28th Oct2019

Opinionated: ‘Prince of Persia’ Has Run out of Time

by James Smith

prince-persia

Much more than any other type of media, game franchises tend to go on hiatus. Mass Effect, Dead Space, Half-Life, Earthworm Jim and so forth all one day disappeared, leaving behind notes lamenting poor sales figures, lack of publisher interest, or simple franchise burnout. Some, eventually, will return from the woods for another shot at life; others, like the Chrono Cross franchise and BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic, may well be lost altogether.

A Decade of (Near) Silence

Jordan Mechner’s seminal game franchise Prince of Persia seems to fit in the latter category. While an exchange between Mechner, Ubisoft and US model Chrissy Teigen, detailed at https://www.bleedingcool.com/, in January 2018 provided some hope for fans of the series, the publisher’s response was still an unequivocal ‘no’. The last time a hint of a new Prince of Persia game was given, then, was in 2012, when Alain Corre, of Ubisoft European, gave a generic response regarding the series future: “It will happen when we feel it is ready.”

It’s Mechner himself that’s keeping enthusiasm for the Prince alive, giving a revealing interview about the series to https://www.venturebeat.com/ in early 2019 and mentioning a new book dedicated to the game’s roots (another one, after 2011’s well-received The Making of Prince of Persia). But, after just one main-series entry in almost a decade, a stalled but lucrative movie franchise, and poor management of the game’s universe by publisher Ubisoft, it’s hard to see where Mechner’s enthusiasm comes from.

In-app Purchases

Let’s begin with that latter point. A mobile-based spin-off of Prince of Persia was released in 2018 to poor critical reception, mirroring 2013’s Dungeon Keeper mobile game for its “excessive greed” (to quote Pocket Gamer), over-monetisation and unrewarding gameplay. Sadly, for both of those franchises, the recent mobile entries will represent many young peoples’ first encounter with the Prince. However, Prince of Persia has a larger problem in the shape of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed.

Games based in Persia are not common. 2002’s Eternal Darkness set one of its four stages in the region, while the Bazaar level in LittleBigPlanet also visits a fantasy version of modern Iran. In fact, many of the games dedicated to exploring Persia come from the iGaming industry. Paddy Power, for instance, has three games depicting the Middle East named Persian Glory, Persian Fortune, and Sinbad’s Gold. They join games about Egypt and Ancient Rome at https://games.paddypower.com/c/jackpot-slots. However, titles depicting ancient civilisations are some of the most common settings in media – and this is where Prince of Persia falls down. Assassin’s Creed looks increasingly like a spiritual successor to Mechner’s beloved franchise. The Persian Brotherhood of Assassins made their debut in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice so it’s perhaps only a matter of time before Assassin’s Creed: Persia steals Mechner’s magic carpet out from beneath him.

Of course, as a series with two prior reboots under its belt, it’s impossible to discount the possibility of another reset for Prince of Persia. How Mechner will position the franchise to compete with its younger, more agile brother will be interesting to see.
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