For most of this (because I don't feel like repeating myself), I'll refer you to my reply to mZuzek above.
For the bolded part though, some of the commercial risks I see connected to Returnal:
1) It's a roguelike type game. In a AAA space. With an actual budget. That doesn't exactly happen very often for a very real reason: the difficulty level of such games tends to be fairly high since they tend to lack many modern conveniences people are now used to (e.g. by forcing you to start over after every death), which can be a turn-off for many people.
2) It's an original IP, so it doesn't come with a pre-established fan base attached that's guaranteed to buy it.
3) It's got a female lead (with short hair and everything), which also tends to reduce sales since most gamers are male.
4) The choice of story structure and themes here. Enough said.
5) The unusually high starting price tag. This one I don't sympathize with.
It seems like cumulatively these were just too many chances to take for even most PS5 owners. I can think of one that might've been better scrapped, but I still like the game and can't help feeling like Housemarque clearly had the creative freedom they wanted to make exactly the game they wanted to make. Now that doesn't by itself make a game good by any means, but to me it sure makes a difference anyway. And I hope that, in the aftermath of Returnal's commercial failure, Sony will still be willing to maintain their relatively hands-off approach to the content creators they subsidize.
Your response to MZuzek doesn't really address what I said. It just continues to assert that GOTY is somehow relevant to the point of creative freedom. And apparently, also to artistic achievements. These are assertions that need some sort of demonstration.
And if we're saying TLOU2 is risky because female led games don't win overall GOTY too often, then that really makes no sense. Assuming that being female lead lowers your chances of being overall GOTY, then all Sony risked was not getting the overall GOTY. In that case, was Animal Crossing a huge gamble? I mean, how many past GOTY nominees have been village building sims with an animal cast? How about Mario Odyssey? How many overall GOTY winners feature a chubby italian plumber? Or are platformers? Looking solely at past GOTY winners is a really bad way to determine risk (again, unless you're speaking of the risk of not being overall goty).
When you're limiting the universe of games to literally one game per year, then you could probably look at literally any game and find some way it is unique from all others. Hell, I can say the new Call of Duty was a brave risk that demonstrates the high degree of creative freedom Activision offers its publishers. After all, how many of the last ten overall GOTY winners have been multiplayer focused military shooters? None.
As for Returnal...
1. You are assuming this is the reason, but there are many other potential reasons. I would say the biggest reason is because there is much more incentive for a smaller dev to make rougelike games, as they allow you to create games that can be played for a long time while minimizing the the amount of resources you need to create. At any rate, this genre has become well established. Taking something that is already fairly popular and boosting its budget is not what I would classify as highly risky, nor is making a difficult game, as there is a decent market for those as well.
2. Yes... but new IPs aren't all that uncommon.
3. And that's not all that uncommon either. Metroid, Control, Tomb Raider, TLOU2, Resident Evil (around half the time), Mirror's Edge, etc. Less common than male lead games, but still not something that unusual. I would say virtually every major developer has some female lead games.
4. I don't know the story that well, but the core concept doesn't seem too far out there. Hades, Death Loop, and even now in movies like Boss Level. Kind of becoming a thing.
5. Ehhh... selling a game at standard price is now considered risk taking? Nintendo's selling 1-2 Switch, a five year old mini game collection with virtually no actual assets, at 50 bucks. Those daredevils.
Basically, it comes down to, this is an AAA game (maybe) in a genre that is more popular among smaller devs, and it has a female lead... which really doesn't scream "RISK! BRAVERY! CREATIVE FREEDOM!" to me. Since you singled out Nintendo, I'm not sure why something like Octopath Traveller (new IP, unique narrative structure, sprite based classical JRPG with 1/2 female main characters being sold for full price), Codename S.T.E.A.M. (new IP steampunk SRPG featuring steampunk versions of classic literature characters and aliens being sold at full price, for the 3DS at least), ARMS (new IP, motion controlled 3D fighting game with bizarre deformed characters), Ring Fit (New IP that is controlled with a Pilates ring), LABO (games played using DIY cardboard controllers), Splatoon (new IP, new spin on team based shooters with tons of new game modes), or so on wouldn't count. If having a female lead is enough to qualify, what about Bayonetta 2 and 3? If anything, a female led sequel to a game that sold around a million copies across 2 consoles is WAAAAAAY more risky than a female lead sequel to a game that sold 17 million copies (17 times more risky to be precise, assuming budgets are equal). Or Bayonetta 1 for that matter.
It kind of feels like we're working backwards starting with games you intrinsically feel are risky and then creating a set of unintuitive rules to justify that (i.e. looking at GOTY winners which I still have no idea why we should do). So, again, how are you determining which games are risky and brave and which aren't? Is there any objective criteria we can use? Why does GOTY matter if we're talking about risk? Cause otherwise, all anyone can say on this matter is...
Last edited by JWeinCom - on 27 June 2021