"You never rush out anything just to meet consumer demand, otherwise you end up putting out shit. Some franchises get done to death, you can't keep beating the same thing into the ground."— The Angry Video Game Nerd
The act of franchise milking in the gaming industry refers to the act of a major publisher releasing a new entry in a given franchise on a regular and consistent basis for a quick and easy profit. Sometimes, a publisher will buy smaller studios for the same reason.
It should be noted that milking is a bad act because it can quickly lead to franchise stagnation since the developers adopt a "quantity over quality" mindset, which can hurt a franchise in the long run since the developers often run out of new ideas quickly if they keep making the same game over and over.
Sometimes, a publisher will incorporate shady monetization schemes into their games in order to milk more money out of their consumers as much as possible.
- Activision is notable for milking the Call of Duty franchise and buying smaller studios (some of them even being shut down) to milk other franchises for profit, with some of them being used for just Call of Duty games.
- Other franchises of theirs, such as Guitar Hero and Skylanders, had one annual installment every year from when they were first introduced (2005 to 2010 for the earlier, and 2011 to 2016 for the latter), as well as several spinoffs.
- Despite throughout the rest of 2010s since 2013, the fact that Valve was a good company in the past, nowadays they have seemingly resorted to milking two main games (CS:GO and Dota 2) for profit. Because of this, some of their games barely get updated anymore (most notably Team Fortress 2, which went without a major update for almost a full year). And with the announcement of Artifact, a card spin-off for Dota 2, it is assumed that they will also abandon Counter-Strike and focus entirely on the Dota series. It should be noted that CS:GO, mainly considered one of the best FPSs of all time, had a major decline in quality. This continued until the announcement of Half-Life: Alyx in October 2019, reviving their flagship franchise Half-Life, proving that they still listen to their fans.
- Capcom From 2011 though 2017. Capcom has milked the Street Fighter Series and Resident Evil series and lead to games like Street Fighter V and Resident Evil 6. Thankfully they stopped and made Street Fighter V better and focused on Mega Man and Devil May Cry again.
- 2K Games is well-known for milking WWE 2K and NBA 2K series with tons of DLCs and expensive season pass, As with the launch of NBA 2K18, they put tons of microtransactions in their AAA games, And most recently with the releases of NBA 2K20 which has all the microtransactions of NBA 2K18, but even worse to the point the game feels like a gambling simulator, and WWE 2K20 which is riddled with bugs and glitches that are just as bad as the bugs and glitches in any other WWE 2K game, but at least 2K managed to fix the other games. WWE 2K20 on the other hand had 2K losing a lot of profit; and thus, bug fixes only get released for certain superstar entrances and not the whole load of bugs and glitches that exist. WWE 2K20 was also responsible for the dropping of 2K's visuals for WWE 2K21, which that game's release is in doubt due to WWE 2K20's poor sales.
- EA is notorious for milking almost absolutely every franchise they own, much like Activision. Two particular examples are the FIFA and Madden series, being released annually with physical bugs that were never fixed, and with less and less effort put into single player content with each new release.
- Another franchise that gets milked frequently by EA is Need for Speed, ever since the second game of the franchise a new NFS game is published nearly every year, with little to no innovations besides a new environment and some new cars. While NFS: Payback does feature some new elements, it still lacks originality in general and appears to be heavily inspired by other franchises like Fast & Furious, Grand Theft Auto, Forza Horizon and The Crew.
- Throughout its multiple iliterations, SNK is notorious for milking their most famous franchise - The King of Fighters, Metal Slug, and Samurai Shodown. As evidenced by their preference to create a numerous sequels of their existing franchise, as well as creating tons of crossover with other franchises over the year. With over hundreds of non-SNK games featuring the character from SNK's, primarily from The King of Fighters.
- Winged Cloud is infamous for milking the Sakura hentai game series. They also cash-in on the popularity of their artist (Wanaca) by opening a Patreon account to sell wallpapers drawn by Wanaca.
- While the Tomb Raider games were great, the early games (then published by Eidos Interactive) were milked for all their worth, with a new game released every year with minimal changes made to them, up until 2000 when Tomb Raider Chronicles was released. By the time the series made the leap to PS2 in 2003, the game suffered from dated game mechanics, archaic controls, and a lack of polish. The series was rebooted in 2006, and again in 2013 by Square Enix, the latter receiving wide critical and commercial success and repopularizing the franchise.
- For a while, Ubisoft released a new Assassin's Creed each year, and as a result, the series had little changes between them aside from the setting and characters. The series went on a one-year hiatus after Syndicate as a result.
- In addition, they also release a new Just Dance game every year in order to catch up with the latest hit songs, causing most of the songs to have recycled moves and Gold Moves that are exactly the same as the regular moves. Not to mention that every single game, up until Just Dance 2020, has been released on the Wii!
- Though the quality has remained more consistent, Microsoft has been milking the Forza franchise like crazy lately. Since 2011's Forza Motorsport 4, there has been as a new Forza title released every single year, alternating between Forza Motorsport, and Forza Horizon each year. Some fans had even gone as far as to describe Forza as the "Call of Duty of racing games" as a result of it. However, as of 2018, it seems to have slowed down (likely in response to the mixed reception of Forza Motorsport 7), as the franchise was given a break for two years until the release of Forza Horizon 5 in 2021.
- Though the series wasn't milked, the popularity of the Dead Rising, The Walking Dead, Left 4 Dead and Plants vs. Zombies series has led many developers to try and cash in on the zombie genre in recent years, and while some were more successful than others, most of them were uninspired and generic zombie survival and tower defense games that were hard to distinguish from each other.
- Mobile game developers are not even safe from franchise milking. Some developers re-release the same game, but with more ads and microtransactions. Here are some other developers who have been involved in this:
- Apex Designs, known for their Payback franchise, have been milking the second game in the series ever since its release in 2012 with small updates consisting of new content and patches. The game has barely received a sequel ever since.
- RobTop tends to milk Geometry Dash a lot and, in favour of that, has abandoned the rest of his games like Boomlings and Memory Mastermind.
- Gameloft frequently milks the Asphalt series with tons of MTX being added with every update. In the 2010s, they were releasing annual entries of the franchise after Asphalt 4: Elite Racing.
- Bandai Namco constantly churns out games based on licensed anime and manga properties, such as Dragon Ball and Wangan Midnight, usually for cheap microtransaction filled mobile games or even worse, full-priced retail games with ridiculous DLC or pay-to-win elements. While the company occasionally uses properties like Pac-Man, Galaga, Tekken and Klonoa, many of their older franchises such as Mr. Driller, Dig Dug, Xevious, Katamari, Mappy are either milked for mobile games or just forgotten entirely. The only IPs they seem to be using properly anymore is Tales of and IdolMaster, which they have began milking to the point that they've stopped using their own flagship franchise, Pac-Man, properly and he has since been degraded to constant mobile games or nostalgia pandering remakes and remixes of the original 1980s games, despite fans desperate outcries for a return to the formula and scale used in the Pac-Man World trilogy.
- Nintendo has been milking Fire Emblem Awakening, Fates and, to some extent more recently, Shadow Dragon, ever since their releases. While it's understandable that they would give more attention to the most popular games in the series (the first game in Shadow Dragon's case), this sometimes goes to ridiculous lengths, like how in Fire Emblem Warriors there are only two characters who don't come from those games, or how in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, what little there is of Fire Emblem representation is only seen through Awakening and Shadow Dragon characters.
- Due to its massive success in sales, Nintendo have been kinda milking Animal Crossing: New Horizons recently, despite it being lackluster content wise compared to previous entries.
- They are mainly guilty for making Mario one of the most milked franchises of all time with more than three hundred games featuring Mario himself (and even more if you count the spin-off games that don't feature him) in a span of 40 years, which considering the amazing quality in most of the games, it's not that much of a problem. It even got to the point where there are 3 shows (4 if you count the Donkey Kong Country cartoon), tons of merchandise, a theme park expansion in Universal Studios Japan, two movies (with a third one on the way), and even a ton of book series with activities, which is amazing. What does makes this a problem is that they released a fraction of Mario games that have turned out to be bad or mediocre: the examples are Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Mario Pinball Land, Mario Sports Superstars, Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, Mario Kart Tour, Super Mario All-Stars for Wii to celebrate Super Mario Bros. 25th Anniversary event and Super Mario 3D All-Stars (which was released to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of Super Mario series; the presence of this game here depends on your point of view), a few poor Mario Party entries, Dr. Mario World (which no longer exists), Hotel Mario (although it was only licensed by Nintendo), educational titles (apart from Mario Paint and Mario Artist series for Nintendo 64DD), and low-quality/unlicensed third-party ports as Super Mario World for Genesis and NES.
- Game Freak was milking the Pokémon series, resulting in bad/mediocre games like Sword and Shield or BDSP. Though they could have been forced to milk by Nintendo, so they can barely focus on their other games, and overall the series started improving recently.
- Roblox, despite being a good company, is notable for milking the catalogue for profit and for caring very little to no about the gameplay and the game engine itself. Roblox has notable bugs and glitches which were never meant to be fixed, and haunting the game ever since its launch. Also, Roblox developers milk their games for profit.
- Insomniac Games, despite being a good company, used to milk the Ratchet & Clank franchise until 2013, where only 2 games have released since. Most of the games have been good though.
- Due to Final Fantasy XV being in development hell for over 10 years, Square Enix has been milking the game for all its worth, as they released many DLCs for the game (both paid and free), an awful mobile strategy game, and a watered-down portable version.
- Universal Interactive/Vivendi Universal used to milk Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon until 2008 came around.
- Since its huge success in the early 2010s, Rovio Entertainment has overmilked Angry Birds by turning it into a multimedia franchise, with lots of merchandise (toys, costumes, books, party supplies, etc), more than five cartoon shows, a theme park and the cherry on top of the cake, the movies, leaving Angry Birds into a decline because of milking the series. So much, in fact, Rovio removed the older games in 2019 just to get people to play the newer, and therefore, more inferior games.
- Bemani, They have been releasing new Pop'n Music games every year since 1998.
- Sega was guilty of milking Sonic the Hedgehog to death. Ever since they went third-party, there has been a new Sonic game almost every year; in fact, they released about 43 Sonic games (18, if not counting spin-off's) between 2001 and 2017! The games have had very polarizing receptions with the best-rated ones catering to the classic fans, though nostalgia-pandering didn't pay off in Sonic Forces due to being completely redundant. Fortunately, they stopped milking the franchise. In fact, they make only about one Sonic game per year nowadays. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the franchise went on a long hiatus, and no new games were released between Sonic at the Olympic Games on mobile, and Sonic Colors Ultimate.
- Back then, the creator, Yuji Naka, wanted to end the Sonic series with Sonic Adventure 2 and focusing on sub sequel series instead. However, Sega rejected the idea of making Sonic go sub-series for unknown reasons, probably since it was now Sega's cash cow.
- Because of this, several games were rushed. Two notable examples are Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), which at launch had a convoluted and messed up story and numerous bugs and glitches. The other example is Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. At launch, the game had, just like Sonic '06, numerous bugs and glitches, poor graphics, occasional frame drops, terrible music and not to forget the fact that both of the games were released completely unfinished and destroyed Sonic's reputation.
- Sega's obsession with Sonic has affected almost every other franchise of their own (Nights, Alex Kidd, etc...), reducing them to mere cameos in Sonic's sports games (like Sega Superstar Tennis or the Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing series).
- Also, they're tend to focus way too much on Sonic himself in recent games, while ignoring most of the other characters (including Tails), as they're useless and reduced to cameos (most notably Blaze, Rouge and Silver).
- tinyBuild is known for milking the Hello Neighbor series, despite the first Hello Neighbor's negative reception, by issuing 7 Prequel books, three spin-offs as Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek, Secret Neighbor, and Hello Engineer, A Graphic Novel, A psychical Party Game, A sequel titled Hello Neighbor 2, and the animated adaptation called Hello Neighbor Animated Series (only the first episode has been released so far).
- Take-Two forcing Rockstar to milk GTA V to be on every console generation just to get more money off of Shark cards, from its multiplayer online mode. As well they try to the same in RDR2 by forcibly adding its Multiplayer online mode, that late in development, instead of during development. And this ending up more disastrous, than GTA online, as resulted being not too much update in either modes as of 2020.
- From 2003 up to 2011, Tomy used to milk the Naruto licence, resulting in some terrible games such as Naruto: Ninja Council, Naruto: Ninja Destiny, Naruto Shippuden 3D: The New Era and Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles. Fortunately though, some of their Naruto games are good, such as their Naruto: Clash of Ninja series and their Naruto: Path of the Ninja series.
- Even though the games are well received, Ninja Kiwi has been milking the Bloons franchise since the release of Bloons TD 5 in December 2011, barely paying attention to non-Bloons games. In fact, they update Bloons TD 6 every 40-50 days, and Bloons TD Battles 2 every 2 weeks.
Why This Practice Generally Sucks
- As mentioned above, it is inevitable that a milked franchise will stagnate at some point. A notable example is Sonic's or NBA 2K's downfall.
- Many small good studios are killed off when the publisher can no longer profit off their IP. Sometimes, games are cancelled because of this.
- The milked games are usually either repackages, reskins or even next gen ports of games.
- Many milked games use recycled assets from any previous games, which can get really annoying by the players when recognizing the sounds, music, models, etc. on where it was originated from. A cutscene from Call of Duty: Ghosts that was recycled from MW2 is a prime example of this.
- It encourages bad and new developers to make money by doing this terrible practice.
- It also lessens the development time without having a lot of time to make something original and completely new to the point of being lazy.
- It also leads to the creation of rushed games, shovelware games and even asset flips.
- It makes respected and beloved companies like Valve turn lazy and unable to make new games for a while.
- Fans of a particular series will eventually tired of it due to so many games being released on a regular basis.
- Most of the time, annual releases end up getting stale very, very quickly due to a lack of original and fresh content.
- The "Quantity over Quality" mindset often leads to a new game being nothing than a copy/paste job of the previous entry, such as many Callof Duty and FIFA games.
- Sometimes, franchise milking can encourage other publishers to follow suit. If that franchise is successful, other developers will attempt to cash in on its popularity, thus it leads to over-saturation.
- Large publishers who milk their most popular IPs often end up ignoring other franchises they own (assuming, of course, they have other IP's).
- Fans will lose hope in the company or franchise if it keeps getting milked.