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In Depth: Inside  Mirror's Edge, Dead Space  Sales Weakness
In Depth: Inside Mirror's Edge, Dead Space Sales Weakness Exclusive
December 17, 2008 | By Staff

December 17, 2008 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

It's now apparent that Electronic Arts' major releases for 2008 didn't meet the company's expectations; CEO John Riccitiello said as much, recently announcing that the company wouldn't make its numbers for the year and that a new strategy is in the works.

Gamasutra's exclusive NPD analysis now reveals the specifics of discouraging sales for EA's two new creative ventures Mirror's Edge and Dead Space, and disappointing life to date numbers for Burnout Paradise as well.

To be exact, numbers cross-platform are: Madden NFL 09 sold 3.9 million, Burnout Paradise sold 592,000, Dead Space sold 421,000, and Mirror's Edge sold 145,000.

From the exclusive analysis:

Electronic Arts had previously professed its faith in the creative process and the potential profit to be found in new properties. Titles like Mirror's Edge and Dead Space, both completely new material, were key to the company's end-of-year strategy.

To get an idea of EA's position, it is instructive to consider the following data, provided to Gamasutra by the NPD Group. The figure below shows the life-to-date (LTD) sales figures for four key EA properties: Madden NFL 09, Burnout Paradise, Dead Space, and Mirror's Edge.

(Only Dead Space is currently available for Windows PC as well as consoles, so the data above includes all of those platforms. Data for the other three games includes only console and handheld versions.)

Not pictured, but worth mentioning, is Spore -- available for Windows PC, MacOS, and the Nintendo DS -- which has sold in excess of 2 million units since its launch.

What should EA make of these results? Its biggest annual software release, Madden NFL, is still doing quite well, although it is not growing its installed base as it has in the past. EA's high-profile designer, Will Wright, delivered a multi-million seller with Spore, but we have yet to see whether EA can successfully exploit it with add-ons as it had previously done with Wright's earlier game, The Sims.

To these successes we add Burnout Paradise, the latest iteration of the well-regarded Burnout series and the first on current generation consoles. It moved around 230,000 units (for the Xbox 360 and PS3 combined) when it launched in January of this year, yet the game is just now reaching 600,000 units LTD, even with heavily promoted gratis downloadable content.

It goes without saying that Burnout Paradise probably has not lived up to the company's expectations. (It should be noted here that the complete PlayStation 3 game is available for download from Sony's PlayStation Store, and sales figures for that version have not been released by either Sony or Electronic Arts.)

The two new creative ventures, Mirror's Edge and Dead Space, have both failed miserably. This is in spite of lengthy and extensive marketing for each game, including a series of graphic novel-style backstory trailers for Dead Space released over several months.

The brightest spot in EA's line-up turns out to be Left 4 Dead, a cooperative shooter developed by Valve and published by EA. The Xbox 360 console exclusive was 8th for the month of November with sales of 410,000 units. (It is also available for Windows PC, both as a boxed product and through Valve's own distribution platform, Steam.) The challenge for EA is generating those kinds of hit titles with the studios it owns.

You can read the full Gamasutra NPD analysis for November, including lots more specifics on trends, hardware and game sales, and prospects for the future.

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Peter Olsted
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How sad. These games definitely deserved to sell more.

And I sure hope this won't result in cancellation of these series or that innovative games are a thing of past.

Mark Carson
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Unfortunate yes, especially for Dead Space which was a good title. However, I would argue the point of 'extensive' marketing. I never saw anything except a banner ad and didn't even notice that until my engineer showed me a video for the game. They may have spent a lot of money on advertising, but that doesn't mean it's the titles fault for not selling. I would argue the marketing group and the EA brand were the failure points.

Ted Brown
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The hardcore "challenge" elements of Mirror's Edge (helicopters with machine guns, riot police) really ruined that game, IMO. It just needed to be free running. Not sure if it would have sold more copies, naturally, but at least it wouldn't have scared off potential mainstream customers.

Kostas Yiatilis
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EA brand maybe a reason, but not the only one obviously,

Maybe Gears of War 2 had something to do with it.

Also I agree marketing wasn't aggressive and if they spent a lot

of money they probably did crap with it.

Mirror's Edge trailers , i think they were cartoons, failed miserably to convey the feeling of the game. Also who would

decide to use that kind of style for an obviously older target

group. Marketing guys screwed up obviously with Dead Space to

if they decided to make graphic novel like trailers....

Why do that? These games should be marketed as what they


I would never buy dead space if all i saw were graphic novel

thingies.... Mirror's Edge game-play footage only appeared

near release I think....

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that if they couldn't sell

those games they are retarded and didn't do their research.

People who want to play FPS style games are into visuals

I would think, so show them visuals.

Anyways, I also hope that this does not mean less original IP

from EA. They should take a look at what Ubi does when they

are promoting a new IP.

Carl Chavez
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Mirror's Edge is a fun arcade-like game, but it's overpriced for its play value. Since it's meant to designed to be played in short, exciting bursts, it's the kind of game that would benefit from a long-term strategy of selling as a $30 retail+downloadable title, with periodic content updates for time trial maps and cross-platform support for player-generated maps (so PC players can make maps for 360/PS3 players). In that way, money would eventually be made from "Long Tail" expectations and a slowly built, but solid, player base. It's definitely not worth a $60 investment, though, when there are so many better choices at the price point.

Bryan Jury
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This is also the second Burnout on the 360, not the first.

Adam Peterson
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How is Left for Dead's 410,000 units sold a "brightest spot" if Dead Space's 421,000 units sold is a "miserable failure"?

Brandon Sheffield
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Adam - my guess would be because Left 4 Dead's sales may not be finished. I agree that it's a bit of an odd juxtaposition though.

Michael Gehri
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The game stop effect could also be playing a big part in this. Dead Space and Mirrors Edge are both single player games only. And the twitchy twelve year old's will trade on it as soon as they finish it.

David Crooks
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Robert Allen: Don't forget about the fact that this is US v. Worldwide sales. Madden doesn't sell for crap outside of the states, but worldwide, Burnout Paradise has sold fairly well, and I'm sure ME and DS's sales are non-trivial over in Europe as well.

Kevin Patterson
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Unfortunately, It doesn't surprise me regarding Mirror's edge, but it does a bit regarding Dead Space. Mirror's edge was something very different, and most would rent than buy, which is a shame.

Dead space looked great, had alot of push behind it, and got decent reviews. However, they released a new franchise in a time where biggies like Fable 2, Fallout 3, Gears 2, and COD 5 were around the corner. Most will take their limited gaming budget and wait for the big sequels, and then rent the new franchise. I think the same thing happened to Little Big Planet.

If they had released Dead Space in march, it might have done better.

Ian Fisch
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I think Left 4 Dead is considered as more of a success because it was a lot cheaper to produce and market. It's a very fun game, but it's also somewhat limited in terms of enemy types (six at my count) and big set piece events.

Erik Moser
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I would like to see some analysis as to whether Burnout Paradise's DLC has been a worthwhile investment for Criterion. I assume sales dip quickly for racing games, so can we assume that it would have sold maybe 350k units without all of its free DLC (I really don't know sales patterns)? It would seem then, that free, high-quality DLC was justified and could serve as an example to the industry.

Mirror's Edge might then have hope for its upcoming pack, which looks to get to the core parkour gameplay that the audience wants (or thinks it wants).

It'll probably never reach the sales EA wants, but they now have a play-tested FPS parkour system that they can leverage for a whole new channel of games. Whether they get the dollars back now, it's a worthwhile tech investment.

Ben Lewis
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Dead Space a miserable failure? It had solid September and October sales, and should have a long tail as it shows up on virtually every Top Games of 2008 list.

IMO its marketing budget was out of control and cost EA far more than needed. Who really cares about a full-length animated film based on a game they may not play? I *loved* Dead Space and have no interest in the movie and comics that no doubt cost a pretty penny to produce. The TV and online campaigns also seemed to go on too long (I believe the horror movie section of is still sponsored by Dead Space). Not sure if all of these media buys and non-game goodies were ever going to translate into explosive sales.

As the reviews and year-end accolades continue to pour in, and the price inevitably drops in 2009, it should eventually push the 1 million mark. Dead Space is the closest thing to a perfect game that I've played all year and it deserves to get a sequel. Can't say the same for Mirror's Edge.

Re: Left 4 Dead being "a lot cheaper to produce and market"? Valve blew $10m on the L4D ad campaign. That's hardly cheap.

Lo Pan
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Drop Mirror and Dead by $10. Fix bugs for current users. Snap!

Joshua Sterns
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Quoted from Ted: "The hardcore "challenge" elements of Mirror's Edge (helicopters with machine guns, riot police) really ruined that game, IMO. It just needed to be free running. Not sure if it would have sold more copies, naturally, but at least it wouldn't have scared off potential mainstream customers."

Just an FYI. After completing the story mode for Mirror's Edge all Time Trial maps are unlocked. This is just a simple run here and there as quickly as possible with no enemies. They're a blast, and you can check out scores of friends and fellow gamers.

I think Mirror's Edge would have been a success if it included multiplayer and had a different release date. The story mode was too short, and Time Trials will only last so long. A tag game would have been a blast. The developers could also have looked into unique MP modes from other games like Splinter Cell.

The release date issue should have been a no brainer for marketing. Two many big time sequels came out in November. This game would have benefited more from a summer release.

Phil RA
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I always saw Mirror's Edge as unlikely to sell.

#1: Practically no violence (in fact you're told to avoid being violent), no gore, no shocking impact, etc.

#2: Bad cost-saving marketing trick to use flash-like cartoons to present aspects of the game's story.

#3: Always expected to be too short, and the one aspect that was likely to add to the game's length and keeper-factor was moved to downloadable content. A level editor would have been highly feasible considering the direction they took with the downloadable content.

It's not those three specific points on their own, but their combination that makes Mirror's Edge a very difficult sell.

As for Dead Space:

#1: Sci-fi can be a though sell, due to its sterile nature. Gamers like to get a feedback from their actions, but in the cold of space only empty hallways are a witness to your achievements.

#2: No online or co-op mode. You might think that it wouldn't work because of the story or setting, but that's the developers' job to figure out how to make it work, and it was EA's job to give them the time to make it happen. It's a new license, you don't want to screw up, you want a big hit.

Stephen McDonough
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The tremendous failure of Mirror's Edge is a rarity. The main mode of the game, the story campaign, is its weakest aspect. Those who have bought and held onto the game were most likely those who were anticipating it and they were anticipating the Time Trials and Speedrun aspects of the game. At its core it relies upon users learning a level, which is at odds with running the level just once. it is more akin to Tony Hawk or Skate in this aspect, and should have been treated as such.

The fact that so many potential players were turned off by the short story campaign while so many others either returned the game or had only rented it in the first place to beat said story campaign is the best explanation for its poor sales performance.

I can only hope that, should EA decide to drop Mirror's Edge, some other passionate group pick up the idea and do another Parkour First Person game.

Corwyn Kalenda
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I just don't see how DS in particular can be considered a "failure" when EA, inadvertantly or otherwise, stacked the deck so hard against it. Let's face it, the economy's been sliding a while, and gamers don't have as much disposable cash as the industry's become accustomed to, especially this year. DS and ME released during a period that also saw a LOT of stiff competition--GoW2, Fable 2, Left 4 Dead(I count this one because it's not a wholly-EA title)... all high-profile titles that released around the same time with a lot of anticipation involved. Not to mention DS and ME were probably to a fair extent competing with each other, for that matter.

On the whole, I'd be inclined to suggest that far from being a failure, both titles did better than you could reasonably expect in such a hostile environment.

Yannick Boucher
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What I'm seeing is that people went for ABSOLUTE GUARANTEED 100% TRIPLE-A SURE-FIRE HITS on their first purchases for the holidays, but the others are gonna pick up steam later on.

The market was just too insanely flooded. Sales have been disappointing for just about everyone: LBP, Motorstorm Pacific Rift (is it even on the charts ?!), Resistance 2 to a certain extent, EndWar...

It's the launch window. There was too much good stuff for anybody to handle, and it all got fragmented.

Yannick Boucher
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I really don't think we should be looking at the games or the marketing themselves. Because, widen up your viewpoint a bit, and you'll see that EVERYONE was effected similarly, not just EA.

Paul Rowland
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Recently spent time with Bernie Stolar and he hit the nail on the head there is too much rubbish being developed. People need to ask is it fun and is it $60 or $70 of fun..........Mirrors Edge did not come close to that price point.....ask yourself what game you would rather play Mirrors edge or the Matrix....and that was released on PS2.... Also fact is sports represent a big chunk of EA's sales and Madden takes a big chunk of that. But how excited are you to play the next version of Madden...yes it sells but is it sustainable as the main source of income.....EA are in a dangerous position. The industry needs to adopt new models for releasing console games.....and for me its episodic content that's downloaded from the online store. Developers get to try more stuff out and take more risks....and their consumers will purchase more product as the price point will be lower.

robert snow
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EA appears to be getting on the post Bioshock, original IP bandwagon, which is great, but they need a supplemental strategy like episodic or DLC. More value, more value, more value. To say that these games are failures is premature. I recall Resistance being called a failure initially only to have a steady climb to 2.5 million units sold, obviously a low PS3 install base is what led to slow sales for that game, but the point remains; if you invest in good product, that's about the best you can do. Are we suggesting EA churn out more sequels and licensed games?

Yannick Boucher
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Before overplaying the "DLC" and "episodic" buzzwords, I think they should just do plain old sensible scheduling and competitive analysis. DLC is not for every game, and it's certainly not an answer to every problem. As for Stolar coming up with the revelation that "there is too much rubbish being developed", well, that could be said of any industry, at any moment, so i wouldn't call that "nailing it on the head"; we're trying to look a little further than that.

Anthony Clay
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There's nothing wrong with any of the games in my opinion. Whoever decided that *everything* needs to be a christmas release isn't very bright. Come January, I'll be picking up more games, but this is a *holiday* season in the middle of a *recession* - must everything other than the tried-and-true sell like hotcakes? It's completely unrealistic, and frankly, unfair to the new titles - no matter how much you spent on marketing.

Next year, from Jan-August - we'll once again be waiting for months between "big" releases. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying these games at a *sub* $60 price-point. And next november, like clockwork, we'll get yet another onslaught of new titles all at once. And everyone will be forced to choose 1-3 out of 10. But of-course we'll see John R going on about how "it's the pirates fault" or something equally asinine. And then the company will announce that in 2010 all we're getting are our basic food-groups of sims, spore, and madden -- with a dash of securom. And everyone here will resume the status-quo of hating EA.

Paul Rowland
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Yannick I agree I don't think its the answer to everything just an alternative, just look at companies like ubisoft and how they have evolved. My point was for games like Mirrors edge and other games that costs studios millions but fail to hit because they got something wrong. This is not acceptable for the future of the industry.... if you buy mirrors edge for $60 you will be disappointed no matter how long you wait till after xmas this game wont get any better or become more fun. So to solve this may be EA could have developed the game mechanic and early levels and released them for download at very low cost and and gauged popularity then continued the game based on success, that way if it flops then you save a bunch of money and time.....move on to the next thing. Any comments on this type of approach?

As for games like GTA they deliver incredible experience and they have built their brand properly and can have people out queuing for their games in the cold waiting to part with their cash as they know they will get something great. A similar story with LBP you knew exactly what you were getting a fun experience with broad appeal.

Yannick Boucher
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No but the thing is, if I'd bought Mirror's Edge at $60 in mid-June, I might be perfectly satisfied... and we ALL have Mirror's Edge on our shopping lists, but we all have better stuff to buy this season, let's face it, it's the scheduling. Sure, the game has it's flaws, but not enough to justify 150k sales only, in my opinion. Indeed as Anthony said, "whoever decided that *everything* needs to be a christmas release isn't very bright." . To me that accounts for 80% of the problem.

Ed Gregor
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Rebecca Fernandes has it right.

" Drop Mirror and Dead by $10. Fix bugs for current users. Snap! "

better yet, drop it by more. A big problem here is that these publishers are not willing to face the economic facts and lower the prices of games. $60 doesn't go as far as it used to last year, so people will buy 1 game a month, whereas last year they may have bought 3 or 4. If the prices were cheaper, they'd sell more, make the profit up in volume, and not have to put developers out on the street cuz they are too stupid to adjust their prices to what consumers can afford. Sometimes you have to get a little less profit off of each sale in order to entice more sales. It's some pretty basic economics that they are unwilling to accept, and the losers are the workers as well as the consumers.

If I went into a gamestore and could get 3 new games for 60 bucks, I'd buy 3 new games. Right now, I'm left having to choose one game to get. We are all losing out.