Are Dead Space and Resident Evil struggling to survive the negative influences of their publishers?
Video game publishers have a tremendous responsibility not only towards their products, but also their customers. They are responsible for the marketing and manufacture of their games and for making sure that the development stages run smoothly. One such company is Electronic Arts, a publisher that hasn’t always made the right decisions. Fortunately, one of their best decisions resulted in the development of Dead Space, an atmospheric survival horror that impressed both critics and gamers alike.
Since its 2008 release, two sequels, a prequel, two animated films and a comic book series have spawned from the first game’s success. Dead Space is cemented as one of this generation’s finest franchises. However, success can lead publishers to make rash decisions, which in turn have damaging effects on the sales of their product and the loyalty of their consumers. The recent rumour that EA had cancelled the production of Dead Space 4 due to disappointing sales of the third game turned out to be false, but the negative influence the company had on Dead Space 3 is still a matter to consider. One could argue that Dead Space 3′s failures are entirely down to EA.
Before I go on, I must say that I love Dead Space 3, I really do. Despite the toned-down horror elements and sometimes inconsistent quality of levels, I found myself enjoying every minute of it. But the thing is, I played the game the way that it was advertised, through co-op. While I found this to be a welcome addition to the series, it has undeniably divided the fan-base. The shift from survival horror to a more action-focused experience was criticised by many reviewers, who felt that this dumbed down the tense atmosphere that the series is famous for. The focus on action in the third game was meant to appeal to a wider audience, particularly fans of the Call of Duty franchise. While EA probably thought this was a great direction for the future of Dead Space, it has left the third game a shadow of its predecessors. It’s extremely frustrating to see a game with so much potential wasted. What EA must understand is that Dead Space doesn’t need to be an action-focused title. Sure, intense moments in some sections would be a welcome change of pace, but to almost completely abandon the sheer ferocity of its horror elements is a disservice to the series. If it was entirely up to Visceral Games (the studio developing the series), I’m sure we would have seen a far different game.
While survival horror seems to be flourishing on the PC with the likes of Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Slender, the genre is struggling to retain its popularity and identity on consoles. Capcom’s Resident Evil is a perfect example of a series that is struggling to find its place in the industry. It’s sad to see the king of survival horror fall because of the bad choices made in the development of the sixth game. After playing portions of its three campaign modes you feel that this is a game trying too hard to please everyone. Like EA, Capcom is catering to the gamer who wants intense actions sequences and exaggerated quick-time events. The Resident Evil that you knew, the game that brought fear into your hearts with its memorable zombie encounters, is unfortunately no more. It has become a bloated and inconsistent mess with a serious identity crisis, an infectious disappointment that Capcom needs to treat fast.
Another worry is the way that EA and Capcom have handled the marketing of their games. Dead Space 3′s launch trailer failed to capture the foreboding mood of the previous titles. Instead we got a number of combat sequences which felt out of place, accompanied by a strange (if brilliant) re-mixing of Phil Collins’s, In the Air Tonight. The original Dead Space did not achieve success through spectacular trailers, but through word of mouth. Many gamers were made aware of the game because of its brutal and horrifying reputation. Dead Space 3 simply doesn’t have the same bite.
Since both games released, EA and Capcom must be considering the disappointing sales and lacklustre reception from fans. Hopefully this will lead them to question such decisions for the sake of further releases. Capcom cannot continue to allow one of its most cherished franchises to fall out of favour again. Resident Evil must be taken back to its 90′s roots if it’s ever going to survive in the future. EA needs to unleash Visceral Games and allow it to revisit that claustrophobic terror, that monstrous experience which we first fell in love with. However, Visceral should do this without abandoning the excellent co-operative mode and addictive looting which were highlights of the third game. Perhaps these publishers will understand that we gamers are ravenous for more survival horror – we want to be reduced to sobbing wrecks. We have enough titles that offer mindless action but not nearly enough that can scare us.