Why Don’t Good Games Sell?

The Darkness II

‘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.

Kid Icarus: Uprising

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?

The Darkness II

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?

Kid Icarus: Uprising

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

Crofterz (241 Posts)

Writing, editing, guesting and producing the newbreview.com podcast, there's not a single pie that Kieran hasn't got his finger in, maybe that's why he's a little bit tubby? And if he isn't busy with all of that, he still finds time to actually play some games! As a child of the NES/SNES era, Kieran holds a special place in his heart for many of it's classic titles, joining modern mammoths; Gears of War 2 and Vanquish in his list of best games EVER.

Thu, August 9 2012 » Articles, Opinion Pieces

6 Responses

  1. Larry August 9 2012 @ 5:11 pm

    The thing is, there are GAMERS and there are gamers. People who play COD, Fifa, or any other nonsense that releases 17 versions a year of the same game are NOT gamers. Whistle me the cave song from zelda 1…name 5 characters from FF VI… What command loads a game on a C64? What company made lemmings? What did that company go on to make?

    Just cause I eat a carrot, I’m not a vegan…just cause you press a button, you are not a gamer… I played Darkness II, was amusing but gameplay got boring and the story wasn’t exciting enough to keep me going more then 2 hours… As for Icarus…he was the most annoying character on Captain N, why the hell would I give him time of day!?!?

    The review had me upto Batman b*tching… commenting on why Batman sells is like asking why is bacon good…BECAUSE THAT”S LIFE! Why do sports games sell? CAUSE PEOPLE WATCH SPORTS! Put on some vulcan ears and try some logic. As for Hollywood Blockbusters, they try new stuff all the time…sometimes it fails, like Suckerpunch…sometimes it rocks, like Ted… and gaming, same thing…sometimes it rocks like Dungeon Defenders…sometimes it sucks like, ummmmm, Duke Nukem! Had to think…I generally don’t play sucky games (and I game 50 hours a week so pretty impressive to avoid them).

    If your friends never know about the ‘cool games’, it’s not an issue with America’s consumer, it’s a problem with you…your friends SUCK! :)

  2. Cat August 9 2012 @ 6:01 pm

    Wow Kiz, not only did you get abuse by someone who clearly has no social life (fifty hours a week man – who does that when you factor in a full time job and the required amount of sleep?) but we got called too!

    I found your article fun and informative!

  3. Mightyles August 9 2012 @ 6:20 pm

    I dispute your statement that real gamers don’t play Call of Duty or Fifa. While I don’t particularly enjoy the Fifa series I do play Call of Duty every year. I don’t really understand the whole concept of “a real gamer” – in my view, if you play games of any sort, you’re a gamer. Facebook games, mobile games, portable consoles, PC, browser based, Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, and anything else I’m missing – if you play video games then you are a gamer.

  4. luciusETRUR August 9 2012 @ 7:32 pm

    I play FIFA, because I love to me some football, that doesn’t mean I’m not a gamer, Larry. Zelda is a good game, sure, but it isn’t a requirement for a real gamer. To me, people who play consoles are really lazy when it comes to computers and gaming. Consoles are made entirely for convenience, and sure a lot of great games are ported from consoles or made exclusively for consoles.. but.. this article isn’t about big games, it’s about small ones.

    Endless Space, Crusader Kings II (or really any Paradox Interactive game), Modding games, almost every MMO in existance, and I could go on. The indie development market is so much bigger on PC.. and PCs can give a much greater experience for a gamer. So, who is the true gamers? The ones who are set on playing console and not letting gaming evolve more rapidly or those who might pay $40 a year for a sports game they’ll play at least 200 hours?

  5. Amy August 10 2012 @ 4:19 pm

    I like Tetris best.

  6. Doug March 15 2013 @ 12:09 am

    Kid Icarus had a HUGE marketing campaign in North America and Japan. It was all over the place. It failed to sell, because it wasn’t really regarded as a good game. People saw that stand, heard about the shit controls and other issues and fled. I think original fans of the game became confused as well. It’s not FUN to play something that is a supposed to be sequel, that plays nothing like the original.

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