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A look into DmC’s failure & what’s in store next


Ninja Theory’s DmC has been a resounding dud sales wise and doesn’t seem to have resonated with the wallets of gamers. It’s put up franchise low numbers and Capcom’s own revised expectations for the game now sit at 1.2 million copies, meaning it will almost assuredly be easily the worst selling Devil May Cry title ever (by far) and a far cry from their original hopes that this game could pull in God of War level numbers. When looking at the weekly drop-offs in sales numbers for the game and the upcoming tsunami of bigger titles in February and March, DmC might have to scratch and claw in order to get close to that marker (heck, DmC hitting even one million sales is still a bit of a longshot). DmC will likely end up getting outsold by its lower budget cousin Dragons Dogma, which was (perhaps fittingly) developed by the team that made the previous three Devil May Cry games.

This is somewhat of a follow up blog to an earlier blog of mine where I predicted that DmC would be a failure in the eyes of Capcom. However, I honestly did not expect this game to be a complete flop in general.

Now before you complain that it’s only been a month since DmC’s release just take note of two things. Firstly, DmC couldn’t do in a month what Devil May Cry 4 did in a week – sell over a million copies. This is despite the fact that DmC had half of January almost entirely to itself and that Devil May Cry 4 had a much smaller install base to sell to. Secondly, by the time this blog is posted Dead Space 3, Sly Cooper, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Tomb Raider, Crysis 3, & God of War: Ascension will all have been released or be close to release. In short DmC’s time to make money is definitely over, two games that are direct competition and a general slew of other big title games are going to take money before DmC can get to it.

So what went so wrong with DmC? By genre standards, Devil May Cry was always one of the top sellers and since Ninja Theory is a darling to critics it was destined to get positive reviews. Admittedly I thought DmC was a pretty mediocre and forgettable game but even I’m stunned by how poorly the game is selling, I figured the Devil May Cry franchise name alone would carry the game to a cool million sales. In light of this, what does the future hold for the Devil May Cry franchise and Ninja Theory? Lets talk about some potential things that might have & might not have caused this to happen.

What soured the milk?

Change we didn’t believe in?
There’s a very strong case to be made that rebooting/re-imagining the Devil May Cry franchise was a completely unnecessary thing. The complaints people had with Devil May Cry 4 could have easily been remedied with a sequel and a little more time in the oven development wise, because DMC4 was a bit of a rushed game. Considering that modern entertainment is reboot happy in general, rebooting a pretty healthy Devil May Cry franchise could have scared off potential customers who feared that the reboot was nothing more than a publicity stunt.

On top of that, there were simply people out there who didn’t want to see the original Dante pushed aside or replaced. There were a large number of fans who were losing something they cared about regardless of how well DmC might have turned out. Yes, you can always use the tired argument of “if they want that they can play the old games”, but that’s not the point. The point was that those fans wanted that version to continue, and lost interest in something that wasn’t that. I can’t fault anybody for not being interested in something if it doesn’t feature the things they care about.

Capcom, your reputation precedes you
Capcom’s reputation hasn’t been the most stellar in recent years, and a lot of long time Capcom fans have begun to feel disillusioned to the publisher due to Capcom’s recent more money-hungry tactics and general mistreatment of numerous key franchises. While people widely enjoyed Street Fighter 4, they didn’t so much enjoy having to repurchase the same game in the forms of Super SF4 or SSF4 Arcade Edition. Marvel vs Capcom 3 fans watched as UMvC3 came out and rendered their original game obsolete. Mega Man fans have watched the franchise generally be forgotten since Mega Man 10. Most recently Resident Evil fans watched a survival-horror franchise get morphed into a poorly designed action title in the form of Resident Evil 6.

On top of that, Capcom became notorious for on-disc DLC practices that effectively forced people to re-purchase things they technically already bought and in general jumped onto the same DLC bandwagon everybody else had been on. Even DmC was a victim to this with pre-order weapon skins, Vergil’s Downfall DLC being announced well before the release of the game, DLC Dante skins, and even Bloody Palace mode was broken out into a separate DLC bundle. While the Bloody Palace mode was free, a lot of people suspected that it originally was going to be a paid download due to the simple fact that it was broken out into a downloadable in the first place while all previous DMC games had it built in.

This is all a bit ironic as well considering DmC carries a fairly anti-corporate message with it, story wise. Given Capcom’s recent “efforts”, would anybody blame a customer for skipping a Capcom title like DmC simply for hoping that it would somehow humble Capcom a bit?

Alien Nation
I think it goes without saying that going forward Ninja Theory should put a gag order on Tameem Antoniades. This guy might be one of the single biggest reasons DmC had poor sales and was the catalyst that turned DmC into the PR nightmare it was. He effectively bit the hand that fed and alienated a good deal of fans.

Antoniades did very little to comfort long time Devil May Cry fans, and for the most part only gave fans more reason to doubt him. From saying the original Dante was no longer cool, to saying he didn’t care what fans think, to saying old Dante would get laughed out of bars, to even saying there was nothing wrong with his game despite others pointing out glitches and technical issues. Heck, even the first mission of the game itself throws a jab at long time Devil May Cry fans with the “not in a million years” scene.

I don’t mean to go off on a tangent, but I should explain quickly why I think the “not in a million years” sequence was a middle finger to fans. For one, the scene comes completely out of nowhere, secondly the overall sequence that’s happening before and after pretty much stops just for the sake of this scene, three there just happens to be a white wig flying around that looks exactly like old Dante’s hair, and finally Dante looks directly at the camera (translation: to the audience) to say his line. It bugs me the same way the “I think this might be my masterpiece” line from Inglorious Basterds bugs me.

Plus, on top of that there’s absolutely no payoff to this what so ever. For example, after he gets the white patch of hair when meeting Phineas or when his hair goes full-white after fighting Vergil, Dante could throw out a quick joke along the lines of “a million years sure goes by fast these days”, or do something to reference the joke from earlier in the game. But none of that happens, which means either the “million years” scene was either a direct jab at fans or just a really poorly designed piece of writing (both of which are entirely possibly, given DmC’s writing as a whole).

Tameem effectively wrote the book on everything you shouldn’t do in order to win over people whose money you want. Tameem even hit Peter Molyneux-ian levels of snake-oil salesman when he said that his story had the potential to be something that transcended the genre and would stand along with the greats of film and literature, only to give us a story that was a poor-man’s They Live with as many plot holes and one-dimensional characters as the previous games.

Destructoider Kyousuke Nanbu said it best in a comment to one of my other blogs, between the DmC reveal trailer up to now there’s a lot of beneficial learning to be had regarding the importance of how you treat your fans, how their input is necessary, and how you shouldn’t treat them as an expendable commodity.

It’s really not hard to see why the most polarizing Devil May Cry title is going to go down as the worst selling one.

The economy?
One thing I’ve heard float around a bit as a reason why DmC has bombed is that the economy isn’t as good as it was back when Devil May Cry 4 came out. While yes, the economy five years ago was better, it wasn’t that much better and I think economic differences are balanced out by DMC4 coming out at a time when the amount of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners were substantially smaller.

I don’t really buy into the economy logic though. It seems like an awfully convenient excuse to blame a very polarizing game’s poor sales on something other than the fact that it was very polarizing. Plus there are lots of other games that have managed to do well in spite of it. The Witcher franchise just hit the 5 million marker, Assassins Creed III did really well, Borderlands 2 sold well, niche games like Dragon’s Dogma and Dark Souls did well, Resident Evil 5 sold 8 million copies and Resident Evil 6 pulled in almost 5 million (and was still considered a failure).

Nobody is doubting that the gaming economy is tough right now, but if you ask me DmC’s sales problems have very little to do with that issue.

Maybe people just want to be Dante
Honestly, it’s seemed like Capcom has tried to push aside Dante multiple times already in the history of the franchise. Devil May Cry 2 gave us Lucia, Devil May Cry 4 gave us Nero and made Dante a side character, DmC gave us a new character who was Dante only through name. It’s kind of crazy to think that in the five games that have sported the Devil May Cry title, only two of them feature the franchise’s original star character as the only main character.

Is it possible that people finally got sick of seeing the main character tossed aside?

The last time gamers got a game that fit the bill for what fans of the franchise wanted; a standalone Dante adventure with great combat, we got Devil May Cry 3 – the game that’s still considered the best entry in the series by most people. I don’t really think this is a big contributor to why DmC didn’t sell with consumers, however I thought it was at least worth throwing out there for the sake of conversation.

In the public eye
Another point of contention has been that DmC didn’t seem to get marketed much by Capcom. Yes, they ran that bad CG add alongside the latest Resident Evil movie, but that only means a whole twelve people probably saw it.

Make no mistake, DmC didn’t have much advertisement at all. In fact, its primary form of advertisement was riding the wave of controversy regarding the fact that it was a reboot/reimagining/replacement of the old series (which isn’t a good way to advertise, if you ask me). Yet, even with this, I don’t really think this was a reason for DmC’s bad sales.

Why, you might ask? The answer is because none of the Devil May Cry games have been well advertised ever. DmC’s marketing was the same as all of the previous games – nonexistent. So while yes this didn’t help DmC at all, the other games in the series overcame the same obstacle.

It’s just that time of the year?
Did being released in January, after most peoples wallets are shot thanks to the holidays, hurt DmC? My gut reaction leans towards “no” on this one. In fact with the way the release schedule for other games worked out having a January release should have actually helped DmC, because it had the month of January almost entirely to itself with the only other somewhat major release being Ni No Kuni.

The secondary reason I lean more towards no for this hypothetical cause is because every other Devil May Cry title, sans the original, has released near this area of the year. Devil May Cry 2 released in late January for North America and Japan, Devil May Cry 3 launched in February for Japan, DMC3: Special Edition launched in January for North America, Devil May Cry 4’s release was late January for Japan and early February everywhere else. DmC technically has the earliest calendar year release for the franchise, but it wasn’t substantially different from any of the other recent entries in the series.

Demo May Cry
DmC definitely needed a demo in order to try and quell some of the fire that was surrounding the game. However, I think the demo they released might have been the worst possible demo for them to put out and I think the demo came too late to save the game.

The demo for DmC cherry picks two of the moments from the full game that portray Dante at his most unlikable. First being when he slaps the soda can out of that guys hand, generally acting like a jerk. Second being the succubus boss battle, otherwise known as the scene where two characters verbally reenact an episode of The Jerry Springer Show.

The demo for the game gave off the impression that the entire game was written by an immature fifteen year old, something that admittedly isn’t far off from the truth in the full game. It also makes the main character look like he’s trying way too hard to be an “edgy” profanity ridden character. It’s pretty understandable to see how that might turn people away from the game, especially if they had the knowledge that classic Dante wasn’t one for profanity either. This was one of those cases where I think a demo hurt the game more than helped it.

On a side note regarding the demo, it almost felt like a bit of a bait-and-switch regarding the portrayal of Dante. As I previously said, the demo makes him look like an edgy profanity ridden trying-to-hard persona. However in the main game the character is actually, to paraphrase Chris Carter, a much more wooden by-the-numbers western protagonist.

Gaze into the future

What’s in the future for Ninja Theory?
Supposedly Ninja Theory got paid in advance for DmC, so the game itself flopping probably has little immediate concern for Ninja Theory’s future. However, things in the wake of DmC might affect them.

This is the third consecutive Ninja Theory game to underperform financially. Heavenly Sword and Enslaved had built-in excuses for underperforming as they were both new IPs one of which was system-exclusive, now however they’ve fumbled with a well-established franchise. They’re eventually going to develop a reputation as being too costly with little return. There’s also a chance that Tameem & company might be unable to shake free of some of the things they said during DmC’s development and ill-will with fans might linger. Other publishers out there might not want to touch a company that hasn’t proven to be a cash draw and now has a dicey relationship with some customers.

In fact, let’s take a quick moment and analyze potential compatibility with Ninja Theory and some of publishers out there.

2K – It’s possible, I don’t necessarily see an obvious reason why not.
Activision – Ninja Theory’s cost/profit ratio isn’t what Activision looks for.
Capcom – Capcom’s fan base dislikes Ninja Theory the most right now, so I don’t think so.
Disney – Don’t see why not, they didn’t jump on much of THQ’s old stuff though.
EA – Ninja Theory doesn’t do multiplayer.
Microsoft – Ninja Theory seems to only go multiplatform now, so this is out of the question.
Namco – Ninja Theory somewhat politely blamed them for Enslaved bombing, so no.
Nintendo – See Microsoft.
Sega – Probably not, for the same reasons they didn’t directly push for Bayonetta 2.
Sony – See Microsoft.
SquareEnix – Squeenix seems content with their current stable of third parties.
THQToo soon, guys?
Ubisoft – Like 2K, I don’t really see a reason why this couldn’t happen.

Unless Ubisoft comes knocking at their front door, I think Ninja Theory has to suck it up and accept that they aren’t AAA developers and will have to earn their stripes by making game for B or C-list publishers before getting another crack at the big time again. The only other outside shot is if Capcom somehow allows them to make a DmC2, which I highly doubt will happen at this point.

What’s in the future for Devil May Cry?
Some are understandably worried that DmC’s bust might trigger the worst-case-scenario where Capcom thinks interest in the franchise simply isn’t there anymore and throws Devil May Cry into (pardon the pun) Limbo alongside Mega Man and Onimusha.

I highly doubt this is the last we’ve heard of the Devil May Cry franchise. Capcom specifically mentioned that they wanted another Devil May Cry game in 2015 (but conveniently never specified if it would be a Ninja Theory sequel), and Capcom kept the door open for the classic series as well albeit they kept that door open after discovering that the initial reception of the reboot trailer was mixed at best.

Personally, I think the franchise still has a ton of juice left in it. Devil May Cry 4 still remains the second highest selling hack-and-slash game this generation, and DmC was still one of the most talked about and debated games for a long time leading up to its release. Heck, I even remember when the Capcom forums ran a vote asking for potential Marvel vs Capcom 3 characters and DMC3’s Vergil got more votes than classic Mega Man. Clearly there’s still a ton of interest left in this franchise.

Jim Sterling left a comment in my previous blog regarding this as well. I’m going to paraphrase, but he said that even Capcom can’t be so blind that they’d not see the reasons why people didn’t embrace DmC. On top of that, Capcom would get tons of positive kudos from fans for announcing a proper Devil May Cry 5.

In my opinion the positive reaction fans would have from a DMC5 announcement would probably be enough to outsell DmC alone.

If, or maybe even when, Devil May Cry 5 happens it will be interesting to see what it’s like and who’s behind the wheel of it. I would prefer seeing the Devil May Cry 4 team behind the wheel again but supposedly they’re already developing Dragon’s Dogma 2, though Capcom could always pause development on that. If Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance performs well, however, there might be an outside shot that Capcom reaches out to Platinum games – meaning a Devil May Cry game being made by some of its original founders. I don’t think anybody would frown upon that.

Oh, and get Reuben Langdon back as the voice actor for Dante. In my opinion he was sorely missed in DmC.

Overall the failure of DmC should be remembered as a prime example of why developers and publishers should treat their fans with decency and a certain level of respect. DmC’s poor sales could also show that perhaps publishers should do more market research or customer evaluations before investing into something as drastic as DmC, to make sure there’s actually a market for something like this. There’s an old saying that “the customer is always right”, and while the literal meaning of that saying might not always be true the underlying message of it still remains true – you shouldn’t piss off your customers.

Is DmC's sales flop completely caused by fan backlash? Honestly, I think the only way we'll find out for sure is if Devil May Cry 5 ever happens. There are a lot of potential reasons why this happened, but it's hard to overlook the most obvious ones.

What I hope this isn’t remembered for is something along the lines of “gamers can’t accept change”. I’ve been hearing this floating around recently (especially amongst die hard Ninja Theory fans), and it kind of bugs me. Gamers are perfectly open to change, but they also are aware that not all change is good change, and that some changes aren’t necessary.

So, fellow Destructoiders, what input do you have on the abrupt fall of DmC: Devil May Cry?
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About Sephzillaone of us since 9:27 AM on 07.15.2008

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Who am I? I'm a guy who plays video games, talks way too much about comics and movies, likes Godzilla and Robocop. 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.

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