minimal
single-player content (Igenito, 2016), making it not worth its price
4.4 Technical issues
Eighth-generation video games have outraged fans owing to countless technical issues, including
bugs and performance failures. Many video games sent out updates on day one of release. Of the eight
video games considered in this work, six were criticized for their technical issues, except for Halo 5
and Call of Duty: Black Ops III Mass Effect: Andromeda is one of most criticized games for bugs that
prevent users from finishing the quests [15] Meanwhile, a frame rate issue is common for eighth-
generation video games vis-à-vis users’ expectation of superior graphics. In many current-generation
video games, users feel a drop in frame rate. Killzone: Shadowfall is one of the early PS4-exclusive
video games. It runs at 60 fps most times, but in a few occurrences, the frame rate drops, as duly noted
by early adapters [31]. A frame rate drop in newer games has become more common, such as in
Assassin’s Creed: Unity , in which users reported facing slowdowns [36]. In 2017 games, such as
Mass Effect: Andromeda , the frame rate in certain sessions has been reported to drop to the single
digits [15]
Although developers released day one patches, the many issues remained in games, such as
Assassin’s Creed Unity , affecting user experience. The process implemented by developers and
quality assurance (QA) teams for addressing the issues in the games mentioned in this study is not
clear, as it is part of their internal operations that is not made public. However, many of the issues in
these video games are obviously preventable. Implementing different testing methods for analyzing
different aspects of video games, from technical bugs to user experience design issues, may solve
problems. Reports have indicated that publishers are aware of these problems but they nonetheless
decide to ship the games with issues [18] to benefit from season-related sales such as holidays [34]. If
publishers investigate the effect of releasing broken games on game experience that can hurt the brand
equity, they may reconsider publishing games before they are perfectly ready for gamer consumption.
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Server issues have been reported in various games, which is an increasingly critical aspect
considering that the online experience is the main value of these games. For instance to get “anything
meaningful” from Street Fighter V (Capcom Dimps, 2016) users need to connect to the unstable
servers of publisher [45]. Both PS4 and Xbox One charge users for online gaming, whereas online
gaming is free on the PS3; this scenario makes the server issues more annoying to users..
4.5 Issues with social features
In previous generations of video games, the social offering in video games was a professional
quality, but in the eighth generation, the social features of video games comprise a basic quality.
Indeed, customers expect online features from all 60 USD games. Although a number of role-playing
games, such as Fallout 4, do not offer online playing, most current-generation games offer social
features. In addition, gamers seek different features in the social offering aspect. Games such as
Assassin’s Creed: Unity have been for the lack of excellent competitive multiplayer features on offer
in previous version [41].
4.6 Issues in graphics
.
The graphics processing unit (GPU) of PlayStation 3 has a performance of 400 GFLOPs; in
contrast, PlayStation 4 offers a performance of 1.84 TFLOPS [42]. As such, users expect smooth,
detailed animations. However, in popular franchises like Assassin’s Creed: Unity , the exclusivity to
the eighth generation of consoles is not immediately obvious [41], which can influence the willingness
of gamers to purchase other eighth-generation games.
4.7 Issues in marketing
As mentioned previously, in certain cases, the distributed version of the game does not meet the
expectations. In other words, the trailers and advertisements presented games exaggeratedly, and when
customers first acquire the games, they experience unexpected moments. Anderson and Hair [3] noted
that when expectations are not matched by actual performance, the contrast theory presumes that the
surprise effect will cause the consumer to exaggerate the gap. Publishers should pay attention to this
issue because many fans of famous video game sequels will buy their product regardless of their
quality, but lying and overpromising are similar to cheating and will have a bad impact on game
experience and brand equity.
4.8 Narrative issues
Video games are playable movies and stories, and as such, game stories should be written wisely;
the quality of their concepts is a priority. Interactive narrative is a form of digital interactive
experience in which “users create or influence a dramatic storyline through actions, either by assuming
the role of a character in a fictional virtual world, issuing commands to computer-controlled
characters, or directly manipulating the fictional world” [35]. The plot, dialogue, and ending are the
main elements in the study of narrative in this research. Mass Effect: Andromeda and Gears of War 4
have been criticized for their weak dialogue writing. Butterworth [6] noted that the dialogue in Mass
Effect: Andromeda is flat, and more importantly, the options in the stories are not sufficiently
differentiated. As decision making is critical in role-playing games, writers should create interactive
content for each user action that can have a significant impact on the story’s progress [12]. Users
expect a different ending with a different decision, but in Mass Effect: Andromeda , the endings are
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not significantly different from one another [38]. Experiences in the movie industry and cinematic
approaches could offer solutions. Many game studios do not pay enough attention to writers that are
not from the gaming industry. If a competent writer wants to become a narration designer, he/she is
required to already have a career in game development [43], whereas movie producers prioritize
novelty in ideas.
The most criticized aspect of the stories in the video games under review is the plot. Except for
Mafia III and Street Fighter V , the plot of all of the other games has received negative feedback. Mass
Effect: Andromeda suffers from a predictable story, unnatural and unexciting romantic arcs, and a lack
of possible features, such as political struggles. Halo 5 has received scathing comments on its plot as
well, with a Gamespot critic [26] describing it as a game with a “convoluted plot and poor story
telling.”
The section below provides information on the units of content assigned with others in sub codes.
User Interface: Video games created a genre of software in which the user’s affective
experience is vital [20] and the way users interact with this system can be influential on their
experience. Mass Effect: Andromeda has been criticized for its clunky user interface design [6]).
Characters: Characters are related to the narrative, graphics, and gameplay. A total of 15
excerpts from reviews are on character design. An IGN critic [36] noted, “The lack of a strong main
character or interesting take on the Assassin’s Creed universe costs it momentum and excitement.”
The same issue is cited by [26] for Halo 5. The problem seems to be that the new characters lack the
charisma and personality compared with old characters, which is difficult to address.
Artificial Intelligence: AI is giving life to the universe of video games. The term AI mainly
refers to non-player characters (NPCs), with the negative statements focused on the two kinds of
NPCs: Enemies and Teammates [44]. Mafia III has been criticized for its “dumb AI enemies” [14]
and Halo 5 for the inconsistency of the AI teammates [1]).
Variety: Lack of innovation and variety in armory and vehicles were reported in the reviews,
whereas a lack of variety in gameplay was noted by players who had begun to feel bored with the
game. These issues were seen in Mafia III by [5].
Gaming Modes: Certain gaming modes, such as multiplayer mode, have become a necessity.
Particularly, fans expect the gaming modes of prequels to be available in recent releases; otherwise,
the new release risks negative comments. For Instance, the split-screen mode has been a long-time
feature in video games, enabling users to play video games offline with their friends. The increasing
requirement for computing resource compelled developers to eliminate this features. The Halo series
has had this feature for a while, and its absence in Halo 5 was a disappointment for many users [46].
5. Conclusion
This study presents an insight about different aspects of the eighth generation of video game
sequels that were not well received as their predecessors did in the seventh generation. The gameplay,
narration, and technical issues are the main causes of disappointing moments for the players of popular
video game series. The gameplay has received 43 percent of complaints and the future research
dedicated only the gameplay aspects. Furthermore, this paper recommends the game developers to
consider multiple aspects of video games to ensure that the gameplay, narratives and graphics of the
new sequels continue to appeal to the players, which otherwise disappoint long-term and newly
initiated fans alike. However, even though some issues such as the lack of innovation in the story or
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absence of charisma in new characters are predictable, no specific solutions may be applicable to all,
but the other matters such as server load are preventable. The discontent regard to the gameplay is
related to the level design, which could be avoided by the development team. In the analysis, the
dialogue and plot received significant negative feedback as well. In this regard, the developers are
suggested to consider hiring writers and story producers whose their experiences are not exclusive to
the video game industry. Meanwhile, estimating and managing the server load is an important point
for online games, to prevent negative experiences and reactions from players. Although the present
research has analyzed various aspects of video games, the results are limited to perceptions video
game reviewers and did not benefit from the feedbacks of video gamers. In addition, the results of
content analysis of video games reviews do not show the degree of criticality of aspects. It just
indicates which aspects have received more negative feedbacks among video game reviewers. Further
researches may be conducted to identify most critical factors on the brand equity of video games with
comments from the video gamers.
In summary, the video game sequels in eight generation, which missed the expectation of
customers, lack essential criteria in gameplay, narrative, technical and graphic aspects.
Video Games
343 Industries. (2015). Halo 5: Guardians. Xbox One: Microsoft Studios.
BioWare. (2017). Mass Effect: Andromeda. PS4, Xbox One: Electronic Arts.
Capcom Dimps. (2016). Street Fighter V. PS4, Xbox One: Street Fighter V.
Ghost Games. (2015). Need For Speed. PS4, Xbox One: Electronic Arts.
Guerrilla Games. (2013). Killzone Shadow Fall. PS4: Sony Computer Entertainment.
Hangar 13. (2016). Mafia III. PS4, Xbox One: 2K Games.
The Coalition. (2015). Gears of War 4. Xbox One: Microsoft Studios.
Treyarch. (2015). Call of Duty: Black Ops III. PS4, Xbox One: Activision.
Ubisoft. (2014). Assassin’s Creed Unity. PS4, Xbox One: Ubisoft.
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