With today’s news of the closure of Visceral Games, fans are looking back on a studio that once was a premiere member of the Electronic Arts stable and trusted enough to handle a Star Wars project. Unfortunately, a few underperforming games and a focus on story in the wake of games as service titles (Destiny 2) rising to the top seem to have done the studio in, and now its most exciting project to-date is in the hands of EA Vancouver.
While most fans remember Visceral for its work on the Dead Space franchise, members of the former Visceral team paint a much bleaker picture. According to former Visceral dev Zach Wilson, Dead Space 2 was considered a failure despite selling 4 million copies.
While Wilson does not go too far into specifics, he explains that games of Dead Space 2’s caliber require massive marketing budgets. Triple-A games are now on-par with blockbuster movies, in that marketing teams spend massive amounts of money on advertising. So even though Dead Space 2’s development budget was $60 million, Wilson speculates that at least $40 million more was spent on marketing.
And although Dead Space 2 had strong sales, a lot of that revenue goes towards other sources, like retailers and platform partners. After all is said and done, EA and Visceral simply did not generate enough profit to label the game a success.
Of course, EA did task Visceral with making one more Dead Space game, but that one was a significant departure for the franchise. Gone were a lot of the horror elements, replaced with a cover shooter focus that felt more like Gears of War than anything else. It was a broader approach that seemingly was put in place to help boost sales for Dead Space 3 higher than its predecessor, and entice those that might be turned off by the strictly horror focus.
No matter what happed to Dead Space in between the second and third iterations, the fact is the studio that made a name for itself with that franchise is now gone. Electronic Arts still owns the Dead Space IP and could conceivably task another studio with developing Dead Space 4, but that would be its own tough sell. For right now, our hope is that the folks displaced by the Visceral Games closing land on their feet.