Radical Entertainment closing down, what is wrong with this industry?

You know what one of the few games I’m still looking forward to this year is? Prototype 2 (the PC release that is). You know who made Prototype 2? Radical Entertainment. You know who Activision closed down because of poor sales? Radical Entertainment. I call bullshit, especially since they haven’t even released the PC version yet (whose bright idea was it to drop that 3 months after the console release anyway?).

Still going to buy this, of course.

Now, I know I’m not the first one to cover this topic, and I probably won’t do a better job than anyone who came before me, but this has been gnawing at me for days, and I just need to let it out.

I will state first off that I do not expect Prototype 2 to have an epic story, or deep characters, or ground-breaking gameplay. I just know that it’s going to provide a load of cathartic fun the likes of which is you’re hard-pressed to find elsewhere. It doesn’t push any envelopes, but it’s competent and enjoyable.

Now as of the 16th of June, Prototype 2 had sold a respectable 890 000 copies (that’s pretty close to a million in just a few months). That doesn’t sound too bad, yeah? At 60 bucks a pop that’s over 50 million dollars. Yet it’s nowhere near what was needed to save Radical, it seems. Which just leads me back to same conclusion: Something is seriously wrong in this industry.

And then we have the pillocks over at EA saying that Dead Space 3 needs to sell at least 5 million copies (presumably at full retail price) to have been “worth it”. Bloody hell, EA, are you even listening to yourself? Let’s look at the numbers, shall we? Since its release in 2008, the first Dead Space has sold 3,6 million copies. I’m going to assume a substantial number of those came from bargain bins, discount sales and so on, so pulling a number out of my arse I’m going to say perhaps those sales are worth maybe 2 million copies full-retail, and even then I’m probably being generous. Dead Space 2 has since its release in late January last year (about 18 months ago) sold 2,5 million copies across all platforms worldwide. And I’m sure people have already gotten several of them at discount.

So EA are basically shooting themselves in the foot, or maybe more accurately their balls, since there’s no way they’re going to get those kinds of numbers. The changes they’ve made to the game is certain to alienate some of the older fans, and while it will no doubt entice new gamers, I think aiming for over 3 million new purchases is absolutely ludicrous (assuming they have 2 million older fans willing to buy the game at full price, which again is probably too generous). Visceral Games will have to be shut down and we’ll have lost another studio that tried to do something a little different.

The AAA industry that EA and Activision are championing has gotten itself into an unsustainable business model. We’ve seen the signs of this for years, and it’s only gotten more evident after the recent financial crisis. The big publishers seem to be playing the industry like a game of chance, where it’s all or nothing. If they keep gambling on everything being the next Call of Duty blockbuster, they’re going to fail over and over again. They have to make room for titles that can afford to be less successful. Maybe use a more adaptive pricing model. I’m sorry, but not every game is worth $60, and if they were competent businessmen they’d recognise this fact. It might still be worth $40 or $30 or $20. As things are going, they’re only focusing on short-term gain and sowing the seeds of long-term ruin. (Like their fights against used games and piracy taking up more resources than they’re worth)

I’m not suggesting that AAA games to be abolished, or saying the indies are the only way forward, I’m just saying (and I know I’m not the first, though I don’t remember who said it) that some middle ground is called for. Make games with lower budgets and release them at more sensible prices. Feel free to keep trying to make the next big hit, since with games like Dishonoured, Skyrim and Deus Ex: Human Revolution you do seem to still be making interesting titles, but don’t make that your only horse in the race.

Okay, my rage is spent. Signing off.

(Sources: VG Chartz for sales info, The Escapist, Destructoid and Games Industry International for news info: EA says Dead Space 3 needs to sell 5 million, Radical Entertainment shutting down, EA stock prices falling. The rest is pure opinion and rage.)

~Wulf 

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Posted on July 2, 2012, in Games, Rant, Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I know people who work in the games industry and the whole process is driven by marketing.

    A company that one of my friends worked for found that their publisher did a “night of the long knives” on a number of projects that they were working on for them and the rationale was despite spending 3-5 million pounds in dev costs and two years time on the project, they didn’t want to spend £15million in marketing costs..so killing them now would make it cheap to do so.

    What was more baffling was the projects they killed. They killed well-developed technically perfect projects and projects with licences that would be easier to sell, and kept bug-ridden crap that they then attached licences to. It was almost as if the marketing people had a clipboard of project names and a short description and they killed or kept project merely on the basis of the name..despite that being easily changed.

    As you can imagine, the developers were all rather pissed off. The project code was removed and all that work was wasted. That studio no longer exists, and all the people were “let go”. I’m so glad I don’t work in “the industry”.

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