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Dead Space 2: A victory for creativity

Opinion: EA's belief in a new IP benefits us, all says Tom Pakinkis...

It's when you start seeing games with numbers as big as '8' and '13' on the front of boxes that you realise: the games industry, both of the business and consumer side of the till, is mesmerised by the conservative safety of a sequel.

Some franchises hide their age with a subtitle like "Vicious Reptile: Toasty Monday" or "Age of Destruction: Balls in the Sun". But don't be fooled - they're sequels in disguise, ready to jump you with content you've seen before plus a little extra shine.

It doesn't stop there, though. The next step of the cunning ruse is to combine numbers and subtitles. Activision, of course, marketed Call of Duty 6 as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - with Modern Warfare dwarfing the CoD name on every billboard across the land. Two years later and we're gearing up for Call of Duty 8.

You think that's bad? I don't need to remind you we've had 14 Final Fantasy games, and that's just the main series; there are another 21 spin-off games with "Final Fantasy" somewhere in the title (Okay, that includes the mobile port of Final Fantasy VII Snowboarding, but I'm building up a head of steam here).

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But if gamers love a good sequel - more than any other entertainment audience, it seems - publishers love throwing them out there even more. It's incredibly tough for new IP to break through in the triple-A boxed market: Of 2010's Top 10 games, only Ubisoft's Just Dance was from a series that had never been seen before.

The simple fact is, if an IP doesn't perform well first time round in the modern market, it rarely gets a second chance. Mirror's Edge, anyone? Ooh. Alpha Protocol? Blur? Split/Second?

That's why we should all be celebrating Dead Space 2's success - regardless of whether we're into the horror shooter or not. (You really should be, by the way. It really is astounding.)

Almost three years ago, Dead Space stomped onto the scene with something genuinely compelling to offer the world, and was met with a raucous wave of... next to nothing.

It must have been a worrying time for the 13 people that did buy it. Here was a game that brought the best out of survival horror. Its perfect sense of balance and atmosphere combined with a rich and weighty feel meant that it was sit-on-a-pinecone uncomfortable and an absolute thrill because of it... Wait, that came out wrong.

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But if initial sales were anything to go by, it looked more than likely that EA would drop Isaac Clarke and his tin-man suit as a "nice idea that just didn't have any commercial foundations". After this slow start, the title went on to creep over the two million sales mark; unspectacular in blockbuster terms, but just enough for EA to keep faith.

But EA clearly didn't doubt Visceral's ability to make a sequel that would slap the apathetic around the face. As a result, we've got one of the most intense, enjoyable and spectacular titles of this generation - one which has maintained its cold grip on the No.1 spot for two weeks. Better yet, it doubled sales of the original Dead Space within days of hitting shelves.

A little bit of backing and a lot of belief can go a long way. Now EA is rightly reaping the financial rewards for its courage and its faith in Visceral's original vision. The video games market at large is a much more interesting place to observe as a direct result.

We can only hope the Dead Space story inspires publishers to hold on to new IPs, even if they don't conjure up a sales storm straight away - and listen to their developers when they say they've got a gem of an idea on their hands. Yes, Remedy. We can hear you over there.

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