According to Steve Allison, Midway’s senior VP and chief marketing officer, they don’t.
Only 7% of the new game-related intellectual properties introduced across the past four years can be considered successful and review scores had no bearing on the sales of those games. “In other words, 93 percent of new IP fails in the marketplace,” he explained on N’Gai Croal’s Level Up. “So while the 90-plus review scores and armfuls of awards create the perception that titles like Psychonauts, Shadow of the Colossus, Okami and other great pieces of work were big successes…they were big financial disappointments and money losers.”
“The truth is that there is no correlation between review scores and commercial success,” Allison wrote in a followup entry. “If there were, ‘great’ games Beyond Good & Evil, Ico, Okami, Psychonauts, Shadow of the Colossus, Freedom Fighters, Prey and Midway’s own Psi-Ops would all have been multi-million unit sellers. The aforementioned games are all games that average review scores of nearly 90 percent out of 100, some even higher. The reality is none has sold more than 300,000 units at full price in the U.S. and a couple of these less than 250,000 units lifetime even with bargain pricing.”
Earlier this year, Capcom shut down Clover Studio–the celebrated developer behind Okami (PS2), God Hand (PS2) and the Viewtiful Joe series–a move widely believed to stem from poor sales of the studio’s new intellectual properties, such as Okami and God Hand.
To rectify the issue of overlooked games, Allison suggests that developers focus on broadening the appeal of their games beyond hardcore players, crafting an on-screen experience that causes casual gamers to respond “I’ve got to get that” or “Bad ass!”. The executive also noted that timing is key, using the example of moviegoers overlooking an asteroid film if two others recently arrived in theaters before it.
“What happens all too often in the videogame business is that we get art house movies made at blockbuster budgets,” he stated. “These games inevitably fail to find an audience large enough to support their costs, and nobody is happy.”