It completely baffles me that the games industry can still manage to exist under the weight of its own incompetence. Between game budgets ballooning to astronomical levels, consumer un-friendly practises like day-one DLC and always-online DRM it is a bloody miracle that we are still able to play games at all.
Over the weekend Square Enix ‘dismissed’ their president Yoichi Wada and announced a ‘major restructuring’ of its business, citing the reason for this to be “weak sales of big console titles”. Now I hear you say fair enough Phil, that’s business.
This is the games business, so you can rest assured that even if it sounds reasonable it is still immensely fucked up.
Square Enix had the nerve to suggest that the sales of Sleeping Dogs, Hitman: Absolution, and Tomb Raider were in part the reason for this shake-up because they sold far fewer copies than the forward projections Square Enix had set. Now I’m all for ‘optimism’ on the part of business, but if selling 3.5 million copies of Tomb Raider is a disappointing result, then it isn’t the game’s fault, it’s your business sense.
Sleeping Dogs sold ~1.75 million copies, which for a new IP coming out towards the end of a console cycle should be a great result, especially considering it was nearly cancelled altogether a bunch of different times. Similarly, Hitman: Absolution sold an extremely modest 3.6 million units, which is approximately three times as much as the previous instalment in the franchise had sold (as far as I can tell from a little bit of Googling). And last but not least, Tomb Raider sold 3.5 million copies IN ITS FIRST MONTH. And it is important to point out that none of these sales factor in digital sales either, all three of these games enjoying a very positive reception on PC, so take that into account as well. What is really absurd is that between the three of them the average review score was 83% on Metacritic, so they are not only selling well, they are very well made games, so long term sales are likely to be a factor.
This general practise of blaming the gaming public for “not buying the game enough” is pretty disgusting if you ask me. If you think that your game is good then yes, of course it will sell well, especially if it is a part of a beloved franchise like Tomb Raider or Hitman. But be realistic about your sales projections and adjust budget accordingly. If you come out and say, like EA did, that Dead Space 3 needs to sell 5 million copies to get another sequel, you are not building hype, you are holding the franchise hostage. If you are going to double down on a game budget-wise then prepared for your risk to NOT pay off. There is a reason that people don’t bet their entire life savings on one game of football. Be reasonable and be sensible, and stop blaming everyone but yourselves for your failure to make money. That is my message to you Square Enix.
And don’t even get me started on EA.