Retail Performance Delivers Strong Message to Japan
Capcom were this week forced to concede that two of their recent big franchise releases have been flops, relatively speaking. Series fans did not take well to 2012’s release of Resident Evil 6 or January’s release of DmC, and both were punished at the till accordingly. This is notable for the fact that both game entries were fundamentally altered from the norms of their respective series in order to appeal to Western gamers, with DmC even being developed by a Western studio, Ninja Theory. Publishers have long sought to maximise game sales by adding new elements to their series in order to capture new audiences, yet if a developer is unable to preserve the qualities which originally led people to become fans of the series, then they run the risk of losing their core audience.
Resident Evil 6 came in for heavy criticism owing to its schizophrenic attempts to be several different games, yet doing nothing particularly well [or even competently]. It went on to sell 4.8 million copies which is generally a respectable figure in gaming, yet this figure is dwarfed by the 8.14 million sales garnered by Resident Evil 5, though the latter title has enjoyed significantly more time on sale. Meanwhile, the stalled sales of DmC have led to Capcom revising sales forecasts from two million to 1.2 million units sold. That said, the game seems unlikely to meet this target without a steep pricecut – as the game looks likely to be stranded on roughly eight hundred thousand units sold. For reference, Devil May Cry 4 sold 2.75 million units, while the Devil May Cry HD Collection sold .75 million units. It would seem that the curse of Ninja Theory has struck again.
All this being said, it is perhaps a disservice to the reality of the situation to dismiss DmC‘s poor sales as the Ninja Theory curse, when much of the game’s problems stem from the poor decisions made by the developer. Ninja Theory turned off many gamers by transforming the protagonist, Dante, into a dirty looking Emo with a bad attitude, imbuing him with an aggressively loathsome demeanor which was more grating than even early-to-mid 90s Sonic’s obnoxiously edgy attitude. When people complained about this, Ninja Theory [and their supporters] dismissed naysayers as Devil May Cry fanboys who were upset about them changing Dante’s hair, and preferred to laugh at and ridicule the game’s critics rather than addressing the negative public perception of their game. Now one can see how well this tactic has stood them. Good sales are not Ninja Theory’s God-given right, and former series fans are not immature for abstaining from this abortion, regardless of whether Ninja Theory wishes to contend otherwise. More to the point, Capcom should not have been asleep at the wheel when it came to monitoring their brand, and the way that Ninja Theory were handling their Devil May Cry community.
In contrast to the flagging sales of Capcom, Levil-5’s new IP, Ni no Kuni, has debuted in the top position for all Western territories despite being a relatively traditional style JRPG, a genre which is allegedly out of favour. The game managed to sell one hundred and forty thousand units in its first week on sale in the US, and forty thousand units in its second week. Meanwhile its first week on sale in the EU saw twenty-four thousand units sold in the UK, twenty thousand in Germany, nineteen thousand in France – or ninety-five thousand units sold across Europe as a whole [assuming that the figures for the UK, Germany and France are contained within this figure, rather than on top of it]. This result more than doubles the two-hundred thousand copies that the game was able to sell in its native Japan, and decent second week sales in the US coupled with shortages of the game itself suggests that Ni no Kuni‘s sales may come with a protracted tail-end. It is heartening to see a JRPG release with a strong Japanese identity [but without all the lolis and incomprehensibility which usually accompanies this], and see it rewarded for this quality.
The Tale of 38 Studios’ Demise Throws Up Final Twist
What is the definition of insanity? Is it doing the same thing while expecting different results? If it is, then it must surely be said that Epic Games suffered from a brief bout of madness in 2012, though thankfully it has this week been rectified. When failed developer, 38 Studios, went out of business in May of 2012, Curt Schilling’s bad debts threatened to drag down all of the studio’s subsidiaries with it, yet Big Huge Games, the studio primarily responsible for failed RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, was saved from the scrapheap By Epic Games. Epic re-branded the developer as Impossible Studios and put them to work on the development of Infinity Blade: Dungeons, yet sadly the development thereof proved to be impossible for this plucky little studio and its negative quantities of talent. Thankfully, Epic games has rectified their poor decision this week by junking the under-performing studio, as has been explained by CEO, Tim Sweeney:
“When former members of Big Huge Games approached Epic last year, we saw the opportunity to help a great group of people while putting them to work on a project that needed a team. It was a bold initiative and the Impossible folks made a gallant effort, but ultimately it wasn’t working out for Epic.”
A gallant effort, but it “wasn’t” working out? Had things really become that bad? That is the sort of white-lie that a girl uses to dump someone when she really means that they have become an ineffectual drip – and everyone knows it. Impossible Studios must have been making next to no headway, or what headway they were making must have been exceedingly poor, as Sweeney’s statement sounds dire. With this sort of competence it is not difficult to see why 38 Studios ran such an untenable operation.
PS360 Steals WUU’s Crown Jewels
For whatever reason [dearth of alternatives?] in the latter half of 2012, new owners of Nintendo’s Wii U console latched on to Ubisoft’s Rayman Legends as a console exclusive to crow about. Nintendo’s Wii U has not done so well however, and thus it would seem that Ubisoft has this week decided that the Wii U alone is not sufficient to support the sales that they expect of the title. And so it came to pass that Rayman Legends, a game that has already gone gold and was set to release on the Wii U in a mere three weeks, has instead been pushed back to September so that the Wii U version can launch along-side Ps3 and 360 ports of the game.
Predictably, this announcement has been met with much in the way of histrionic tantrums on the part of Wii U owners, whose entitled and retarded world view led them to look to Ubisoft in order to justify their early adoption of Nintendo’s overpriced and underpowered console. Ubisoft likely had all the very best of intentions in launching the game as a Wii U exclusive, but there was only so much they could do when facing the prospect of releasing an anticipated new title to an audience of three million Wii U owners. The decision to postpone the Wii U launch was taken on the basis that game ports do not sell nearly as well when the title is no longer new and relevant – an understandable concern. Most importantly, holding off for a multiplatform launch does not actually deny Wii U owners anything, as they will still get their game, albeit a little later than planed – yet one would not know this by simply taking a quick peek at the vitriolic screeds which have been posted on Ubisoft’s Facebook wall.
Perhaps the real victims in all this has been the game’s developers, who have been enduring a development crunch period for the past six months, only to be told that there was no rush to ship the game after all:
“For us, this means we’ve spent six months barely seeing our wives, kids, and friends for nothing because, after all, such a haste wasn’t needed. Believe it, it was hell to swallow this news.”
At any rate, one very positive thing to come out of all of this was Ubisoft’s frank acknowledgement of the reasons that they chose to hold back the game’s release, though in hindsight it seems like they may have given Wii U owners a little too much credit.