Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
Well not too long ago Five Nights at Freddy’s 4: The Final Chapter was announced to have a Halloween release. Now the first game came out August 2014, the second came out November 2014, the third in March 2015, and the fourth one in October 2015. That’s four games in 14 months. Is that too much? Should we have so many games? Are we to blame for their existence? Well, lets find out.
First off, lets examine the Timeline of these games creations. The first game came out on August 8th with it really taking off around the middle of August. So it was around about mid-August that it became super popular.
The second game was meant to come out on December 25th, but came out on November 11th instead. So by mid-to-late November the game was super popular again.
The third game’s demo came on March 1st, with the full game coming out March 2nd. Once again, mid-March was when it got super popular.
Now, at the end of April, we have a game set to come out on October 31st, so it’ll get really popular around mid-November… presuming it doesn’t get released early. But the timeline between the games goes:
Between 1 and 2: 96 days.
Between 2 and 3: 112 days.
Between 3 and 4: A much, much longer duration of 224 days, almost the same gap between games 1 and 3.
Total duration: 450 days. So that’s 4 games over 1 year, 2 months and 24 days. That is a lot more than most. And the gap between games 3 and 4 is surprising since, going by previous patterns, it was more likely that the game would be released around mid-June. Is this gap indicative that, unlike the other two games, this wasn’t planned in advance and is being made up on the spot? Perhaps. But three months between sequels is awfully short. Numbers are hard to find, but I can’t find any product that had a 3 month gap between the original and the sequel in terms of production, and those that got the closest were films that were filmed back to back (for the record, the longest gap in a sequel is between Bambi and Bambi II at 63 and a half years. That means for a sequel to beat it it’d need to be from before 1952, and if the creator of FNAF had followed this the second game wouldn’t have come out till 2077). The fact that there was a new game in just over three months is somewhat amazing, considering how rare it is. The fact that it was good was nothing short of a bloody miracle, considering how even rarer that is. The fact that he made two sequels in half a year and both didn’t suck is kinda unbelievable. But that’s the timeline of the games as a whole, for those not in the know. The question to ask now is: Is four games in a little over a year too much?
Well lets examine these games. I’ve written before why the first game was scary, and touched briefly on the fandom behind them. But the games themselves are relatively simple in design, nothing more than a bunch of scary images. It’s a piss poor easy game to make, making it all the more odd that there haven’t been a ton of copycats (yet, anyway). Simple game design means cranking out a game like this is relatively short work. Compared to, well, compared to pretty much every game series out there, you don’t have to rip apart the foundations and rebuild the whole thing from scratch (which most games don’t do, but a lot of effort goes into making new assets and tweaking the gameplay). This game, on the other hand, is relatively simple and clean. There’s no real herculean effort going into this game. If you keep the A.I. the same, you can easily crank out game after game after game. So the game is simple to make, hence why the sequels take so little time to be made. But even then, each game does do something new. Whether it be new animatronics, new backgrounds, new tweaks in the gameplay. While each game keeps the central idea that mostly works, they do enough to be noticeably different. Compare that to modern shooters or sports games, which keep the same thing time after time with little to no variation. The games themselves are still fun to play because there’s always something new to explore, something new to do in them. But at this point, the games really don’t matter. They honestly don’t. The real reason why Five Nights At Freddy’s is getting so many sequels? Well, because of you. Yes, you. You are the reason why sequels keep getting pumped out.
â€¦ Well okay not you specifically, but the act of clicking this article and reading up about it shows a level of interest in the property, whether it be deep fandom or mild curiosity. You are interested in Five Nights At Freddy’s on some level, just enough to want to hear me talk about it. Now I’m just a no-name blogger who watches as those with similar ideas to me ride up and become more popular than I’d ever become. Take people like Matt Patt from Game Theory (side note: Go watch Game Theory. If you like my blog, you’ll love his videos). His most popular videos have been from analysing the lore of Five Nights At Freddy’s, either its real world inspiration or the in-universe explanation. It might not to be too much of a hyperbole to argue that his interpretation of the game series is the closest the fandom as a whole will get to a canon (even though he got some parts wrong, due to new information being brought to light, so the canon is having to be changed). Clearly a lot of people want to know about the lore of the game enough to sit through a very long video breaking it all down, and want it so badly they requested it multiple times when the third game was released. Ten million, in fact, have watched both Five Nights videos. What about Markiplier, very popular YouTube with almost seven and a half million subscribers, with thirty million people watching his first Five Night at Freddy’s playthrough video (with thirty-six million watching an animation of his playthrough), and only six of his top thirty videos not being Five Nights at Freddy’s related. So on the one hand we have someone examining the lore of the series, on the other we have someone over-reacting to it as they play it. Both of these videos are watched by millions of people. There is a huge market out there for this game. Which is why there are so many sequels. People clearly want more of this. They are hungry for this. It’s almost a guarantee that Matt Patt’s two videos on Five Night’s at Freddy’s 3 will hit ten million. It’s almost a guarantee that when Five Night’s at Freddy’s 4 comes out Markiplier will have a huge boost in views (if only because people want to watch the footage rather than listen to him). There are at least ten million people that want something from this game, be it playing the game, watching the game, learning the lore of the game, or all of the above. You’d be mad to ignore it.
But that dodges the question, doesn’t it? There aren’t too many sequels from a business perspective, yes, because sequels make money. But what about from a narrative perspective? Is there too many sequels? Well… no. Because Five Night’s at Freddy’s does something so basic that most video games fail to do it at all: Use the medium of video games to tell the story. The game has no cutscenes, the most we get to that effect being the voice-over tapes. The game doesn’t tell the player much beyond ‘survive’, but there are so many important details hidden in the background of these games. This game oozes visual storytelling. There is a story there, just hidden behind all the jump scares. If someone is willing to sit down and piece it all together they’re going to be able to find it. This great lore that may or may not be intentional on the game creator’s part. Is this part of some grand scheme of his, some story he’s been planning to tell all along? Is he making it up as he goes along, cleverly weaving in threads that the fans come up with? Is there in fact no purposeful story at all, and the creator is just throwing random stuff together and letting the audience come up with their interpretation? It’s hard to say, how much is deliberate and how much is just there to let the player fill in the blanks. But then you get the mini-games, starting with the second game, which further help build on the story. Of course, the games themselves don’t tell you outright what the story is. They just give you puzzles pieces. It’s up to you to work out the meaning behind it all. And therein lies the simple genius. The game thrives so much on ‘show, don’t tell’ that, even though one could argue that Matt Patt’s canon is the closest we’ll get to ‘official’, there’s still plenty left up to the viewer’s interpretation. Compare games like Silent Hill (the modern ones, that is), that is often heavy-handed in its symbolism and makes it rather clear-cut for its players. Or any other horror game on the market, that mostly deals with scary visuals but has nothing of any weight or substance past that. Things that look scary for the sake of looking scary. Here we have a game series that gives you all the answers up front if you’re willing to go looking for them. But even if your not, the game doesn’t suffer for it. The game is still fun, even if you missed the story going on in the background. It perfects a technique that Portal knew all too well: Focus on making a good game and put the story in the background, and the audience is smart enough to figure it out for itself. And if they don’t want to, the game doesn’t change. Honestly, at the end of the day, I’d rather have too many Five Night at Freddy’s, good gameplay paired with excellent storytelling techniques that utilize the medium they’re in, then too many Call of Duties, that do the same level of repetition as Five Nights, but without the clever storytelling or narrative interest beyond â€œShoot that guyâ€.
So there you have it, my defence of Five Nights at Freddy’s countless money-grabbing sequels. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.