Over the past few weeks, we've all heard the unfortunate news surrounding Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and "Project Copernicus" developer 38 Studios. The most recent update from Joystiq is even more discouraging. Just sad.
Now, I don't know if the company mishandled that $75 million loan they were given, or if they screwed up in other ways. What I do know is that Reckoning was a relatively well-received title that also did quite well on the sales charts. In the increasingly difficult realm of the big-budget new IP, it certainly didn't tank; in fact, it was viewed as a success right out of the gate. But things went south fast and the situation, from an originality and innovation standpoint, is growing dire.
The industry has long since thrived on big-name sequels. But we always need fresh names to keep gaming progressive; to continue to give gamers new experiences, and new developers and designers fresh influences. But at this point, given the 38 Studios apparent difficulties, how successful does a new IP have to be? How many copies does it have to sell just for the developers to keep their jobs ? Forget about raking in huge amounts of cash; we're only talking about survival , here. Some years back, Free Radical had to shutter its doors, primarily due to the flop that was Haze .
But Reckoning was no Haze . On top of which, you've got developers everywhere repeating the same exact sentiment: Launching a successful new IP is getting borderline impossible. Look at Ninja Theory and Heavenly Sword (which evidently sold 1.5 million copies and the studio still said it wasn't enough) and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West . You might also note that many of the newest, most innovative titles are found in the digital/downloadable realm now. Why? Because the money is less; hence, the risk is less. So we get Journey , Braid , Joe Danger , Linger in Shadows , echochrome , The Unfinished Swan (among many others).
Undoubtedly, this is also a big reason why we're seeing so many reboots. Developers everywhere have realized that consumers are really only buying names they recognize, perhaps even regardless of review scores. The latter part is what scares me the most, as this industry has historically rewarded quality. However, so long as something like Heavy Rain can hit big, there's still hope, right?