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January 6th, 2007, 23:31
I think your number sounds right, Mo. I suspect that 75k figure might be the 3-month US-only sales (IDC or NPD) or thereabouts. I do, however, remember Josh Sawyer saying something like while the game did eventually cover costs and collect some modestly reasonable sales, it took far too long to be really considered a sales success and many of those sales were at budget prices. Therefore, while the 75k figure may not give an accurate picture, the idea that PS:T's sales weren't good enough to interest publishers in that type of game is still sound.

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January 6th, 2007, 23:31
Then why wasn't a sequel ever even considered? It usually ranks very high on everyone's list of the best ever RPG's!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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January 7th, 2007, 00:54
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
I think your number sounds right, Mo. I suspect that 75k figure might be the 3-month US-only sales (IDC or NPD) or thereabouts. I do, however, remember Josh Sawyer saying something like while the game did eventually cover costs and collect some modestly reasonable sales, it took far too long to be really considered a sales success and many of those sales were at budget prices. Therefore, while the 75k figure may not give an accurate picture, the idea that PS:T's sales weren't good enough to interest publishers in that type of game is still sound.
That may be true but 75K in three months seems a little unlikely given the 400K total number since there are only very rare exceptions when a game deviates from the rough "sales number prediction formula" (or whatever you want to call it). I don't remember the exact details of that formula either but wasn't it something like… sales of the 1st week = sales of the 1st month = sales of the 1st three months = … and so on?
I somehow doubt that Planescape went through a sudden sales burst at some point during its shelf life. Why would it have? If anything, it should have sold really well at the time of release because of the November release date (holiday shopping season).
And Feargus Urquhart's statement that the game was "commercially a success" from that Gamasutra interview is from mid 2001 so "only" 1.5 years after PS:T came out so his statement is a rough indicator that it can't have taken PS:T that long to sell reasonably well.

Originally Posted by Corwin
Then why wasn't a sequel ever even considered? It usually ranks very high on everyone's list of the best ever RPG's!!
Why is there no BG III (BG franchise sold 5 million+ copies)? No Diablo III (about 8 million+ copies IIRC)? No StarCraft II? No KotOR III (4 million+)? Or still no Duke Nukem 4ever? The list goes on and on. I guess there are some things in life we just don't have to understand .
But a small hint is given in that Gamasutra interview from 2001. Urquhart was pretty "bullish" about consoles back then already and he said that they (Black Isle) would strive to follow gamers and any current trends as much as possible.
Who knows… maybe some day someone will rediscover the Planescape universe and give it a shot.
If Drakensang makes it to the finishing line (by the end of this year hopefully) then it will have taken Realms of Arkania (DSA) 11 years to make a return to the PC. Let's give it some more time .
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January 7th, 2007, 05:29
The 75K number is wrong. It had reached that by March 2000, only four months into its shelf life.

Edit: And according to the article text, that covers 80% of software sales but omits those from dedicated gaming software stores, which could conceivably have accounted for the bulk of Torment's sales. Go with the 400K.

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Last edited by abbaon; January 7th, 2007 at 05:45. Reason: Added 'gaming'
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January 7th, 2007, 08:22
… deleted …
Last edited by Gorath; January 7th, 2007 at 09:06.
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January 7th, 2007, 08:35
Warner said 400K worldwide in that QT3 post Moriendor linked, but if we're just making up figures then why stop there? I see your million and bet that it's the most successful entertainment product in human history.

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January 7th, 2007, 09:02
I overlooked the "worldwide" in Warner´s post.
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January 7th, 2007, 11:20
It's hard to debate this topic without the right data. I can't find the posts I want but here's a quote that suggest PS:T underperformed by Inteplay's standards.

An interview with Black Isle's John Deiley:

Planescape: Torment was a brilliant piece of work. To this day I've never encountered a story with such depth and perception in any game. I doubt that I ever will. However, I think that Torment was too radical a departure from the "norm" so to say. Our fans were used to DnD games based in typical DnD fantasy universes. As a result, initial sales were poor. However, over time the sales rivaled many of our other titles due to word of mouth. People loved the game. Unfortunately, I don't think Interplay wanted to risk development on a sequel unless they were guaranteed initial good sell through.

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January 7th, 2007, 13:14
We lament the lack of innovation in games today, yet sadly when someone risked innovating, created a classic, and turned rpg's inside out, we get the result quoted by Dhruin!! It's a sad world in some ways, but at least we did get PS-T!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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January 7th, 2007, 18:43
Originally Posted by Dhruin
I can't find the posts I want but here's a quote that suggest PS:T underperformed by Inteplay's standards.
Hehe… Interplay must have been a spoiled little brat back then though due to the success of BG & co so it makes me wonder how realistic those "standards" might have been…

Originally Posted by abbaon
The 75K number is wrong. It had reached that by March 2000, only four months into its shelf life.

Edit: And according to the article text, that covers 80% of software sales but omits those from dedicated gaming software stores, which could conceivably have accounted for the bulk of Torment's sales. Go with the 400K.
Thanks. That was pretty interesting what Desslock dug up there and it seems like PC Data is indeed not too accurate if we remember what Black Isle's Scott Warner said. Warner said that Planescape sold more than the Fallouts while PC Data's umm… data indicates that PS:T did better. Desslock says in that article that statistics by PC Data can be off by up to 50% according to "industry insiders" so there's good reason to trust Warner more than PC Data.
Besides, we were talking worldwide anyway and PC Data is only recording US numbers.

Originally Posted by Dhruin
It's hard to debate this topic without the right data.
Yep. That sums it up nicely . Though I believe that after this little research effort, one could say with some certainty that PS:T was not nearly the complete commercial failure that some people make it out (or even want it) to be. Enough with the wallowing in self-pity already, folks!
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January 7th, 2007, 20:56
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
We lament the lack of innovation in games today, yet sadly when someone risked innovating, created a classic, and turned rpg's inside out, we get the result quoted by Dhruin!! It's a sad world in some ways, but at least we did get PS-T!!
Yes, that's indeed a problem I often see in discussions about gaming in German magazines and their forums.

It's strange how few of the really creative and innovative games might be bought by the masses (I've got no data, this is just a mere assumption), so this hints out to one point : Maybe they are too innovative ? Maybe the masses don't want too creative and innovative games ?

In a way, this could be kind of right : Some people rather stick to things they already know, instead of buying newer things. Hence the success of franchises.

Sacrifice by Shiny is one of the oddest games I've ever played. Unfortunately I never really understood how to play it effectively. Am I too dumb for it ? Is this a hint ? Towards innovation and people's reactions towards it ?

Originally Posted by Moriendor View Post
If Drakensang makes it to the finishing line (by the end of this year hopefully) then it will have taken Realms of Arkania (DSA) 11 years to make a return to the PC. Let's give it some more time .
Yes, it's sad, isn't it ? At least from my point of view.


And by the way, TOEE isn't unplayable. I'm playing it right now with only the two official patches and an German translation package called GULP (it's kinmd of a mod, actually, because the German version of TOEE NEVER received ANY patches and so using the official patches everything becomes English within the game - well, at least to a part. So GULP is a re-translation, so to say).

By the way, has anyone an idea whether the DVD version of TOEE from the German gaming mag PC GAmes is better and newer (regarding patches) than the retail versions ?
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January 7th, 2007, 22:11
Exact sales data are indeed often hard to get. And things get even more complicated since we have to put that data in perspective with the costs to make those games to determine whether or not a game is a commercial failure.
There can be a huge profit difference between two games that both sold 100k copies.
My point is, ok, even if PsT Fallout and Arcanum sales didn't reach astronomic numbers, would it really be taking a too great risk for a publisher today to produce this kind of "old school, deep, enthralling RPGs with complex stories" ?
I mean how much would they cost ? Would I be wrong if I said most of us fans of such games don't care that much about the engine or fancy effects, doesn't that cut the costs by a great bit ? I don't even care for full voice-over, I love the Fallout approach where only key NPCs are voice-overed.
A main story writer, quest writers, a few designers adapting/reusing an existing engine. Imagine a new game release reusing the PsT/BG2 engine (is that Infinity2?) or the more modern ToEE engine but with a brand new story, memorable characters, all those non-cosmetic things we truly care for, wouldn't that really please us, would you be willing to pay $40 for that. I understand such a game wouldn't sell much because the main ingredient for massive sales ("breath-taking graphics") isn't there, but perhaps it can be profitable thanks to low costs making it. Any thoughts ?
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January 7th, 2007, 22:12
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
It's strange how few of the really creative and innovative games might be bought by the masses (I've got no data, this is just a mere assumption), so this hints out to one point : Maybe they are too innovative ? Maybe the masses don't want too creative and innovative games ?

In a way, this could be kind of right : Some people rather stick to things they already know, instead of buying newer things. Hence the success of franchises.
You are absolutely correct (although I think we are all collectively part of this, not just the "masses").

I've read a lot of material from Chris Bateman (Kult: Heretic Kingdoms) who has done a lot of research on why players like different games, commercial viability and so on. There are a number of reasons why truly innovative games can find it difficult and your Sacrifice example is a very good one (I never really "got" Sacrifice, either). First, it's difficult to communicate these games to potential buyers in store - people tend to categorise and generalise: "I like FPSs" or "I like RPGs". A game that falls out of these clear genre classifications (or has features that fall out of the norm) is harder to judge. Research shows a lot of people have trouble adapting to new paradigms (like you and I with Sacrifice).

On the other hand, there's that shiny new FPS (RTS, sports game, whatever…) sitting on the shelf next to the innovative game. It's familiar and we know we like FPSs (or RTSs, or RPGs…) but this one one 342 different weapons — so it's something we like only better!

Of course, innovation isn't always "fun". Classic genre types are tried and true because the gaming formula is proven (obviously).

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January 7th, 2007, 22:34
Originally Posted by Hedek View Post
My point is, ok, even if PsT Fallout and Arcanum sales didn't reach astronomic numbers, would it really be taking a too great risk for a publisher today to produce this kind of "old school, deep, enthralling RPGs with complex stories" ?
I mean how much would they cost ? Would I be wrong if I said most of us fans of such games don't care that much about the engine or fancy effects, doesn't that cut the costs by a great bit ? I don't even care for full voice-over, I love the Fallout approach where only key NPCs are voice-overed.
A main story writer, quest writers, a few designers adapting/reusing an existing engine. Imagine a new game release reusing the PsT/BG2 engine (is that Infinity2?) or the more modern ToEE engine but with a brand new story, memorable characters, all those non-cosmetic things we truly care for, wouldn't that really please us, would you be willing to pay $40 for that. I understand such a game wouldn't sell much because the main ingredient for massive sales ("breath-taking graphics") isn't there, but perhaps it can be profitable thanks to low costs making it. Any thoughts ?
You're asking for games in the "middle" tier, which is arguably the most difficult area to operate. I agree with what you are saying but it's harder than it looks - the loss of this area of the market is the primary reason there are few RPG releases these days.

Obviously top-tier AAA games can potentially make a lot of money, so it's clear why publishers pursue these types of games. A genuine hit can capture a lot of mind-share (WoW or Oblivion). A middle-tier game isn't promising much profit in the first place, so the risk vs gain equation doesn't really entice publishers. Retail shelves are increasingly squeezed for space, so they know there's a good chance a low profile title just won't get bought or two copies will be stuck out the back in the storeroom. Don't forget that while games like PS:T and Fallout didn't exactly get huge promotion, Interplay was a reasonable sized publisher and they were current technology games. Would PS:T sell even 400k copies if it was released now? I don't know.

What we need is self-funded indies, but that's not so easy, either. There's a reason Jeff Vogel is one of the very few full-time RPG developers. I assume you want better than Spiderweb's graphics, right? (By the way, estimates of Jeff's games are usually 5000-10,000 copies.) So, let's say we have a tiny team of 5x devs and produce a decent product in 2 years. That's at least $500,000 in development costs…would you be willing to sell your house to fund that gamble? What if we need 10x staff, which doubles the cost?

If you are relying on digital distribution, what's the market history? What is the best performing RPG sold exclusively through DD? Who knows.

Hopefully, games like Age of Decadence and The Broken Hourglass can shine a little more light on the potential of this. Otherwise, Russian and Eastern European games can exist in this marketplace because they are cheaper to produce.

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January 7th, 2007, 23:02
There is one other model which has worked. Prairie Games created Minions of Mirth with just 2 people, but by building a comunity around the game, volunteers have created a great deal of content which has been incorporated into the game.

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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January 7th, 2007, 23:53
Good points Dhruin, but my hope is rather to take advantage of the structures big publishers already have. Because you're EA all your releases have to be games involving huge budgets? I was thinking that, in parallel of their expensive to produce games, big publishers could release much lower cost games, taking advantage of corporate structures they already have to market them, etc. thus lowering costs even more.

Do they not do it because they care for their image, that people/investors would expect from big companies to release only big games? But the kind of games I am hoping for are games that excel in their own kind : their writing, their story-telling, much like movies like Requiem for a Dream or Mission Impossible coexist for different merits and that's made possible because the costs involved in making them are very different. Look at the music industry, major companies don't just release well known artists, they also produce artists from less popular genres knowing they won't sell as much as Madonna, but the costs involved are also very different making both profitable.

I want to believe low profit games can be interesting for big publishers. Even if it would take 10 of them to be as profitable as 1 big successful game, but I don't see why my math wouldn't be correct if they also cost 10 times less. I mean every dollar of profit is a profit, does it really matter whether these dollars come 1 by 1 or 10 by 10 when at the end of the year you've made overall comfortable benefits.
The risk per game is also much smaller as the investment is smaller.

I don't know how much Kotor2 cost to make, but it can't have cost a lot. And by taking advantage of Lucas Arts structures -just having it displayed on lucas' homepage is already a big step towards marketing it- the "surrounding" costs (management/marketing/support/logistics/etc) can be rather low.

I like the idea of comparing cRPGs to "films d'auteur", while other game genres are similar to those impressive holywoodian movies with amazing special effects. And while major movie companies still produce "cheap" movies, in the games industry cRPGs are becoming indie-only games, I'm just having a hard time understanding that.

And as for your question about whether PsT and Fallout would sell as much today, now that's just my guess, i don't work in the industry or anything, but I know there are way more adults intersted in video games today than there used to be in the 90's and that's in part because those that used to be teens are 10 years older now but retained their video games addiction -yes i'm talking of myself
And I have a feeling there's a big market for "adult oriented" games such as Fallout and more generally "too complex/deep for kids" games such as Ps:T that's not being taken advantage of… so I'd say yes if correctly targetted at that market, for example by marketing the game in pc tech magazines rather than in video games magazines.
Last edited by Hedek; January 8th, 2007 at 00:03.
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January 8th, 2007, 01:30
I think that the 400,000 copies of PS: Torment it eventually sold was over a total of 4 or 5 years. Sadly —- the developers/publishers can't wait that long to get a return on their investment. It is the pubishers, mostly, I think that don't want to wait this long…

In what I'd like to refer to as the golden age of the crpgs, the 1990's, game companies seemed to be more about making games for the gaming crpg audience(s). Nowadays, most of them. even those making crpgs, seem to be in it - just for the money.

I don't know how much an average game costs to make, but I do not the Danish game devs. of the Hitman series once said in an interview that their latest game Hitman:Blood Money(tm) did cost about 15 millions US Dollars to make.

While this is partly due to the fact that people playing Hitman games demands more & better graphics/visuals, this may not be true for the hardcore RPG gamer. I, for one, was one of the few, who really liked Kult: Heretic Kingdoms. But I believe I'm belonging to the minority which also did like PS: Torment quite a lot. along with the other 4-500,000 people who bought the game).

This number, 4-500,000, is probably how large the hardcore gaming audience is for crpgs, maybe it is even 2 or 3 timers that number. However, today games cost so much to develop than even if a game developer would cater to this niche audience, the publisher simply would say 'no' since the publishers like to see a very quick return on their investment. This is the first problem a game developer has, while the next problem or challenge that they would face would be to actually develop a game which would be bought
by say 80% of the maybe 1,000,000 hardcore crpgs fans out there.

The problem here is that you'd never know what the target, or even the hardcore crpg audience wants. You could try making a game like PS: Torment today or a game like the old and now classic Infinity Engine games (BG1, BG2, Icewind Dale etc.), but you wouldn't
have any assurance that nearly all hardcore crpg gamers would by the game, not even if you made a game which had great story, great gameplay and the like.

As for games with more mature themes or which are made for adults (meaning age 21+ or so), I agree that there seem to be a market for for those. However, as long as people's minds still are focused on that 'gamez are for teh kids', then I don't see the game devs. or publishers changing their style, i.e. they still want to push that T-rating in order to generate as much sales as possible.

Somehow, I find it comforting that the indie scene has taken over making crpgs. This means that we hopefully and probably can get more games of the kind I like: weird games, strange games, which focus an gameplay, story, dialoque, and the consequences actions have in the game world. I would like to see more games like Kult: Heretic Kingdoms or PS: Torment. But that's just me…
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January 8th, 2007, 03:41
Originally Posted by Hedek View Post
I want to believe low profit games can be interesting for big publishers. Even if it would take 10 of them to be as profitable as 1 big successful game, but I don't see why my math wouldn't be correct if they also cost 10 times less. I mean every dollar of profit is a profit, does it really matter whether these dollars come 1 by 1 or 10 by 10 when at the end of the year you've made overall comfortable benefits.
The risk per game is also much smaller as the investment is smaller.
[…]
I like the idea of comparing cRPGs to "films d'auteur", while other game genres are similar to those impressive holywoodian movies with amazing special effects. And while major movie companies still produce "cheap" movies, in the games industry cRPGs are becoming indie-only games, I'm just having a hard time understanding that.
I see what you mean - that hopefully EA would use a tiny part of their huge profit to fund some modest "hardcore" RPGs. I don't have a good answer for that. I suppose that at the end of the day, the management are going to look at the profit from those small projects and think they would be better off re-allocating the resources (even stuff like marketing and distribution) to something more profitable. The proof seems to be in the reality of the situation, doesn't it? EA could fund a small Fallout-like game without blinking (and possibly turn a small profit)…but they don't

On the films films d'auteur thing, I think that's easier to understand. A small film production can still look almost indistinguishable from a big-budget title (special effects aside). If they choose the right genre and setting, the special effects are a non-issue. So, a Full Monty (insert better example - can't think of anything at the moment) can still potentially make a lot of money. And create a lot of critical buzz…I don't know…House of Sand and Fog, for example.

A game made with a small budget is obvious. It simply takes man-hours to produce high-grade, cutting-edge graphics and the comparison with any AAA game is immediately obvious. A big chunk of the market won't touch it with a 50-foot pole because of the graphics. And it produces little mainstream buzz…maybe Desslock writes a few lines about Jeff Vogel in PC Gamer but by and large - noone cares.

But , yes. It would be nice if EA decided to do something for the artistic merit.

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January 8th, 2007, 04:04
Or we could always try to get some multi-millionaire interested in playing RPG's so he would bankroll a decent game!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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January 8th, 2007, 05:23
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
A game made with a small budget is obvious. It simply takes man-hours to produce high-grade, cutting-edge graphics and the comparison with any AAA game is immediately obvious.
Yes, game development doesn't yet scale down as easily as film production (Requiem had fully a fiftieth the production budget of Pirates of the Caribbean 2), but that'll change. Content creation could cost orders of magnitude less than it does now. With better tools, you could build models by snapping them together from parts, morphing them with simple controls, and painting on materials. You could get animation for free. Once tool development proceeds down the path illuminated by Spore, the productivity of a small team will skyrocket. You'll see.

Statues wouldn't be better if they could move. Model airplanes would not be better if they were the same size as airplanes.
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