Monday Musings: Numbers vs. Subtitles

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One of the most interesting aspects of the recently held PlayStation Meeting was the naming of major first-party titles such as Killzone: Shadow Fall and inFAMOUS: Second Son. I’m not sure if having numbers in a game’s title is something Sony is trying to phase out but it seems odd that ‘Killzone 4’ and ‘inFAMOUS 3’ weren’t used considering that people often associate a subtitle with a spin-off game such as Killzone: Liberation or inFAMOUS: Festival of Blood.

Killzone: Shadow Fall Banner

Having a number in a game’s title can also be convenient for consumers as it lets them know where a particular game falls in a series. For example, if someone is looking for the latest game in the God of War series for a family member and they see ‘God of War III’ and ‘God of War: Ascension’, how are they to tell which is the more recent release without looking at the date on the packaging or asking for assistance? How many of your non-gaming friends actually know that Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was released before Assassin’s Creed: Revelations? Having a number in a game’s title helps to clear up the mystery surrounding where it fits in a franchise.

Some publishers opt to use a subtitle instead of a number if the game is set before the last numbered entry in a series, while others don’t seem to have an issue with doing the opposite. For example, Metal Gear Solid 3 takes place before MGS2 and MGS chronologically.

Interestingly the last numbered entry in the Tomb Raider series was Tomb Raider III after which subtitles were used. On the other end of the scale we have the Final Fantasy series which continues to use numbers to define new entries in this long-running franchise, despite what is essentially Final Fantasy XIII-3 being called ‘Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII’.

Tomb Raider III Box Art

Another tactic publishers sometimes use is to assign numbers to games which represent a substantial leap over previous games in the series in terms of technology and/or gameplay. This can be seen in the Grand Theft Auto series where there is a seven-year gap between GTA III and GTA IV and a five-year gap between GTA IV and GTA V.

The Assassin’s Creed series is an interesting case in this regard as there was a three-year gap between AC II and AC III (with two subtitled games dividing them) and now Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is due out just a year after AC III!

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Banner Logo 2

Sales data doesn’t provide conclusive evidence that consumers prefer numbered games over subtitled games or vice versa. For example, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the best selling game in the GTA series while the subtitled games in the Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed series didn’t sell as well as the numbered titles from these franchises.

If anything, the lack of a clear correlation between game title and sales suggests that consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced more by marketing and what people in their social circles and the media are saying about a particular game than what it’s called.

Do you prefer subsequent games in a series to be numbered or is a mere subtitle enough? Is a mixture of the two such as ‘Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’ ideal? Let us know your opinion on the matter in the comments.