Cliffy B: Horror Genre Doesn't Fit the $60 Disc Market

Cliffy B: Horror Genre Doesn't Fit the $60 Disc Market

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The former design director for Epic Games calls horror games "the ultimate Campaign Rental".

Horror can be an inconsistent genre for gamers: what is brown-pants material for one player might end up being a yawn-fest for another. After all, some of us have years of experience facing off against monsters, ghosts, demons, and beasts of all shapes and sizes. Game designer Cliff Bleszinski also thinks that horror is a hard market to address, and he states in a recent blog post that the genre may not be well suited for the physical marketplace.

On his personal Tumblr, he speaks out on EA's latest horror sci-fi title Dead Space 3, and adds the comment as an afterthought to his analysis of the game. "In the $60 disc based market horror doesn't fly - it's the ultimate 'Campaign Rental' that's played for 2 days and traded in and I'm sure EA knows this. When we're fully digital we'll see more true horror games coming back," citing Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Slenderman as examples.

"Horror is HARD, and suspense is even HARDER," he says. "It requires a true director's hand. A nudge this way and a moment plays as comedic, a nudge too far the other way and it's not scary at all. To compound it all, making a scary moment is kind of like trying to tickle yourself. You think it's scary, but you're never sure until you test it on someone who has NEVER SEEN THE MOMENT."

The post comes soon after original Dead Space writer Antony Johnston commented on action sequences being a "necessary evil in order to broaden the fan base", and that the shift in focus was an inevitable tack for the series. Cliffy B recognizes in his post that Dead Space has undergone a change in tone, and he says that players can choose to either shun the new direction or accept it. "I choose the latter," he says, "as at the end of the day it's FUN."

Source: Tumblr

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So I guess the 60$ disk market is now a niche that caters only to a specific audience and anything that doesn't imitate the norm fails spectacularly.

Hey, anyone remember when Gears of War didn't set the tone for every 3rd person *anything* game ever?

well thats just fucking stupid...

a good game is a good game regardless of its genre...if the length/content is fair then its worth $60

I'd say he's probably right. To make an actual horror experience akin to the seminal titles in the genre, you have to add so much extra stuff to them both in terms of extra modes but also extra gameplay styles that they end up not being horror experiences any more.

Vault101:
well thats just fucking stupid...

a good game is a good game regardless of its genre...if the length/content is fair then its worth $60

That isn't what he said at all.

He said that horror games are difficult to make, so when a company wants to make a $60 game and make a decent profit as well as impress a lot of people, it's often too challenging for developers to justify spending all the money on making it.

Seeing as most horror games are the kind of thing a lot of people play through once, and are done with it, due to the fact that once you know when or where something scary will happen, it won't be scary any more.

Developers don't want a game to be played once and then sold on or returned, they want you to keep playing it for a while and get all the DLC etc. This is much more difficult to do when the games such a difficult genre to make in the first place, and the kind of game that doesn't have a lot of replayability.

He is speaking from the perspective of the developers, not the players.

...I'm not sure why people hate Cliffy B so much. Yeah, he can be a bit of a ponce, but what he's saying has some truth to it. Horror can't realy survive in the current AAA market. Wether it's the dev teams or the publishers enforcing it, whenever a AAA horror game is being made, they ruin the horror via massive setpices, oggly boogly monsters, powerful guns, etc. because they don't think it'll sell well without it. Resident Evil, FEAR, Silent Hill, Dead Space, etc. This has been going on since, what, Resi 4? Good as that game was, it wasn't really horror. It was action-horror. At least until the current publisher mindset passes, we can't really have a true horror game on the AAA market.

Read: Horror requires a talented team at the helm and none of these AAA game developing clowns would know talent if it bit them in the ass.

Wow, he made an observation many people made long ago and he makes news for it just because he has a tacky nickname? There's a good reason that several indie developer are making some excellent horror games at the moment and it's taken the AAA industry this long to realise it?

And about the whole "fun" thing, you're saying it like it's a good thing that a game is less horrifying because it's more fun when they're supposed to be on the opposite ends of the emotion spectrum. A good horror game shouldn't be fun. It should be horrifying and it should make you not want to press on and check what's in the closet.

I'd much prefer my horror titles continue to come from teams that have a damn clue about what a horror experience should be. Hey Visceral, Dead Space is great but stop marketing it as a horror game, it just makes people raise an eyebrow when they actually play the game.

VanQQisH:
Wow, he made an observation many people made long ago and he makes news for it just because he has a tacky nickname? There's a good reason that several indie developer are making some excellent horror games at the moment and it's taken the AAA industry this long to realise it?

And about the whole "fun" thing, you're saying it like it's a good thing that a game is less horrifying because it's more fun when they're supposed to be on the opposite ends of the emotion spectrum. A good horror game shouldn't be fun. It should be horrifying and it should make you not want to press on and check what's in the closet.

I'd much prefer my horror titles continue to come from teams that have a damn clue about what a horror experience should be. Hey Visceral, Dead Space is great but stop marketing it as a horror game, it just makes people raise an eyebrow when they actually play the game.

I kind of interpreted Cliff's Dead Space comment more along the lines of there being a choice between calling Dead Space 3 a failed survival horror game or a fun game that is definitely not a survival horror game. I haven't even finished the original Dead Space yet (and haven't bought the sequels), so I can't really say which side of that line I'd fall on.

Hmm... the guy responsible for my ultimate view of a campaign rental is saying the same about another genre. And things like this are why multiplayer gets stuck on everything. I played Gears for the equivalent of a weekend of gaming. After that, I was bored of cover, shoot, cover, shoot, cover, shoot.

He does have some good points. Good horror is hard to make.

We don't need to go all digital, we need publishers to realize that a niche genres like horor aren't suposed to appeal to everyone! I don't really like Horor anything and trying to tack action onto a horor game isn't going to appeal to me when I've got so many full action games to chose from.

Its easier , and appeals to a more broader market to make a generic shooter rather than a specialized horror game.

You make it horror and it appeals to the smaller horror fanbase, and as Amnesia and Slender showed a true horror game really shines when you as the player cannot simply kill your enemies... which immediately takes out the majority of the gamer market place.
Dead Space 1 had a decent middle ground, you had weapons but Isaac wasnt really well suited to combat... you couldnt really bob and weave, it was more deliberate paced and relied on you being more efficient in tearing your target apart rather than twitch reflex skills... you couldnt simply charge in and blow everything away.

Dead Space 2 upped the action ante and made the game less scary as a result, I had a few jumps but didnt feel the same tension DS 1 had... it was more predictable, move forward have a set piece battle, collect loot move on.
It did manage to keep the deliberate pace and nature of the shooting the same as Dead Space 1, just there was a lot more of it and less tension building moments.

Dead Space 3 is not only more action but the deliberate pacing is greatly reduced... yes dismemberment is still efficient but your weapons are not so good at it anymore, the pick the target apart with well placed plasma cutter shots is gone you need to shoot a lot more to get a limb to fly off.
When the small aliens with 3 tentacles that shoot at you can take multiple line gun shots across all 3 tentacles and still live... it reduces the slow but deliberate pace of the game.
You cant pick a walker apart anymore with a few aimed shots with the plasma cutter anymore... its easier just to spam shots into the chest, and at the speed the monsters run at you in 3 you dont have time to pick off choice limbs to reduce your enemies ability to close in on you, or shoot (depending on the monster type).
Its hard to explain. In DS 2 you could use 3 shots to drop a walker fast, 1 leg ... swivel plasma cutter horizontally and shoot both arms off 1 shot each ... in DS 3 you need 3 shots to drop the legs alone, a Line Gun cant cut the legs off with a single shot let alone cut off the legs of a line of mobs.
The weapons are no longer precision tools that reward accurate placements, its more about spamming a lot of shots in the general area of the part you want to remove ... usually legs then upper body (YES even with damage up circuits installed, the plasma cutter cant seem to take off parts with a single shot anymore...even early game on NORMAL).

Dead Space 3 so far (4 hours in my game) is still a good game, I love the build weapon mechanic and the setting is great... I do miss the more deliberate pacing of the shooting mechanics, and miss my old plasma cutter (still have one equipped but rarely use it as it just takes too many shots to dismember a target, I use a Carbine with a underslung Line Gun for most of the targets ).

I think it's less the $60 market and more the "We must spend millions and it must make back more millions" market that causes this

DVS BSTrD:
We don't need to go all digital, we need publishers to realize that a niche genres like horror aren't supposed to appeal to everyone! I don't really like Horor anything and trying to tack action onto a horror game isn't going to appeal to me when I've got so many full action games to chose from.

Well that's what he's saying. It's hard to do Horror properly when you have to make sure everyone buys it and everyone is having fun, or your game is labeled a failure and your team is fired.

Ronack:
Read: Horror requires a talented team at the helm and none of these AAA game developing clowns would know talent if it bit them in the ass.

I would not put it that simple.

AAA requires at least a certain amount of profit. And to pull that off with a actual Horror game has yet to be done (Dead Space 3 is not horror by any stretch of the imagination). Horror works best if the dev team is not expected to attract a giant audience that guarantees millions of sales and that was shown to be true in this gen. I can't see that even the best developer in terms of horror games could pull of a AAA horror game that would be considered successfull by the numbers. Case in point: Some of the best horror games came from indie devs where a few hundred thousand sales are already considered a big success.

Still... Cliffy B telling us that a niche genre that can't attract a giant audience is best with a budget that fits a game for a niche genre. I would say it is redundant but seeing the responses here...

Mcoffey:

DVS BSTrD:
We don't need to go all digital, we need publishers to realize that a niche genres like horror aren't supposed to appeal to everyone! I don't really like Horor anything and trying to tack action onto a horror game isn't going to appeal to me when I've got so many full action games to chose from.

Well that's what he's saying. It's hard to do Horror properly when you have to make sure everyone buys it and everyone is having fun, or your game is labeled a failure and your team is fired.

I don't understand why it has to be online and publishers can't just have smaller budgets to release smaller games at smaler prices to earn back smaller (but more guaranteed) profits. Why do they have to bet the damn farm each time in simply to justify making the game at all?

Horror is a far more personal experience than action or fantasy. The art-by-committee conveyer belt of AAA gaming is great for spectacle & mass-content, but to make something frightening requires the people making the game to be directly involved in the decision making.
Not a particularly new observation, but nice to see a mainstream dev making the point publicly

Here comes Cliffy B, trying to stay relevant by jumping in the back of someone else's wagon. Oh wait, he just put that on his tumblr.... here comes the escapist trying to make Cliffy B relevant... Ok, sorry, I'll end this probably already long drawn out joke.

OT: First, I hardly think Cliffy B understands what he is talking about in this case. He is saying this because the games lack a MP mode he finds worth while. He also fails to understand (or at least remember) what game development was like when you didn't have $50 Million to make a game with. That is why they don't do horror or survival horror games anymore. They cannot appeal to everyone, so developers CANNOT spend $50 Million on them. It's basic math. If you make a game that appeals to only about 5% (made up number) of the total gaming audience, then at best you should look at spending 5% of the $50 Million. That is a good starting point anyway. The failures of big budget games like Warfighter makes me happy solely for reason. Companies have to be run on the basis of fiscal responsibility (like governments should). It's ludicrously stupid to do it any other way and that is where Triple A has started to fail. Now with the writer of Dead Space 3 coming forward and talking about the necessity of action for their game which cost them ridiculous amounts of money to make, it looks like people in the industry are starting to understand this concept, even if big publishers are not. Leave it to Cliffy B and miss the point. Sure it's cheaper for companies to release a game digitally (on the PC anyway, not so much for PSN or XBL), but you are still going to need a sick advertising budget to get your action game out there. Disc doesn't mean anything in this case.

DVS BSTrD:

Mcoffey:

DVS BSTrD:
We don't need to go all digital, we need publishers to realize that a niche genres like horror aren't supposed to appeal to everyone! I don't really like Horor anything and trying to tack action onto a horror game isn't going to appeal to me when I've got so many full action games to chose from.

Well that's what he's saying. It's hard to do Horror properly when you have to make sure everyone buys it and everyone is having fun, or your game is labeled a failure and your team is fired.

I don't understand why it has to be online and publishers can't just have smaller budgets to release smaller games at smaler prices to earn back smaller (but more guaranteed) profits. Why do they have to bet the damn farm each time in simply to justify making the game at all?

I guess because digital has been really good for the budget developer. They dont need to worry about marketing or getting on shelves. They just put it on steam or gog and they're good to go.

As for the publishers big-all-the-time attitude, I wish I knew. They want every game to possibly be the next COD? Successful Niche is harder for investors to understand then mass market failure.

VanQQisH:
Wow, he made an observation many people made long ago and he makes news for it just because he has a tacky nickname? There's a good reason that several indie developer are making some excellent horror games at the moment and it's taken the AAA industry this long to realise it?

And about the whole "fun" thing, you're saying it like it's a good thing that a game is less horrifying because it's more fun when they're supposed to be on the opposite ends of the emotion spectrum. A good horror game shouldn't be fun. It should be horrifying and it should make you not want to press on and check what's in the closet.

I'd much prefer my horror titles continue to come from teams that have a damn clue about what a horror experience should be. Hey Visceral, Dead Space is great but stop marketing it as a horror game, it just makes people raise an eyebrow when they actually play the game.

a developer of a thing that is "popular" making any sort of logical conclusion is supposedly news in of itself

DVS BSTrD:
We don't need to go all digital, we need publishers to realize that a niche genres like horor aren't suposed to appeal to everyone! I don't really like Horor anything and trying to tack action onto a horor game isn't going to appeal to me when I've got so many full action games to chose from.

I've been saying this for quite a long time. Game studios are doing the same thing Hollywood is, thinking a movie NEEDS to cost $200million and NEEDS to make $500million. So what do they do? Make all their games emulate the last big seller since that is the safer bet. End result is we're stuck in an industry with a bunch of big budget but uninspired, samey muck.

We're going to see some really bad times in the industry when the modern-shooter burnout really starts to take hold. The big companies can only seem to survive from block-buster to block-buster and if those stop selling 5million+ they've got no consistent income from smaller financial gambles to survive on.

I love it when a popular developer says something others have been saying for a while. Instead of peeps being thankful and saying:

'Hey, maybe others will start to listen to us now he's saying it to'

they say:

'What a glory hog, he's just jumping on a band wagon others have been pushing for even longer... AND HE'S WRONG ANYWAY!'.

Look guys and gals, it sucks that it takes big names to make wankers in suits actually listen and its totally justified if you're mad but you don't have to be so smarmy about it.

I think there should be a rule that all AAA studios who THINK they know horror, should have a week marathon of Japanese Horror and after all the counselling, the ones not sent permanently insane should make the games.

Agreed?

Horror being something only for rental makes no sense. People will watch a horror movie over and over until they memorize every scene and still get scared by it. Older suspense games IE silent hill, and older RE were also replayed constantly. People know what's coming in Eternal Darkness and still get scared. Same for Fatal Frame.

Good Horror keeps you coming back because it's done well.

whats that, the sound of someone relevant? Nope just Cliffy B.

I didn't like either Amnesia or Slender, but he's got a point (albeit not the one he thinks he has). Let's look at this strictly from a business perspective:

To do a decent job at horror requires risks that no sane company will take when they're investing an AAA budget; they'd rather do the same thing that's been proven to work by about a thousand games already, which is why so many "horror" games are really just action games with a horror setting. A smaller budget allows studios to cut their losses if it doesn't work out as well as they'd hoped.

P.S. Thanks

DVS BSTrD:

Mcoffey:

DVS BSTrD:
We don't need to go all digital, we need publishers to realize that a niche genres like horror aren't supposed to appeal to everyone! I don't really like Horor anything and trying to tack action onto a horror game isn't going to appeal to me when I've got so many full action games to chose from.

Well that's what he's saying. It's hard to do Horror properly when you have to make sure everyone buys it and everyone is having fun, or your game is labeled a failure and your team is fired.

I don't understand why it has to be online and publishers can't just have smaller budgets to release smaller games at smaler prices to earn back smaller (but more guaranteed) profits. Why do they have to bet the damn farm each time in simply to justify making the game at all?

Physical media is the problem. A game needs to be a Juggernaut to compete in the physical market for many reasons. Here is how it goes:

Physical media has a high cost for each additional unit. (This includes cost of packaging, shipping, disk printing, etc.)
In order to offset the high cost of each additional unit, the price is set high. ($60)
Because the price is high, we demand a better game for our money.
Because we demand a better game, they spend more developing the game.
Because they spent so much money developing the game, they must sell many units.
Thus, all major releases must have wide appeal.

Other major problems:
Limited shelf space (if a game is not expected to sell well or to only appeal to a small audience no one will stock it.)
Very short window to make a profit before the game is removed from shelves in order to make room for new games (usually just a few weeks.)
Must anticipate demand. Misjudging demand can result in massive lost sales or a massive inventory of worthless physical discs.
Pre release marketing is vital. (The game does not sell on how good it is as much as it sells on how good the marketing was pre release. Also, if there is no hype do not expect any physical store to shelf more than a couple copies. Also, if it does not sell well they will remove it from shelves in a couple weeks or less.)

How does digital solve this?

No additional per unit cost.
No competition for shelf space.
A far greater window in which to make a profit allowing the game to sell by word of mouth and stand on the strength of the game not the marketing.
Less emphasis on marketing, especially pre release marketing.
Anticipating demand is far less important.

Basically digital download allows niche titles to compete and it mitigates risks. It allows for creativity to be the driving force behind development instead of risk mitigation and it allows a studio to, as you put it, not bet the farm on a single title.

There are still people around that think the Dead Space series is supposed to be a scary game?

To make a movie analogue, it's the difference between a thriller and a slasher. Anyone can make a slasher so long as you add enough gore and the occasional dismemberment. A thriller actually requires the talent to know when to add blood/gore and when to simply do nothing.

Dead Space is just an action game. You're a super-powered Space Marine disguised as an engineer (just like Doom) wielding an arsenal of brutally bloody weapons disguised as mining tools.

When a game like Dead Space 2 gives you a grenade launcher and super-armor right from the beginning, it's not trying to be scary. When a game like Amnesia punishes you for fighting or even looking at the monsters, it's trying to be scary.

First off, whats with all the hate directed at Cliffy B? Seriously? I mean I only played the first Gears of War, and didn't bother with the other two sequels, but why do people hate him?

Now then, yep most of that seems accurate. However I would argue that the horror genre shouldn't be forced to appeal to everybody and that individual horror games can appeal to different groups of people.

It seems making good games from previous interations of well-recieved FPS games is also harder. A la UT3.

Ronack:
Read: Horror requires a talented team at the helm and none of these AAA game developing clowns would know talent if it bit them in the ass.

He is actually saying that what people consider horror is so varied that its pretty much impossible to make a AAA pure horror game and still make your money back. There is just not enough people who like the same thing in horror games. What people find scary is a very subjective and delicate subject because if you go even a tiny bit in the wrong direction it completely ruins it.

Its the same reason that you dont see actual horror movies anymore. All you get these days it thrillers that try to go for the cheap scare tactics.

Vault101:
well thats just fucking stupid...

a good game is a good game regardless of its genre...if the length/content is fair then its worth $60

Thats the problem really. only like 1% of games nowadays are worth the overpriced 60$ Games like Deadspace are more towards the 30-40$ category in my opinion.

 

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