If you look at some of the upcoming games, most of them seem to be sequels, prequels, or spinoffs of already established franchises: Uncharted 2, God of War 3, Patapon 2, BioShock 2, Resident Evil 5... the list goes on. And I've heard too many complaints out there saying that devs seem to be getting less creative and are opting for the tried-and-tested approach.
Guess what though? It's not so much as going the safe route, but to a developer, it's about making the most of your assets and changing the playing field among their competitors. The best explanation I could find of this "why are there so many sequels all of a sudden?" phenomenon comes from Insomniac Games' Ted Price:
"Developers can hit the ground running with sequels. The game's story and art style have a solid base, the tech and tools are stable and the basic gameplay mechanics have gone through plenty of tuning in the first game. It's certainly a liberating experience when you're no longer arguing over the main character's name, or waiting for basic systems to be implemented. The end result is usually a game that's bigger, more polished and has more innovative features than the original game." [Full Article]
And sequels aren't a bad thing either. If you look at how sequels have been for the past year (MGS4, GTA4, CoD4, Gears of War 2, etc.), they've more than proven that not all sequels suck donkey balls - given that the devs deliver in their promise to bring a game that's "bigger, more polished, and has more innovative features than the original game," to quote Price again. So... if this trend of actually upping the ante with a sequel continues into 2009 and beyond, then by gods!, can you imagine how so much cooler something like God of War 3 would be?
Now if sequels aren't your thing, there are still a handful of new IPs to look out for too: Heavy Rain and Hydrophobia are just two games that I personally want to keep close tabs on. But in short, to answer my own question: no, I don't think new IPs are a dying breed. It just seems like it because most of the popular games this year have been sequels, with some of the new IPs (I'm not saying all) having to follow in the shadow of the bigger sequels: MGS4, GTA4, Fallout 3, and a handful of others on the GotY lists.
Here's a thought I want to leave you with though: isn't it strange that most of the good new IPs out there are coming from small studios and independent devs? Look at de Blob and Braid. And then there's LittleBigPlanet - their team in Media Molecule started out so small, it's quite surprising how they managed to pull off the entire LBP phenomenon.
Seemingly, this is where the playing field now lies: if you want good sequels, look to the established devs and major players in the publishing biz: Konami, EA, Capcom, Square Enix, Sony, Microsoft, OK fine, maybe even Nintendo despite their skimpy first-party library in 2008. But for new IPs that will make an impact? Look to the indie devs and small studios for those diamonds in the rough.