You mentioned that publishers will let devs like Naughty Dog work on other franchises, however by how you worded it you implied that there are devs locked to only working on one franchise. How does a developer get stuck with only working on one franchise and how do developers force them to only work at that franchise?

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There are some studios that work on their one single franchise or live service game basically forever. Infinity Ward has only ever worked on Call of Duty. The Sims Studio works exclusively on the Sims. 343 Industries has only ever worked on Halo games. Riot Games was almost exclusively the “League of Legends” studio from 2009 until 2019. I’m sure that you can think of other studios that were happy to stick with their franchise for many years. These studios aren’t stuck working on that one franchise, they generally choose to do so.

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This isn’t to say that a studio cannot fail at a chance given to them and then not be offered another. The EA Sports studio was given a chance to work on a non-sports project back in the mid-2000s. They got to work on the movie tie-in game for Superman Returns (2006), a real stretch from their annual sports title. Not only was the game terrible, they also were so far behind that they were forced to delay the game’s release after the movie’s release date by 5 months. Since then, the studio has stayed in their lane putting out 16 years worth of annual sports titles.

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It’s also important to note that these are decisions by the studio leadership. The studio leadership decides what the studio will do, but the individual developers decide for themselves. They can choose to stay and work on the projects the studio wants or they can go to seek greener pastures elsewhere. I’ve often said that studios typically see 5-10% employee turnover (that is, 5-10% of the studio’s employees will leave for various reasons) each year. One of the major drivers of employees leaving is accumulated franchise fatigue.

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