Its a strange time we live in, my fellow gamers. We now live in a world where selling over a million copies of your game might not be good enough. Where something we would easily label as “success” just a short while ago will now get a studio shut down and force dozens, if not hundreds to find new employment.
Just over the last few months this has happened twice. First it was the guys behind Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning when their game only moved 610,00 units. Only? Next up to get shuttered was Radical Entertainment after 2 decades of being in business. These guys literally worked on Mario games back in the day. Their last game was the relatively well recieved Prototype 2. Apparently Activision didn’t feel that 920,000 units sold was enough to warrant keeping them around, so they aren’t anymore.
The thing is, everything revolves around money. If you invest millions into a game, as in the case of Amalur, then you absolutely must see large sales to stay in business. They didn’t. Is it safe to assume that Prototype simply wasn’t profitable? If you don’t break even, you really can’t expect to stay in business.
It seems like studios/publishers are going one of two ways at the moment. You have guys throwing together games for relatively modest budgets and keeping their expectations reasonable, and you have everyone else. Reality check: everyone can’t be Call of Duty. Even if you throw so much money at a game that you have to sell 3.5m units to break even – I’m looking at you Curt Schilling – you might not have a huge success on your hands. In fact, history shows us that with something like 99% certainty that you won’t.
I swear, it’s like its the 80′s again and people are just throwing all the money they have into things and going as big as possible. At this rate all we’ll have are the biggest of the big like Call of Duty and smaller indie games. Every game cannot sell well over a million units. Especially not at the end of a console cycle for god’s sake. Just like in 1983, the games industry has grown a whole lot, way too fast and it looks like only a few are coping. It’s time for the rest to scale back their expectations and work within the realm of the reasonable.
As always I would love to hear what everyone thinks about this. Open invitation to call me out.