Who am I? I'm a guy who plays video games, talks way too much about comics and movies, likes Godzilla and Robocop, and lives up in Wisconsin. And yes. We get that much snow. Why should you read my blog? Because when I write I have fun, make up bullshit lists, and when I do get a little serious with some blogs I try to be insightful and use resources and facts to try and back up my opinion as much as I can. And if you don't follow my blog, I'll send you a picture of a sad kitten who wants some love.
Also, I tend to debate a lot and get up on a soapbox a bit from time to time. I like to debate for the sake of debating and I tend to find it fun to get other peoples perspectives on things, and sometimes I like to play devil's advocate a bit just for the sake of it. Basically, don't take me so serious sometimes even if it seems like I am being serious.
In the gaming community the words “doomed” and “failure” might as well be considered slurs, profanity, or just a stupid troll comment, especially when talking about something that has yet to hit store shelves. People tend to over (or under) analyze something and declare it “doomed” well before it’s fair to say that whether or not something has indeed failed. The Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita are probably the best two examples of this; the 3DS was declared “doomed” by some after its few early struggling months only to promptly turn itself around, and the Vita has been labeled a failure by some even though the system has yet to see a major holiday sales season (granted, it does need to turn around soon).
My point is that gamers like to speak in hyperbole. Personally, I don’t care for it and, while I do enjoy speculation and looking at probabilities, I don’t enjoy jumping to very extreme conclusions. Yet as I’ve looked at the game DmC: Devil May Cry and look at everything surrounding it I can’t help but ask myself one question – is DmC a game that is destined to be labeled a failure?
Now before you start scrolling down and typing hateful things at me or proclaiming “DOOOOOOM”, hear me out on this. First off this isn’t going to be a blog focused on talking about why the changes to the game itself may or may not have been a smart decision, nor is this going to be some stupid brouhaha over Dante’s hair being black. This isn’t about if the game is destined to fail in the eyes of fans, that’s far too difficult to tell, this is more about whether or not the game is destined to be viewed as a failure in the eyes of Capcom.
Capcom’s reasoning behind the DmC reboot is that they want this franchise to further break through to the western markets. I, for my part, think that actually translates to “we want this to sell like Call of Duty” given some of the stupid things they’ve said in the past about other games. Obviously DmC won’t sell to the levels of a big budget established franchise shooter, but when I hear “continue to crack into the west” I assume that their expectations are to surpass previous titles. So, expectations for DmC might be somewhere in the 3-6 million ballpark range? That definitely tops the previous entries in the series and, if you ask me, fits the definition of “continued breakout”. Obviously that number I threw out there is a guestimate, so please take it with as many grains of salt as you please.
The issue is that there’s a lot going against DmC that points to it not meeting any expectations of growth, and perhaps even shows signs that the franchise might actually regress.
Devil May Cry and games of similar likeness are all part of a specific place in action games called “hack and slash beat ‘em ups”. Believe it or not, even though you may recognize a lot of games from this genre, most of these games don’t put up sales numbers that are considered overly impressive in modern day gaming. These games are actually fairly niche games, to be honest, and just simply don’t have that much of a mass audience appeal. Here’s a list of recent notable games that fit within or close to the same genre as Devil May Cry and here are the quantities sold that go along with them.
--Devil May Cry 4 [Xbox 360/PlayStation 3] – 2.73 million
--Ninja Gaiden 2/Sigma 2 [Xbox 360/PlayStation 3] – 1.73 million
--Dante’s Inferno [Xbox 360/PlayStation 3] – 1.85 million
--Bayonetta [Xbox 360/PlayStation 3] – 1.89 million
--Ninja Gaiden 3 [Xbox 360/PlayStation 3] – 0.32 million
--Heavenly Sword [PlayStation 3] – 1.57 million
--Warhammer 40k: Space Marine [Xbox 360/PlayStation 3] – 0.80 million
--God of War III [PlayStation 3] – 4.46 million
--Castlevania: Lords of Shadow [Xbox 360/PlayStation 3] – 1.24 million
--Darksiders II [Xbox 360/PlayStation 3] – 0.87 million
(All numbers come from VGChartz, so whine all you want about that. And yes, I know, Space Marine was slightly more shooter than beat-em-up, but I threw it in as a “close enough”.)
Obviously everything is in the eye of the beholder but, to me, none of these numbers are exactly eye-popping, and some of the games I listed here are even considered “heavy hitters” for their genre. There are a few trends you’ll probably notice here, not hitting one million sales isn’t exactly rare, and breaking two million sales is relatively rare. You’ll also notice that there isn’t much of a disparity between games made in Japan versus games that come from western developers; sales in this genre don’t seem too impacted much at all by what region a game comes from. Yes, you can point to God of War III all you want but I’ll counterpoint that the numbers balance out substantially when you remove GoW from the equation, which makes God of War an outlier that defies trends of the genre in general.
If Capcom expects DmC to further the franchises crack into the western market you’d assume they’d mean “sell on par to or better than Devil May Cry 4”. Because, well, you can’t really say your game has furthered your establishment in the west if less people are actually getting the game. But shooting par against DmC’s predecessor alone might be difficult, for a reason beyond just “industry trends”.
There are still a lot of Devil May Cry fans that are fairly alienated thanks to the DmC reboot. Those fans might not invest in a game they have no real passion for owning and might opt to rent it or Gamefly it instead of dropping sixty dollars. It’s obviously difficult to quantify the number of fans/sales that have been lost due to the controversy surrounding the reboot and how that will impact the sales numbers pulled in by DmC itself. If you asked for my guess on how large this alienated fan base is my answer would likely be “enough to make a dent”.
I might even go out on a limb and say that the number of fans lost might be more than the number of fans gained by the new look of the game, or at the very least be a push. My foundation for this hypothesis is based around the typical sales trends for DmC’s genre as a whole. Given that Devil May Cry was already one of the top dogs in terms of sales for hack-and-slashers, I doubt that there’s a very large pool gamers that buy these types of games who aren’t already interested in the franchise from which DmC can tap into to replace the lost/alienated fans. Then there are also fans of these types of action games who may have established that Devil May Cry simply “isn’t their thing”. Obviously the other x-factor in play are gamers who are being brought into this genre thanks to DmC, however the odds of that x-factor being important seem to be slim.
The fact that the name “Capcom” is going to be slapped on DmC’s box might be a negative x-factor that comes into play. While this seems to be a thing more so for internet savvy gamers, there are gamers who will avoid DmC simply because they’ve chosen to avoid Capcom in general. Capcom’s reputation isn’t as stellar as it once was and people have grown a bit sick of Capcom’s antics, such as their abuse of DLC amongst other things. This would probably be an appropriate time to mention that DLC for DmC has already been confirmed and we’re still three months away from the launch of the game, which means Capcom’s corporate fingers are probably deep into this game too.
There are few other factors that could be going against DmC as well. They are minor, but perhaps at least worth mentioning. DmC is scheduled to be released in mid-January, and I don’t know about you but I know a lot of people like to let their wallets get a little rest after the holidays leave a hole in them. A few, arguably larger, titles are also set to release shortly after DmC is supposed to hit shelves in what is becoming a progressively more jam-packed first quarter of 2013. Specifically, Dead Space 3, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, and Aliens: Colonial Marines are all within a few weeks of DmC. Whether or not a gamer is in “holiday bank account recovery mode”, those are all titles that might make some people opt to save their $60 bucks for something other than DmC.
And it should also be worth noting that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a game that is definitely going to take up housing in the same neighborhood as DmC, is scheduled to be released about a month after DmC. While it’s totally possible to just purchase both games the gamer-on-a-budget might be forced to choose between the two, especially with some of those other previously mentioned noteworthy titles sandwiched in there. Considering that Revengeance carries a franchise name that most would consider to be much larger than Devil May Cry, has received pretty high praise during events where it’s been playable, and it has the Platinum Games name attached it’s hard to say that there isn’t a chance Revengeance won’t steal some sales from DmC as well.
Everything I’m talking about is purely speculative, and honestly I’m not one who enjoys saying something is dead on arrival. Obviously we don’t know what Capcom’s true goals for this game are, because despite everything they’ve said publicly they could just be blowing smoke up our collective asses (it is Capcom, after all). But when I try to objectively look at the game, the trends for its genre, when the game is being released, and the circus surrounding the reception of the game, I have a hard time seeing how it won’t be some kind of disappointing in the eyes of the talking suits at Capcom. And if my fully speculative analysis of all of this comes true I really wonder what might happen to the Devil May Cry franchise. Worse than that, if DmC doesn’t light up sales charts I wonder what will happen to Ninja Theory. Heavenly Sword sold “okay” for them and Enslaved was pretty much a flop, if they stumble (again) sales wise, this time with a much more established name brand, I don’t know if they can survive it.
Like I’ve said, clearly this is all speculative and when the game actually gets released things could go numerous different directions. I’m simply curious if Capcom is setting themselves up for nothing but a disappointment.