The Commercial Death Of Gaming Brilliance

Firstly, happy new year dudes/dude-ttes! Welcome to 2011, this special year is set to be one of gaming’s finest, and as more and more big name titles are falling from the perfectly pixelated sky I can’t help but feel sorry for the smaller games slowly sinking to their death.

I’m talking about the critically acclaimed but bad selling games that make a modest but ultimately miniscule ‘pop’ in the industry’s market. It’s a terrible thing but the truth of the tale is that if a game doesn’t sell enough, and meet the publishers expected demand, then the developers are in serious danger of being shown the door (at least third party dev’s anyway). First party titles are not so affected by sales, but a significant chunk of franchise hopefuls won’t get the chance to create that sequel they want to make.

In short we (the gamers) lose a depressing proportion of IPs that stand no chance of pickpocketting big boys like God Of War, Call Of Duty, Ratchet and Clank, Halo, Warcraft and so on. Now whilst this isn’t always a bad thing because some games have simply got too much wrong with them to be worth salvaging (looking at you Naughty Bear), it leads to some fantastic ideas crumbling in on themselves because we’re all too busy with ‘xxxxxx’s latest DLC package.

Obviously not all publishers drop a game series into the dark and steamy pit of second hand savagery without a heartbeat of hesitation though. We can look at the very average sales of Ninja Theory’s scruffy but beautiful ‘Enslaved’, feel slightly disappointed for it, but then feel excited that there is word of a sequel in the works. Similarly we could take Platinum Games, super-sexy-OTT-ass-kicker Bayonetta boasting average to poor sales, then learning that after Vanquish (which incidentally didn’t sell much either….it deserved far more) the team were looking to go back to our gun slinging witch.

The sad part is when you discover something very unique, original, and amazing within a game, you never get to see it get taken to the next tier because the title has been written off as a “dead end”. An example of such industry-lameness would be how Activision is looking into ditching Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing) after the deliriously entertaining arcade racer Blur didn’t burst the walls with sales as Activision was obviously counting on since acquiring them in 2007.

Before I get everyone depressed (including myself) I should highlight that it doesn’t happen THAT much, but it’s worth considering when you pick up a couple of games, whether that weird looking cover behind Black Ops might be a gem waiting to be discovered.

You could go into this in far more detail but I’m interested to hear now where you guys stand in all of this. Most developers say that critical and commercial success are both very important to them…ain’t that the truth. Should we be content with a franchise polish? Is one off innovation enough to push the industry forward? Or is it time someone gave the small teams a proper chance? Are game sales looking more like a giant set of loaded dice?