I'm Scared


This past holiday season, we’ve seen a few new pieces of IP come out of EA. I think EA is tired of being called a treadmill and want to show that they can create games as well as release roster updates.

Of course, both of the new titles, while doing well critically, did poorly at the checkout counter. The new Prince of Persia tried a few new things, moving away from the hardcore market, and as far as I can tell, they are being punished for it. Would it have sold better as a direct offspring of the existing franchise? Those have to be the questions that are being asked right now for the sequel. It is better for the gamer if the industry introduced new things (think Guitar Hero or Wii, both are interesting ideas that entertained millions)

Of course, if the companies aren’t rewarded with profits, that kills their motivation to introduce new concepts. As much as I am a fan of sequels, there has to be an exhaustion point where we when the audience wants something new, the industry can’t deliver it to them. (I think the Japanese developers have suffered from something similar. They have become accustomed to developing a certain genre or series, and now that the rest of the industry has shifted, they are having a difficult time keeping up in terms of technology).

This isn’t a call to arms or anything like that, it’s just an observation that even though gamers say that they want innovation, the majority of gamers are perfectly content with the status quo.

12 thoughts on “I'm Scared

  1. i think boom blox and de blob fit into this conversation as well. 90% of wii games are utter crap, but these games used the wii controls to their benefit, went outside the box, and actually ended up being really enjoyable. but hardly anyone played or bought these titles.

    a lot of people are saying that they want “good” wii games, but those aren’t the games that are selling. it’s stuff like “bratz horsey trainer” that sell well. situations like this, and like detnap mentioned above, are what will deter developers from going outside the box to make something new. theres a huge risk with putting out a game that doesn’t look immediately familiar, and lately it’s proved to not be entirely worth it in most cases.

    your last sentence sums it up perfectly: “even though gamers say that they want innovation, the majority of gamers are perfectly content with the status quo.” most gamers don’t necessarily want a game that’s different and innovative and new and thoughtful, they want call of duty 7, and they want it to be just like call of duty 6 because that’s what they understand and are comfortable with.

  2. * i should note: i also am looking forward to call of duty 7, but i don’t want my choices to be limited to shooters and sports games. bring on the weird.

  3. I believe this is mostly true, but then, how do new IPs launch?

    Gears of War had a graphical edge and cover mechanic (which, while not new, no one played Kill.Switch).

    God of War was new, and both the average gamer and the hardcore liked it. I gave the demo disc to my downstairs neighbor, who only played his ps2 sparingly, and he fell in love with it.

    And the big example: Assassin’s Creed. Most gamers, the vocal ones on the forums, *hated* Assassin’s Creed. However, it sold very well for Ubisoft.

    I think the new IPs vs non-new IPs may be a bit flawed. It certainly a part of it, but I think the problem is, every “hardcore” gamer bought Gears2 and Call of Duty: WaW. And that’s it, that’s their budget.

    Some, with a bit more cash, also picked up Left4Dead.

    After that, maybe Fable 2, Fallout 3.

    Then after that: Spiderman, Dead Space, Prince of Persia, Little Big Planet, Persona 4, Mirror’s Edge, Tomb Raider, Valkryia Chronicles, Resistance 2, Mortal Kombat vs. DC, Naruto Ninja Storm, Naruto 2 (xbox), Farcry 2, Endwar, Motorstorm, and the list goes on. How many are going to pick up a title from the 3rd and 4th tiers of this list?

    Casual gamers don’t even know about these games. They aren’t on the Wii.

  4. I think for a new IP to launch, there needs to be a “perfect storm”, from the proper amount of advertising to a dearth of other similar games being released at the same time to the proper vibe from the internet/social circles (or however young people get their information from).

    When Gears of War was released, there wasn’t much else in that same category. It was the only game in town, so to speak. But, I’m sure it would have been a different story if it would have launched at the same time, as say, Halo 3. I don’t think it would have enjoyed the same success.

    And even though Assassin’s Creed is a new IP launch success story, it still got CRUSHED by Call of Duty 4 (2 million units vs 1.4). Call of Duty did something similar the month after that too.

    The same thing happened this year, where one month of sales of Call of Duty 5 outsold Little big planet (life to date), Mirror’s Edge (ltd), Dead Space (ltd) combined. The only thing that competes with CoD5 is of course Gears of War 2.

    The point is it’s such an uphill battle with a new IP. With so many units of software being moved, it’s a shame that new ips get lost.

    I think the idea that it’s taken for granted that gamers would buy gow and cod is exactly what we’re seeing. A new ip doesn’t get the automatic “everybody will buy this” statement.

    Also, Boom Box didn’t do so hot the first month, but its sales have picked up a bit. I mean currently, it’s on pace to outsell Mirror’s Edge.

  5. I’m not going to research what Gears was up against while at work, but it came out on Nov 22? (emergence day), so it was up against the other Holiday titles.

    I’m sure there were some blockbusters, or expected blockbusters, in there.

  6. the “perfect storm” theory is pretty good; I mostly agree with that.

    Though 2mil vs. 1.4 mil doesn’t seem like a blow out to me. That seems pretty close, especially CoD4 (game of the year in quality and as an established franchise) vs. AC (got good to ok reviews, and is about islamic assassinations during the crusades…not World War 2 or the War Against Terror).

  7. Hintzilla, I’m going to have to disagree with you on de Blob. As far as I’m concerned it was yet another “utter crap” game and didn’t use the controls well at all. Jumping could have easily been done using a button press, but they tacked on waggle instead, which just made it harder to play for no benefit at all.

    As for Boom Blox, it sold 450K units through July, which is plenty for a new IP given it’s likely limited development budget. I doubt EA is unhappy with the results.

    Other than that, I agree with phokal that there were just too many games coming out at the end of this year. Prince of Persia and Mirror’s Edge were my top games going into this season, and both of them got bumped by higher profile games that I could play multiplayer.

  8. Where are you getting your numbers from? Assassin’s Creed has sold over 6 million units, and CoD4 is over 7 million. Even if it was 3m to 7m, I wouldn’t say one crushed the other. CoD had multiplayer to give it legs; a lot of Assassin’s Creed’s sales probably got siphoned off by used sales.

  9. Call of Duty 3 came out at the same time that Gears of war did, but if we look at the overall sales (all systems), Call of Duty came out on top. It was just that there weren’t that many games available for the 360 (call of duty was also on the top 10, as well as need for speed).

    Again, the game landscape was different back then.

    As a note, lost planet also topped the charts when it was released. But just imagine if that was released this year, this holiday. It would have been CRUSHED (for real this time)

    It seems that after June of 2007, (First NCAA 07 for the 360) is when it was pretty much a string of sequels in the top spots on the top ten list (only except it seems is Force Unleased, which banks off of Star Wars).

    Maybe new IP has an easier time during the birth of a console, but as it matures, it begins to become harder and harder to break in. (ie, if EA released Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space a year ago, they would have sold fine).

  10. Sorry, the Assassin’s Creed and CoD4 numbers are for the first month of Sales with NPD numbers. Here, probably resale of games aren’t a huge factor for the replay value that CoD4 has.

    As of June, CoD has sold 10 million
    while Assassin’s Creed is over 6 million in April or so.

    Anyhow, we can say that Assassin’s Creed did well, (as did gears of war, Lost Planet) but when a publisher looks are the sales figures and see 18 months of sequels holding top spots, and just a blip of Assassin’s Creed sitting at number 2 for a couple of months, don’t you think they would rather put their money in an established franchise? So many have gone pretty sour.

    The new-IP posterchild is still second place, and I think people will see that and make decisions based on that.

    I know that there are “too many games” coming out, but that’s the point. When people have the choice between an established franchise and a new ip, people seem to choose the established franchise.

    I think overall, there is a window where you can have a successful launch for a console’s life cycle, and I think we’ve passed that point.

  11. There are a couple of other factors:

    There are some examples of completely new IPs that have pulled this off before, like God of War. Or what about Bioshock?

    There are other examples of established Dev Houses making a new IP or launching off Star Wars -> KOTOR and Jade Empire.

    People choose one game first, then if that is finished or they want additional, they go to more.
    Gears 2 has multiplayer legs, and received great reviews. Mirror’s Edge reviews warned it was frustrating (the main negative that I hear from most of my friends as their personal pet peeve). Dead Space was hardly on my radar; it got a lot of praise but it just looked like a cross between Bioshock and Resident Evil. Since it was still surprising to see “new IP EA games that don’t suck” (skate and boom blox being last year’s predecessors), I didn’t have much hope for it. So, between the 3, I’m going to go with Gears2 first, and if I get bored or have lots of money, then get Mirror’s Edge.

    Some people will be perfectly content buying just 1 game, and then playing only it. It’s not that they look at the other games and don’t want them, they just don’t want to shell out $60 if they are just going to play L4D 3 hrs a day, every day, and never take the disc out of the drive. Other people won’t even have the other games on their radar. They don’t read gaming sites, so they only know about what they see advertised on TV. They need TV advertising (which Assassin’s Creed had) to have new IPs be successful launches when against bigger, already recognized, games.

    Of course, by spacing out your games, you can manage to get a lot of sales. GTA4 was going to sell a lot of copies, no matter what. But it also helped it was released a few months before the holiday season. Bioshock managed to get out a month before Halo 3, and sold very well to everyone who wanted to shoot stuff, but still didn’t have Halo 3. The average gamer seems to play and beat a game in about a month or two, or the forum gamer when it becomes “cool” to hate on Gears2 and GTA4. So Jan and Feb are actually pretty good months to release a game. We’ll see soon what the next wave will consist of.

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