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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

Beyond Good, Evil, Sales, As UbiSoft Ponders Popularity 73

Posted by simoniker
from the i-wish-i-was-special dept.
Thanks to GameSpot for reprinting news of UbiSoft's improved financials, but disappointing specifics, as the company noted in particular: "In a very competitive year-end market, sales of new brands such as Beyond Good and Evil and XIII, products which had been heavily marketed, were lower than the early-December forecasts... this had an impact of 10 million euros ($12.5 million)." Coincidentally, GameSpy has an editorial discussing the allegedly disappointing sales of UbiSoft titles, and notes: "Many of my peers felt that BG&E's style was too eccentric and didn't convey what type of game it was." Although Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has "sold 2 million units worldwide", UbiSoft's welcome announcement of a Prince Of Persia sequel with reference to "improved marketing positioning" implies some dissatisfaction with the initial sales, and GameSpy argue "the [U.S.] advertisements for both [BG&E and PoP] were horrendous", but overall, this didn't stop UbiSoft becoming "the second largest publisher in France, the third largest in Germany, and the sixth largest in the UK" over the holiday period.
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Beyond Good, Evil, Sales, As UbiSoft Ponders Popularity

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  • Aah, looking forward to Prince of Persia 2!
  • by enigmatichmachine (214829) <enigmaticmachineNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @04:21AM (#8178043)
    it ranks up there with windwaker, and metroid prime as THE games of the last year. (so, yea, perhaps prime is a bit old now, but it was years ahead of its time) these are the games that make consoles worth having, and its a shame they flop in comparison to the crap sequels that are getting so mass produced these days.
    • I agree with you 100% - in fact, although I find time to play games for at least an hour a day and I own all three major consoles and a fast enough PC, the games you mentioned are EXACTLY the ones I enjoyed the most last year. They are actually the only three I liked enough to stick with and actually finish. I am certainly looking forward to the next PoP.
  • by BortQ (468164) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @04:30AM (#8178070) Homepage Journal
    Big budget marketing is something that really pisses me off. Especially for games that would probably get plenty of press anyways (like, say, Ubisoft games).

    Spending lots of money on advertising increases the purchase price of games and distracts the people making the game from putting all their efforts into making sure the game is excellent (as opposed to the ads).

    Good games rise to the top (in respect and sales) because they are good, not because they had a great marketing effort. The worst part comes when a shitty (or average) game blames its sales on bad marketing.

    Good games sell well. End of story.

    • by j450n (678096) <jason@s2games.com> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @04:44AM (#8178114)
      The people making the game, in almost all cases, have pretty much nothing at all to do with advertising. Advertising comes from the realm of the publisher, not the developer.

      Can't argue with you that big budget advertising raises the cost, but they do it because it does sell games. Ideally, games would sell entirely on their merit, but fifty boxes on a shelf versus two behind the counter probably makes more of a difference than anything. It's just like any other form of entertainment: the vast majority of people like what is marketed best, not necessarily what constitutes "good art". It's easy to forget that online communities like /. are from representative of the general public.
      • Advertising comes from the realm of the publisher, not the developer.

        UbiSoft are developers, producers, and publishers.
        However marketing and advertising isn't done by the same folls who do the art or the coding of course.

        Ideally, games would sell entirely on their merit

        Advertising is mostly deceptive hype, but it is a necessity because you won't buy something you don't know exists.
    • if that were true, beyond good and evil wouldn't have been pulled off the shelves almost immediatly, considering that it won game of the year on several sites, and consitantly ranks as one of the years top 10 on any platform. the simple fact of the matter is that by the time gamers realised what a gem they were missing, the low inital production run had sold out, but not fast enough for the publisher to decide to produce more. where i live you can't find a copy of it in stores anywhere, despite being about
    • by erasmus_ (119185) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:12AM (#8179180)
      Did you happen to read the article? Because I read your post, and I can tell that you didn't. The Gamespy editorial talks about exactly the opposite, that good games sometimes don't sell well, for a variety of factors such as marketing. I don't understand why you are calling shitty or average two of the best games of last year, as judged by many editors and lists. I can't personally vouch for Prince of Persia, as I haven't gotten around to picking that one up yet, but Beyond Good & Evil is definitely great - I'm making my way through it now.

      And "increases purchase price of games"? That is so ... trollish. Games have been at $50 for as long as I can remember, and Ubisoft actualy dropped the price for BG&E to $20 after poor sales. I ended up getting it for $15 with a coupon from Best Buy. For those of you considering getting it, $20 is a very good value for this game.
      • And "increases purchase price of games"? That is so ... trollish. Games have been at $50 for as long as I can remember, and Ubisoft actualy dropped the price for BG&E to $20 after poor sales. I ended up getting it for $15 with a coupon from Best Buy. For those of you considering getting it, $20 is a very good value for this game.

        It's not just trolling, it's bad microeconomics. Fixed costs, like development and advertising, have no effect on the price that a rational firm sets on products. Since the

      • Games have been at $50 for as long as I can remember, and Ubisoft actualy dropped the price for BG&E to $20 after poor sales.

        The fact that BG&E dropped it's price from $50 to $20 and still didn't sell is interesting, that means the high $50 cost wasn't what was keeping consumers away. There was just a lack of interest.

        Shitty thing is, in entertainment occasionally a great product will be put out that flops inexplicably. Like why did the movie Blade Runner or the album Pet Sounds flop? Who knows,

      • I can't personally vouch for Prince of Persia, as I haven't gotten around to picking that one up yet

        I have, based on the demo I played last summer, and on the word of a current and former Ubisoft employees swearing that it was awsome.

        It has good points. The movements are good and fluid, the acrobatics can be performed in a very satisfying and spectacular way. But its been sitting idle on my couch unfinished for a few weeks because I hate the interface.
        • Everytime you finish a fight with a group of enemie
        • I picked up PoP:SoT for the Xbox, and it is perfect for it. I really can't imagine playing it on a PC, but it just felt perfect on the console.
          • The sheathing thing - it's there to let you know the fight is over and that you can relax a bit. At the later points in the game, there are some battles that are just insane, and the visual break is a good way to bring an end to each of them. Unsheathing the sword is trivial, IMO.
          • I don't know what platform you played the game on, but I had absolutely zero control
    • Good games rise to the top (in respect and sales) because they are good, not because they had a great marketing effort.

      Enter the Matrix.
    • Games sell if they are good even without PR - TRUE.

      the question you might want to ask yourself is this, will they sell enough to cover for the cost of production, and even more so when other games pour lots of cash into good/bad PR?

      I'm sure companies and users all love sleeper hits; even if I do doubt that when it comes to some of the game developers needing cash before they can get that new contract for their next big thing (so many only have 1-2 projects going), while having a 30 woman/man team to feed.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I thought PoP was awesome, but I know alot of people who didn't buy it because they thought it was too short. Console games are expensive and I guess people want more gametime for their dollar.

    (personally I'd rather have great short games than ones I get sick of playing halfway though...)
    • It may be short, but I think it has reasonable replay value (in that you can pump up the difficulty and not have to worry about how to solve the jumping puzzles). Plus, I've read that you can unlock both the original 2D PoP and the PoP sequel within the game by getting to certain special areas.

      I rather have a short, immersive extremely well done game (PoP:SoT, Elite Force (the first one) or Max Payne 2), then to have a game that can give lots of gameplay time but with poor mechanics/plot/whatever that ma

      • I rather have a short, immersive extremely well done game (PoP:SoT, Elite Force (the first one) or Max Payne 2), then to have a game that can give lots of gameplay time but with poor mechanics/plot/whatever that make it a grueling experience (Super Mario Sunshine for example).

        If I had to choose between the two, I'd wait until the first was $20.

        Fortunately, I don't have to make that choice, because there are plenty of longer games without the problems you mention. Unfortunately, I did buy Super Mario Suns
    • Yeah it was short, and doesn't have too much replay value, but it was one of the best games I've ever played through. I wouldn't have lenghtened it at all, just added things
  • by lightspawn (155347) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:12AM (#8178175) Homepage
    don't pick Iran as the setting.

  • by nickos (91443) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:23AM (#8178200)
    What's next, Thus Spoke Zarathustra as a first person shooter?
    • Sweet sounds like a great game. I hope they make the poisonflies look really creepy looking and you have to use a flamethrower to kill them.

      Plus tightrope walking as someone shoots rockets at you, I'd prally fall too.
  • by EnglishTim (9662) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @06:20AM (#8178342)
    Ubisoft didn't release BG&E or PoP for XBox or Gamecube in Europe in time for Christmas. PoP is still not out for Xbox over here yet, despite them both having been out for all systems for some time in the US. Allegedly Sony did some deal with them to delay the games.

    Now, granted, the PS2 has a much larger install base than the XBox and Gamecube in Europe, with about 20 million units compared to almost 4 million units each for Xbox and Gamecube. However, that's nearly 30% of their potential audience they're cutting out there, and as both the Xbox and Cube have smaller catalogues, there's less internal competition.

    Dunno how much Sony paid them to hold those games back, but I'm not convinced it was worth it...
    • I agree, both games have not been released for the gamecube over here, and seeing them on the ps2 shelves is pretty annoying, especially when there are sighs that they don't seem to sell well. I have been planning to get them both ever since i read the first reviews (which now seems ages ago). A well, thanks to the publishers politics...
    • Yeah, I found that kind of annoying. Especially when PoP had fairly widespread advertising, with that stupid TV advert.

      And now, due to poor sales they're both being released with a 25 (22.50 on Amazon anyway). PoP is out Feb 20th, and BG&E is out March 20th I believe.

    • Dunno how much Sony paid them to hold those games back, but I'm not convinced it was worth it...

      I'm certain Sony had noting at all to do with it.

      First of all, from talking with a ubisoft programmer, I know they have a hard-on for the Xbox.
      Secondly, from working in the industry, I can tell you that there can be a million reasons that a multi-platform game release can go "not smoothly".

      What is most likelly, is that they had to make choices at the QA stage: There were bugs that needed fixing, and they were
      • You make a good point about the regionalisation - although given that the regionalisation for the PS2 version was done in lots of time for Christmas does make it odd that it's still not out for Xbox and PS2.
        • given that the regionalisation for the PS2 version was done in lots of time for Christmas does make it odd that it's still not out for Xbox and PS2.

          Maybe they botched their approval by Nint or Microsoft, then you have to go through the whole final testing and submission process all over again. Though Ubi is a big place full of professional people who should know better than that.

          In short, I have absolutly no real clue as to why exactly it isn't out, but I feel that conspiracy theories involving Sony are
  • What really sucks about all this is that two GREAT games (BGE and POP) are getting horrendus sales, EVEN after BGE has a price drop, while something like Fugative Hunter is probablly going to get in top ten game sales. And WTF does gamespy mean when they say the ads sucked? I thought POP's TV spot was one of the better game ads this year! Hell of alot better than listening to Flock of Seagulls for some overrated crap game.
    • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was indeed a great game, and the ads for it were enough to get my interest up (though IGN's review and a friend's recommendation are what pushed me into actually buying).

      I think you're way off base, however, calling Grand Theft Auto: Vice City "some overrated crap game". Vice City, and GTA3 before it, are vast titles that are enjoyable on a number of levels across a huge demographic.

      The GTA:VC ad is successful because it conveys very accurately what the game is about. T
    • Re:Wow... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by PainKilleR-CE (597083)
      From Gamespot's review of BG&E:
      Nonlethal stealth is quickly becoming one of those "love it or hate it" gameplay elements, and while the stealth in BG&E is handled well, there's enough of it to turn off people who don't care for it.

      Running around dark corridors isn't the only thing you'll do in Beyond Good & Evil. The game's 10- to 15-hour quest [...]


      Personally, it takes a lot to make me go out and buy a game that's only 10-15 hours in length. Additionally, I'm in the latter crowd on stealth
      • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Insightful)

        As I wrote in a journal recently, there are two competeing gameplay styles emerging; the '10 or so solid hours of story' versus the '50+ hours of wandering around levelling up.'

        BG&E was an amazing game; there wasn't a single sloppy, slow, or pointless part of the game that I can think of, off hand. They did some AMAZING cinematic tricks during the gameplay (the opening battle, and daring rooftop escape both leap to mind immediately) and pulled of that hardest trick; at no point in the game did you ge

    • Mod parent up. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cutriss (262920)
      And WTF does gamespy mean when they say the ads sucked? I thought POP's TV spot was one of the better game ads this year!

      A-freaking-men. The POP ad was absolutely awesome, particularly the 1-minute spot. I'd see it on Adult Swim, and wake up my wife because I was wanting her to see it. I'm hoping that UbiSoft releases an OST for the game, as I'd be really interested in getting it.
  • I guess this just shows what happens when you decide to release original (with the exception of PoP, although that's negotiable) titles.

    It's a sad state of affairs, really.
  • What a worthless company.

    In Beyond Good & Evil (pc version) there is a game ending bug. Affects a whole lot of people. Message boards everywhere have people desperately seeking an answer as to what is wrong (search on Google for the second triangle key bug) and guess what Ubisoft says about it.. NOTHING!

    So all of these people, including myself, are completely screwed. Ubisoft hasn't released a fix for it and hasnt said a word. The only reason I have even been able to get past that point is because
    • What is this bug of which you speak? I played right through the Xbox version of the game with no problem.

    • UbiSoft are the same bunch of worthless publishers that released Pool of Radiance 2 with the infamous "erase your hard drive if you uninstall it" bug, along with a host of other less publicized crapfests. I've only bought one UbiSoft game (Warlords Battlecry II) since their pathetic "quality assurance" department thoughtfully erased my C: drive for me, and I see no reason to ever give any more money to that company, no matter how good anyone claims the games they make now are.
      • UbiSoft are the same bunch of worthless publishers that released Pool of Radiance 2 with the infamous "erase your hard drive if you uninstall it" bug, along with a host of other less publicized crapfests.

        That's the same bug that was in Half-Life's original release, and, amazingly enough, it didn't effect me in either game. Then again, I bought PoR almost a year after it was released (and multiple patches were available, including a patch for that bug), and still haven't uninstalled Half-Life.
  • "Many of my peers felt that BG&E's style was too eccentric and didn't convey what type of game it was."

    Is it such a crime that a game not fit neaty into one genre? Aren't people getting sick of the same old "shooting game" or "jumping game"?
    • I think there's a few interesting things going on here.

      You can't expect people to lay money down and not know what they're getting. This may be symptomatic of a marketing system that doesn't know how to sell new types of games. If you're selling the next first person shooter, then all you have to do is say "it's just like that last game you liked, only better!" And in fact that's the only message video game marketing is any good at pushing.

      Secondly, as video games get more popular, there's a whole cra

      • Beyond Good and Evil and Prince of Persia are undoubtedly excellent games, but neither is a revolutionary game--PoP is a sequel to what was once a famous franchise, and BGaE sounds like just another Zelda-type of game.

        While I don't really disagree with your statement, I have a bit of a problem with your reasoning. Super Mario 64 was revolutionary, and Mario was an old franchise. PoP is to the older incarnations as Mario 64 is to the original.

        BG&E is...fairly similar to Zelda, in the sense that it'
    • Is it such a crime that a game not fit neaty into one genre?

      Actually it's not particularly innovative gameplay wise, as it fits perfectly into the classic Zelda mould. Unfortunatly Ubi seemed to forget to tell anyone this, with the result that no-one really knew what it was.

      Mind you, the release date was more than half the problem. Original titles at christmas are a very big risk, as the bulk of christmas titles seem to be bought by doddering relatives.
      • Actually it's not particularly innovative gameplay wise, as it fits perfectly into the classic Zelda mould. Unfortunatly Ubi seemed to forget to tell anyone this, with the result that no-one really knew what it was.

        That was my problem with it. I picked it up at the store and looked over the box. I couldn't tell what style of gameplay it was. RPG? Action/Adventure? Mindless FPS? Tetris? Well, probably not tetris, but you get the idea. I could tell what the *story* was like, but nothing about the *gam

  • by superultra (670002) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:18AM (#8179223) Homepage
    I bought both the day they came out, and I couldn't have been happier. When I used to work at EB, the Wednesday before the week of Thanksgiving was absolute hell because you'd literally have over 50 games coming out. The Tuesday night before that Wednesday you always had to have the staff clear off every new release shelf to prepare. Most of this 50 new releases just got filed in with the old ones because we didn't have room. And we were a well-staffed and district flagship EB. I can't imagine what would happen to those 50 new releases per system at a out of the way Best Buy or Wal-Mart.

    Moreover, when the mom comes in to buy the kid a Christmas game, or even the wife for the gameplaying husband, all she knows is that she's looking for that game that's like GTA that's been on TV, or the new Mario game (even for the PS2). When I bought them at Toys R' Us during their Buy 2 Get 1 Free, the guy behind the counter knew Prince of Persia was good but couldn't find it, and it took him a good 3 or 4 minutes to track down Beyond Good & Evil.

    What Ubisoft was trying to do, at least with PoP, was create another Splinter Cell. The difference though is that last Christmas, when Splinter Cell was released for Xbox, you really didn't have much in the way of strong titles. Maybe MechAssault, and that's pushing it. In Christmas of 2003, the "new" Splinter Cell (PoP) had stuff like KOTOR and Rainbow Six (ironically, another Ubisoft title) and that was only on the Xbox. The other platforms were probably even stronger (Mario Kart, SOCOM II). The problem is that investors create such an expectation for Christmas that if Ubisoft didn't get closer to EA's numbers during Christmas, what good is the Ubisoft stock? Consider this an insder retail proverb : A dollar in profit during Christmas is worth two during third quarter.

    It's a shame, because it's investors that are indirectly responsible for half-shipped games and marketing mistakes like this. If you haven't already noticed, there are these mini-huge release days (like the one before Thanksgiving) on the Wednesday at the end of every financial quarter (next one is at the end of March I think). The releases will all clump and crowd on that one day. Another proverb: a dollar made at the end of the quarter for a half-finished game is worth two dollars made for a complete game released in the middle of a quarter.
    • Just a nitpick, it wasn't Rainbow Six that was released last year, it was Ghost Recon: Island Thunder, as I recall (which sold absurdly well).

      The reason Ubisoft did badly (and compared to what it could have done, it did very badly) is because it released all of its phenominal games all at once, at the same time as everyone else released all of their phenominal games (as you mention).

      They let out Prince of Persia, Beyond Good and Evil, Rainbow Six 3, and a selection of other titles all at once, at the same
      • Now I feel stupid.

        I'm still in 2003 mode. 'Last Year' was Rainbow Six, but I thought you were referring to 2002. My bad.

        --Dan
      • I tallied it up one day when I was bored. Going through EB's new release list from the start of October to the end of January, there were over a thousand dollars worth of games I wanted for the Gamecube alone.

        Yeah, I'm with you on that Dan. I had to pick and choose at Christmas (I only have so many relatives), and it meant that games I otherwise would have bought (say, for example Metal Arms, or Crimson Skies; even Jak II keeled to Ratchet II - heck, I still need to get Mario Kart!). I was playing Pro
  • I was so suprised when I walked into EB the day it came out in Canada to find the price had already been reduced. This game beats Zelda Wind Waker on a bunch of fronts, but not all. I actually liked BG&E better.
  • Laugh if you will, but the Ubisoft developers can blame themselves for truncating the growth of XIII on the PC. Mod and map development has become a critical aspect of a growing FPS title and with the Unreal engine as it's core - XIII should have been an easy sell for that. Built in map editor, OO scripting language, and the only cel shaded toy on the block.

    So what did Ubisoft do?

    Well, they released the US version of XIII with a flaw that disabled the use of custom maps thanks to the CD checking softwar
  • by gamgee5273 (410326) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:35AM (#8179793) Homepage Journal
    I bought a PoP/SC (Ps2, not sure about other platforms) two-pack for $49 at Target this past Saturday.

    I've been slow picking up PoP (it has been on my list because of my love for the old games back when I was in middle school), but the two-pack is what sold me.

    And, dammit, it shouldn't have needed to be packaged with SC (not that my wallet is complaining)! This game is easily the best I've played in years. I've already spent six or seven hours playing the game, and it is a massive step forward for gamers who have been following the Legacy of Kain series or who love good platformers or who thought Enter the Matrix could have been so much more than it was (if only Ubisoft and this development team had worked on that game as opposed to Atari and Shiny..). I cannot sing PoP's praises more! BUY THIS GAME.

    As for Splinter Cell: I'll play it at some point. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This has to be one of the best deals on games right now. If you don't already have Prince of Persia, you've got to get the 2 for 1 deal now! And BG&E for $20 is a steal!

    The deal's at ubisoft's store and I'm sure you can find it elsewhere too.

    Ubisoft's Store [ubi.com]

  • I don't think marketing or even release date issues effected my choice to not buy Ubisoft games as much as the fact that *every single game* I have that they published was buggy, unentertaining garbage.
    • You must have not bought a Ubisoft game recently. They've gone from crap company to company that routinely produces amazing games. Hopefully in a year or so their reputation will catch up with their new level of quality and people will start looking for the brand instead of avoiding it.
      • Umm, nope, not in maybe two years. Maybe they moved to their core competancy: "Rainbow Six" since the only 'new releases' on their site are flight sims, realistic commando games or Uru, none of which I'm terribly interested in.

        If they have gotten better, good for them. After multiple games that did not work out of the box, I'll stay away until they produce something I *am* interested in, *and* has proven itself in front of trusted friends and/or reviewers.
  • After putting out the rushed, buggy, piece of shit Shadowbane, ruining all the good concepts in it, renegging on their promise to support role play and run rp events, and having the worst customer service I've ever seen, I am never giving them a damn penny of my money again.
  • What most hurt the sales of their games is that they were released at same time at the peak of game releases.

    According to Gamefaqs for PS2:
    XIII 11/18/03
    PoP 11/06/03
    BGaE 11/11/03

    The did a lot of marketting, but they didn't explain the gameplay of the games, they tried to market them by graphics/story. They did nothing to try and differentiate themselves from the other releases. This put them in a position of competing with themselves and the million other xmas games.

    Xmas is overrated. There is way to
  • For Beyond Good and Evil, it is really sad that it hasn't performed very well. I have the GameCube version, and despite it being shorter than many games, I feel that it is the best game of 2003. Yes, it is better than Zelda: Wind Waker and Mario Kart: Double Dash. (I have both)

    I think the root cause for poor sales is two-fold: 1> They should not have released around Christmas. 2> It needed better marketing. Not more marketing, mind you, but better. I saw plenty of ads for it, but none of them r

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