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Nintendo & Annual Sequels

Its something I noticed in the most recently in the CVG interview with Alex Hutchinson. While the most shocking point in the article was made by Hutchinson, the thing I'll be focusing on here was mentioned by the interviewer:

Why do Nintendo get it right? It releases a new edition of the same franchise every year and no one bats an eyelid. Why?

Please tell me what "franchise" Nintendo rehashes annually, because I would like to know. The only example I know of was the Hudson Soft developed Mario Party titles during the Nintendo 64/Gamecube generations. Following that, there was a 5 year gap between Mario Party releases on the Wii. These is no other Nintendo franchise that has sustained a regular annual release schedule.

So, with that in mind I'm going to make an assumption: I'm going to assume that the interviewer meant Mario games. It's something we've all heard before–its often regurgitated as fact across forums. And while it may make business sense to consider Mario a franchise, its very different from most franchises.

Mario as a Label

First off, Mario is a character; he stars in a variety of video game series, each of which may spawn their own sequels and spin-offs, but they are all unique. Mario titles span a wide breadth of genres, such as platformers, party, sports, puzzle, fighting and RPG. All of these games are fundamentally different and often only see one iteration per platform per generation. The only thing these games have in common is the Mario universe and characters. It is because of this that he functions more as a label for all of the games he stars in–a guarantee of quality, light-hearted whimsical fun. Meanwhile, Western studios are pumping out a new Madden, Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed in a year or less and these are sequels in the same series with the same gameplay.

Fact: Madden has been on an annual schedule for over two decades.