Former Bizarre Creations Dev Says a "Perfect Storm" Killed the Studio

Former Bizarre Creations Dev Says a "Perfect Storm" Killed the Studio

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Sequels and prequels made millions last year, but anyone launching a new IP had a rough time.

Former Bizarre Creations design manager, Gareth Wilson, thinks that it wasn't one, singular reason that led to Activision's decision to close the studio. Instead, he thinks that there was a "perfect storm" of events that came together in such a way that the studio had very little chance of survival.

Wilson said that the problem wasn't just that Bizarre's new racing game, Blur, didn't sell very well. He said that a lot of the year's other new IPs - games like Alan Wake, Enslaved and Vanquish - didn't sell particularly well either, despite favorable critical receptions. On the other hand, titles like Halo: Reach and the Call of Duty games were making money hand over fist, which made investing in new IPs seem like a bad idea.

Wilson thought that it was getting harder to get games noticed, and said that Blur's release date, which was right around the same time as Red Dead Redemption didn't do much to help. He felt that it was getting harder and harder to get to that "middle ground" of 2 -3 million sales, and that most games either "broke out," selling 4 million copies or more, or struggled to break even.

He wasn't angry about the closure of the studio however, saying that the process had been so drawn out that he had time to come to terms with it. He said that it was never a secret that the studio could be sold or closed and that Activision let people go for interviews for new jobs while it searched for a buyer. Wilson has now moved on to Sumo Digital, whose recent work includes the BBC's Doctor Who adventure games, although he couldn't really talk about what he was working on.

Whether you agree with Wilson's assessment of Bizarre's fate or not, it's hard to argue with the fact that 2010 was largely a year of underperforming new IPs. It would have been interesting to see if the game would have sold better if it had come out at a different time, as Wilson suggested might be the case, or whether it still would have struggled to find an audience. Of course, that's really just academic now, as the studio has shut up shop for good.

Source: Eurogamer

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It's a damn shame Blur didn't do so well, it's actually a really fun game. My friend came out here from Oklahoma and we sat in the hotel room and played this game for friggin' hours. If you haven't played and you enjoy Mario Kart-style carnage, I recommend giving this game a look.

I can say from personal experience that many of those new Ip's were worth playing, but not worth owning. I certainly got a kick out of Alan wake, but I bored it out in the 7 days I had rented it. As for enslaved and vanquish well they just didn't seem to me to be anymore special than old games in fresh coats of paint. I wouldn't mind renting them, but I definitely wouldn't want to buy them for life.

As for Blur, they are trying to dig out a foothold in a very niche grouping, where they would get slaughtered by Forza, need for speed and burnout. I know a lot of gamers and it seems that none of them are all to into just plain racing games, let alone trying to update what they have more than once every 3 years and that usually just ends up being Forza or burnout.

Like it or not Ip's have to be slaves to the buyers, they don't get personal control over what it wants to be. It needs to be on par with COD, Halo,Forza, Madden, Gears and all the other top dominating games out there. Games just cost too much to buy things that aren't the best of the best.

OH NO! A perfect storm!

Haha, Jon Stewart had a broadcast that he talked about this rare perfect storm activity, that takes place every two weeks. I tried to embed something, but I couldn't find just the perfect storm part... and I suck at this internets thingys.

It really is a sad state - I really like it when developers take chances with new IP's, I mean Alan Wake and Vanquish were both great games, flawed in certain respects - but I still had a lot of fun with them, Blur really isn't so much my thing so sorry Bizarre Creations.

Oh well at least we have some studios not afraid to try new things like Platinum Games - I don't think they've churned out a single sequel yet.

Of course Wilson's not angry about Bizarre's closure: Now he gets to work on friggin Doctor Who! Luck-y

Logan Westbrook:
He felt that it was getting harder and harder to get to that "middle ground" of 2 -3 million sales, and that most games either "broke out," selling 4 million copies or more, or struggled to break even.

I think this is the biggest problem really; I just don't think there's enough people willing to risk their money on new franchises to make this a viable number of sales as a break even mark. A lot of new franchises have a lot of potential but they lack polish or haven't yet figured out exactly what is the best direction to take the game. It's shame really because it's the flawed but promising games that really benefit from sequels to improve on the original idea. Succesful franchises like Halo and Call of Duty tend to just add extra little twiddly bits but keep the game basically the same becuase it worked the first time.

When you put it like that...

And those sequels are ALL the same! Buy those used if at all and take a chance on a new game!

Vanquish isn't as long as Gears or Uncharted? But it does boast more replay value than most single-player games and visuals that EASILY compete with AAA games.

Alan Wake HAS A STORY! Nuff said! But also slick action, lots of exploration and available DLC for the curious.

Enslaved is beautiful, emotionally deep, and a 3D PLATFORMER. Gone are the days of Jak & Daxter ruling sales charts, they just don't make 'em like this anymore!!

T'Generalissimo:

Logan Westbrook:
He felt that it was getting harder and harder to get to that "middle ground" of 2 -3 million sales, and that most games either "broke out," selling 4 million copies or more, or struggled to break even.

I think this is the biggest problem really; I just don't think there's enough people willing to risk their money on new franchises to make this a viable number of sales as a break even mark. A lot of new franchises have a lot of potential but they lack polish or haven't yet figured out exactly what is the best direction to take the game. It's shame really because it's the flawed but promising games that really benefit from sequels to improve on the original idea. Succesful franchises like Halo and Call of Duty tend to just add extra little twiddly bits but keep the game basically the same becuase it worked the first time.

i think there's two other factors involved in why a lot of games don't get decent sales:

#1. the video game industry seems to be falling into the hollywood trap. meaning that producers are scared to risk money on a new IP and would instead prefer to churn out sequels that don't take a lot of time or development dollars (compared to an entirely new IP) to push out. when you can have a CoD or a Madden every year, why take 2 or 3 to do something new? so just like movies we're treated to dozens of half baked sequels, reboots and re-imaginings instead of something new or fresh or innovative.

#2. the price point of new games force most consumers to spend their money on the game that they know they will like, rather than taking a risk on an unknown. whether that's the next Madden game or the next CoD game, people that buy those know what they are purchasing. getting someone to shell out $60 for, say, Vanquish is tough (i did and don't regret it. then again, i've never played CoD or Madden!) when there's MW2 sitting right there.

Demos of games certainly help with #2 and that's why i bought Vanquish. but really, if one off's and new IPs like Vanquish or Bayonetta or Resonance of Fate came out at $40, for example, i'd probably be more willing to purchase two games a month for a total of $80 than just one for $60. this is also why the used market thrives. sure, games are a luxury entertainment item, but it's a big industry now and has gone mainstream and gained acceptance as an everyperson's entertainment form. just as when it comes to DVD or Bluray sales there's only certain people willing or able to purchase new titles when they're released at, in the case of Blurays, $30+. The rest of us choose to wait. We all know that prices will drop and in many cases delayed gratification vs. hit to the wallet often means delayed gratification wins out.

the video game industry has to get beyond the "gouge the consumer for as much as they can stand" pricing model and evolve. they should take a hint from book publishing and movie editions. books have room for mass market paper backs, trade paper backs, soft covers and hardcovers, all at different prices for different customers, but all get the same core product. video game publishers could do this too, and do to some extent with collector's edition, but i think they could easily add some sort of "bare bones" edition for younger consumers with less money or other people without large amounts of disposable income. maybe you'd only get access to an online instruction manual? maybe get no box art? i don't know, but game publishers need to work on something if they want to be able to put out a wide variety of titles and not just yearly sequels and iterations of a series.

Zom-B:
the video game industry has to get beyond the "gouge the consumer for as much as they can stand" pricing model and evolve. they should take a hint from book publishing and movie editions. books have room for mass market paper backs, trade paper backs, soft covers and hardcovers, all at different prices for different customers, but all get the same core product. video game publishers could do this too, and do to some extent with collector's edition, but i think they could easily add some sort of "bare bones" edition for younger consumers with less money or other people without large amounts of disposable income. maybe you'd only get access to an online instruction manual? maybe get no box art? i don't know, but game publishers need to work on something if they want to be able to put out a wide variety of titles and not just yearly sequels and iterations of a series.

This is what I would have liked digital distribution to be used for; no box art, no physical manual, no distibution costs (or low, I guess, servers and such cost money), no retailers taking a cut so the cost is lower but publishers are too afraid of undercutting and alienating their retail partners to do so. Personally, I value the physical ownership and would be willing to pay the premium for it so it's no great loss to me, but it might well have been a good way for people to try out riskier titles.

And yet while Minecraft wasn't exactly a new IP in 2010 (since I think it technically came out in 2009), it still managed to have a breakout year in 2010 despite not being a sequel. Plus you have M:OM, which despite being a sequel of a well established franchise that got all sorts of critical praise, managed to bomb.

I think there's more at play here than the article suggests. But maybe that's just me.

 

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