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'Survival horror' market too small for  Resident Evil , says Capcom producer
'Survival horror' market too small for Resident Evil, says Capcom producer Exclusive
March 22, 2012 | By Kris Graft

March 22, 2012 | By Kris Graft
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    51 comments
More: Console/PC, Design, Production, Exclusive



Some long-time Resident Evil fans might long for the "good old days" of the franchise, when early games in the series were deliberately-paced, nerve-wracking explorations into a "world of survival horror." Today, the series' emphasis is on action that rarely lets up.

But while there are those who'd love to see a return to classic Resident Evil gameplay, the market for that style -- "survival horror" -- just isn't viable enough to warrant the biggest investments, Capcom's Resident Evil: Revelations producer Masachika Kawata told Gamasutra in an interview.

"Especially for the North American market, I think the series needs to head in that [action-oriented] direction," Kawata said. "[Resident Evil's primary games] need to be an extension of the changes made in Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5.

"RE4 started in that direction, and RE5 kept going in that direction," he said. "And I think that especially for the North American market, we need to keep going in that direction, and take that a step further. And that's exactly one of the reasons that Revelations is the way it is," he said.

While Revelations -- released on Nintendo 3DS earlier this year -- does have more of a tilt towards the action-oriented gameplay seen in Resident Evil 4 and 5, it manages to mix in the slower, creepy pace of earlier installments for a nice hybrid of gameplay styles.

But if the rising action trend of Resident Evil 4 and 5 continues, don't expect this year's big budget console (and eventually PC) game Resident Evil 6 to follow suit.

Acknowledging that he does not work on the upcoming numbered sequel, Kawata compares survival horror game sales to the best-selling video game franchise Call of Duty, a military FPS whose last installment sold 6.5 million units in its first day.

"Looking at the marketing data [for survival horror games] ... the market is small, compared to the number of units Call of Duty and all those action games sell," he said. "A 'survival horror' Resident Evil doesn't seem like it'd be able to sell those kind of numbers."

But, Kawata said, "I can't really speak for Resident Evil 6, but I don't think that it necessarily has to go all the way in that [action-heavy] direction, the Call of Duty direction. It doesn't have to be a straight up shooter. But my impression is that Resident Evil 4 and 5 aren't shooters, per se."

There are still opportunities though, for Capcom to explore the purer "survival horror" gameplay outside of the series proper, Kawata added. "So we have our numbered series, and we can say we have a more adventure-oriented version, like a Revelations-style game. And we also have Operation: Raccoon City, which is a third-person shooter.

"So I think that by extending the market in this sense, we can still have the numbered titles keep their identity about what Resident Evil is supposed to be, but still expand and hit other markets as well."

Despite the determinations brought about by Capcom's market data, Kawata said, "If you're going to be selling a game based on its good gameplay, then you don't have to worry about the market in which it will be sold." Instead, he said, it's the marketing surrounding a game that has to be tailored for different audiences, in order to appeal to players of specific territories.

"If we're going to make games that sell based on quality content, they should be able to appeal around the world," said Kawata. "That might be obvious, but that's why Grand Theft Auto IV, Skyrim and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare also sell in Japan, because their gameplay is interesting."


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Comments


Rob Wright
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Sad that he admitted it, but it's what we all know to be true. I'm as big a survival horror fan as there is, but the addressable market/potential sales for games like Eternal Darkness, Silent Hill, and yes, Resident Evil aren't in the same league as shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield. Horror games are like horror movies -- niche markets that are beloved by a hardcore few and rarely produce mega-blockbusters.

Bernardo Del Castillo
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Actually, I'm not sure about that, in movies, there is a very big market for horror, even though normally they are not high budget, they seem to be quite profitable.

I think that this might be because they have not made a good survival horror game since... Resident Evil 4? I enjoyed silent hill 4 as well, as shitcanned as it was. But I feel that studios have been getting the wrong idea, yes, it is true that cover based shooters and FPSs can make more money, but that doesnt mean EVERY SINGLE ONE will be COD. Silent hill 5 and 6, Resident evil:Operation raccoon city, and RE5 are all completely out of place, they feel like an action game tacked on a survival horror universe. Not only will Survival horror fans not like them, but shooter fans hate them as well. So what is the point of doing this?

The other day I finished Vanquish, which is clearly a Japanese attempt to make a western game, and I would say that it is a great game, but more for the japanese components, than the Western emulated aspects (which are rather laughingly awful). In that sense Bayonetta, also by platinum games, embraces the quirky weirdness and in my opinion succeeds in winning over a very decent audience... I understand Vanquish did far worse... so I believe studios in general should probably look at doing what they do well rather than aim for mega blockbusters.

I don't think anyone can say that RE5 was better than RE4, even if it was perfectly functional. It's much smarter to hold on to a strong supportive group rather than always try reaching the neighbour's lawn... and getting runover in the process.

Joe McGinn
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I don't "know it to be true". Quite the contrary: they are abandoning the field in which they are the clear leader, and running into the ridiculously over-crowded action-game space to compete with Gears, COD, Mass Effect, and all the rest.

Rob Wright
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Joe, you make a good point -- is Capcom better offer doing what it does well and dominating a smaller genre compared to FPS, or are they better off trying to outdo market leaders in an already crowded shooter field? Probabaly the former, I'll admit. But my point is, survival horror still has a smaller addressable market than a shooter. The top survival horror games on their best day won't be able to touch what a shooter can make in sales. For example, Resident Evil 4 sold more than 7 million copies total over six years -- while Battlefield 3 sold 10 million copies in 6 months. And I think that's why Capcom is doing what they're doing. Not saying it's right or it's what I want (it's not), just saying I understand it...

Joe McGinn
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I understand that, but it's foolishness. Addressable market is one factor, you can't design a product in isolation of other realities. Besides RE 4 sold 7 million copies! So his claim that it's a small market is just flat out untrue. The whole article demonstrates a staggering lack of confidence in themselves, their abilities, their game design capabilities ... he comes right out and says they don't *want* to make another RE4. That's an astonishing statement!

This will all end very badly. When it does, come back to this article. Capcom's lack of self-confidence will be their undoing.

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Michael Brannan
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This just feels wrong. The unspoken message is "make games for money." I get why it makes sense from a business standpoint, but as a gamer and a developer, this just doesn't sit well with me.

Patrick Davis
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This is sad truth of the industry these days. I always saw myself as a lifetime gamer, but the direction things are heading does nothing but turn me off these days.

You get AAA games that are streamlined and super casual friendly, or amazing niche/indie games that could have been so much more with AAA budget. Throw in the day-one/on-disk DLC, the ridiculous collecter's editions, and exclusive store preorder bonuses. It's truly disheartening.

From a business standpoint, things couldn't be better. From a gamers standpoint, things couldn't be worse. Gaming needs to go back underground.

Tom Baird
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Anyone selling their game is making games for money. It's not a dirty word, or a bad mentality. They also happen to make games they think are enjoyable, engaging, and worth their cost(at least the respectable ones do this).

There are plenty of small companies who make the games they want to make regardless of consumer interest, but for the larger companies, and more particularly massively budgeted games, you need to think of who you are selling to. I can't convince someone to give me 20 million dollars to make a movie or game about my cat, and understandably so, unless I can prove to them that I could make at least their investment back. The person who won't greenlight my cat movie, isn't greedy, or too money focussed because of this.

But instead of thinking of it as "make games for money", it also just simply means "Make what people want". If I knew of a genre with only 10 fans, It's preposterous to spend millions of dollars to make a game of that genre. Not because people are greedy, but because game developers are not charities. There is nothing greedy about planning projects to at least break even. In this case, they feel there are not enough survival horror fans, to warrant the budget and scope they want to work with. They even mentioned the smaller budgeted digital releases as being more survival oriented, because the in that case the interest matches the budget.

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Eli Friedberg
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@Patrick: Logging in for the first time in months to say that this is one of the best comments I've read on any gaming blog in ages.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Tom, you make very good points, but regarding "Make what people want" - I'm not sure it's so cut and dry to assume that the market speaks for the consumer. More often than not, people don't really know what they want (and I mean this in a non-condescending way, because it applies to me too). I never knew I wanted a first person shooter set on Mars pitting me against demons from hell, or an arcade game that made me look silly by forcing me to step on plastic arrows at just the right time, or an RPG about cheating death with touch screen mechanics set in a consumerist Japanese city, or a platformer with near limitless time reversal that is enhanced by skillfully commenting on its own genre in a way that tickles the fancy of the connoisseur.

Market research is aiming where the market _is_; any kid out of college can do this. Professionalism is aiming at where the market is going to be when your game is released. Mastery is directing the market. Empathy is looking beyond capitalism at the human condition and making the world a better place by increasing global happiness, not local profit. They are valued in that order. We need to evolve toward empathy, but we're still too scared to evolve past the single-celled organism state of market research! People are not markets, this is an ultimately unhealthy perspective.

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Cary Chichester
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Resident Evil 4 wasn't survival horror, but it still felt like it was horror, albeit action-horror. Resident Evil 5 went too far in the design towards being an action game, to the point where it didn't really feel like RE4 at all (which many would say is the better game).

Also, why don't they make one of their handheld spinoffs a traditional survival-horror game. The investment isn't nearly as large as other titles. It's hard to see the point of making many spinoffs if they're all slightly different versions of the same game.

Chris Melby
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For me, RE5 felt like Gears of Warwith an RE5 theme applied to it. Even Mass Effect 2, which also borrowed to heavily from GoW for my liking, at least still felt like it was part of the ME universe.

Buy yeah, I agree with your assessments.

The new RE game for the 3DS has a throwback feel, but I've only played the demo. I'm going to pick it up soon when I get some free time.

Jonathan Jennings
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Excellent point Cary Resident Evil 4 was the first RE game I actually finished ( I remmeber all of the fuss over the then-new camera angle) and it was a great game because like you mentioned it was a survival horror game with action not an action game trying to include bits of survival horror. Unfortunate when a series that set the foundation for survival horror essentially expresses that that foundation is now obsolete

Matt Walker
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That is exactly what Revelations is, and actually what Kawata-san was getting at with his comments above in regards to Revelations.

Arthur Tam
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Revelations was a friggin BLAST. It isn't all horror, or all action. You're always on the edge as far as being able to control the situation, and losing control and just being concerned about getting the heck out of Dodge. The environmental feel was well established...you never really shake the overhanging sense of dread, or fear that something is going to grab you without any warning (your normal, idling or shambling oozes don't actually make any loud noises but rather just an environmental "squishy" sound), or in the latter parts of the game, the urgency. The story and the Dante themes were kind of weak, but the gameplay experience is tight. If they had made Operation Raccoon City half as entertaining as Revelations, the reception would have been much better.

And Revelations has a multiplayer on top of that. So, along with a great single player, there's a multiplayer that I actually enjoy playing (whoever scripted the stage pacing and spawns, they were kind of a great and terrible genius) and in addition, doesn't really require actually playing with somebody else unless you're tackling the really, really tough stages, so it's great even if you don't have somebody to play with. It provides a very satisfying means of action wanking WITHOUT BREAKING THE SINGLE PLAYER.

I don't want a shooter that happens to have zombies in it. I want a zombie game that happens to have shooting in it. You dig? I may love the action portions and play multiplayer way more than the single player, but the single player was what got me to play the multiplayer. You ruin the first part, you lose your fanbase. You ruin the multiplayer, and nobody cares, and they wait impatiently for the next game while going through the single player multiple times.

The thing I am most sad about is that they could have put the bigger budget behind this game, and had both a swankier (and longer) single player experience like more areas on the cruise ship being available, better character development arcs, and so on, and a meatier multiplayer with more options, and it would have been a smash hit overall compared to the weaker game.

jean-francois Dugas
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For my part, I wouldn't put the "horror" in the problem, but more the survival part.
In my opinion, while it is a niche of some sort, Survival games are not a bad investment, and there is a lot of room to make them even more interesting. I would name on that the Left 4 Dead Survival Update, the Dead Space series, the Metro 2033 survival feeling and the upcomming The Last Of Us game.

put it in a theme of combat, horror, or poney feeding, a survival type of game can make money, if well done.

Josh Bycer
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I think survival horror is still viable, but there hasn't been any major design changes to the formula. Even RE 4 which was my personal favorite, was still built off of the Resident Evil formula.

The problem I think is that developers are leaning too much on either the combat side with games like Dead Space or RE 5, or too much on exploration such as Amnesia. I liked how the Condemned series was going with the levels that tried to give a healthy mix of combat and exploration.

Also I would love to see someone try an open world horror game, the closest I've seen was the sections in the Stalker series where you go underground or into a military complex.

Jeremy Reaban
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So basically, if it doesn't sell like Call of Duty, you shouldn't just bother making a game anymore?

Games should try to make trends, not simply follow them.

Daniel Soltyka
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True, but it's difficult to justify millions of dollars on what is essentially a gamble. During the MIGS 2010 conference I believe the studio lead from BioWare talked about this very thing. He also noted that innovating the field is now really in the hands of indies, and in a lot of ways AAA studios look to indies for what will be the next success, and they build on that.

Joe McGinn
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IMO trying to follow someone else's style - someone at the top of their game, mind you - is a far bigger risk than just doing what you do best.

How many games have failed trying to chase COD's tail? The most recent [disastrous] iteration of Red Faction is one example off the top of my head.

Joe McGinn
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Worse yet, it DID sell like Call of Duty - RE4 sold seven million copies! That is absolutely on the top-tier AAA league even with today's budgets. This isn't about the survival horror market.

It's about Capcom's self-imolation: they have lost all confidence in themselves. Which will end up about like you'd expect.

Arthur Tam
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Resident Evil's original style was THE establishment to begin with, and now they are attempting to transition into another establishment. So, neither of them are gambles, it's just trying to be something that it is not in order to get into a bigger pond instead of being content with what it is good at, or refining those points. It should stick with the core mechanics for the normal games and experiment with the smaller games, not the other way around...it feels like that with Revelations they were experimenting with RETURNING to the old school, not that they were actually trying to do something new aside from streamlining their old ideas.

at the end of the day, it's not a gamble if you're making things that are actually good experiences (but avoid bloating them way past the essentials), no matter how much money you're pulling

Terry Matthes
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If Nintendo can keep a game like Super Mario Brothers fresh, why can't Capcom do the same with Resident Evil?

If you think survival horror is a saturated genre, try Side scrolling platformers. The problem here doesn't seem to be over saturation... It would seem it just isn't worth their money to innovate the genre. It's just easier to take an already established IP and shoe horn it into another.

Jonathan Murphy
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It's funny, because this is the same company that said fighting games are dead around 6 years ago. Thanks for pointing out that Resident Evil 6 will nothing like a horror game... again. Everything is impossible when you stop using your imagination.

William Johnson
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God, I'd kill to see Shinji Mikami do a Kickstarter and show Capcom that survival horror still has a fan base and show them how to make a proper horror game.

Alas Mikami's new studio Tango is owned by ZeniMax so we'll probably never see anything that crazy happen. But on the other hand, ZeniMax has seemed to be pretty cool and allow their developers to turn out some more experimental titles from time to time, so who knows...

Kawata's comments are pretty much what I'd expect from Capcom in its current state. There pretty much is a reason why everyone of importance has left Capcom's sinking ship. I really don't understand why Capcom wasn't more willing to listen to their top developers like Mikami or Inafune.

Brian Taylor
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This is what upsets me. I love all the Resident Evil, Dead Space, and Silent Hill games to date. They are their OWN genre for a reason. You can't just kill off the genre cause it's not CoD. That's BS. I know it's a business, make the game fun, enjoyable. Don't be giving Chris AC130's and having him jump from building to building to helicopter. This is horror, not some godd**m war game aimed towards children. Amnesia has a HUGE following. It wasn't really even advertised. Quit selling out for Christ's sake, this is disgusting.

David Skoumbourdis
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In addition to all of the above valid comments, It also doesn't help that a number of relatively recent entries into the genre weren't very good games in the first place.

The Silent Hill series hasn't produced a AAA game since the PS2/Xbox era IMO, the most recent Alone in the dark was a broken mess of a game where you spent more time wrestling with camera/controls than you do enjoying the actual game. Another example of a poor attempt at the genre is Amy which suffers from shoddy controls, muddy objectives and unclear in-game indicators.

First and foremost in this modern era, the controls need to be intuitive, responsive and transparent. On top of that in game indicators/objectives need to be clear and consistent. Even if your game has a great story and pacing, if the player is struggling with camera, controls or if how to progress to the next point is too obtuse, the immersion factor is lost entirely.

There are good examples of how the genre can work in this day and age. Dead Space and Amnesia and not to mention RE4 are all fantastic examples of this. While RE5 was a good game, I feel it spoiled the balance somewhat with an increased focus on action and non-optional, clumsy AI controlled partner that could end your game.

Which is brings up another pet peeve of mine...when you take the fate of the player's game out of their control in any way, it can really suck any iota of fun from the experience. It's a major reason why things like escort missions are so unpopular amongst gamers. RE5's AI partner wasn't 'dumb' enough to ruin the game, but it would have been a heck of a lot more fun without her getting in the way.

Brian Taylor
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Homecoming was good, but not great. Downpour is a really good game IMO. I don't understand why you people really hate new entries, they won't bring back the old Silent Hill and I'm glad. You can't just stay the same, you need to expand. They can do that and keep the atmosphere, just haven't passed it onto the right one, and for once I would love a good ending in a Silent Hill game. 4 of the endings of Downpour lasted 10 seconds and weren't rewarding in any way.

Eli Friedberg
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Just putting this out there: has anyone ever seriously attempted a real, true blue, grab-the-bullets-and-run survival horror game with controls that don't make the average player feel like they are repeatedly jamming their thumbs into their eyeballs? Cuz, y'know, that might be a neat thing to try. Though I guess if you're aiming for Call of Duty numbers (which is laughable in and of itself) you really can't afford to design your game around any formula that hasn't already been at the helm of at least fifteen multimillion-selling blockbusters.

k s
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Not every game needs to be a billion dollar seller, I hate this trend of producers and publishers targeting the lowest common denominator. Niche games do sell and can be quite profitable especially now that almost no one is making them.

Christopher Enderle
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Depending on your shareholders/investors, you have no choice but to go big or go home

thay thay
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I am so sick of the greed of capcom lately. They are turning into another EA. The crap they pulled with SFvTek ($DLC already on disk) was pathetic. Thus I am boycotting their games. Such a shame as they were once of my favorite 3rd party japanese devs.

Regarding survivor horror genre, I must admit that I never have been that much of a fan. I found the RE games on PS2 boring and the ones on 360 are not that much better. I liked the controls of SH over RE too. I prefer FEAR and sega's excellent Condemned. Those two games were frightening scary! I hope survivor horror genre goes on. Not every game have to be a billion dollar FPS... *sigh*

Ujn Hunter
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Why does every game NEED a million dollar budget? Why can't you make games with smaller budgets that don't need to be COD games? This always made zero sense to me. Glad to know that I won't need to spend my time or money on RE6 seeing it sounds like they want to make it even worse than RE5 was. Also don't understand why companies like this need to drag their "franchises" through the mud. Reboots and change of directions should just be new IPs... new games. Why does it have to be "Resident Evil"?

Jonathan Jennings
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short answer because the name sels it confuses me because Capcom already has a more comedic / action based " Horror " game franchise in dead rising , why have two series that both put out similar products? I would think with dead risings success using Resident evil to revive the survival horror genre and push it forward would be to capcoms advantage .

I will say as far as the budget thing goes Developers are expensive , marketing is expensive, and trying to stay cutting edge in terms of production values is you guessed it " expensive" .

Bob Johnson
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Well if you want AAA production values then you have to cast a wider net. Less popular genres can't be made as AAA games or at least no one is willing to risk it.

Joe McGinn
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FYI RE4 sold 7 million copies. Over half a billion dollars revenue! Enough for your AAA budget?

A W
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When I was young, I tried to design a survival horror game using B.A.S.I.C on my Tandy 1000. I imaged the game to be a game where the player entered a community that would close itself off. They would have limited resources, would have to find extra resources, and could only find a limited amount of people to add to a continue option. They would avoid one undead character through out the game that could pop up at anytime to kill them. The only way to defeat it would be to assemble a device and then face it at the right moment. Defeating it would grant a game complete. It was to be based off of the old formula of the horror films of the 80.

I think that now what we are getting from the genre is a "look as how grotesque I can make this character" and forgetting the "how much can I twist the players mind when presenting them with a situation in which they can die at any time." I think Dark souls (a game I have yet to play) may actually have achieved this formula, while RE has gone in the direction of trying to enter the bestsellers action market. Frankly horror "art house movies" becomes a cult past time that gains a following over time, and it is becoming apparent that Capcom no longer cares for RE to go in this direction. I'm sure there a reasons for this, but it will be interesting to see if this makes the genre better, or worst over time.

Ujn Hunter
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Funny... you should play Dark Souls (my favorite game this past year). I was just asking myself, "What if they made a Resident Evil that was like Dark Souls?" it would achieve the "actiony" type game they are looking for and still keep the sheer TERROR of survival horror.

Joshua Darlington
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I think when people say that there is not enough money in XYZ, what they are really saying is that they don't know how to turn XYZ into the right numbers.

Ujn Hunter
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Sounds like everyone just wants to make iOS Apps with "token pack" IAP to me. It's all about getting people to give you the most money possible for the least amount of effort and risk.

Matt Marquez
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Has anyone here played Corpse Party on the PSP that was released at the end of last year?
Didn't think so.

Ujn Hunter
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I wanted to, but it was released as a Digital Download Only title.

Joe McGinn
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I swear if this keeps up Microsoft and Sony will shape the nextgen consoles like an UZI and there will be five games on the things, all action FPS shooters. How utterly unimaginative and dreary.

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Geoffrey Mackey
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I think every Japanese company is missing the point of COD. This is what drives me most insane. The reason COD is popular is because of MULTIPLAYER. If COD was single player, no one would buy it. So don't look for lessons to apply to final fantasy, don't look for lessons to apply to Resident Evil. Do what you do best. I mean look how Ninja Giaden 3 came out? I honestly believe they have no made this connection.

Geoffrey Mackey
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I also forgot to say that Operation Raccoon city was pretty action oriented too. Doesn't seem to have worked out so well.

Staroch Off
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Well, it seems that in the end all game studis will produce COD-like games only, because it's the only way to get lot of money. Too few of them cares about the game aspects but all of them cares about revenues. Eery company now wants to make easy and attractive title for everyone (read: not dedicated to special genre), for casual players withou any challenge or required effort.
And about increasing costs I have found an interesting blog:
http://warhorsestudios.cz/index.php?page=blog&entry=blog_007


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