Published on June 9th, 2018 | by gareth3
Why Nobody Really “Wins” Or “Loses” A Game Show As Final Sales Are What Really Counts
The phrases “Winning” and “Losing” are thrown around a lot during game conventions. Weeks before the show the invariable flood of so and so can “win” and “lose” said convention always fly fill up the gaming news sphere.
I have always found that the true measure of success is final sales and to a lesser extent; reviews. Perhaps it is the fact that we cover movies as well that has me looking at the final take as being the true goal of success. Yes there are plenty of bad games that make money just like there are bad movies that make money. However as one studio executive told me and I will paraphrase; I would rather make a movie that gets bad reviews and makes a nice profit than one that is highly praised, sweeps the awards, and makes a modest profit”. When I asked why, I was told that the job was to put people in the seats not win praise and the award winner that makes a small profit is the one that can get people fired.
I have seen many games look like sure fire smashes at award shows. Aliens Colonial Marines, Duke Nukem Forever, Evolve, The Order: 1886 and Battleborn to name just a few made very splashy debuts and rode a wave of hype that eventually saw them sell below expectations and/or get savaged in reviews.
The reason for this is that it is easy to showcase a game in a controlled setting. In the case of Aliens: Colonial Marines, we were shown gameplay that was not an indicator at all of what the actual gameplay and graphics were like and it was introduced by a very energetic Randy Pitchford who talked up the game as he did later when we first saw and played Duke Nukem Forever.
When you are showing video segments or allowing people to play carefully selected segments of a game on optimized hardware it can be misleading. I can tell you about numerous console games I have played where the cabinet below the monitor clearly showed PC systems which were very different than the final build.
People are also far more forgiving of a game in an Alpha or Beta state as shown at a game conference. It is easy to say something looks good with the hope that things will be polished before release. However as someone who has also worked with game developers; I have seen games shoved out the door unfinished due to time and budget factors resulting in a product far below expectations.
The machine that builds the hype up for a game can also turn on it fast; simply look at Mass Effect: Andromeda, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and EA Star Wars Battlefront 2 as examples.
Companies like the hype as in the age of Social Media, they proudly display their “Best of Show” awards and nominations at their booth. The cynical part of me finds some of this funny as companies are printing up the awards to give to companies before they even see the game. I have seen media members with a folder full of certificates and they told me they give one to everyone they meet with. I know that listing all the kudos from a show is a key part of the marketing of a game but I have always given our awards out after a show as I believe it is better to do it after you have seen the various offerings and as such has more significance.
For me nobody wins or loses a game show. You can say a company had a good showing or had a disappointing showing but the end result is in the final product. A company can have a good showing and ride the hype wave to a disappointing game just as they can have a bad showing, fix the issues, take the time to polish it out and redeem it with a successful and popular launch.
The hype and excitement of E3 and other shows is a big part of it, just understand nobody really wins or loses the show, as I am sure many companies would be ok with being labeled as losing a show if they upon release outsell all the so called “winners”.