Former Visceral Dev: Horror Games Are Expensive To Make and Hard To Sell

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Oct 26, 2017
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Visceral Games is basically no more. We learned that last week when Electronic Arts announced how the studio would be closing down while its Star Wars project (helmed by Amy Hennig) was being transferred to EA Vancouver and repurposed away from a linear single-player action/adventure game.

This news was particularly disappointing for fans of the Dead Space series, arguably Visceral’s biggest franchise. The survival horror trilogy saw protagonist Isaac Clarke fighting against the Xenomorph scourge in a 26th-century sci-fi setting.

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However, Dead Space 3 in particular was criticized because its action elements outweighed the horror ones. Now that Visceral Games is no more, former Senior Level Designer Zach Wilson (now at Bethesda Softworks) chimed in on why survival horror games have a tough time in today’s market, via an interview published by GamesIndustry.

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.

You can’t sell games to a market that wants them to exist but doesn’t want to buy them. The actual process of generating projections – which EA uses to set marketing budgets and judge success – is incredibly opaque, which I think most devs found frustrating. We can’t translate our passion into a spreadsheet.

Wilson definitely has a point. Horror games have this paradoxical situation about them threatening to keep them in a niche.

The latest AAA survival horror game to launch was Tango Gameworks’ The Evil Within 2, which became available a couple weeks ago. It’s still a little early for sales data, but we’ll keep an eye on how it does in that regard.

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The game itself was pretty good, according to Rosh, albeit a bit lacking in the horror department.

As a horror game, I’m not sure The Evil Within 2 could stand up on its own. With the occasional jump scare and some good direction you might get the right tone once in a while, but for the most part the game fails to deliver on the overall sense of horror. Behind that, though, is a great game with interesting enemies, a story that makes no sense but doesn’t need to and some really good piece of imaginative art design. It’s probably better that it’s less scary, the game will hopefully find a home for people looking for something on the borders of scary rather than just those few hardcore horror fans.

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