David Cage, head of French developer Quantic Dream, said that one of his team's goals with its latest title, Heavy Rain, was to break the rules of video game design in order to bring real emotion into a game. While an admirable goal, it's a risky commercial endeavor.
But after the PlayStation 3-exclusive Heavy Rain debuted at the end February, it managed to break the U.S. NPD retail top 10 for the month, selling 219,000 units. In its opening week, it debuted at the very top of the weekly UK retail sales charts.
"No, I didn't expect it to be that popular," Cage told Gamasutra in a new feature interview. "I was quite used to having critical acclaim and commercial mid-success. This is honestly what I was expecting for Heavy Rain. I think that no one even at Sony was expecting this. No one even in the most positive reviews we got -- all the critics were saying, 'I loved it. I just hope it's going to sell, because if it doesn't it it will be a pity.'"
He added, "But I think the success took everybody by surprise, including Sony, because the game was sold out in the UK in two days; so you couldn't find it on the shelves. You couldn't buy it, pretty much, after two days. So it was really a shock. And same thing in Japan, which is even more of a surprise: the game is sold out. You can't buy it. And that's great; I think it means a lot."
Quantic Dream's last game was Indigo Prophecy, known as Fahrenheit in Europe. While that game did receive a positive response from critics, it certainly did not light up the sales charts. Cage saw Heavy Rain as somewhat of a test of the industry, whether the games sector was ready to support and accept a new kind of triple-A game.
"[The strong performance] means something because during the development of Heavy Rain, we said, 'This game, whether it's a commercial success or a commercial failure, is going to send a very strong message to the industry about how interested the market is in innovative concepts and games exploring new directions.'"
He continued, "If it's a failure, it's going to mean that, for the whole industry, 'Don't change anything! Continue to make the same games because this is what the market wants, and if you try something else you'll fail.' But if the game was a success, it would mean that the market was eager for something deeper and something new."
With sales data as ammunition, Cage feels that he and his team have proven a point. "Now I can say, 'Look! The market wants innovation.' So this is what we should concentrate on now, and Heavy Rain is a very strong message to publishers to take more risks and support innovation."