Since Electronic Arts shuttered the doors of Visceral Games last week, a number of developers from the studio have spoken out about what led to its downfall. Out of all the ex-Visceral devs, one of the most outspoken has been Zach Wilson, who revealed that Dead Space 2 was considered a sales disappointment, despite the fact that it sold 4 million copies. Now Wilson has elaborated on those comments, claiming that horror games in general are hard to sell.
According to Wilson, many gamers avoid horror games simply because they are too scary. And unlike the film industry, where horror movies are frequently churned out on low budgets to great box office success, horror games are often just as expensive as any other triple-A title.
"Survival horror is hard. Horror games in general are expensive to make and hard to sell. People would give us the feedback that they love Dead Space but don't buy it cause it's too scary. Kind of works against itself."
Unfortunately for fans of the horror genre, Wilson's comments are backed by the numbers. Take Resident Evil 7, for example. Despite releasing to rave reviews and considered by many to be a successful return to the franchise's horror roots, Resident Evil 7 just met its sales target of 4 million units last week. Publisher and developer Capcom expected the game to hit that number just a couple of months after launch, not nearly a year later.
Horror being a hard sell is an issue with smaller titles as well. SOMA, Frictional Games' followup to the smash hit Amnesia: The Dark Descent, took over a year to be profitable. Just like Resident Evil 7, SOMA was well-received by critics and many would have expected Amnesia's reputation to give it a bigger boost in sales, but it just didn't click with the masses.
Wilson may be correct in his assertion that horror games are a hard sell, but fans of the genre shouldn't worry too much about it. Horror games are not going anywhere, though perhaps more will become smaller scale projects to avoid the same sales problems that have plagued games like Dead Space. Alternatively, some developers may experiment with ways to turn horror games into games as service titles, as seems to be happening with Visceral's Star Wars project now that it is in the hands of EA Vancouver.