The Developers Who Never Gave Up

The Developers Who Never Gave Up

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Stories of ongoing or aspiring success from studios big and small that had rough starts on games such as Fallout 76, No Man's Sky, and Anthem.

A game trailer is shown at E3 one year, and it looks beautiful. Audiences are pumped. The game gains traction over the next year as more info begins to surface, and promises of expansive worlds, deep stories, immersive gameplay, or the importance of player choice are offered and believed.

The game launches to massive disappointment. It isn't as pretty as it looked in the trailers. The gameplay is repetitive. The promises were hollow. Audiences abandon it as quickly as they arrived, and a month after release the community is as good as dead, or else still busy but largely upset.

Heard this story before? It's one we've seen frequently over the last few years with a number of major releases, including games like Destiny 2, No Man's Sky, Fallout 76, Anthem... I could go on. But one key factor all four of those I just mentioned have in common is that in each case, the studios behind them have refused to give up on making their game a hit. In the case of Destiny 2 and No Man's Sky, that dedication has paid off. For Fallout 76 and Anthem... well, we'll see.

This week saw multiple industry figures talk about not giving up on games, projects, or investments in the face of initial disappointment or struggle—an unusual choice in an industry where it's often much simpler (at least for those at the top) to cut your losses, try something different, or just close up shop. In some cases, that perseverance has already paid off. For others, it might be months or years before we'll be able to say for sure whether their steadfast dedication was misplaced... and whether or not eventual success or failure also came at an unacceptable human labor cost.

QUOTE | "If I think about Anthem on a seven to ten year cycle, it may not have had the start that many of us wanted, including our players." - EA CEO Andrew Wilson says that BioWare and EA aren't giving up on Anthem despite its rocky launch, and that they wouldn't invest further if they didn't think the game's audience found its characters, world, and mechanics compelling.

QUOTE | "I appreciate there might be folks who are tempted to throw up their hands and [call it quits], but that's just not how we're wired. We believed in it. The fact that it didn't go the way we expected and it had issues that maybe we should have foreseen and should have planned for doesn't mean we didn't believe in what the game was and could become." - Fallout 76 may have been poorly received, but Pete Hines says Bethesda is using lessons learned from improving The Elder Scrolls Online to revitalize the game.

QUOTE | "We knew it was going to be polarising, we knew that wasn't going to be an experience for everyone. I thought we were making a pretty niche game. A lot of the design decisions we made were for a niche game. It turned out to be a really large niche." - Sean Murray reflects on the transformation of No Man's Sky from its disappointed reception on launch to a widely acclaimed indie after multiple updates.

QUOTE | "We could take the patch off the... off the 'patch factory', more or less, and ask people to work super long [hours] and add this thing in. We're having the conversation about, is it worth doing that? Or is it worth preserving work-life balance and ship it later, in July?" - Bungie creative director Luke Smith says the reason for a delay on an upcoming patch to fix an overpowered weapon is so that the studio can avoid crunch.

QUOTE | "I went back to my desk and I was like, 'We probably did a great job on FIFA,' but did we? Do we even know? Can we define the quality of our diversity inclusion in FIFA?" - FIFA senior designer Katie Scott explains how the team was forced to reexamine its portrayal of diversity in FIFA 17 and 18, and how that led to a great commitment to diversity across all EA games.

FIFA's The Journey revolutionised EA's approach to diversity. | EA

QUOTE | "I do believe you have to have high goals. I thought that Spider-Man was fantastic, but we don't want to be bested by them. We are working very hard on the development effort right now, so that we are able to provide a new experience."- Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda says the choice to make its next big game, Avengers, a licensed IP was partially out of a desire for a different kind of challenge.

QUOTE | "We're still there and have all these [computers and consoles] running, so the temperature would basically spike to 90-something degrees. A couple of jokes were made about sweatshops and all that, but it's terrifying, because it kind of was sometimes, especially in the dead of July." - Speaking to Kotaku, multiple QA testers at Treyarch told stories of crunch, dismissive attitudes, and unfair treatment while working on Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.

STAT | $300,000 - The amount of revenue that Harry Potter: Wizards Unite generated on its first day, according to Sensor Tower. That's $1.7 million less than Pokemon Go, which Niantic also developed and which the game is modeled on.

STAT | 17% - The percentage of Sony's mineral supply chain for its hardware that hasn't conformed to industry standards for preventing human rights abuses. Microsoft also had several non-conformant sources. Ubisoft and Valve did not comment.

QUOTE | "Wishlists play a huge part in potential store placement once you finally launch. We've put so much work into being so open and transparent with development to build that wishlist over years and it's melting away in a graph, for a sale." - Wildfire developer Dan Hindes joins other indies in lamenting a misunderstanding around the Steam Summer Sale's Grand Prix promotion, which caused users to remove indies from their Steam Wishlists in droves.

QUOTE | "While we appreciate the administration's efforts to protect U.S. intellectual property and preserve U.S. high-tech leadership, the disproportionate harm caused by these tariffs to U.S. consumers and businesses will undermine-not advance-these goals." - Representatives of Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft in a joint letter opposing a proposed 25% tariff on, among numerous other things, video game consoles manufactured in China.

QUOTE | "Ultimately they hold the data... and that is never going to allow a proper forensic study of these issues. So it ultimately falls back to the run these sorts of investigations themselves." - British Addictive and Immersive Technologies Inquiry chair Damian Collins MP spoke with King Digital, UKIE, TIGA, and others this week in an ongoing investigation into gaming addiction and loot boxes. Last week's hearing with Epic Games and EA didn't go well, and it doesn't sound like this week's inspired confidence either.

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Rebekah Valentine

Senior Staff Writer

Rebekah arrived at GamesIndustry in 2018 after four years of freelance writing and editing across multiple gaming and tech sites. When she's not recreating video game foods in a real life kitchen, she's happily imagining herself as an Animal Crossing character.

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