The Nintendo Switch is receiving a big dose of Bayonetta this year with the confirmation of Bayonetta 1 & 2 arriving in February 2018. Gamers also found out at The Game Awards that Bayonetta is getting a new installment. The game will remain a platform exclusive, which is great for Nintendo and Switch owners, and Platinum Games is at the helm. The Bayonetta franchise will be a good and welcomed addition to the Switch’s library. Recently Nintendo announced Dark Souls Remastered, offering more variety to the genre on the Switch in the near future. There is still a shortage of third-party action franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Middle-Earth or Batman. Bayonetta 3‘s chances are remarkably higher to garner bigger sales and new fans, something that Bayonetta 2 couldn’t do because of the Wii U. Bayonetta is a confirmed IP that will arrive in the future, but there are rumblings about a beloved action franchise returning in a big way.

We know that there are rumors and speculations about a brand new entry in the Devil May Cry (DMC) franchise. The buzz around DMC5 is that it is real and will possibly debut at this year’s E3; it was rumored to be unveiled at PSX 2017.  Fans haven’t seen any images, gameplay, or any kind of announcement, but are still assuming that it’s in development. Many have pointed out that it’s one of the worst-kept secrets floating around at the moment. Recently, Capcom announced that it is porting its Devil May Cry HD Collection to current gen consoles. This gives some weight to the rumors and speculations about a new entry being announced in 2018. Many companies have released an HD remaster of an old franchise a couple of months before revealing a new entry. The last game, DMC: Devil May Cry, sold well but was not well received by fans. We might see a return of the original Dante, but no word on whether Vergil, Nero, Trish, Lady, or anyone else will be back in this latest unannounced installment.

Having a linear action game is no longer viable when considering what other games have done in their absence.

While I’m glad that these games are getting a new entry into their respective series, I believe that the action hack-and-slash landscape has evolved and changed dramatically. DMC and Bayonetta both need to do something to add value to a landscape filled with games that demand a player’s time and investment. These franchises need to compete and grow in order to attract new fans. Having a linear action game is no longer viable when considering what other games have done in their absence.

Bayonetta

Bayonetta 2 Logo

I’ll be blunt in saying that Bayonetta has a bigger hill to climb than Devil May Cry. The first Bayonetta sold to a niche audience, critically beloved, but it just didn’t have mainstream reach. It seemed that Bayonetta’s journey was over at that point, until, *drum roll* Nintendo decided to publish and fund its sequel!

Nintendo made the franchise a console exclusive and helped drive the series forward, or at least that was the intention. Bayonetta 2 was critically well received (with a Metacritic score of 91), but again, it underperformed. It performed worse than its predecessor. But much of that fault could be placed on the Wii U’s lackluster install base. The original Bayonetta came out in 2010 on both the Xbox 360 and PS3. It managed to sell over 200,000 copies, while the second sold less than 40,000 in Japan. Bayonetta 2 did not sell because it’s a niche game that was stuck on one of the worst performing consoles in history.

Bayonetta is a beloved franchise that is critically acclaimed, but few players ever got to experience this amazing game. Who could blame them for not getting it? No one wanted to buy a Wii U, and the only games that sold were Super Mario World 3D, Super Smash Smash Bros 4, and Mario Kart 8. But now there’s a chance for this series to shine on a brand new system that is selling astronomically! Not only is the Nintendo Switch the fastest selling console in US history, but it was also the most sought-after gift last Christmas.

Let’s not forget that the Nintendo Switch is selling and attracting new customers who never owned a game system before. You would think that this is great news for Bayonetta 3, but how can Nintendo market the third entry of a franchise that almost no one played? It’s been eight years since the first game came out on mainstream platforms like the Xbox 360 and PS3.

Nintendo and Platinum Games know what they have to prove. Which is a good thing that they’re re-releasing Bayonetta 1&2 on the Switch. It will be telling how that bundle performs sales-wise to a player base that has never heard of a hack-and-slash witch who fights with her hair.

Devil May Cry 5

DMC: Devil May Cry Logo

DMC 5 will have an easier time because it has stayed in the spotlight longer than Bayonetta and it’s a well know legacy IP. Devil May Cry 4 sold almost 3 million copies and DMC: Devil May Cry sold about 1.8 million total.

Clearly, DMC is a better known hack-and-slash game and Dante is an iconic character; having shown up in both Marvel Vs Capcom and PlayStation All-Stars. Which is odd when considering that they rebooted the franchise in 2013 with DMC: Devil May Cry. DMC wasn’t well received when it came to visual aesthetics and story, but the gameplay was great. On the other hand, Devil May Cry 4 sold well, but it wasn’t without its flaws either.

One major complaint, and big flaw with DMC4, was the decision to include two protagonists. Nero is the new kid, while Dante makes a return appearance. This situation is similar to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Both games sold well and were great games, but the fan base did not like Raiden from MGS2. Luckily most fans accepted Nero as a brand new character but hated that half the game required backtracking when playing as Dante. In DMC4, the player plays as Nero up to a certain point and then backtracks all the way back as an older Dante. Even some of the boss battles were recycled between both heroes!

DMC5 needs to show that they are willing to go back to the look and feel that was established before. The developers are wizards at making great combo-driven combat but are lacking in the world design department. Capcom cannot have a repeat of DMC4, and it’s safe to assume that the developer has heard the feedback from fans. The big question looming about both franchises is whether or not they can succeed in this current market?

DMC and Bayonetta Need Bigger Worlds

It’s not enough to simply create new entries in a franchise. Developers must consider the current landscape of gaming. The current gaming climate that big publishers are pushing is online interactive worlds that keep players engaged, and spend more money. Several publishers are trying to follow in the steps of Destiny and The Division, with their own twist on the formula. Even EA dropped their single player Star Wars game(Ragtag) in favor of something like Destiny. Other publishers. like Bethesda, are making some of the best single-player games in the market, but they haven’t been blockbuster hits.

There are still several single-player games that have sold extremely well: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Nier: Automata, Nioh, and the list goes on. One thing that all these games have in common is both value and challenge. Let’s take Nioh as an example of a single-player game with some added multiplayer functionality. Nioh offers an intensive combat system, big worlds, secrets, story, and much more. Franchises like DMC and Bayonetta need to weigh more to succeed.

Nioh Logo

Look at the average completion times for some of the best single player games of 2017:

  1. Nioh = 34 1/2 hours.
  2. Breath of the Wild = 44 hours.
  3. Nier = 19 hours.
  4. Assassin’s Creed Origin = 26 hours.

How long are the last Bayonetta and DMC games?

  1. DMC: Devil May Cry = 9 hours.
  2. Devil May Cry 4 = 11 hours.
  3. Bayonetta 2 = 9 1/2 hours.

Great games aren’t measured only by how long they are. There are plenty of short games that are amazing and sell well. Video games are fun and entertaining, but at the end of the day, they are products. The bulk of sales are made up by everyday people who don’t read gaming sites or engage in the gaming community. So selling a hack-and-slash action game to this audience is a hulking task that few games can accomplish. So what can Devil May Cry and Bayonetta do to perform better? Could making them semi-open-world work? What could the new games do differently to attract new players?

Making them entirely open world would be a mistake, but making the games bigger would help. Darksiders wasn’t open world, but the locations are big and colorful while retaining great combo-driven gameplay and several linear dungeons to test a player’s skill. Darksiders 2 is a hack-and-slash with a huge open world, filled with quests, loot, and several adopted RPG mechanics. God of War and Darksiders 3 both look amazing and are building bigger worlds with depth and lore, while also retaining great combat.

DMC5 and Bayonetta 3 need to do something different that gives either a sense of awe like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, or value like Nioh. Only time will tell how both of these franchises will perform this time around.