The Market For Alien: Isolation

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Alien franchise fans got cautiously optimistic this week when SEGA and Creative Assembly announced Alien: Isolation for consoles and PC — simultaneously disillusioned from the critically panned Aliens: Colonial Marines and excited for a genuine survival horror Alien game. I’m more concerned about why SEGA was even willing to greenlight the game.

According to SEGA and previews, Isolation is a game with little or no focus on guns where you’re supposed to hide from just one alien throughout the whole game, and has no multiplayer. It basically sounds like Amnesia: The Dark Descent in space and with a much larger budget. SEGA plans to sell this game at retail, presumably for $60.

Typically this is the kind of thing you see an indie developer selling for $20 at most (like Gone Home) while almost any publisher releasing a retail game has to throw in multiplayer, an experience point system, crafting, challenges, pre-order DLC, and other stuff to make sure customers don’t trade it in a week after purchase. Why is SEGA going this route and can Isolation make any decent return on investment?

On the why, SEGA may be a big publisher, but it isn’t exactly EA or Activision. SEGA fans are probably the most mistreated in gaming with how much that company has neglected its classic franchises. People complain about how it’s chosen to put out Sonic game after Sonic game while occasionally releasing ROM dumps, completely ignore the likes of Panzer Dragoon or Shinobi, destroy the Valkyria Chronicles franchise, and stop localizing Yakuza games. At the same time, this is the company that decided to publish Total War and Company of Heroes. I think when it comes to western games SEGA isn’t quite addicted to online first person shooters.

Another reason might be because how new the PS4 and Xbox One are. Ubisoft in the past has admitted it thinks new intellectual properties do better towards the beginning of a console generation when users are looking for new games to define their new boxes. Just look at how Gears of War, Mass Effect, and Assassin’s Creed gained traction within two years of the Xbox 360’s launch and inspired many other games thereafter. Basically, newer or less common ideas might do better on newer game platforms. Maybe this is why SEGA reasons it’s safe to release Isolation at retail late this year.

As for whether it is safe, that’s harder to say (we really still don’t know much of what’s coming out around the same time other than an inevitable Call of Duty). It’s certainly not trying to catch the typical first person shooter crowd for which the console game market has vehemently geared itself over the last several years. Oh this game will probably draw survival horror fans like a magnet, but can that kind of fanbase (people yearning for an old school Resident Evil for instance) support a full retail title with today’s budgets?

If SEGA and Creative Assembly are willing to think a bit out of the box, maybe they should go for horror fans in general? Real horror stories seem to be a mainstream thing everywhere except video games. It would be interesting if they tried to somehow market Isolation to horror fans in general (or at least sci-fi horror fans in general). Better yet they should probably market the game to Alien fans in general, who may or may not play a lot of video games.

Whatever happens I really hope Isolation is enough of a success to convince other publishers that maybe not turning every retail game into an online-focused DLC device isn’t a cardinal sin.

BULLETS:

  • MiiVerse drama. http://t.co/DXLDiKH5yg
  • This NeoGAF post is the face of all console wars. It’s from a thread on the announcement of Titanfall being 6v6. http://t.co/mEiqWjo6tP
  • If the Far Cry 10th anniversary collection does indeed include the original game (sources differ), it should be the first time it’s ever released on a console. http://t.co/UXPT2x10Ak
  • Run around freely in the main menu of Mirror’s Edge on PC. http://t.co/vSt9Zg73ww
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