My Biggest Influences & All-Time Favorites

I find it hard to draw the line between the games I enjoyed the most and the ones that forged my vision of video games. So I decided to reunite them all on the same list, ordered by genre and date of first release.
1996 Albion
You’ve never heard of Albion? Of course you haven’t. Nobody knows this game. I guess it wasn’t a great success. Anyway, it was my first rpg, and as such, one of the biggest influences in my gaming experience. Most of the game was in 2D, except for the dungeons which were in 3D; the graphics weren’t astonishing for 1996, but at that time it was usual to let your imagination do half of the gpu’s work. The turn-based combats occurred on a grid which somewhat looked like a chessboard. The very detailed story mixed a science fiction background with fantasy elements, a combination that I still cherish to this day. Each quest had a real motive, nothing of the kill-x-rats kind, and you could get companions, that would sometimes interact,… For a 1996 RPG, it was pretty deep.
1996 Diablo
What I really liked about Diablo was the ambiance, dark and threathening. The music, the characters, the story – as light as it was, everything was harmoniously dark. Also, the hack’n’slash genre coupled to random dungeons was refreshing back then. If you don’t want to avoid intense thinking and need to let off steam, it still works today.
1999 Planescape Torment
Another story-driven RPG taking place in a unique universe, with a very charismatic main character, many endearing companions and lots of interactions between them, and where your choices matter. While the leveling and the combat systems weren’t innovating, it was a very good surprise to never die and instead have the cycle of death fully integrated in the story, allowing you to recall past events. What’s an even better surprise is the kick starter project for Torment 2, check it out!
2001 Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura
2002-2009 Zelda: Windwaker, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks
2002 The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
2002-2006 Xenosaga I, II, III
2003 Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader
2005 Radiata Stories
2008-2011 Demon Souls, Dark Souls
2010 End of Eternity (Resonance of Fate)
2010 Nier
2012 Dragon’s Dogma
2001-2008 Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, 4
2004 Thief: Deadly Shadows
2008 Tenchu 4
1994 Woodruff and the Schnible of Azimuth
1995-1996 Discworld 1, 2
1998 Sanitarium
2005 Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy)
2009 Way of the Samurai 3
2009 Machinarium
2010 Ghost Trick
2012 The Walking Dead
Simulation, management, strategy
1994 Theme park
1995 Sim Isle: Missions in the Rainforest
1997 Theme Hospital
1997 Age of Empires
1997 Dungeon Keeper
1998 Anno 1602: Creation of a new World
2000 The Sims
2010 Game Dev Story
1980 Pac-Man
1984 Tetris
1989 Prince of Persia
1996 Death Rally
1997 Road Rash
Various pinball games from the 90s

Nintendo should buy the rights to Xenosaga (petition inside!)

Petition time again!

Xenosaga is a critically acclaimed videogame series published by Namco Bandai. It was supposed to be a 6 parts epic Nietzschean space opera but the publisher cut short and stopped the series after 3 episodes.
After the developper was bought by Nintendo, they produced Xenoblade, which quickly became known in critical circles as the best JRPG of its generation and enjoyed a strong commercial success.
These are the perfects circumstances for Monolith soft. to finish its grandiose series, and Nintendo – their owner – can make it happen.

Sign here if you want Xenosaga 4!

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.