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Opinion: Developers - It's Your Fault The Game Bombed, Not Ours

Alex Evans

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Game sales are in the drain, and developers have only themselves to blame.

Published on Mar 20, 2013

Home consoles are dying, collapsing under the weight of fatigue from gamers bored of seven-year-old machines, who’d rather download Angry Birds: Star Wars 3 on their iPad instead.

Well, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s the case as wave after wave of industry analysts declare PS3 and Xbox 360 a barren wasteland where no new game can do well at retail because we’re all stashing our cash under the proverbial bedsheets for PS4 and Xbox 720.

Many have pointed to relative sales flops like God Of War: Ascension, which managed less than half of God Of War III’s UK opening week sales – despite being on sale for four more days – as proof the current gen of consoles is dead and buried and gamers are just dying to fork out hundreds of pounds to move on to next-gen at long last.

Dead Space 3 is a similar story. The third iteration in EA’s blockbuster horror franchise lost out to the diabolically broken Aliens: Colonial Marines in sales and quickly slipped down the charts therafter.

If you’re interested, it’s currently languishing in 15th place in the all-formats chart just a month after launch (and the series might be cancelled entirely).

So PS3 and Xbox 360 are finished, then, and we should all trade them in now and keep playing Temple Run on our phones until PS4 or Xbox 720 come to rescue us from our gaming malaise.

This is rubbish. PS3 and Xbox 360 have an install base of about 140million, and shift hundreds of thousands more units each week.

Even if only a small portion of these owners are regularly buying titles for their console, that’s a heck of a lot of people to sell games to.

While interest in PS4 is of course high, PS3 and 360 owners want good, original games and they’ll buy them when they release. They did in 2006 and they will now.

In fact, Tomb Raider proves it’s not the gamers that are to blame for low sales – it’s the developers.

Simply put, titles like God Of War: Ascension just don’t offer a lot new. They may be technically competent, with plenty of thrills for your £40, but there’s a sense of been there, done that.

While I haven’t played it yet, it looks like Gears Of War: Judgment may suffer the same shoulder-shrug fate.

Most people will argue that this is because PS3 and Xbox 360 have reached the limits of their potential and people have grown tired of what they can kick out.

I disagree. When 3DS games like Luigi’s Mansion can be fresh and original on a tiny fraction of the home consoles’ power, it proves it’s developers that are holding back on us and creating games that – while all very well and good – just don’t excite people enough to open their wallets.

Tomb Raider is proof of this. At the tail-end of a generation becoming ever more populated with prequels and spin-offs, Crystal Dynamics’ gritty reboot has taken the charts by storm, selling through one million copies in under 48 hours.

Why? Because this isn’t a retread prequel, or a suspiciously un-numbered sequel, but an entirely fresh experience which innovates, which compels and ultimately excites. It’s a good game which does interesting new things (for the series, anyway), and gamers have responded by stumping up the cash.

Ni No Kuni too. We’d gone much of the generation without many solid JRPGs. Then along came Oliver and his loveable lantern-nosed Welsh sidekick and a smattering of Studio Ghibli visuals, and a chart-topper was born.

See also: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. A completely original game with mechanics we’ve not yet seen (i.e. the blade mode)? Yup, topped the charts as well.

But what about DMC? That was a completely fresh title with new ideas, some lovely design and a lot of compelling, broadly original concepts.

I loved DMC – but it sold a lot less than Devil May Cry 4 did when that launched in 2008. And I think it’s simply because most fans were burned by the character’s new appearance.

As silly a reason as that is to avoid the game, forum rage and petitions to the White House (seriously) prove many did. If you annoy the core fanbase, you can’t expect bumper sales (see also: Dead Space 3’s Nathan Drake-ification).

Gamers want games. They want them to be exciting and new, and when they’re not they don’t buy them – that’s true at any point in a generation, not just at the end. If anything, larger install bases should prove more lucrative.

Developers can’t blame a lack of enthusiasm from consumers when their games bomb at this stage in a console’s life: they only have themselves to blame.

If developers can’t create a compelling, original title on PS3 or Xbox 360, maybe they shouldn’t be making games at all.

 

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