Seems every week if not every day there's more news of shut downs and closures of recognized development studios these days. Yes gaming is a business much like any other and when something fails to bring in a profit, you have to look at the bigger picture and cut the fat where needed in order to survive and compete against others that are doing the same. But what is a profit these days? What really is success anymore in the video game market? In my personal opinion it seems like that particular bar is raised far higher than it would be for any other creative medium such as Television and the Movie industry. I know it may not always be entirely fair to compare the video game industry to Hollywood but when you have big budget games with production cost that rival summer block busters and have just as much marketing put behind them it sounds like it's not too big a stretch.
Keep in mind I'm only looking at the business side of things when making these comparisons not really the actual work that goes on behind said production. We all know it's hard and difficult work whether it's movies or games and I'd go far enough to say it's much harder work making a game than any movie. But from a business and financial stand point, what equals success? What do you have to do in order to keep a franchise going and still be able to compete against other companies in the same line of business as you?
Usually when I think of a game being successful from a business side of things it means that it was able to sell enough units to re-coup the cost of it's creation. Whether it reaches main stream appeal or not, if it sells and sells well then it should be successful right? Well with the recent goings on at Radical Entertainment being possibly shut down by Activision after Prototype 2 "failed to reach a broad enough audience".
I couldn't help but be confused by this. Sure Prototype 2 didn't get the most stellar reviews but if history of this business has taught us anything is that good reviews don't mean good sales and the same goes for games that get critically panned. If I may quote an article from Destructoid's Jim Sterling on the matter,
"Prototype 2 was the best selling game in North America when it launched back in April, but still managed to perform so underwhelmingly in Activision's eyes that the studio is now in the can."
While I don't have the sales numbers for the game, based on this statement as well as others I've seen on Prototype 2 the game sold pretty well. Yet why did Activision still see it as a failure? Was the cost of making it just that high? Moving on we now have EA saying that Dead Space 3 has to sell at least 5 Million units to be considered viable. Are you kidding me? 5 million? Let's take some perspective on this. I think it's safe to say that Dead Space is a franchise that is pretty well recognized. Sure we all know what it is, but how about the folks who don't always follow gaming sites like this one or just aren't in the know?
Last time I checked with friends I know locally many of which don't really keep up with this sort of thing or even pay attention to reviews, they know what Dead Space is. Hell even my mother knows what Dead Space is, not because of me mind you, but because of the ads she saw on TV for Dead Space 2. That to me sounds like the marketing did it's job and got the word out about the series. Dead Space 2 by itself was able to reach 2 Million units sold very quickly and not long before the original game managed to bring in those numbers as well. In any other business that would be a booming success and to any other developer they could only hope for 1 million units sold. But in the eyes of EA that's still not enough they want a whopping 5 million units to be sold. A number higher than the combined sales of it's previous games. Tell me I'm not the only one who sees something wrong with this line of reasoning? From a business stand point this sounds like EA is shooting for a target that can't really be hit.
I know it's been said by the GiantBomb staff themselves that it's amazing that a video game even gets made at all given their knowledge of what goes on behind the making of a triple A game and knowing just how bat-shit crazy it all would look in the eyes of someone who would analyze how the business is run. I know these are only a few examples but I'm curious what you guys think? Is there something incredibly wrong with the triple A market? Is the industry just straight up broken?