LOS ANGELES--Look around the halls of E3 2011, and you might notice something strangely similar about many of the most-hyped games on display. There's Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3, and Mass Effect 3. BioShock Infinite is the third game in that series, and Skyrim is the third modern/console version of an Elder Scrolls game (technically, it's the fifth game in the series, as there were a couple of prior PC games back in the '90s). We've also spotted Saints Row: the Third, Serious Sam 3, and Ninja Gaiden 3, Deus Ex: Human Revolution (the third game in that series), and there are probably a few others I've missed.
This collection of third-timers is partially a coincidence, and partly indicative of the industry's addiction to sequels. With production and advertising budgets at or near what Hollywood movie studios have been spending for years, there's a natural, and very understandable, attraction to finding a successful formula and sticking with it.
A trilogy is also a familiar construct from the larger media world that consumers are comfortable with, and the format is useful for putting together a compelling story arc over the course of three films or novels. But while most movies quit after three outings, there's no doubt you'll be seeing a fourth chapter in many of the game franchises above within a year or two. … Read more