AAAAAAHHH, there it is! Thanks so much for the help!
K, gonna run through the Returnal items one last time in the hopes of a breakthrough, otherwise I give up:
1. While I KINDA get what you're saying about Octopath Traveler, yes, I also just...I dunno, there's a very clear difference of overall intention there in the case of Octopath Traveler, in my opinion. I mean you know me: my favorite Nintendo game for the Switch so far is Cadence of Hyrule, so of course I was one of those people instinctively drawn to Octopath Traveler too, in no small part precisely because here was a first-party console game in the modern era that's a CLASSIC-looking Japanese-style RPG and I've liked a lot of those! And yeah, the fact that it's the classic vantage point and battle systems and everything and not modern 3D, more action-focused material and all that is prolly unfortunately a lot of the reason for the fact that the market for it hasn't been, you know, 8 or 10 million people or more, it's fair enough to say, and, at a conceptual level, I think Nintendo does deserve some credit for their willingness to support such a project. Fair enough!
That said though, when I actually sat down and played Octopath Traveler...it just felt like such a half-hearted effort, you know? The story...the character arcs...much of it just felt kinda thrown together and that's the worst quality in a game to me. I expect more from a brand like Square Enix. Octopath Traveler clearly wasn't a passion project and it also didn't fail relative to expectations. At the end of the day, Octopath Traveler is a first-party game with an entrenched, major developer that was kinda thrown together and reliant on the familiarity and reputation of the Square Enix brand more than its own merits for success and achieved some success largely on that basis. Returnal to me feels more like an indie passion project overall that actually got the resources needed to be optimally realized but that just didn't work out commercially. It was made by this former indie developer and would've been an indie game like nearly all other roguelikes are if not for the resources provided by Sony. That's what I would say is the difference.
2. You're missing my point. You're taking individual elements I was highlighting totally separately from one-another. No, any one of these elements I'm highlighting is not that radical by itself, but when you put them all together, they kind of add up to something fairly daring. At least I think so anyway.
3. How did we get from a discussion of representation back to Octopath Traveler? I don't even understand your argument here. I pointed out that games narratively centering women fare worse overall commercially in a male-dominated market, to which you're like "Yeah, so? Just because they sell worse doesn't mean they might sell worse. Octopath Traveler!" To paraphrase.
4. Okay, when we're citing Majora's Mask and the movie Groundhog Day as comparisons, it's very clear that there's more miscommunication going on here. When I'm talking about the story structure and themes at work here, I'm not talking about the game's genre (that was discussed back in point 1), I'm talking about...its story structure and themes, not the death loop style of game play. Separate thing. I guess it does help to play the game to grasp what I'm talking about here, but you could get a basic idea from many video reviews, or just from the story overview I linked you to. Thematically, the game is narratively about navigating a particular form that trauma takes and its metaphors for that are absolutely brilliant. In terms of narrative structure, it's like a big puzzle that you have to piece together and may not get all of even after completing multiple playthroughs. Players still often disagree about what characters are being shown in certain key scenes and which characters they are makes a huge difference in terms of what message one draws from said scene and it seems to be that way intentionally. Subjectivity distributed in just the right places to really make you think, even after you've completed multiple playthroughs. Well, I think it's pretty cool anyway!
5. I have done nothing but complain about the unexpectedly high pricing of this game. Maybe it's just that I'm still not used to paying $70 for any games, let alone for material like this, but I was taken aback by the price tag as much as most professional reviewers were, frankly, in much the same way that I was likewise taken about by the $60 price tag that's been attached to the 2D Metroid Dread. The material in question begets certain pricing expectations. $70 for a game like this seems excessive and greedy to me and I'm pretty sure was a major factor in Returnal's commercial failure. I'm NOT defending Sony on this point and I don't get why you're acting as though I am.
As to the rest, look I'm trying to objectively describe things that are, at the end of the day, a little relative and subjective by nature, like what the intention of content creators is and whether those intentions feel sincere to me as a player. I'm doing my best, okay? I think I've made my case for why Sony was indeed taking a real chance on Returnal as an example. I've authored God knows how many posts explaining at great length what I find unique and special about The Last of Us Part II that makes it much more than just another sequel by an established developer and publisher and have spoken some on what I see as the very distinctive merits, and relevance, of Death Stranding as well in the past. I don't know what else you want from me.
It was also not my intention to suggest that Nintendo NEVER works to appeal outside of their fan base or that they NEVER take real creative risks on the actual software side of the equation or what have you. People have really gotten hung up on the overall brand difference I sought to describe in one paragraph of the OP to the neglect of my main point about hoping that Sony will continue to support more games that are as bold as Returnal (or Death Stranding, or TLOU2) in what they seek to bring into the AAA landscape in the wake of these more radical games yielding only so much profit compared to somewhat more conventional open world type investments like Ghost of Tsushima and the Spider-Man games. The Nintendo comparison was an aside that I drew on only to help get that point across. Matter-of-factly, it should be self-evident (<--<--) that I don't dislike Nintendo as an institution.
1. You're entitled to your opinion (I really liked Octopath) but a lot of the stuff you're saying is more about the overall quality than whether or not it was a risky venture.
2. I disagree.
3. Because the conversation wasn't about representation, it's about risk. I believe your argument was that making a game with a female lead is risky because most of the best selling games are males and male led games tend to sell better and therefore having a female lead is not the surest path to success. Likewise, most games do not feature sprite based graphics and those that do tend to sell less than games that don't, so following the same logic, choosing to do so would similarly be brave or risky.
Basically, for pretty much every game, you can come up with 4-5 ways that it doesn't follow the most successful industry trends. I chose to use Octopath as an example for consistency's sake, but for most games I could probably come up with 5 things it does that don't follow the most successful trends.
4. The thing that's most relevant to whether or not the project is risky are the things that would have a pronounced effect on its sales, and that would be mostly what is visible to prospective buyers. The thing that is most prominent in the game's marketing is the timeloop mechanic (which sort of implies multiple playtrhoughs will be required to get the full picture). I'll just grant for the sake of argument that the story is on the whole very unique and creative and excellently done. I still don't know why it would logically follow that the game was especially risky and brave for Sony to publish.
5. I thought the point of the list was to demonstrate how Returnal was a sign that Sony is particularly brave, risky, and gives devs creative freedom? If your only point in mentioning the price is that Sony overpriced the game, then ok, but I feel like that's kind of off topic.
As far as Nintendo goes, I don't think I ever suggested that you dislike them. But I don't agree that Nintendo is overall less brave or risk averse than Sony, or that you've demonstrated that to be the case.
What I want is what I've asked for. Some intelligible way to determine to determine when games are risky or brave. Doesn't necessarily have to be objective (would be nice though), but it would have to be something more than what's given. What we have here are three examples of very different games that are considered risky and somewhat contradictory reasons. Basically I get that you're arguing that developers/publishers should make more games that are like the three you mention, but I can't figure out what that is.
If you can't really explain what makes games brave/free/risky and are just basing it on gut feeling, then fine. You're entitled to your opinion, but there's just no further conversation to be had. Based on my personal feelings, I think Nintendo is the braver/riskier developer. Is there a way to determine who's opinion is better supported or is it just my feelings vs yours?