The Failed IP

This past week I’ve thought a lot about new games that don’t sell well, ie; the failed IP (Intellectual Property). I’m talking about the AAA games that were widely marketed, and highly anticipated that seemed destined to turn into franchises, yet failed to meet commercial and critical expectations. Brink, Mirror’s Edge, the 2008 Prince of Persia, and Alan Wake were all heavily marketed, a game that prominent before it’s even released would natrually spawn a sequel yet these games failed to leave an impression. What baffles me is how certain games get a sequel despite these traits. There’s something wrong with the industry when Kane & Lynch gets a sequel, yet Mirror’s Edge doesn’t.

One of the biggest causes of this trend are gamers themselves. Let’s face it, most people who play video games have very specific tastes, some games get around this by adding elements from other genres but this doesn’t work for every game. (Mass Effect and Dead Rising pulled it off but could a cover system in a game like Skyrim?) Some games simply don’t have the genre appeal that others do. Let’s take Mirror’s Edge. For those who aren’t familiar Mirror’s Edge is a stylized first-person parkour-style platformer. How does one market a game like this? It’s not a shooter, but it’s also not a platformer. This unfortunate because Mirror’s Edge is quite unique (something that I don’t say nearly enough about video games), it didn’t sell very well, and that’s not anybody’s fault. It’s not fair to ask a customer to spend $70 on a product they’re not even sure about. The problem is more than just the audience, it’s the very infrastructure of the industry itself.

Video games cost a lot of money to make. The cost of making a game has grown exponentially ever since the industry was created. The standards for graphics, the 100-person staff, not to mention the marketing campaigns means that with so much money at stake publishers are not willing to gamble with an investment unless they can guarantee that a game will sell. This too, is understandable. Why would a company spend millions on a product that may not even make that money back?  But this leaves consumers with an market that is utterly crammed with endless amounts of sequels and downright unoriginal ideas. Every shooter is trying to be like Call of Duty, every MMO is trying to be like World of Warcraft. An industry that should be ‘thriving’ is instead being bogged down by it’s most successful franchises.

Pictured: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3…I think.

There are other alternatives to the triple A system, such as Kickstarter. The most prominent example being Double Fine Adventure, which raised millions of dollars, in fact last year $83 million was pledged to video game projects on Kickstarter. Remedy Entertainment was able to subvert the system with the downloadable title Alan Wake: American Nightmare, which was a follow up to their 2010 game Alan Wake. While it wasn’t a runaway hit in terms of sales, the fact that it was even made, I think, proves my point. Think of the Walking Dead game. Would have it been nearly as successful if all five episodes were released all at once for $60? Telltale Games actually adjusted the writing of each episode in response to how people reacted to each episode, this not only lets them correct their mistakes but it also improves the strengths of the product. Not only, that but the episodes were individually priced at $5, there’s a much better chance of a consumer risking their money on game priced that low than say, $60. Simultaneously, it’s much easier to convince a publisher to invest in a risk idea if there’s less money to be lost.

This generation of consoles has lasted long enough that  a new IP has to compete in a market full of sequels and reboots. It simply isn’t practical to make a game that will earn less money. Developers have begun looking for alternatives for new franchises and some of them have found success. It’s been hard to watch games with great ideas fail but there is a comforting thought that maybe there’s way a new idea can work, both for the consumer and for the publisher. While the Triple-A system of producing new content doesn’t work with every ideas, this doesn’t mean the idea dies. A different system more risks to be taken, and results in market far more diverse. Hopefully, somewhere down the line EA will finally release Mirror’s Edge 2.

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About Sam Hale

Autistic, young adult and lots on my mind.

Posted on January 10, 2013, in Editorials and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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