That headline reads like some sort of surreal parody, but alas, it’s not. I was completely taken aback reading a recent interview on GamesIndustry.biz where they talked with Capcom Europe’s COO Stuart Turner and EMEA marketing director Antoine Molant, where they mentioned some questionable aims for Capcom’s intended business strategies for the future.
For instance, Turner told GamesIndustry.biz that they didn’t know who the Resident Evil 2 remake would appeal to, saying…
“We were concerned internally about who RE2 would appeal to. With RE7 we had done this first-person thing, and with RE2 we’ve done this thing that looks great, but it’s also back a step. So the response to that, the pre-orders we’ve seen already… we have been a little taken aback by how well it has gone down.”
From a business and marketing perspective, I’m almost at a lost for words.
In all honesty, if the brass at Capcom didn’t know who the game would appeal to, then they have no perspective on the gaming market at all. They seem to be living in a bubble that has no connection whatsoever to their core audience.
How could anyone at Capcom not know who a Resident Evil 2 remake would appeal to? Core gamers have been asking for a remake of Resident Evil 2 for the last decade!
Within the last few years there have been millions of people watching fan-made remakes of Resident Evil 2 cobbled together in the Unreal Development Kit. Three years ago Rod Lima released this fan-made remake that garnered 1.6 million views on Youtube.
There are other UDK and UE4 remakes that have also garnered anywhere between half a million to a million views per video.
How could Capcom not know who the game would appeal to when there was already a built-in gauge for the fans based on the fan-made projects?!
Only the most stubborn, out-of-touch executive could ask “who” a game like that would appeal to.
Yet throughout the interview Turner makes backhanded remarks about the gaming market, clearly indicating that they would like to chase the phantom audience that companies like BioWare, Arkane Studios, Team Ninja, and DICE have been targeting.
For instance, Turner tells GamesIndustry.biz…
“While we have shareholders to appease, it’s not just about commercial performance. There is an artistic element that always comes in where we know this is the right way. And while if we compare RE7 to RE6 the absolute numbers are not the same, in terms of the profitability… it’s completely fine. It ticked all of our boxes internally. It was really well received. And in some respects, getting some very good review scores counts as much for Capcom as a game that sells millions and millions and millions. We’d prefer a game that got a 9 and sold less, than got a 6 but sold more.”
Turner fails to specify if he’s talking about big budget games or low-budget indie outings: Is this an AAA game that gets great review scores but doesn’t sell a lot? Capcom will feel that one on the bottom line each and every quarter. Is this a mid-budget AA project that’s only expected to sell a million or two copies? High review scores might help. Is this some experimental, low-budget indie-style game? In that case low sales won’t matter much.
As an isolated example, Resident Evil 7 was critically well-received and had a slow burn on the revenue side. However, in recent years, there’s been a growing rift between what game journalists like and what gamers like, and the scores have been drifting apart ever since.
Now there is some logic to what Turner is saying, insofar that there are mid-budget games that get high review scores and only sell moderately upon launch. Over time there are residuals from accruing revenue thanks to positive word of mouth and a strong fanbase, sort of like the sales for Rainbow Six: Siege, which got off to a rocky start, but ended up becoming a massive money-maker for Ubisoft, as reported by PCGamesN.
There are also cases like NieR: Automata, which was a high-concept action-RPG that sold decently at launch, but managed to maintain a steady tail-end and surpass the 3 million sold mark this past June, after spending a year on the market.
However, those are rare one-off cases.
A lot of games these days that appeal to game journalists, but don’t sell well or sell under par, are games that subvert the expectations of the core demographic. For instance, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider scored well on Metacritic, but sold rather poorly over the course of the year. Prey from 2017 was another game that scored well on Metacritic but also sold poorly.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a game that also scored a lot of 9s and 10s from game journalists, according to Metacritic, but certainly didn’t sell as well as NieR: Automata or Monster Hunter World. In fact, Hellblade only managed to reach 1 million units sold across Xbox One, PS4, and PC at the exact same time that NieR: Automata reached 3 million units sold across PC and PS4.
There are a number of other game-journalist darlings, such as Gone Home, which managed an 86 out of 100 on Metacritic, despite the user score resting at a 5.4 out of 10.
Let’s not forget that games like Where The Water Tastes Like Wine, which was written mostly by game journalists, reviewed decently among the usual crowd on Metacritic despite the game being a huge financial flop. The user rating and scores from outlets like Cubed3 basically laid out what was wrong with the game, and possibly outlines the massive disparity between gamers and game journalists these days…
“Another example of that latest trend of videogames with “high artistic quality,” Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is not something brand new, unique, and meaningful, but something boring, boring, boring that uses big words to say things that aren’t that interesting. Oh, and it has Sting in it…”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are mid-budget games like A Way Out, which scored higher with gamers than game journalists on Metacritic, and it went on to achieve 2.6 million players within the span of just four months, as reported by DualShockers.
When Turner talks about games that review well but don’t sell as much, it only reminds me of the kind of games that game journalists praise among their friends but sell horribly with actual gamers.
This kind of tactic might work for indie games where they can afford to sell under-par and coast by on high-praise from game journalists, but it becomes a death knell for larger studios, which is what happened to BioWare Montreal after the sales failure of Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Within the interview, Antoine Molant takes a more measured approach to the topic at hand, telling GamesIndustry.biz that games like Resident Evil 7 worked out because while it didn’t sell as much as Resident Evil 6, it still has a strong tail-end and continues to move copies even to this day…
”We are less focused on Day One sales these days, too. We are looking much more at the long-term. And in that case RE7 is performing amazingly. Even now, after almost two years, it’s still the VR flagship title. That helps keep the game selling well.”
I guess it’s too bad for Capcom that VR is a dying market, eh?
Anyway, between the two, Molant has the more reasonable outlook on gaming projects, noting that the reason they brought back Devil May Cry 5 was because gamers absolutely did not like Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry, which released way back in 2013.
“The last game was very good, but there were a few unhappy voices because it wasn’t a direct sequel and other things. Because of that, the dev team sat down and asked: ‘Where do we take that next?’ And it was known that the community wanted Devil May Cry 5 to be closer to 1, 2 and 3. And so the project was born.
“We can debate whether that genre has the same appeal as it used to… that’s hard to say. The project was born because of what the fans want.”
DmC: Devil May Cry is an example of another game that scored well with game journalists, as evident with the Metacritic score, but gamers hated it, and it didn’t sell very well.
In fact, DmC: Devil May Cry sold worse than Devil May Cry 4, and did not attract the Japanese gaming audience at all, as reported by Eurogamer.
One has to wonder if this is what Turner was talking about regarding a game that scores well but doesn’t sell as well?
While Molant addressed the fact that Capcom is attempting to appease fans with Devil May Cry 5, Turner interjected to make a snide remark in reference to ArenaNet firing two Guild Wars 2 developers for attacking fans, stating that Capcom won’t be listening to “far extremes” of the fanbase, saying…
“It’s fair to say that we are very focused on the audience and the feedback that we get. We have seen some horrible stories in the media recently about publishers bending to the will of the internet. We wouldn’t advocate going that far. But certainly there is an element of fan service that runs throughout the company.
“DMC is an example of that. Fans weren’t happy, so therefore we went a different way. It’s part of giving back within the remit that we’re still a business, we still need it to sell. We want to give things to the fans, we want to support them, but it has to make sense. So we do it within reason. We don’t listen to the far extremes of the fanbase, shall we say.”
This condescending position that Turner has taken is nothing short of disgusting.
Plain and simple, the enemy of gamers are game journalists. Anyone making a game for game journalists isn’t making a game for gamers. Period.
The facts have spoken that game journalists hate gamers and hate fan-service intended for gamers.
- Just recently Game Revolution attacked Japanese fan-service and gamers.
- VG 24/7 and GMG went on a social media tirade berating gamers who didn’t agree with their politics.
- AFP BB published a diatribe against Korean gamers, calling them sexist and misogynists.
- Polygon, Ars Technica, The Verge, VentureBeat, and Waypoint all took aim at gamers, more specifically gamers review-bombing products on platforms like Steam and Metacritic, reproaching them for the tactic and censuring platforms for allowing gamers to review bomb bad products.
- Kotaku, Polygon, Paste, Mashable, and GamesIndustry.biz also exercised polemics against Valve for allowing gamers to curate and filter games from the platform instead of Valve mass-censoring the games that games journalists don’t want gamers to play.
- And Digitally Downloaded did a piece explicitly calling for developers to “stop listening to fans”.
My only question here is: why would you want to make a poor-selling game that appeases people that hate games and the gamers who play them?