Video games, she is a harsh mistress, prone to the most fickle flights of fancy and a terrible temper. Which games succeed and fail seem to come about purely on some ethereal whim of which no one can possibly understand. At best, game makers can hope to accidentally catch the mistress in a good mood, or at least find fortune riding the waves of someone else's seemingly accidental popularity.
Such waves have oft-eluded UK developer Ninja Theory, who had such high hopes for their PlayStation 3 launch title Heavenly Sword, only to find themselves on the wrong end of profitability when all was said and done. Rather than simply farm themselves out for mercenary work, the studio went to bat again with another original, single-player exclusive adventure in the form of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. With a script penned by 28 Days Later... and Sunshine scribe Alex Garland, and a stellar lead performance from Andy Serkis, the game wowed critics and became a cult success among a small number of extremely ebullient fans.
All of that is wonderful, except for one small detail: hardly anyone bought it.
Perhaps that's a bit of an overstatement, as the title did sell around 730,000 total copies at retail. Those are hardly exceptional numbers, but they aren't the kind of tragicomic numbers a game like Shadows of the Damned did, either. Still, that number was a long way from what Ninja Theory needed, and as a result, the studio has had to abandon any and all hope of putting together a sequel for the title. Speaking to Edge magazine (as transcribed by CVG), studio co-founder Tameem Antoniades lamented the fact that he and his crew weren't working on a follow-up this very second.
"Enslaved should have done better," he told Edge. "Right now we should have been doing a sequel and perfecting that sequel and doing what franchises do, which is get better over time.
"[But] because that didn't happen we've not expanded to two teams like we intended to."
Instead, Ninja Theory is working on Capcom's upcoming Devil May Cry reboot, which, depending on your fondness for Dante and his whole stylish hard action thing, is either great news or a damnable tragedy. Regardless, Antoniades does see this upcoming project as "another chance," and seems quite happy about the work they've put in on it. Still, one can't help but feel a twinge of regret hearing a man explain that the potential of a new, original franchise was stopped dead in its tracks, leaving them to have to pick up someone else's franchise to stay afloat.
Then again, in this economy, work is work, I suppose.