Much to the surprise of many, Days Gone is new again. Not the game itself, the brain, but its treatment by publisher Sony. The nearly three-year-old PS4 game, which follows a mustache biker in a zombie-infested America, may seem like an open-and-closed affair: The game’s initial release was met with little fanfare, its critical response. The game was positive but moderate, and last year’s PC port finally presented the game in its best shape ever.
A fair success, you might think. Nothing fancy about it, but definitely one to enjoy from the backlog. However, it’s success, it has become a hot topic. a. answer to announcement of celebration Earlier this week when Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima sold more than eight million copies, Days Gone co-director Jeff Ross took the opportunity to talk about the comparative treatment of his game.
It, too, apparently sold over eight million copies at a similar point in its post-launch run, but did not receive nearly the same praise from Sony. “The local studio management always made us feel like it was a huge disappointment,” Rosso said, emphasizing that this day had passed Sales That Frustrated Higher-Ups, not its review score. Hardly the corporate slap on the back and the social media praise that Ghost of Tsushima has received from Sony
It’s a kick in the teeth for any developer to see that their creation has been treated unfairly, but punt is probably a bit more of a pain in the mouth when it comes to your own publisher. For all talk of artistry and auteur in the video game industry, it is still a commercial space that is believed to reward commercial success. If a game sells well, and its creative team is still on board, you can probably expect a sequel down the line. But for Days Gone, Ross says, that was not on the cards,
Games that almost got away
To me, Ross’ response says less about why Days Gone was postponed than a full stop of the relevance of sales figures. Maybe Sony didn’t consider the game’s setting for its later longevity, or the game didn’t lend itself to adaptation (remember, the Ghost of Tsushima movie is on the way). It’s easy to speculate about the end of the game, but we can say with certainty that video game sales are rarely a useful indicator of success.
I mean real success. The type that matters. The kind of players who are talking about a game after its console generation has passed, or trying to remake and emulate it in future decades, when its core technology has fallen into the ill-fated land of ‘retro’. Has been. It’s a lot of fun to talk about the ridiculous sales figures of Grand Theft Auto 5, the world-eating commercial giant that is Minecraft, or the fascinating idea that Tetris can still hold its own against modern triple-A releases. But such figures often fail to present a complete picture.
Take Psychonauts, Tim Schaefer’s acclaimed mind-jumping platformer. Now, it’s considered a cult classic that embraced the sheer absurdity of its characters and the absurdity of its subjects in a way that few 3D platformers did before. Its long-awaited sequel, which released last year, left the gaming world collectively wondering why we ever let Razputin stay away for so long. However, the 2005 release of the original Psychonauts told a vastly different story. Although a darling to critics, it sold less than 100,000 copies and led to the resignation of the CEO of its publisher. Looking at Psychonauts from a purely commercial angle, this sounds like an embarrassing flop, but we all know the game is shaken.
Take a step back in time to 1999 and you’ll find a similar story with System Shock 2. An unprecedentedly immersive sim that blends RPG progression, detailed exploration, and narrative flavor so cleverly that it’s still a joy to play today, despite its enemies looking closer to the pile of playdo than the fleshy monsters they portray. want. Eight years later, it served as the spiritual successor to a little-known game called BioShock, but spent most of its life boasting of poor sales figures while being caught up in protracted legal battles surrounding its intellectual property rights.
Of course, there are more recent releases to point to. BioWare’s Exosuit-clad third-person shooter Anthem was one of the best-selling releases of 2019. But you won’t find many people playing it today, nor prepared to testify to their love for its tedious grind that quickly turned players off. Cyberpunk 2077, too, has managed to achieve record-breaking sales figures, despite the minor controversies that complicated its launch.
There are many more examples: Beyond Good and Evil, Conquerors Bad Fur Day, Akami, Kingdom of Amalur. take your pick.
All this may seem trivial. It’s not hard to see that commercial success and critical reception don’t always align, or that popular belief may be completely different from the two. Indifference is a powerful force, and the critics’ influence diminishes as the years go by. Games, like any other medium, are subject to the cultural zeitgeist, created for consumer trends and artistic styles that flip back and forth.
But what the discussion about Ghost of Tsushima and Days Gone highlights is that the reaction to sales figures often says more about a game than just statistics. Do players and management congratulate the devs for a good job? Are they amazed at the surprisingly low sales for an extraordinary game? Do they justly agree that it got the same commercial response as it did? A year after a game’s release, consensus is likely to set in. Whether the publisher, developer, or player feels that consensus and the need to celebrate the achievements of the game’s creators says most about whether a title is considered a success.
For Days Gone, that consensus was one of moderate acceptance. It did not receive the acclaim of Ghost of Tsushima, or develop the same scale as the committed fanbase. Commercially, it may deserve far more credit than it gets from the lawsuits above, but critically, not so much. After all, sales figures are never related Real Success.
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