Shooting the Moon
As you may have heard, the companies behind Kingdoms of Amalur and the followup MMO are basically out of business. While I am sensitive to the dangers of schadenfreude, and loath to quote the same guy twice in three days, there was something about Keen’s final good-luck paragraph that struck me oddly:
[…] Following games closely and being so excited for something, just to have it shut down at a moment’s notice, is the hardest part of being such eager gaming enthusiasts. Such potential for something fresh or new is destroyed, but we’ll continue to see a new Call of Duty game released every year and a horrible MMO will see the light of day simply because it has a huge publisher. So frustrating.
Kotaku is reporting that 38 Studios only would have been saved if Amalur sold 3 million copies.
Let that sink in. Three million copies or bust. Depending on who you ask, Amalur sold between 400k and 1 million.
I dunno, I am of two minds on the implicit lament in Keen’s quote. I do consider it a serious problem that the barrier to entry for RPGs (and games in general) has gotten so high as to choke out all but the biggest studios. Remember the thousands of garbage NES games on the shelves back in the early 90s? Most were bad, but at least it appeared as though someone with a good game concept had a realistic chance of getting their cartridge on store shelves.
On the other hand? I feel like it is a bit unrealistic. It is easy to hate on Call of Duty when a “new” one is pumped out every year… but Black Ops sold 25 million copies. MW3 made $1 billion in 16 days, and that was seven months ago; god only knows how much it’s up to now.
Desiring fresh and new things is fine, but it’s code for “I’m not getting catered to.” At some point, you have to ask “Who can afford to cater to me?” If Amalur’s direction was your thing, good for you, but the market clearly couldn’t support it. So… Curt Schilling should have settled for less, designing a less expensive game with a lower break-even point. But would any of us have been satisfied with that? Would you be fine playing an indie-level MMO or other game? Would you be willing to lower your (obviously high) standards to meet the developers making the actual games you’re talking about?
I am probably not coming across very clear; in fact, if any of that makes sense to you, let me know, because it kinda doesn’t make sense to me. It is just that whenever I see a lament about how a “horrible MMO will see the light of day” as compared to presumably a good one on the cutting-room floor, I cannot help but shake the “Whose fault is that?” retort. The publisher? The fans? Or our own unreasonable expectations?
Whatever the case, I always a respect for those who attempt to shoot the moon. Win or lose, you always leave with a story – which is more than most.