Why it is OK for some Games to Fail

Gameplayer Writes:
You may have heard of Mark "E" Everett, lead singer of cult (read: awesome) band the Eels, but chances are you probably haven't. He's been lucky enough to score a handful of hits over the years, but he's hardly a household name. But despite the fact that he hasn't sold that many records during his career, Mark Everett remained a part of the major music label Dreamworks for almost 10 years before moving on, of his own volition, to another label.

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SlappingOysters3657d ago

It would be great to think that great developers are attracted to places where they can get their ideas out and that such people are then nurtured.

The closures of recent studios like Ensemble would suggest otherwise though.

gaffyh3656d ago

If a game sells badly it is considered a failure in the eyes of fanboys and the gaming media. And what they usually attribute to selling well is comparing the game to Halo 3 sales. As long as a game pushes boundaries and is striving for something new, the game is not a failure in my eyes.

LBP, Mirror's Edge both tried something new, and LBP is pretty successful as well, I wouldn't call 1.3m sold bad. Even with Dead Space, at least EA tried something new, and imo that game is amazing, better than the rest of the crap they put out.

Mahr3656d ago (Edited 3656d ago )

Typical Gameplayer article. Even when I agree with some of what they're getting at, their points are badly argued.

In the first place, they never establish what they mean by failure (i.e., does it mean that it sold less than it projected, lost money, didn't live up to expectations among consumers, didn't establish a foundation for future titles in the franchise, or that it was not well-received by critics?).

In the second, it cites several games which don't really have any apparent connections and then it never actually explains the link between any of them. Okay, Dead Space, Little Big Planet, and Mirror's Edge are all original IPs, but Prince of Persia is basically an extension of... Prince of Persia. It doesn't really 'do' anything differently. And it's not like all of them were met with universal critical acclaim either, given Mirror's Edge's tepid reception by most critics and its presence on those ubiquitous "Most Disappointing Games Of The Year" lists.

Then it goes on about how The Internet got wind of "the fact" that the titles weren't selling as much "as expected". Expected by who? Consumers? The corporations? Did I miss some article where EA released its cheat-sheet detailing the exact number of copies it projected Dead Space would sell, complete with chart and timeline? Given that it turns out that most of the titles actually ended up selling reasonably, how is the above a 'fact' at all? Isn't that sort of thing, gossip and mis-informed speculation, actually the very *opposite* of a fact?

"Despite the fact that all the games sold reasonably (LBP in particular) the words ‘total failure’ and ‘failure’ were thrown around with wild, unfathomable abandon by gaming’s hardcore –"

So, they're not *really* failures, but people on the internet are calling them that, is that what's being said here? So the point of the article is about how it's alright for games to fail, using as evidence games that the same article admits are not failures?

The only real parable there is that people shouldn't put that much stock into gaming articles in the first place (oh wait).

"seemingly smelling blood, like sharks circling around a stranded swimmer suffering an unfortunate paper cut"


"The internet’s overreaction, to a certain extent, was only to be expected; but the fact of the matter is this – even if the aforementioned titles could legitimately be branded as ‘failures’ in terms of commercial success, the benefits that the simple existence of these titles bring outweigh any real issues with underperforming sales."

Benefits which may or may not be owed in part to being games that *weren't failures!*

If the only examples available for why it's alright for games to under-sell are games that didn't under-sell, then there's something seriously flawed in the argument being fashioned.

"Before Mirror’s Edge, before Dead Space, before Skate, when EA were still in the doldrums of their ‘milking dead franchises until they ejaculate salt and blood’ period, the uproar that followed their acquisition of Bioware was tangible."

Okay, aside from the figurative language not really adding much, it's a *little* bit disturbing that someone would actually come up with that kind of imagery.

Secondly, how exactly does the Prince of Persia fit in here, given that it's basically been a major part of Ubisoft's bread and butter since 2003?

"But now, post Mirror’s Edge, post Dead Space, post Skate, and (possibly most impressive of all) post EA’s newly revitalised sports range, could you imagine anyone kicking up anywhere near the same stink today?"

Wait, so the keystone evidence here is based off of one's ability to imagine something, rather than something that's actually concrete? You don't actually even *know* whether or not people are still complaining so strongly?

"I would argue no"

You would argue no about my ability to imagine people still hating EA? Um. Okay.

"and put the credit square at the feet of a new EA, willing to take the slight commercial hit"

The commercial hit which is so far only even present in some abstract realm of "Well, the internet says so."

The *fictional* commercial hit.

"for the benefit of their new found reputation for funding and supporting new IPs and innovative game concepts."

Um, who is the reputation among? The internet?

The same internet that's calling them failures?

If people think that a game is an innovative concept, then don't they buy it, and thereby buy definition make it a non-failure?

Or is the moral of the story that by looking like failures, these games trick people into *thinking* that EA is some sort of utopian well-spring of self-sacrifice that doesn't care about making money when in actuality it's not?

I'm not certain I'd call that 'okay' so as much as 'cynical' or 'Machiavellian'.

Nor am I certain how falling for such a thing is actually productive. "Dead Space doesn't seem to be making money. Let's support poor little woe-begotten EA with money that it actually doesn't need because Dead Space is actually doing well!"

How is that any different from, say, when wealthy politicians try to look as folksy and normal as possible during election seasons? Or that time when FEMA staged its own press conference to make it look like its handling of Hurricane Katrina was even remotely competent?

"Protecting and maintaining a strong reputation by supporting games that won’t necessarily set the sales charts on fire eventually pays dividends for major game behemoths like EA."

If only they were actually supporting games that weren't selling, we might actually be able to gauge the veracity of this statement.

"Not only does it repair consumer trust, allowing gamers to feel like they can invest in EAs future titles without fear, it also inspires game development’s best and brightest to make EA their home in the future."

And what exactly does this have to do with Ubisoft or Sony? Neither one has ever had the same kind of criticism in innovation terms as EA has had, although the example given would support adopting such a stance toward the former.

"We can’t help but feel that Bioware’s decision to migrate to EA would have been a far easier one if they had moved in Jan 09, as opposed to October 07"

An entire article based on a 'feeling'. That's new.

"and you can bet that now EA will have a far better chance of securing the Biowares of tomorrow in the very near future as a result of these ‘underperforming’ prestige titles."

Imagine how much money Microsoft could make if it falsified sales data and made HALO seem like a badly-performing indie game instead.

"So much like what we’ve seen with musicians and the major record labels, revenue and ‘units sold’ is not the only means of defining a game’s success, and publishers should act more to embrace the importance of prestige games when green-lighting future projects, be they sequels or new IPs."

I'm curious: In what way is this Failure--But Not Really A Failure--But It Looks Like A Failure--But It's Not--Though If It Were, It Still Wouldn't Be A Failure train of thought less convoluted than, say, the "EA tries to make games that it thinks will sell and people will buy them if they're good" theory?

Incidentally, I don't really understand the significance of the music industry parable at the beginning of the article or its bearing on the central thesis -- other than allowing the author to go on at length in outlining his personal tastes in cult bands.

SlappingOysters3656d ago

but it would seem that you would want the obvious spelled out for you again and again and again.

Just to fill you in...the games sold poorly, but are really good so therefore it wasn't a waste putting them out as they reveal the publisher will invest in quality.

Mahr3656d ago

"all the games sold reasonably (LBP in particular)"

SlappingOysters3656d ago

I reckon you've got a point, I guess I followed it just fine and really didn't start questioning it at all until I started reading your thing.

Mahr3656d ago

I mean, I more or less agree with the concept that there's more to the industry than sales and that reputation is important to companies, but I think the author is somewhat overstating that influence here, and more importantly, I think the article could have used examples of companies that have actually sold games at a loss. Aren't those really the companies that we should be hearing about?

SlappingOysters3656d ago

I wonder how you would find out that information. Do game publishers ever advertise that a game made a loss? We rarely no game budgets (where we often do for films).

just curious

Chuck Norris3656d ago (Edited 3656d ago )

"Incidentally, I don't really understand the significance of the music industry parable at the beginning of the article or its bearing on the central thesis -- other than allowing the author to go on at length in outlining his personal tastes in cult bands."

Basically, the author states that some labels are not afraid to sign critically acclaimed artists who may not do too well commercially. This improves the label's standing amongst the industry and it shows that the label is willing to risk investing in talent that aren't mainstream. This is done in order to influence future prospects who may not have considered signing with the label in the first place.

It's similar in a way to EA. They make a couple games a year of good quality, such as Mirror's Edge and Dead Space. This in turn would show that they are willing to invest in quality titles and would therefore attract future game developers who are looking for a publisher. Even though the games do not sell well, they have already established a standpoint of some sort that they are not only looking to sell games but rather put up some quality titles as well.

In short, as long as giant publishers fund these kind of titles, it gives them an excuse to release a rehash of old franchises and continue to milk it for whatever it is worth.

Mahr3656d ago (Edited 3656d ago )

"I wonder how you would find out that information. Do game publishers ever advertise that a game made a loss?"

They don't advertise it per se, but they do have the information, as do the developers and programmers and the like. Sites like Gameplayer actually have the advantage of working in and with the industry. If they were interested, they could do research, look at annual reports, or just do the old fashioned thing and ask around. They might not get something as specific as "X game lost Y amount of money", but they could easily get an idea of what companies have made or lost money.

"Basically, the author states that some labels are not afraid to sign critically acclaimed artists who may not do too well commercially"

And according to the article, they didn't do too well commercially, right?

"Even though the games do not sell well, they have already established a standpoint of some sort that they are not only looking to sell games but rather put up some quality titles as well."

But according to the article, the games *do* sell well. If someone's going to write an article on why it's alright for games to fail commercially, then why not bring up games that have actually failed commercially?

+ Show (4) more repliesLast reply 3656d ago
Mahr3656d ago (Edited 3656d ago )

Ack, double post. Sorry.

DNAgent3656d ago

For example, FF13 is going to flop because they decided to make it multi-platform so the quality suffers. Yes, this is mainly because Square-Enix is developing it but multi-platform games suck a lot more than exclusives. Another examples is GTA4 that game sucked and there was nothing to do after beating the game and there was nothing that made you want to come back to it (even fooling around is boring unlike the previous GTA games). People may think that realism is what made the game suck but the real reason is because it went multi-platform.

It's ok for these types of games to fail as some developers may learn their lesson & won't repeat the same mistake twice. Now once FF13 fails don't expect things to change because Square-Enix never learns their lesson as they don't care about quality anymore which is why they have only been pushing out mediocre garbage since the merger.

razorbladelight3656d ago

wasn't that multi and ultimately it became an instant classic. Being multiplatform hardly means losing or gaining quality. that all just depends on how hard the company worked to make it. I dunno, I just don't agree with that logic.

Dark General3656d ago

Exactly what i was thinking. I love the Eels. Got more than a few of their songs on my MP3 player. Buss Stop Boxer is still my favorite song from them though.

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