‘You know those games?’ ‘What games?’ ‘You know, THOSE games?’ ‘Ahhh yes, THOSE games. What about them?’ ‘Well, why doesn’t anyone talk about them?’ ‘I don’t know.’ – that ladies and gents is the conversation I’ve been having with myself for the past few months.The only answer I can surmise is that there are games that are simply sooo good that we don’t bother talking about them. Which is actually a crying shame because if I’m not going to talk about them and you’re not going to talk about then, well, who the bloody hell is?
This isn’t some new alien concept, it’s been going on forever. Smaller, simpler, lower budget games have always been hidden away under the curmudgeon of big title bullsh*t, despite leading to far more innovation and intrigue. It’s the way the world works, it’s how we get the unappreciated gems and cult classics titles we love so much – because nobody talks about them.
But so far this year it’s really taken the biscuit and thus got under my skin more than usual. ‘Kieran, why has it got under your skin more than usual?’ Well, because this silly little talking strike/ban/interdiction/thing has had a detrimental effect on some of my personal favourite games of the year so far and therefore I feel entitled to lament… so humour me.
The two case studies in particular I want to use to illustrate my point are strong contender for best First Person Shooter of the year on account of it being a) not about some sort of semi-believable war setting in the near future and b) vaguely interesting: The Darkness II. My second highlight is a game which seemed to kick start Nintendo’s drive to not bother marketing their games because they are hell bent on self destruction, Kid Icarus: Uprising. Both games are brilliantly refreshing, yet no sod even knows they exist or how good they actually are and if they do, they aren’t talking about it.
The proof is in the reviews and the reviews were good, with superlatives like ‘excellent’, ‘the best’ and ‘stunning’ thrown across the board. So, why is it that when you ask the average gamer on the street about either game you’d be lucky to get a response which differs from ‘don’t know, never played it’ or ‘don’t know, never heard of it’?
Marketing and promotion has a huge part to play. Like I said, Nintendo seem set on half arsing the PR for their games and, even if by some miracle you had known Kid Icarus: Uprising was out, it was hard to get the game anywhere other than online on launch day. The Darkness II suffered a similar affair, continuing the precedent set by the previous title in the series and being released under the seeming pretense of the publisher as a niche, fantastic cult game rather than a FPS heavy hitter.
You’d be mistaken for thinking that little to no publicity has yielded poor sales for both titles. Sure, The Darkness II sold poorly but Kid Icarus: Uprising had a great first week of sales, breaking the records in North America set by every 3DS title to come before it, even ones featuring Nintendo’s much moved portly plumber, but then went on to selling fairly moderately afterwards. What are we saying here? Great games don’t mean great sales? Great games that do sell don’t necessarily get the praise they deserve? Is nothing gained solely based on merit anymore? What kind of sick message is that?
Unfortunately it’s hard to argue otherwise. When you see genuinely brilliant games like The Darkness II and Kid Icarus: Uprising fail to sell or be remembered, yet a game with the clout of Batman: Arkham City, which was actually a little disappointing (Editor’s Note:- LIES!), still sell gazillions and win numerous, meaningless awards (a few of them hilariously before the game had even come out) you realise just how wrong the world is.
But no matter how wrong the world is, no matter how backwards everything seems, it works. It makes total sense that bigger budget titles to be less innovative and slightly blander, afterall they want to appeal to the lowest common denominator. There’s far too much money and investment involved. When was the last time you saw a Hollywood Blockbuster try something vaguely new, radical and experimental? It just doesn’t happen for fear of putting off the mighty consumer.
Perhaps though, there is something to be gained in having a look at the message that is being is given out at the moment. Why is it that even fairly big titles like The Darkness II and Kid Icarus: Uprising can be brilliant, yet sell so poorly or not get the recognition they deserve? Sure, it’s nonsensical, idealistic and frankly stupid to think that things may change, but could there more be done by developers, publishers, the games media, and you and I to make sure that these titles don’t fall as far down the wayside as they currently do?
Here’s a novel idea, how about we actually start buying good games en mass? You know, actually buy games that are good?
It’s no surprise that franchises like Call of Duty and FIFA get iterations every year (much to the annoyance of the average forum poster) when all we go out and buy copies in our droves like a bunch of mindless zombies at a brain market. Publishers see these titles as big money spinners so they put far more care, time and, mostly importantly, money into related projects rather than fund other smaller titles. And they’re right, we’ll buy any old guff if it’s somehow tied into an already established, familiar franchise. It’s partly our fault great games aren’t all selling as well as they should because well… we’re all idiots.
But the time has come my friends! Wake up! This is a battle cry and it is now the time we vote with our pockets and start forking out all our life savings on experimental bullet hell shooters, obscure Japanese RPGs, and anything actually worth playing. It’s time for ALL great games to get the sales and recognition they deserve. Dig out those pitchforks, flaming torches and V masks and lets start a revolution!
Or if you’re a bit too lazy for that sort of thing simply commit to trying new games, stop buying the same AAA franchise releases year on year (unless you are genuinely interested in them of course) and sit at your computer and write angry blog posts to convince others to do the same, just like me.
-Kieran E. Roycroft