The video game industry, the film industry, and the book industry. What do these three entertainment giants have in common? They are really fuckin scared. And the industry is expensive to produce something new.
I’m not even going to go into indie publishing and film-making and the cheap $1 app games. I won’t talk about music, either. That’s a whole other blog post. I’m talking about mass-produced, mass-consumed media products.
Why are the industries scared?
They are scared to invest in something new and different because it might not sell to an audience that has only been fed sequels and remakes and other non-original trash.
Let’s look at E3, the biggest video game expo on the planet:
- Microsoft announced its upcoming games: Sequel, sequel, sequel, sequel, sequel, sequel, and sequel. Then it announced two original games, both for very young children (Disney World and Elmo).
- Sony announced its upcoming games: sequel, sequel, reboot, sequel, sequel, special edition of a sequel, sequel, another special edition of a sequel, new game based on existing property (Star Trek, for those of you interested), then three more sequels.
- Nintendo, sadly, only offered sequels. Then it announced the new console with the idea that you can play sequels from other consoles on it.
Now, let’s take a look at someof films of 2011. 2011 is noted for being the year with the most sequels released, ever, at twenty-seven.
- Cars 2 (sequel)
- Thor (comic book adaptation)
- The Green Hornet (comic book adaptation)
- The Green Lantern (comic book adaptation)
- Breaking Dawn Part 1 (book adaptation)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (book adaptation)
- Sucker Punch (original, but directed by the famous Zack Snyder with a fan base from 300 and Watchmen, both comic book adaptations, and it was also about time we had a film about women.)
- X-Men First Class (comic book adaptation)
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (sequel, book adaptation)
- Scream 4 (sequel)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: on Stranger Tides (sequel)
- Fast Five (sequel)
- Captain America (comic book adaptation)
- The Hangover Part 2 (sequel)
- Kung Fu Panda 2 (sequel)
- Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon (sequel)
- Apparently there’s a new Mission Impossible film coming out as well.
I’m not listing everything. I’m just making a point.
Now, when it comes to the book industry, agents and publishers are rather the same. They only want to invest in something they think will sell (it would be crazy if they wanted to try to sell something they didn’t think would work), but they have limited notions of what will sell. They think loading readers with similar stories will work – this leads to trends and crazes. Never mind that many of the greatest novels ever written were completely original, somewhat different to what others were writing, and sometimes ever only published after the author was dead.
What I’m trying to say is, the book industry doesn’t need sequels and remakes (not including trilogies and series) because so many authors are writing similar stuff already. I’ve read heaps of advice telling authors what to do, what not to do, make sure there is a beginning, middle and end and a realistic villain that is introduced early on, make the conflict evident from the fist chapter, write a satisfying climax etc. But the biggest selling novel today in YA (next to Harry Potter, of course), Twilight, barely even has a plot until three quarters of the way through the novel. Twilight doesn’t stick to the conventions of the day and as a result, too many books try to emulate what has already been used and was a major success.
Books can easily be compared, just like films and games. “If you like this book about fallen angels and romance and paranormal and teenage girl protagonists, you’ll like these hundreds of other books written for the niche that is no longer niche” – kudos to Gina of Fantasy Casting for bringing this to my attention.
That’s the beauty of the industry: yes, we do want to enjoy what we love and read/play/watch similar things to rediscover the joy we found when we read/played/watched the original: but we also need originality. We need something different. Too many industries are too afraid of investing in something new and different. How are we supposed to discover a new genre or mode of storytelling when we’re saturated with similarities? How can originality shine through when markets are saturated with the same thing?
What are your thoughts on the industries and their love of remakes/sequels/retellings/general investment of sameness? Do you like to consume similar media, or do you search for those great originals as well? Will you invest in something different when buying a new book/game/seeing a movie, or do you play it safe with something you’re pretty sure you’ll enjoy based on past experiences?