Do franchises that try to widen their appeal actually gain sales ?

There are basically two ways to manage a game franchise. Either you try to cater to your fan base, by giving them what (you believe) they want, or you try to go out of your “niche” and appeal to what (you think) gamers that were not interested in the first titles want.

What franchises ought to do is a very divisive subject among gamers, with part of the community feeling betrayed or at least misled when they  franchise is trying to appeal to the “casuals”, and other, just as vocal, gamers bashing on what they see as “entitled crybabies”. Hence, why not at least to assess whether or not trying to widen a franchise’s appeal actually helps or hinder subsequent sales.Of course, it is impossible to attributer any causal effect sales-wise to any particular choice that was made by the marketing, publishing or developing team. However, it might be interesting to see what happened to franchises that tried that strategy. After all, contrary to popular wisdom, Action-JRPGs have sold less than Turn Based JRPGs this gen,  so looking at sales can only teach us interresting things.

It’s complicated to know which franchises we should examine, which are the one that tried to “widen their appeal”. To avoid relying on my sole gamer’s experience, I’ve tried to look on forums what franchises were accused of trying to widen their appeal. Here and there, names were named, and I then looked at VgChartz to see what was the verdict of Sales, the God of the Free Market.

There are a lot of title sales I tried to look for, like the original Fallout, Street Fighter III, and so one, but could not find, probably because data are too old to be public. As I already spent a whole article on Kitase’s approach of Final Fantasy, there is no reason for me to dig into that again, but if you see another franchise I should look into, please say so in the comments.

I. Franchises that did not gain or lose any sales by trying to widen their appeal

Mass Effect

Divisive among the divisives, Mass Effect 2 decided to take the franchise closer to Gears of War and further from Bioware’s older titles. Mass Effect 2 sold 2.85 on 360 and 0.26 on PC, while the first episode that was less shooting oriented sold 2.61 on 360 and 0.53 on PC. In the end, removing RPG elements neither hurt nor helped the franchise, eventhought one can make a case that it hurted in the long run since Mass Effect 3 sold lower numbers than 2 on PS3 and 360.

Resident Evil

Resident Evil 4 is famous for having completely reinvented the franchise by adding a strong action element, and, at the same time, dubbing down the survival horror element. Being such a critical success, we can imagine RE4 to have greatly surpassed, sales wise, the titles before it. Well, it’s not the case at all.

Resident Evil 3 on PSX sold 3.72 while Resident Evil 4 on PS2 reached a close equivalent of 3.62. On Gamecube, where Resident Evil 4 first came out, it sold 1.69 million copies, a number that is only 11% higher than what the remake of the original Resident Evil sold on the same console three years before (1.42).

Splinter Cell

I cannot make the direct comparison between Conviction that did away with a lot of the franchises stealth element, and the preceding title as VgChartz does not give any data for sales of Splinter Cell : Double Agent on PS2 and XBOX. However, Splinter Cell Conviction sales on 360 (1.96) is actually in between the original Splinter Cell (3.02 on XBOX) and Pandora Tomorrow (1.48). I’ll let you decide wether or not it is a success.

II. Franchises that lost a significant amount of sales when the tried to widen their appeal

Dragon Age

Dragon Age II has gathered so much criticism that it’s difficult to pinpoint what hurted its sales, but much of the fan’s ire was at least partly directed toward the dumbed down, action oriented combat. On PC, Dragon Age II sold about as much as Dragon Age Origins. However, The franchise lost 60% of its sales on 360 and 57% on PS3.

Ninja Gaiden

Ninja Gaiden 2 on 360 sold close to a million copies (0.96) while Ninja Gaiden 3 on the same system achieved only 10% of this number. On PS3, Sigma 2 sold 0.75 while Ninja Gaiden 3 sold 0.16. In the end, Ninja Gaiden sales went down 84.5% from number 2 to number 3 – a result of loss of quality or of a dumbing down of the game’s notorious difficulty ?

21 days of video game news June 29 edition

European Ni no Kuni Collector’s Edition revealed

Wii U release date, price this fall

Kickstarter, this is only the beginning

Ah, the Kickstarter nay-sayers… A few month ago, when Tim Schafer managed to fund his point-and-click adventure game in less than 8 hours, the repeating machine that was the internet was screaming that it was not possible to raise more than an indie budget through crowdfunding. A month later, when Tim had raised over 3 million dollars (and still counting, since they are now accepting paypal orders), which is the budget of a HD PS2 game, the internet mass had change to: well it’s Tim Schafer and it’s adventure games but this probably wont happen again.

At that time, there were only 5 or 6 games ever presented on the Kicktarter website. Now, you say ? Its 228! Big names like Carmaggedon, Leisure Suit Larry, Shadowrun are making a comeback. Wasteland 2 raised almost as much money as Double Fine adventure, and of course, dozens of new devs started their small project this way and can now have an opportunity to show what they can do and build a fanbase. And still, this is only the beginning. Most gamers, believe it or not, haven’t ever heard of Kickstarter. I said it before, i’ll say it again: Kickstarter can really be the way to resurrect mid-budget games that where thriving during the last generation. But I’ll even go further than this: I’ll say that in two years you’ll have your first AAA crowdfunded game.

Reasons for this are obvious and I’ve already touched them on another post: crowdfunding is at the same time a way to cut off the middle man (and potentially let the developer earn 100% of what you pay instead of the mere 20 or 30% hey earn nowadays) and to improve gaming as a whole since it is a way to trust authors to realize their vision instead of publishers and marketing departments who are always one step behind. There will be blunder, there will be disappointments (like always), but crowdfunding, in the long run, is really a way for us to have our cake and eat it too.

We are only at the beginning. For example, Japan needs to build a bilingual Kickstarter site. Kickstarter only accepts project from America, and is only in English. But the Japanese game industry is probably the most adapted to the crowdfunding model.

First, Japan’s strength these ten years has been to allow game authors to put themselves forward (while a lot of publishers still prohibit it) and create auteur-driven games. Japan now has this unvaluable capital of game rockstar personas that are known worldwide among gamers: from the most famous like Hideo Kojima and Tetsuya Nomura to more obscure but still revered artistes like Yoko Taro (Nier) or Swery65 (Deadly Premonition), litteraly dozens of loved artists that can create the gathering that you need to make crowdfunding happen.

Second, Japanese gamers and Western Otakus are an avid and dedicated fanbase that will be easier than most other crowd to mobilize, especially with all the colllector editions and stuff you can offer with crowdfunding.

Why I believe Final Fantasy Type-0 will be localized as a HD title

The PSP remasters Sony launched last year are, like the Vita, a promising idea to solve one of the biggest issue faced by Japanese developers: Japanese players like their game portables, whereas in the West, home console games sell much better than their DS or PSP counterpart. In the last 10 months, some, although not much, of the biggest PSP hits have already been remastered (The two God of War, Metal Gear Peace Walker, Monster Hunter 3rd) and the next logical step would be to extend this idea to Square Enix PSP blockbusters: Crisis Core and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep.

In the meantime, one of the PSP biggest hit is still being silently localized: Final Fantasy Type-0. With no information about it at E3 (Square is starting to be very secretive about everything…), I suspect that the reason why we don’t hear about Type-0 is because it’s going to be released in the West as a HD title.

Let me explain why this is not (only) wishful thinking.

First, PSP remasters (like HD remasters in general) are not that expensive to make. Sony even provided a software for developers to automatize most of the process. Of course, one can expect a few legal issues if Square intends to have a 360 version but, when you look at Final Fantasy sales on all HD platforms (especially the last title, XIII-2, sales) it is not clear if this is worth the tedium.

Second, while HD remasters have never sold in very impressive numbers, I’m pretty sure this is only due to the fact that older titles benefit from less hype (just like all ports). As you may know, I’ve been analyzing JRPGs sales data for a while now : the hype of a fresh, new HD Final Fantasy is still hard to beat sales-wise especially if you consider how much of Final Fantasy sales are Day one sales. What I mean is that the rumored Crisis Core remaster, while probably as expensive to make as the Type-0 remaster (or not way less expensive), would without any doubt in my mind sell less than 25% of a Type-0 remaster.

The only risk for Square is to have some of the PSP version (if this one is going west) cannibalized by the HD version, but if you take a title like Dissidia, 60% of the PSP sales are already in Japan/Asia (whereas for Final Fantasy XIII it’s only 28% if I remember correctly) . As I see it, I’d expect a PSP only version of Type-0 to sell about as much as Dissidia in the West (a little less than a million copies), maybe more since it’s a true RPG, but a HD version could easily double that (and charge a little more – not too much thought). My prediction (I’m playing Michael Patcher here,we’ll see if I’m right) is that the PSP sales would not suffer more than 50% of the sales, making the HD-ification a “must” in business terms – and not much of a gamble anyway. Plus, Japanese love their international versions: give ’em an international HD version!

Finally, Square doesn’t have any big HD announcement for the West in 2012 from their Japan studios. Versus XIII may be shown at TGS, we still have no news of the X remake. Type-0 HD could “fit” in their big name release for the fiscal year.

 

21 days of video game news – E3 2012 Edition

Yay! Three weeks have passed since our last “21 days of video game news”, and with E3 ending today, crazy stuff have been happening (Next Next Gen Final Fantasy Real Time Tech Demo anyone ?).

So here it is, 21 days of (mostly) japanese madness. Oh, and by the way if you haven’t played Ghost trick, go buy it now (and a DS if you need to).

Beyond: 25-minutes of E3 footage (looks a little better than “Kara” the sex slave robot who – very unexpected – believes she’s alive…)
PSone Classics hit PS Vita this summer (now waiting for the PS2 classics – that could be nice)

21 days of video game news – May 18 edition

Hey! It’s that time of the month again. After three weeks, we’re gonna have a look at everything (relatively important) that happenned in (mostly japanese – who cares about Black Ops II) video games news.

Yakuza website teasing May 24 reveal

Famitsu’s Most Wanted: Issue 1224

Metal Gear Rising: Make It Right “Sword” teaser

Metal Gear Solid HD Collection dated for PS Vita

PlayStation Network introduces pre-loading

Sol Trigger Japanese release delayed

Soul Sacrifice screenshots, artwork

Tales of Graces F gets special edition in Europe

Sony registers Forsaken Souls domain

Famitsu’s Next Tales of artwork looks different…

Nomura on Final Fantasy VII remake

Hideo Baba talks Next Tales of

Famitsu Review Scores: Issue 1224

Soul Sacrifice screenshots

Hideo Kojima checks Metal Gear Rising demo

Last Final Fantasy XIII-2 DLC due tomorrow

Soul Sacrifice: Full Presentation (in English)

Keiji Inafune on Soul Sacrifice localization

Tales fans interview series producer – part 3

Next week’s Famitsu to include Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy XI anniversary features

Beyond Good & Evil 2 in “active creation”

Nomura: ‘It’s time Kingdom Hearts returns to console’

Nomura on Final Fantasy Versus XIII: ‘It takes time when tackling something new’

Tales fans interview series producer – part 2

How Telltale Wants To Evolve The Adventure Game Genre

Final Fantasy VII Writer And Baten Kaitos Artist Team For RPG Borderwalker

A Pac-Man Multiplayer Mode In A Shooter? Cavia Made That For Catacombs

Catacombs – The Game Cavia And Square Enix Were Working On After Nier

21 days of video game news – April 27 edition

Hey! It’s that time of the month again. After three weeks, we’re gonna have a look at everything (important) that happenned in (mostly japanese) video games news.

Persona 2: Eternal Punishment trailer

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale announced

Wii U titles to launch both packaged and digitally

Wii U release date will not be announced at E3

Final Fantasy XIII-2: Lightning DLC, new costume screenshots

Dragon Quest X release date trailer

Capcom: Future of Monster Hunter outside Japan “very bright”

Metal Gear Rising clip teases April 30 reveal

First Project Zwei concept art

Interview: Rising Star Games President Martin Defries

Famitsu Review Scores: Issue 1221

Shinji Mikami talks new survival horror Zwei

Tales fans interview series producer – part 1

Nomura hints at The World Ends With You sequel

Akihiro Hino on Ni no Kuni localization

Overseas version of Ni no Kuni will include “enhancements”

Atelier Ayesha screenshots

Demon’s Souls servers going offline

.hack//Versus screenshots

Ni no Kuni release pushed to Q1 2013

NIS announces 20th Anniversary PS3 project

EA responds to “worst company” label from Consumerist

God Eater And Resonance Of Fate Characters Are In Project X Zone

Tales Producer Hideo Baba Answers Fan Questions, Says No To Realistic Tales

Another Piece Of Art From Nippon Ichi’s 20th Anniversary RPG

Artwork From Sony’s “True Fantasy” Game Soul Sacrifice

Tri-Ace Working With Level-5 On The Little Battlers W (How about working on your own projects from time to time ?)

Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition Lets You Fight As Sir Knight Artorias [Update]

How To Play .hack//Versus And Trigger A Character Changing Exceed

Phantasy Star Online 2 Has A Currency Named “FUN”

Snake Slithers Out With More Metal Gear Solid HD Collection Vita Screens

Monolith Soft Tried Using A Turn Based Battle System For Xenoblade Chronicles

Final Fantasy XIII-2′s Most Unusual Collaboration Dresses Lightning In Prada

thelastsavepoint most wanted

  1. Final Fantasy Versus XIII
  2. Dark Souls “Prepare to Die” DLC
  3. Way of the Samurai 4
  4. Final Fantasy X HD
  5. Metal Gear Rising
  6. Persona 5
  7. Phantasy Star Online 2
  8. Final Fantasy Type-0
  9. Ni no Kuni
  10. Tales of Xillia
  11. .hack/Versus
  12. Atelier Meruru & Asha

I’m watching out for:

  1. Next Monolith title on Wii U
  2. Next Tri-Ace HD title

 

Do you want PC-exclusive Dark Souls DLC “Prepare to Die” on PS360 ? Sign this petition !

Three days ago, enhanced a PC edition of 2011 acclaimed RPG Dark Souls was announced. This edition will span new bosses, new areas, new weapons and NPC, plus an online matchmaking system.

Dark Souls DLC for PS360 was rumored a few month ago, so let’s hope these new features will make it to the PS360! You want to help ? Please, sign this petition now.