Feels like every time I open my mouth about survival horror these days I get into trouble, but what the hell.
My interview at NowGamer has, to nobody’s surprise, had a couple of quotes cherry-picked out of it — “necessary evil” being the most sensational, I guess — and spread around the Internet, helping fuel the rampant “DEAD SPACE 3 IS CALL OF DUTY OH NOES” wailing and gnashing of teeth. Many commenters even seem to think I’m responsible for these decisions at EA, ha ha.
But the biggest misconception, by far, is that if only EA had continued to produce DEAD SPACE games exactly like the first, they’d be sitting on a goldmine. And that’s simply not the case. Listen carefully, now:
There is a market for survival horror games. I’m part of that market. Survival horror fans are so starved of “real” survival horror right now that we will buy just about anything that crops up. We are loyal, and we will spend money.
Sounds good, right? Encouraging? Not so fast.
The survival horror market is small. Too small to support huge triple-A titles from major publishers. AAA games cost as much to make as a Hollywood movie, and sometimes more. They have to sell millions — not a million, many millions — to make a profit, and justify their cost. And there just aren’t enough “purist” survival horror fans out there to achieve that, not any more. You want to know why games like RESIDENT EVIL and DEAD SPACE have evolved to become more accessible, less “pure”? That’s why. Simple economics.
Sounds bad, right? Discouraging? Not so fast.
AAA is not the only way. If you only watch the big console market, you may not know about recent indie games like AMNESIA: THE DARK DESCENT, or LONE SURVIVOR, or HOME. These are all great survival horror games, and they are all profitable. Because they are not triple-A.
Look, this isn’t rocket science. There is money to be made from survival horror games, so long as you don’t spend a fortune making them.
And the more people support those small, indie survival horror titles, the more chance there is of other developers taking a similar gamble, maybe even a major publisher or two, and that’s the sort of thing that leads to another boom in the genre.
But if not? If we only continue as a niche, with superb, terrifying games like AMNESIA released every so often? That still sounds pretty damn good to me.