96: Vision Doesn't Sell Copies

"Selling hundreds of thousands of copies might have been enough to keep a scrappy independent developer running, but for a division of Capcom, they were a stinging disappointment. By contrast, Dead Rising for the Xbox 360 racked up a million sales by the end of 2006. In January of this year, Lost Planet, another Capcom title, racked up 329,000 sales in North America alone . In one month, and one market, Lost Planet beat the entire lifetime sales of one of Clover's titles."

Vision Doesn't Sell Copies

Vision is in the eye of the beholder, I think.

In a large-scale commercial environment, vision by necessity includes market considerations.

I'm curious as to the cost of developing each of Clover's games. I mean, did Clover's original and clever concepts come at the ridiculous price of today's typical big-budget titles? If so, the result isn't so surprising... as unfortunate as it is.

I think that the timing was bad. New IP could do better on the "next gen" machines, where there are only a select number of titles to compete against, and the early adopters are the types of customers more excited about boutique titles. Over a platform's lifetime the owners of that platform become younger and more mainstream - a gamer buying a PS3 might give his or her old PS2 to a younger nephew for example. This makes it increasingly difficult for new IP to succeed on mature platforms.

I'm now kind of annoyed I didn't buy Viewtiful Joe. I was going to but some other game must have demanded my money and attention. Looking at release dates I guess it was F-Zero GX coming out next week (in europe).

e-m-e-r-a-l-d:
I think that the timing was bad. New IP could do better on the "next gen" machines, where there are only a select number of titles to compete against, and the early adopters are the types of customers more excited about boutique titles. Over a platform's lifetime the owners of that platform become younger and more mainstream - a gamer buying a PS3 might give his or her old PS2 to a younger nephew for example. This makes it increasingly difficult for new IP to succeed on mature platforms.

In addition to that, just as an example, how totally freakin' great would Okami have been on the Wii? I mean, drawing, motion control, experimental design, experimental platform.... It seems like a no-brainer.

Self

fulfilling

prophecy.

Seriously. I'm getting kind of tired of hearing this kind of "oh well what can you do" hopeless self-defeating nonsense when something like Clover's demise comes up, especially from the more sophisticated (I assume) developers, press and gamers that read Escapist. If even the people who dug Okami wrote it off the moment it was released as "too different/interesting to be successful", how are publishers and non-gamers supposed to change their attitudes?

Perspective and tone are just so important when you're talking about new ideas and IP. Nintendo has made tons of money off things that are far weirder than Okami, and it's because they have confidence in it internally, they project that confidence to the rest of the world, and the rest of the world buys it (if it actually turns out well).

Meanwhile, other companies develop product they have no confidence in, they're terrified of the risk it represents and consumers pick up on this. Developers read headlines like "Vision Doesn't Sell Copies", nod their heads and file that away as another line to bring out next time someone has a cool idea.

I'm dead serious about this. Conservatism and fear are self-perpetuating, and the truth is that the mass market(s) are far more interested in "out there", new or interesting stuff than we give them credit for. The change has to start with us. It's understandable to become discouraged when something you think is cool fails in the marketplace, but that's no excuse to go into a permanent cynical sulk of nerdly elitism and doom the next Psychonauts the instant it appears. We need to be the ones fighting for it.

Agree with emerald and bill, Okami would have been a stellar Wii launch title, but the timing just wasn't right.

chmmr:
The change has to start with us.

Maybe. But if so, what's the next stage after that?

One of the key ingredients currently required for big sales is a big marketing campaign. That's a major investment. For such a thing to be considered, the decision makers at Capcom (or whichever other big company was involved) would have to be very confident of a return on that investment. I find it hard to envision that happening as a result of nothing more than increased faith amongst a small number of hardcore gamers that it could work.

Personally I have a rather different vision for a brighter future. I see many of the problems of the industry across the last ten years as having a lot to do with retail. With digital downloading now maturing rapidly games will no longer be obliged to make all their revenue in the first month before being pulled from the store shelves. Greg Costikyan has talked about the potential for good games to continue to sell for years (the "long tail"). He's typically talking about indie games, but I see no reason why the same can't be true of mainstream games. Once games have a long lifespan it becomes possible for a game to sell on its own reputation for being good. At that point, if people do genuinely enjoy innovative games, we'll see them.

There's a problem in Capcom's premise, if it's genuine:

Founded in the midst of a Capcom shake-up in 2004, Clover Studios was a development group formed to "bring more originality to [Capcom's] products, thus leading to higher profits and better brand recognition."

Shouldn't have Capcom been in the best place to actually know that experimentation should be a tist, at first, above anything else, and only after analyzing the results, see if the activities and targets could be broadened, or on the contrary, turned into a pro-niche segmentation (which is not essentially a bad thing)?

Personally, I don't see how this should be huge news to anyone other than the rather insular fans of niche games. So a game that's not really very popular doesn't sell many copies. Popular doesn't equal good. And good does not mean popular.

Games are, pretty much universally, supposed to be fun. This is how and why they make money. To relegate this "fun" for any other primary goal, even a ideal as uplifting as originality or uniqueness, should and does come with a penalty.

The best analogue for this would be in the world of film. Original, artsy films made for niche audiences do not make much money. People make them mostly for prestige with low budgets and they get released in specialty theaters that very few people ever see.

From the article, we see that Viewtiful Joe sold about 321,000 copies on both PS2 and Gamecube. At $40 a pop, that's about 12 million dollars. If the game cost about a million dollars to make and market, that wouldn't be a bad tradeoff. Obviously, either it didn't or Clover's other games just cost too much to make to be worth it, but this should be indicative of where designers and fans should look.

Don't blame the consumer when that "totally awesome" niche game doesn't appeal to people outside the niche. Just make it cheap enough to sell to the people in the niche while making money, or accept that it won't and put it out as a vanity product to counter the ill-repute of producing NFL Blitz 200X or the umpteenth iteration of Halo.

-and this is why you market and hype your game to death, like snooder sead.

So a game that's not really very popular doesn't sell many copies. Popular doesn't equal good. And good does not mean popular.

Which is why you make it good, then you make it popular, and if it's both, then fans practically market for you.

 

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