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Why Video-Game Franchises Never Die

Game publishers are addicted to sequels even more than Hollywood studios are.
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Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg

At least some of the people who lined up at GameStop locations Monday night to buy the new Halo game the moment it came out were younger than Halo itself. Microsoft’s most popular gaming franchise turns 14 this year. And while the game released on Tuesday is called Halo 5, it is really the thirteenth version of Halo to have been published. Microsoft holds this as an example of the enduring appeal of the Halo story. It’s also a reminder of how much major game companies rely on seemingly endless versions of a few popular franchises. 

With the fall video game release season upon us, many of the biggest titles will be familiar, even to people who haven’t played a video game in years. The new Call of Duty, which comes out on Nov. 6, is an update on a line of over a dozen games that is over a decade old. The Fallout series, whose new game comes out on Nov. 10, dates to the mid-1990s. Star Wars: Battlefront also updates a decade-old video-game franchise based on a movie franchise that has been around since Jimmy Carter was president.