Pixel Count: Franchise Sabbaticals

Video game timelines are funny things. On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got the annual release titles — the familiars of our hobby, such as Call of Duty, Madden, Assassin’s Creed, Mario and the like — and on the other side of the spectrum you have the folks that release games when they’re good and ready — the Valves and Square Enixes of the world. Today’s post concerns the first group.

With the recent quality dip of franchises such as Assassin’s Creed, the underwhelming “next gen” (but still the same old) gameplay of Call of Duty: Ghosts and the staleness of other titles like Mario or Madden, it seems like there are quite a few annual releases in need of a good old fashioned sabbatical. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike these franchises. Far from it. I just think that perhaps an extended break might give developers a chance to come back to the table with fresh eyes and maybe a few gameplay or art tweaks that might reinvigorate things again.

Take Madden, for instance. I’m a dude that loves watching just about any random NFL game I can find on TV, but you almost couldn’t pay me to play a Madden game. Here’s the game of football — a rough-hitting, edge-of-your-seat, strategy-on-the-fly sport played by athletic gods — and EA manages to make a game that feels boring. Contrast that with something as historic as Mario or Zelda, two imaginative franchises that don’t quite excite the way they used to (unless they go retro or reboot one of the older, better games in some way), and it starts to feel like maybe it’s time for these guys to rest just a little while.

So without further ado, here’s today’s Pixel Count. Get your votes on and tell us what you think in the comments! It doesn’t even have to be a yearly release — just a franchise that you think might benefit with some rethinking.

Which franchise needs to take a sabbatical?

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Guinness Names Gaming’s Top 50 Video Game Characters

Super Mario 3

The Guinness Book of World Records recently released their 2011 Gamer’s Edition, and with it came a list that I thought you guys might find interesting. You see, the kind folks at the Guinness Book of World Records asked for video game fans to participate in a bit of a survey. Over 13,000 gamers voted for what they consider to be the greatest video game characters of all time, and now the results are in for the top 50.

Here’s a tip: Mario was number one, if you couldn’t tell from the image posted above. As much as I wanted to be surprised by the characters that rounded out the top 10, lists like this typically turn out the same. People really love their Nintendo staples, I suppose. And silent protagonists.

Hit the jump to catch the full list of names and games!

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Mario Celebrates 25 Years of Stomping Goombas

There are a few times when I feel older than my years, despite the fact that I am only 23. One example is that children born when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone came out are now teenagers. The other is that, 25 years ago today, Super Mario Bros. graced the Nintendo Entertainment System and changed the way we viewed home entertainment. What started that day in 1985 was just the beginning of a life long journey for Nintendo from a small playing card company to the video game giant it is today. Mario has been through a lot of changes in his life time, and Nintendo has cooked up a video to celebrate.

Watching that video brings a smile to my face as it makes me remember all the great times I’ve had playing Mario games over the years. Although Nintendo doesn’t really click with my anymore, there’s no denying that they were a powerful force in my childhood, and probably ruined my willingness to engage in physical activity for the rest of my life. Do you guys have any memories about the plumber? Any game you remember more fondly than the others? What do you hope to see from Mario in the next 25 years?

Russian Snack Company Wins the Internet With Their Commercials

You probably read that title and asked yourself “why is Mitch posting about Russian commercials?” Simple answer my friends: they are awesome, and video game related. The ads take two iconic video game franchises, like Contra and Tetris, and mashes them up in a versus setting. These ads have been running for quite a while, so there’s a few gems in there. The animated commercials are also a bit more mature than we’re used to in North America, but we’re all adults here, right? Catch Tetris versus Contra here, and Mario versus Pac-Man after the jump.

Contra versus Tetris:

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Top Six: Our Favorite Developers

If you’ve ever watched the credits after the end of a game, you know that it takes a heck of a lot of talented people working very long hours to craft the piece of art you just enjoyed. Before that can even take place, though, you need someone with drive and vision that can get a project off the ground and keep it going when it falters. That’s where the lead developer comes in, and a lot of your favorite games have been made or broken on the whims of these visionaries. Who are some of the most prolific designers in the industry? Read on the see who, in no particular order, we’re pledging eternal obeisance to.
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Top Six: Super Mario Games

With the release of New Super Mario Bros Wii for the…uh…Wii, I decided to list my favorite Mario games. Now, this list only covers the traditional platforming Mario games. No Mario Kart (sorry, Eddy), no RPG and no Tennis. I looked at all 13 (including Game Boy games) and this is the list I came up with. It was much harder than I thought, mainly due to much consternation over innovation, originality and replay value. I have already steeled myself for a fan boy beating.
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