Franchise fatigue vs genre fatigue: a case against open-world sandbox games

4 min read
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Zen sandbox

We are rapidly approaching that time of year when we look back at all the games released and try to decide which ones were best. There have been some incredible games released this year, and I already joked that we would probably end up fighting it out between The Witcher 3, MGSV and Fallout 4, with maybe Tomb Raider and Bloodborne thrown in for good measure. But with games like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Mad Max and even MGSV all getting lumped together in some ways, I can’t help but wonder if people are really irritated with the games and franchises themselves, or if it’s an issue of genre fatigue.

Before getting my hands on Assassin’s Creed, I was having fun playing Mad Max with my other half. He was doing most of the playing, but when he’d take a smoke break, I’d drive around the open world taking out snipers, grabbing loot or pulling down scarecrows. It was relaxed and fun and made me remember how much I enjoy the open world of a sandbox game.

FC4 map

Then, I got Assassin’s Creed Syndicate for review. Due to customs and embargoes and all the rest, I only got the title a bit late, and Geoff agreed that I could sort of take my time with the review – there was no way I could possibly play through the story in the time before the review embargo lifted, so I could take some extra days to play and enjoy myself. Which is exactly what I did – I liberated areas, I played through side missions, I chased down collectibles. Of course I also completed the story missions, but it was through exploring the side missions and all the city had to offer that I got the full experience of the game and enjoyed myself so much.

Then, it was over and I needed a break from more open world games. As much as I’m curious about Tomb Raider and Fallout 4, I know that I need a break from that expansive, “there is so much to do” gameplay. I need shorter gameplay experiences – either cool co-op shooting or some quick and linear story games. Perhaps even an old-school platformer would do well for me at the moment.

Witcher 3 map

Looking at some of the best games released this year, they are predominantly open world experiences. For those who played The Witcher 3, and then moved on to play Metal Gear Solid V, of course a game like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Tomb Raider or Fallout 4 is going to feel repetitive. Even the best open world sandbox experiences start to get exhausting after a while, and if you play too many of them back to back, you’re guaranteed to get fatigued.

This is why I’m beginning to wonder if all the talk about franchise fatigue isn’t overblown. It’s not that people are necessarily tired of Assassin’s Creed games (although many people are); it’s that they are tired of all the other open-world sandbox games that followed in the Assassin’s Creed footsteps. Much the same way that almost all games seem to have RPG-light elements, games are increasingly trending towards the open-world for success. While massive maps with tons to do can be great, they can also start to feel like padded experiences that would have been far better without the hundreds of collectibles or rinse and repeat side objectives.

Assassins creed syndicate not failing this city

Ubisoft obviously loves open-world sandbox games, but that seems to be contigious what with EA saying that they want to make those kinds of games, too. Warner Bros also seems to have drunk the open-world sandbox Kool Aid. There is nothing inherently wrong with the genre – it’s popular for a reason. People love having tons to do in a game; it makes it feel like there is more value for money when you can sink 100+ hours into a game. However, when certain genres become some popular, they can make all games feel the same. Just like any playground, even if the sandbox is the most popular, there should still be a swing, and a see-saw, and that weird climbing thing.

Have you had your fill of the open-world sandbox, or are you still enjoying the genre? Can you handle an all sandbox diet of games, or do you also need to break things up with linear, short-term games? Does anyone even have time to fully clear these open-world games? I think I managed it with one recently, and that was during the December holiday last year.

Last Updated: November 9, 2015

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let’s get on with it!

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    I pretty damn near cleared everything in W3, all quests & 99.999% of question marks. Open world is cool, if you’re enjoying what you’re doing and you feel like you’re growing your character. Go collect 100/100 feathers to unlock a weapon you don’t need. Boring. I’d rather slit my wrists than play another AC game. Franchise fatigue is real.

    • Jonah Cash

      I am also very over AC. Won’t touch one for quite some time!

    • WitWolfy

      After AC I’m getting back into W3.. Only started playing the expansion for like the first 30 minutes to get side tracked by MGS V that time.

  • Jonah Cash

    I knew that if I pissed and moaned enough someone with power will listen and investigate ๐Ÿ™‚
    I am tired of open world, I am currently playing Wolfenstein and I am happy to game again. Also playing some Uncharted. I need more games that can be finished in under 20 hours. The story must be in my face the whole time or I am not playing it at all at the moment. I am so tired of having to drive or row or sale or swim to the next part of the story.

  • Hammersteyn

    GTA5 (Rockstar), Fallout 4(Bethesda), MGSV(Konami), Shadow of Mordor(WB) all sandbox games and, barring Fallout 4 which releases tomorrow, gems in their own right. Nothing wrong with the genre

    Now we have Assassins Creed, every single year like a nagging ex wanting their alimony. Franchise fatigue is real. They had something with Black Flag, but the rest is the same marmite sandwich every year. Plus most of the times the games are broken to boot. I’ll get syndicate on special because there’s another $60 Assassin’s Creed on the way, and another after that, and another after that, and another after that…..

    • WitWolfy

      I’ll play a broken AC game any day over a repetitive MGS V or Watch_Dogs sandbox . ANY DAY!

      • Hammersteyn

        That’s your decision. I love playing soldier.

        • WitWolfy

          I think you mean…

          • Hammersteyn

            Brilliant!

  • I am also fatigued, I need new story-focused games

    • WitWolfy

      Try Until dawn if you havent already. If you own a PS4 that is.

      • Hammersteyn

        Got that on my backlog XD Cant wait to start playing

        • Grand Admiral Chief SpaceNinja

          Make a let’s play video for our entertainment!

          • Hammersteyn

            It’ll look something like this

            http://i.imgur.com/hKOGe6l.gif

          • Grand Admiral Chief SpaceNinja

            Asleep and drooling?

          • Hammersteyn

            Pretty much XD

          • Grand Admiral Chief SpaceNinja

            I thought it was a gif of you playing CoD?

          • Hammersteyn

            Spot on!

          • WitWolfy

            Caption:

            “What am I doing with my life?”

          • Hammersteyn

            hehehehehe

      • Thanks, will probably try it soon

    • Mass Effect!

  • This is why I am, split between playing Legacy and Fallout.

    I know I will enjoy both but on the one hand Fallout!
    On the other hand I get to see Kerrigan again.

    On the one hand Open World
    On the other RTS.

    On the one hand could be a great story
    On the other … already know it is gonna be a great story (Blizzard can spin some damn fine tales)

    On the one hand I still need to download it
    On the other battle.net already update game to Legacy.

    On the one hand ForeverSP
    On the other Archon mode!

    Dammit I can’t decide!

    • Hammersteyn
      • I own both. Problem is what to play first. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • miaau

          Well, which one do you feel like playing first?

          Hehe

          • After this weekend I am sorta leaning toward Legacy cause Blizzcon was amazeballs!

          • miaau

            I actually think you should play Legacy first.

            Play the SP campaign, play a bit of the MP, look and feel of the thing. Then, when you reach a moment in the main campaign where you just want to savour the moment, to not let it get over with too quickly, switch to Fallout 4.

            Just my thoughts, I will play both, but not immediately. Too much work right now for new games.

          • I am also a bit overloaded but I will try and make time.

        • Hammersteyn
          • What like play SC on my one PC while playing Fallout on my other?

            I would have to get primate type dexterity with my feet to be able to pull that off. ๐Ÿ˜›

          • Hammersteyn

            XD play one for an hour then play the other

          • I have a certain time warping ability that won’t allow me to do that.

            Step 1 Pick up a game
            Step 2: Press the snooze button on my alarm for the next morning so i can play 10 minutes more.

        • Snowlockk

          I tend to play one game until I get bored then move on to the next as a break. It’s the only way I can complete games is to play 3 or 4 at one time.

      • miaau

        was about to just write both, but ok. This will do

        • Screw it. Gonna get them.Unpack Them. Pack them away and start a new playthrough of ME. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Hammersteyn

    Just cause 3 is another sandbox game around the corner. I’ll grab that in a heartbeat as soons as my backlog is cleared a bit because it’s been a while since I tethered a jumbo jet to my jeep for some ludicrous hang time. How many times can you get excited by jumping into hay?

    • Grand Admiral Chief SpaceNinja

      42 times, then no more

      • Hammersteyn

        Remember your towel tough

        • Grand Admiral Chief SpaceNinja

          And to avoid certain types of poetry

          • Hammersteyn

            Especially Vogon which is the third worst in the galaxy

          • Darren Peach

            You know you have reached the nerd part of life when you know exactly what these strange comments mean. Don’t panic.

          • Hammersteyn

            Wish they made the last two movies instead of just one

          • Darren Peach

            I was in Standard 7 when I first read the books, So the magic that the books were could never be replicated buy a film. The film was funny and cool, But reading the books is where it’s at for me. What a loss to the world when Douglas Adams died. Such a brilliant sense of humour.

          • Hammersteyn

            Agreed

  • WitWolfy

    I’m gonna be honest here, MGS V almost killed my love for open world games COMPLETELY! Then I bought AC Syndicate out of habit thinking I’ll get bored of it seeing I just got from the boring est open world game EVER.. Man was I wrong!!

    I started remembering why I loved open world games to begin with. NPC’s every where, Side missions with believable characters, a leveling system that isnt repetitive at ALL, and a atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re actually there! The whole 9 yards!

    Then I look back at games like MGS V thinking.. They actually think claim is an “open world game”? Yeah ok, pal!

    • Hammersteyn

      Getting Syndicate for sure. Not paying full price for the ole treadmill though

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        #SteamSpecials

        • Hammersteyn

          I wish, not nearly as cheap as Steam. Sony still has to get their cut

      • WitWolfy

        If you see Unity on special get that sometime (if you’re prepared to download like 9Gb+ in patches). Its a good game.

        • Hammersteyn

          It probably is a good game. But it deserves to be shunned because
          1. They released it broken
          2. It still has MT
          3. The DLC is still full price

          • WitWolfy

            Assassins Creed’s DLC is for free FOREVER thanks to it being “broken”. But I dig what you’re saying. Both Unity and Syndicate were never really broken that I couldnt play pass a certain part in the game though.. stream it sometime on Twtich via your PS4 and check it out.

  • Purple_Dragon

    I love open world but prefer to play something more linear in between open world games.

    But I’m definitely tired of AC. It all got a bit much and boring after a while.

  • Grand Admiral Chief SpaceNinja

    My fatigue set in with W3 for two reasons.

    1. Being off at home after my accident, I had ample time to play it, so I really spent an inordinate amount of time playing W3.
    2. After finishing it, I immediately started with the NewGamePlus mode (since that patch went live at that time, COINCIDENCE?)

    For Fallout NV and Skyrim, the fatigue only set in after a few months

  • konfab

    Dragon Age: Inquisition seemed to have the right mix of linear levels and open world.
    I do agree that too much open world does build up fatigue, and unlike these beloved games, my potions of stamina have serious side effects.

  • WhiteRock

    I’m currently playing Dying Light and I’m pretty much still hyped and ready to directly jump into Fallout 4. I do, however, play other games in between whenever I feel like a break from the open world – SC2, COH2, Homeworld Remastered. There are times It can feel like a grind, but with games that keep you intrigued you never really get bored. I did, however, get bored by Far Cry 3 which might be why I haven’t gotten 4 yet…

  • miaau

    Open World Games: Bethesda, for all the complaints and so on, do it right. I loved their games.

    WC3? Yes, sure, it was great and well done, but the amount of times I was genuinely surprised in especially Fallout 3 was far higher then in Wc3, just the WTF moments were more. And that, for me, works.

    I complain about this frequently here, fatigue of playing these games, need a break before the final push. All of them I loved were like that, Fallout(s), Skyirm, Oblivion (not finished), Dragon Age(s), Witcher(s).

    All Except for Mass Effect(s). I played them straight through, irritated with Mako over mountains or scanning planets for junk, I played, no real play fatigue set in.

    • WitWolfy

      I miss the days when open world games were the size of Mass Effect 2. That was the perfect size where nothing looked the same but felt like you only explored like 4% of the game. Perfect illusion.

      • Hammersteyn

        ^This

      • miaau

        Mass effect 2, first play through, took months real world time, it was a labour of love to play and finish it. Some mornings, when wife left for work at 06:30, I would play till 07:45, just loved it.

        I absorbed each (except for Zaeed) character interaction, I explored each option and on first play got the best possible ending.

        • Zaeed felt forced in.

          • miaau

            He did, as the other characters I did not like (Jack, Miranda) I still spoke to and enjoyed interactions with.

            BUT the Pre-Collector alien from ME3, he was so funny. I loved him. And Morodin.

            Garrus and Lara were my favs, but Morodin was the funniest, by far

          • The only thing I did not like about Javik was his rasta accent. It felt …. off.

          • miaau

            Hmm. Not sure either way. I just like his brand of arrogance and misplaced condescension

          • konfab

            [Reaper agent detected]
            Throw yourself out of an airlock.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            What I didn’t like about him is that he was cut-content preorder DLC.

          • miaau

            I had no real idea, I bought Collectors Edition, delivered to my house after 18:00 by Takelot.com, good on them, keeping the promise of release day delivery. Installed to console while wife was awake, played till 04:00AM next morning when she slept.

            This was all BC, before child, of course. I cannot risk staying awake so late, cause Little One has / had so many tummy cramps and stuff that she awoke too much

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            Oh I preordered the CE, so it didn’t affect me – it’s principles and all that. I haven’t even played any of the ME3 DLC because I refuse to buy Bioware points with (lots of) real money.

          • miaau

            Bloody hell, the ME3 DLC are the best I have seen and were so worth the real money, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Or a broker, the best ME2 DLC.

          • WitWolfy

            Agreed. I wanted him British.. Like Colin Firth kinda British English.

          • Dutch Matrix

            Or Afrikaans. You know, so he can be blamed for the shit storm that hit the galaxy…

          • WitWolfy

            Lol he could accuse the counsil of apartheid.

          • Dutch Matrix

            That would explain why the Reapers kicked the shit out of the Protheans. They were so off their Mass Relays high on Ganga they could not tell reality from dope induced hallucinations!

          • Dutch Matrix

            It’s Mordin, you Moron! (Moron totally deserved for dissing Jack. That’s my wife you talking about!)

          • miaau

            Yes, yes, Mordin. Sheesh.

            It is hot, my aircon is not coping and I am crabby. Moron indeed for marrying jack. When she hands you your nuts, she really hands you your nuts, right?

            I am the very model of a modern Major General

          • Dutch Matrix

            Oh but that is where the kinky comes in. If you gonna live, live dangerously, right?

            Heh-heh. This heatwave is going to be all kinds of fun!

          • miaau

            Not for me, too hot, brain shuts down. And I work in R&D. Need brain. must think. Or at least give the appearance of doing so.

          • Dutch Matrix

            I work in Tech Support myself. So I know you R&D boys aint got brains, or you do but have not figured out how to use them just yet… XD

          • miaau

            I started out in support and I was always concerned when an engineer called, especially on a unix machine. They would have tried all the usual stuff first and then called you, so you knew it was completely stuff up. This was late 90’s, early 2000’s and some of those engineers knew more about the OS then I did. Fun times!

            The internal IT support staff also report to me, so I see both sides.

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      I find I generally get very bored very quickly with open-world games once I’ve exhausted story-based missions. That’s why I try doing all the small stuff before proceeding through the main campaigns. Exploration for exploration’s sake only entertains me for so long if all you’re doing is sightseeing.

      That ME planet scanning was so tedious, I actually enjoyed driving the Mako around.

      • miaau

        I normally play these games ignoring the story missions as much as I can, I wander around, looking for stuff, hoping to be surprised. For me, the best story is the one you can make yourself and bethesda games sort of allow that, I appreciate that.

        Skyrim is a perfect example, by the time I did the main story mission, I was so overpowered I walked through every monster, it was dead easy.

        Mako was fun, BUT got less fun WHEN forced to drive around big mountains and whatnot.

      • I am also a Mako Fan. long live the Mako!

        • Grand Admiral Chief SpaceNinja

          Mako is awesome, crappy bad designed mountains are not

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            I considered them a challenge. Like riding your horse over the mountains in Skyrim.

          • miaau

            Or Morrowwind. That was cool. And flying

          • Hoping the updated Mako is awesome in Andromeda.

  • VampyreSquirrel

    Genre fatigue is real… I can’t look at another RTS game, I SERIOUSLY can’t. Franchise fatigue is debatable really, if the next part of the franchise is terrible, then it’s obvious you’re going to be cautious with going for the next game.

    I loved the AC franchise, but AC3 put me off completely. There are a few other games that put me off their Franchises… much like Farcry, I finished the first 2.

    • miaau

      I think RTS also has to do with my age and lack of “practise”, having to practise to be fast and all that just puts me off.

    • WitWolfy

      AC 3 was shite bro.. I never even finished it. I remember I was on this one mission where I had to ride on a horse to stop a messenger from killing my peeps. Failing miserably 14 times. yelling at the top of my lungs in frustration I exit the gamer and deleted it from my HDD. Easy the shittiest AC game from the series.

      • VampyreSquirrel

        Yep, AC3 was absolute shyte. I played and finished every AC game before it (with collecting EVERYTHING) and got to that, and didn’t play beyond 45 minutes.

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          heh, I enjoyed AC3. It wasn’t the greatest, but it wasn’t terrible either. Ezio got old.

          • WitWolfy

            He did get older. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      I enjoyed FC3, it didn’t bore me at any point, not fatigued by style of it, but I’ve had no inclination whatsoever to pick up FC4.

      • VampyreSquirrel

        I couldn’t get into FC3, I don’t know why, but I was bored within an hour.

        • WitWolfy

          Must be because its a FPS.. If it was 3rd person I would’ve actually bought it.

  • Blizzard did Franchise Fatigue well. W1,W2,W3, … the great Strategy games are dying age …. WoW. ๐Ÿ˜›

  • Milesh Bhana

    I don’t really get fatigue from open world games because many can be played linearly and the open world becomes a “menu with a mini-game”.

    You get games like Black Flag and Far Cry 3 where you feel the need to do as much as you can.
    And others like Unity where I’d just play the main story
    and others like Skyrim, Fallout 3 where I start off trying to do everything, then about 30 hours in.. i suddenly decide I want to see the end and finish the main story with 40% completion and 0% FOMO about the quests i didn’t do.

    As long as the missions are fun, i’m happy.

  • doctor eleven

    I got every single achievement on every single Lego game from the first Star Wars series all the way through to the 2nd Harry Potter game. I am so burned out on Lego games.

    • miaau

      Ok. Well. I would be too. Wow.

      • doctor eleven

        It was exhausting! I have the Lego Hobbit game collecting dust because I just can’t do it. ๐Ÿ™

  • miaau

    Is it Friday already?

  • 40 Insane Frogs

    Personally, the issue is really franchise fatigue as opposed to genre fatigue. I love open world games. I tend to get really stuck into them, and if I’m not to careful I’ll gladly platinum them. However there are some titles that I’ve grown increasingly weary of.

  • Darren Peach

    The one game that killed me was Far Cry 4. Franchise fatigue indeed. The Witcher was huge, For the first time I actually wondered if there was too much in a game. The biggest problem with open world games is the fact that when you get sick of em, It’s hard to pick them up again. The obvious pro is the fact that they are very good value for money.

  • Ghost In The Rift

    I’m glad my wish for a Mass Effect every year didn’t play out, would suck if you get bored even with your fav game, open world is my genre, its what i enjoy, if its the same formula every year yeah ill get pissed and bored like with AC and Far Cry, 1 of the reasons i didn’t get Far Cry 4 yet, 3 just left me with a bad taste.

  • Francois Knoetze

    I kind of miss the whole linear game experience now and then. I really do love Sandbox games in general but with the little time I have to play games the sandbox stuff feels like it takes forever to complete and in turn my games backlog piles up more and more. Take Arkham Knight for example. I actually really enjoy the game and will do all the side missions but screw the Riddler trophies. I am so over jumping through hoops and obstacles to get somewhere and have more of my time drained bec of silly filler crap to keep the replayability factor going.

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