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Former Visceral Games Dev Speculates at What Went Wrong

It’s no surprise that the demise of Visceral Games stings on numerous levels. The studio gave us an awesome “John Carpenters The Thing in space” series of games with the Dead Space franchise, and now that’s probably going to be stuck in EA’s closet for the next while. Not to mention the talent that was at the studio that brought the series to life. But thanks to a former developer at the studio, we have a clue as to why EA pulled the trigger on Visceral.

In a series of Twitter posts, Zach Wilson (who was at the studio while they were working on Battlefield: Hardline) stated an obvious problem with certain AAA titles these days:

Wilson goes on to explain that he’s “back of the napkinning” these numbers, but added that they’re close to the real thing. “I don’t know the exact marketing budget but they’re frequently close to the dev cost (I have heard this anecdotally)”. While this doesn’t explain why Visceral had to close, it does give you an idea of what was going on.

Later on, Wilson followed up his initial tweets with some clarification. Turns out that his numbers on Dead Space sales were “totally inaccurate”. The true number for the Dead Space 2 budget is closer to $47 million, while Dead Space had a $37 million budget. Even then, he’s “not 100% sure”. However, one thing he does reiterate is that the marketing budget is usually around the production budget as a “rule of thumb”. Regardless, the idea of revenue vs. cost is still the issue.

Dead Space 2 isn’t the only game to have suffered from having good sales, but with low returns. Square Enix’s 2013 Tomb Raider reboot had a budget approaching $100 million (not including marketing costs), and needed to sell 5-6 million units within the first month to generate a profit. The game sold 3.4 million units, instead. The game eventually broke even by the end of the year, but the game was still considered a loss for the company.

One could say that the videogame industry is mimicking the film industry in regards to problems with budgets. As budgets get higher, the demands for revenue become louder. It’s not hard to find an example of a film that did well at the box office, but was considered a failure due to its bloated budget and marketing costs. There have been rumblings for years about Hollywood potentially heading towards a crash with the continued reliance on summer blockbusters with inflated budgets to rake in the cash. Videogames already had a crash in North America back in the 80s (albeit for different reasons than budget). Could they be headed for another?

This story was originally posted on Plenty Dreadful. Head there for more horror video game goodness!



  • boxcar182

    Dead Space was a fantastic franchise. Yes, even part 3! I wish these games budgets weren’t so high so we can get more of them. Dead Space ended on such a cliffhanger it needs a sequel to wrap things up.

    • GunsOfNavarone

      I am hoping that before long, someone might buy the IP or EA might listen to the outcry and look to reignite it. But by all accounts, even though 2 and 3 were good, they were clearly running out of ideas. The 1st is still the best by a long shot.

      • boxcar182

        The first one is the best, incredible pacing and the atmosphere was top notch.

        If EA can make a sequel to Mirrors Edge then why can’t they give us at least one last hurrah with Dead Space?

        • GunsOfNavarone

          Mirrors Edge Catalyst was meant to be a semi-reboot of Mirrors Edge but strangely ended up worse in my opinion. But yes, I agree with the point you’re making. If that got another look, there is no reason why Dead Space shouldn’t.

      • Meatwad

        If my dream where to come true, It would be to stretch the story of the first game into 2 or 3 parts. It did become a little ridiculous how Issac kept finding himself in those situations. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the Deadspace games! But chopping up the story of the the first initial game would be stellar!

        • GunsOfNavarone

          I loved the first, it was tense throughout and the exploratory nature of the tight claustrophobic rooms and corridors worked well. 2 and 3 veered away from that formula and went with bigger more open space areas and so they lacked the same atmosphere. I wracked my brain many times thinking of how they could bring it back around if they ever did a 4th game, but where would it be based without retreading old ground? The surface of the planet didn’t quite work and the space station was too spacious, so it could only ever be another ship left adrift. But it would feel too repetitious. It’s a shame but it feels like Dead Space was only ever meant to be one game, one story.

          • boxcar182

            If they did a sequel to 3 it’d most likely take place on earth. I’d be okay with that but I’d also be okay if they did a “quasi-reboot”. Maybe do a prequel to Dead Space 1 with that one ship that crashes into the Ishimura.

          • GunsOfNavarone

            Maybe it could be something like a prison vessel that floats around deep space and something lands that has part of the virus aboard, similar to Alien 3 although not a planet, or I’d even settle for a remaster of the original game.

    • Phillip Trinh

      We need a Dead Space HD PS4 remaster! I’m glad there is someone out there who likes Dead Space 3 like me! And DS3’s dlc ending was awesome! *high fives you!*

  • Joshua

    Stop spending so much money on marketing. Use social media to market games. Most people are on some form of it nowadays. Stop paying marketing companies and market it yourself.

  • zombie84_41

    i gotta buy all their games now cus we know they be worth a lot now

    • Joshua

      But if you have a PC you can buy the games there for cheap when they have sales. I also have them on PC. The graphics look amazing compared to the console version.

      • zombie84_41

        I might have my friend just build me a gaming PC because honestly this is what everybody always tells me. But I was always a console kind of person lol.

        • Joshua

          I was one too. I just bought a ps4 to play their exclusives. You can build a gaming PC yourself. It’s not difficult. I didn’t know anything about it. I just looked at lots of different videos on youtube and used PC Part Picker website to build my console. I researched it for 6 months before I felt confident in building it myself and new what I wanted within my budget. It’s a lot of fun building it yourself.

          • zombie84_41

            Sweet. Sounds good. One day I might lol.

  • zombie84_41

    thats awesome.

  • Vinnie Vincent’s Dead Dog

    Nobody asked EA to spend that much on marketing budgets. That’s what you get for thinking Dead Space was going to be anything more than a niche title, just like all other horror games before and after it will be. They ruined the franchise with micro-transactions in the third game. EA are a terrible company and no one is surprised Visceral was given the kick.

  • Leo

    Point is, EA doesn’t want a successful game.
    They want a successful game THEY CAN MILK FOR MONTHS (or until the next iteration comes out). As another dev pointed out, they wanted Amy Hennig (bloody Amy “Soul Reaver” Hennig, for f**k’s sake!) to turn her Star Wars project into a cash grab by adding some form of loot-based metagame – yeah, Fifa Ultimate Team, you guessed that right – and/or multiplayer based loot.

    I played the Battlefront 2 beta and, suffice to say, even a measly +4% damage to blasters turned a game of Starfighter Assault into a carnage. And of course I got the card from a loot drop. I respect Treyarch for at least TRYING to make loot balanced and interesting (“random” weapons each had one or two major drawbacks that called for noticeable skill in use, making sure the standard weaps could still outclass you if correctly used), but EA? They want a cow they can milk, PERIOD.

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