You may have heard. Capcom's Bionic Commando revamp has tanked, and tanked in a big way, selling only 27,000 units during the month of May. Which begs the question: why?
After all, the same developers (Grin) released a Bionic Commando game last year that lacked the advertising, budget and horsepower of the "main" title, yet it still managed to sell over 130,000 copies during its first week on sale, despite being a port of a difficult, antiquated arcade/NES title.
So what gives? Why were there over 130,000 people willing to buy Bionic Commando Rearmed in a week, but in over a week on sale, the "real deal" couldn't even move 30,000?
Aside from the fact Rearmed was great, and that the 130k figure includes global sales, surely price plays a part. Rearmed was an Xbox Live Arcade title, while Bionic Commando launched as a full-price retail game. The game's long development period - which has led many to remark "oh, that wasn't already out?" - probably didn't help either.
But I lay the blame squarely at the feet of the game's demo, perhaps the worst of its kind I've ever seen. Here we had a game with a difficult, though not impossible control scheme. At press events, demos had been preceded by a helpful, effective tutorial, which let you come to grips with the game's swinging mechanic before hitting the streets.
But the demo was inexplicably multiplayer-only. With no tutorial. Gamers downloaded it, booted it up, then had no idea what the hell they were supposed to be doing. For a game most would only be picking up for its singleplayer experience, this was as big a marketing error as you could possibly hope for, as it generated a ton of negative buzz over the game, and these kind of titles live and die on the buzz generated by the hardcore.
Maybe Grin - and Capcom - would be in better shape if they'd just commissioned a sequel to Rearmed instead?