Will there ever be a day when the final instalment in a tiring franchise is announced knowing it will be the last one?
Or more realistically the last one before a total reboot?
The question swirled around my dishevelled mind at the weekend, as a Foxtel promo reminded me most if its best shows are voluntarily coming to an end. None of my favourites have been prematurely cancelled, they’re simply nearing the end of their intended lifespans and bowing out with something left in the tank and reputations soaring high, rather than continuing for as long as they remain profitable.
But with video games, there’s rarely an end in sight, outside of a trilogy concluding, and that tends to lead to a new trio almost immediately. I don’t expect the stalwarts like Mario or Halo to disappear forever, but when The Last of Us 2 is inevitably announced, is there any chance Naughty Dog will confirm then and there this is going to be it – regardless of strong sales, there won't be anymore?
The only game series that disappear seem to enter forced retirement. Microsoft’s backhanded compliment to Conker all but confirmed they’re leaving him on the pine, and Crash Bandicoot might as well check into a retirement home now – he’s not getting a call up.
The thing is, these once legendary characters were pushed aside as the fruition of rushed development and deservedly poor sales. What if, say, there was a new Conker game towards the end of the Xbox 360’s life that Rare was given ample time to finish on the basis it would be the last game they’d ever make in the series – then handed him to the community in Project Spark.
It would have been a more momentous and celebrated end compared to the token DIY comeback we were offered.
Of course, a series being “retired” needn't mean it’s definitely gone forever. But it could confirm the current story is concluding, the developer is moving on and when it returns, it won’t be for a while and take an unrecognisable approach – that’s very different to the closure of Halo 3 being undermined by Reach and Halo 4 igniting a new trilogy that we know will be followed by another, and another.
If admitting a series is entering retirement, or something more than a (it isn't selling well) hiatus, is too risky, perhaps we can compromise. Imagine how much more compelling the Uncharted 4, 5 and 6 arch will be if Sony says from the start that all three will launch on PS4, but there won’t be another game in the series this console generation. That’s more than likely already the plan, but the buzz it could generate by announcing it now could be electric.
After seeing many of my favourite TV shows go, I’d like to see an equivalent enter the realm of video games. While established series aren't going anywhere permanently until they've been burnt out like Crash, Spyro, Conker and Banjo, they could be invigorated if more developers announced when an upcoming game would be the last as we know it – imagine if Capcom announces Resident Evil 7 as the last in the current storyline. An end to the lingering story, with a vastly different reboot presumed to follow, would certainly peak my interest.