Today I have a special guest post for you by John Ryan. He loves all kinds of video games, though he has a particular fondness for adventure titles and RPGs. When he's not playing games, you can usually find him writing about them. Enjoy!
In some circles, the term "spinoff" is seen as a dirty word. It's often associated with quick cash-ins, be it in the form of a TV series or video game, that don't live up to what made the original piece of work so notable. This is, however, not always the case as there have been remarkable exceptions over the years, especially in the world of gaming.
Just this year, there have been two highly acclaimed spinoffs that built upon what made the originals so great and took them into an entirely new direction. First, there was the worldwide release of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft this past March. For those who haven't played it yet, the ridiculously addictive game, which resides in the Warcraft universe, works like this: you seek out and collect cards that you then use to battle opponents in a turn-based setting. That's a rather rudimentary take on a game that can become extremely engrossing, but considering it's free to play you should probably just, you know, experience it for yourself. Trust me, it's worth it. But if you've been waiting for an easier way to play it—i.e. not on your PC or Mac—it'll be available on iPhone and Android phones in early 2015.
Hearthstone®: Heroes of Warcraft™
©2014 Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved. Heroes of Warcraft is a trademark, and Hearthstone is a registered trademark of Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.
Another strongly favoured spinoff arrived in September in the form of Hyrule Warriors. For those unfamiliar, it's a refreshing take on what we've come to love and expect from The Legend of Zelda series. Instead of relying on the action-adventure/RPG elements that many equate with the franchise, the team behind the heavily action-oriented Dynasty Warriors games worked closely with Nintendo to develop this new title. The end result, Hyrule Warriors, is a straight-up, no-holds-barred brawler for the Wii U that, at its core, is a button masher. However, the wide variety of characters, upgrades, and items keep it fresh and intriguing, as does the strong dose of nostalgia associated with anything related to The Legend of Zelda.
This image, which qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law, was sourced from Wikipedia here.
While these are clearly examples of the good that can come from spinoffs of video game franchises, they also bring to light another sentiment: sometimes, you just need to kind of dumb it down, so to speak. You can make the argument that Hearthstone is more, well "intelligent" than I'm making it seem, but you cannot argue against the fact that both that game and Hyrule Warriors are more simplistic takes on what we've come to expect from games in their respective series. To that end, perhaps developers will begin to catch on to the fact that we're all just looking for easy, straightforward spinoffs and not some kind of revamped project. After all, that's what sequels and reboots are for, right?
With a more barebones approach, developers can also reach new fans and expand a game's audience. Take, if you will, the example set by Capcom. Known for franchises such as Mega Man and Street Fighter, among others, the developer/publisher has found a new gaming path to take on the web. As part of a collaboration with InterCasino and their developer, Capcom was able to bring their most well-known title, Street Fighter II to an audience that may have only played the original game once or twice in the past. However, by crafting a slot game based around SFII, its characters, and its narrative, they may have won over some folks who will become full-on fans of the franchise and support all of its releases.
This is something that could easily be done with the characters and stories from many role-playing games. If nothing else, many of the games we all love, such as those highlighted in this Brewin post, could make for fantastic slot experiences. It only seems natural, really, given the items that could be used as the images on the spinning wheels; the characters and their voiceover work that could add humour and intrigue; and the overall aesthetic that could define the game itself. If you need an example to get a better visual idea, just look to Etherlords II and let your imagination run wild!
(Image used with permission under limited license)