Quake IV was a pillar of the current-generation launch. Released on both the Xbox 360 and PC, it showcased what (in 2005) new hardware was capable of, while also serving as a sequel to Quake II. Yet other than the disappointing Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Quake Live, the web-browser port of Quake III Arena, we haven’t seen much of id Software’s Earth-shattering franchise. Which is both sad (I grew up playing Quake) and confusing (id’s annual convention is called QuakeCon).
So why is this so?
Obviously, DOOM is id Software’s baby. That franchise will both never go away and, even with the troubled development of DOOM 4, always have a new game on the horizon. But the decision to release a new Wolfenstein game is pretty peculiar, especially with a titan series like Quake just begging for an update.
Riding off of the successes of Return To Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Activision published a new Wolfenstein game in 2009, developed by Raven Software. But where Quake IV saw above-average reviews, Wolfenstein was essentially a failure. Frame-rate issues plagued the game upon release, and the two development teams that worked on the game (Raven Software and Endrant Studios) suffered layoffs right after the release of the title. The glory days from RTCW and Enemy Territory were all but gone. Yet here we are, four years after the failure of 2009’s Wolfenstein, with Wolfenstein: The New Order set to launch later this year.
So what gives?
Inevitably, we return to the elephant in the room: DOOM 4. Quake IV wasn’t developed by id Software, Raven Studios worked on the project instead. Id has been hard at work trying to make something out of DOOM 4, but instead, they’ve been coming up with a whole lot of nothing; the game was completely rebooted after RAGE’s launch in 2011. So while John Carmack would like to do a sequel to Quake with id Tech 5, id Software won’t be developing it. Which, of course, wouldn’t be that big of an issue; they haven’t developed a Quake game in a long time and aren’t even working on the upcoming Wolfenstein release.
Ugh, there’s that name again: Wolfenstein. And yes, 2009’s release was pretty bad from my personal point of view, but the franchise has much more staying power than Quake. When we think of “our daddy’s FPS,” we think of DOOM and Wolfenstein. Sadly, Quake is left out of the equation.
But what’s more troubling for the future of the franchise is the waning popularity of Quake Live.
Using my super scientific research methods to examine the game’s popularity, there was a gigantic surge following the game’s announcement. After all, why not? Quake III Arena holds fond memories in the minds of gamers. But it seems that most prefer to keep it in their minds as a mere memory, as the game has seen a steady decline for the past couple of years. The one-time king of the multiplayer FPS is no more, dethroned by the behemoths of Call of Duty and Battlefield.
Perhaps this is where Quake has gone to: a nice memory of 90s gaming. Will we ever see the franchise return? Probably, but it will have to be at the right time. Perhaps Machine Games can tackle another id Software classic once they finish working on Wolfenstein: The New Order. But then again, Machine Games focuses on single-player stories. A Quake without multiplayer would result in rioting across the internet.
So that has, once again, brought me back to square one. By now I’ve realized what many have long ago: Perhaps the masses have spoken regarding the future of Quake. Perhaps it will remain in the past. But looking back at the troubled development of DOOM 4, the layoffs at Raven Studios caused by the failure of 2009’s Wolfenstein, and when Bethesda chose to make the (arguably) more popular FPS franchise, it’s easy to see why there hasn’t been a proper Quake release in eight years.