Every year, there are plenty of games that garner good review scores. Typically, those games will also sell well and encounter some degree of financial success. That’s not always the case, though. Sometimes a critically acclaimed game can struggle at retail for any of a number of reasons, like these eight games did.
Think we missed one? Tell us what it is in the comments!
Jade Empire was Bioware’s first original IP. An RPG in the Wuxia style, the game takes place in imperial China. It released in April of 2005, and was widely praised by critics for its graphics, combat system, and good story. Unfortunately, it released toward the end of the Xbox era. With many looking forward to the 360, the sales didn’t match up to the reviews. Despite repeated requests from fans, there has yet to be a sequel.
Panzer Dragoon Saga
Often mentioned in discussions of the best RPGs of all time, Panzer Dragoon Saga was hailed for its active time battle system, a high-quality story, and its unique art direction. So why would such a high-quality title sell so poorly? In short, it was on the wrong platform. As one of the last games released outside Japan for the SEGA Saturn, a platform that was basically no longer on store shelves at the time due to the impending launch of the Dreamcast. Only 6,000 copies were produced for the US launch, and additional print runs were limited. It is one of the rarest, most sought-after games, with some copies bringing as much as $300 on eBay.
Psychonauts was the first game released by Tom Schafer’s Double Fine Productions. Originally released in 2005, the quirky platformer received high praise for its excellent characters, varied levels, and high-quality writing. Unfortunately, it sold very poorly, which cause severe financial problems for the publisher, Majesco. Luckily for Double Fine, they were able to recover from the poor sales, and in recent years have republished the game digitally, selling many more copies than the original release.
Vanquish was a 2010 third-person shooter from Bayonetta developer Platinum Games. Developed by Shinji Mikami (the man behind Resident Evil), the game featured the fast-paced action and pure craziness that Platinum is known for. Although it was widely praised by critics, it was hamstrung by poor marketing decisions, and Sega’s apparent unwillingness to promote a game that doesn’t feature Sonic.
If you wanted to play a great action-adventure game featuring Japanese myths and folklore with awesome at direction, Okami was that game. Released on PlayStation 2 in 2006, the Clover Studio game was widely praised, and even won multiple Game of the Year awards. Despite the acclaim, by March of 2009 (nearly three years after release) the game had sold less than 600,000 copies. It was even named “least commercially successful winner of a game of the year award” in the 2010 edition of the Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition.
Another game spearheaded by Tim Schafer, Grim Fandangowas released in 1998 by LucasArts. The point-and-click adventure was the first made by the company that used static backgrounds behind 3D graphics. Critically lauded on release for its unique art direction, characters, writing, and music, the game won a number of awards. Although LucasArts has said that the game met its domestic expectations, sales estimate range from as low as 100,000 to as high as 500,00 units, leaving a lot of wiggle room. Also telling is LucasArts’ cancellation of multiple adventure games after the release of Grim Fandango, a decision they explained by stating, “We’ve decided that this was not the appropriate time to launch a graphic adventure on the PC.”
No More Heroes
One criticism that was often leveled at the Nintendo Wii was its lack of games aimed at a mature audience. One of the games that looked to remedy that was No More Heroes. Suda 51’s hack-and-slash title received a number of glowing reviews, most of which praised it for its great writing and story, as well as its unique visual style. Unfortunately, those reviews did not translate to sales. It was only able to garner 10,000 sales on launch day in Japan, and barely cracked 200,000 sales in its first year in the US.
Beyond Good & Evil
Michel Ancel might best be known for his work on the Rayman series, but for my money his best game ever is Beyond Good & Evil. The stealth-based game was more about solving puzzles to get the pictures you needed than it was about straightforward action. The graphics were impressive, the voice acting was good, and the animations were some of the best around at the time. Despite receiving critical praise in all those areas, it just flat out didn’t sell well. After poor holiday sales in 2003, it was not uncommon to find the game discounted as much as 80 percent. Ubisoft even stooped so low in Canada as to give it away with cheese.