Gears of War 2 writer Joshua Ortega was at Comic-Con in New York City over the weekend and had some interesting things to say about the future of his popular video game franchise.
"You will not be disappointed in the next ten years," he said to those in attendance. "It's a ten-year plan. Gears is long-term. The lancer is the new lightsaber."
If what Ortega said is really what the game's creator, Cliff Bleszinski, has in mind, that would mean the current Gears saga won't end until 2016, assuming the clock started when the first game was released.
Games lasting more than a decade isn't unheard of in the video game industry. Almost every major Nintendo franchise has been around much longer than that and the Final Fantasy series seems like it has been around forever. So there certainly is a precedent for a major franchise like Gears to last all that time.
But is there really a market out there for continuing one storyline for 10 years? The idea has been tried on numerous occasions--Yu Suzuki's Shenmue comes to mind even though Sega stopped development after two "episodes"--but so far, most (certainly not all) developers have decided that continuing one storyline for 10 years doesn't work, so they've changed things up.
Will Gears be different? I hope so.
As much as I love the Gears of War series and enjoy the gameplay, its story isn't all that great. It's too convoluted, at times it makes no sense, and when you really try to figure everything out, you see too many inconsistencies to get a full grip on what's happening.
The second game starts with locust attacks that we need to stop, but then we find out they're taking prisoners, so we need to stop that, too. Then, our team is swallowed by the Riftworm, which we manage to kill from the inside. After a while, we see that there's an evacuation underway and the Brumak is starting to mutate because of exposure to Imulsion. After we take care of the Brumak and the civilians evacuate, we're supposed to gain a better understanding of all this and prepare for future iterations when the Locust Queen starts rambling on about legacies and how things don't always turn out the right way? Yikes.
Sure, that synopsis is a very brief outline of the second game in the series, but I think it makes the point clearly: Gears of War is great, but its story isn't nearly as good as the gameplay.
Because of that, I just don't care what happens to Marcus, the Locust, and COG. It's nothing personal, but if Marcus dies in the third game or the Locust are totally wiped out, I couldn't care less. I don't play Gears for the story, I play it for the fun it offers and its intense multiplayer action. Everything else I ignore.
But it's not just Gears of War. I'm not even sure I would care about any game franchise that hangs on to a story for 10 years. I'm sure some would make the argument that the Super Mario series does that because Bowser is still the antagonist after all these years, but I disagree. There isn't one single storyline that continues to play out throughout all those games and there isn't a single goal we've known about since the first title that we're still trying to find.
Maybe it's just me, but I would get bored waiting 10 years for a game franchise to finally end; I need something new, something fresh. Maybe that's why I appreciate franchises like Final Fantasy that have lasted all these years. Their story lines are still rock solid, but they feature different characters and different plots. Square-Enix isn't trying to stick to one story throughout the entire series. Maybe that's because the game's developers know it would get stale and we would get bored.
Will Gears get stale? I have no idea. Maybe Cliff and Company can come up with something really compelling in the next game and we'll all be captivated, but I doubt it. The shelf life, for me, on a video game story is about five years. After that, I'm waiting too long to figure out what's happening in a particular world and I need closure as soon as possible. I move on.
I'm all for Gears of War hanging around for more than 10 years, but I want its story to end sooner than that. If the story isn't complete after three iterations, I can tell you now that I'll lose all interest and have no desire to pick up the fourth game in the series just to find out what's happening.
I can barely wait to find out what happens after two seasons of a sitcom How can I be expected to wait 10 years to find out what happens to Marcus Fenix? Sorry, but it's just not worth it.