Despite an overwhelmingly positive review here on TSA, it seems that more than a few people appear to have fallen in line with Peter’s thoughts on the game – with what seems to be a sense of apathy towards the PlayStation exclusive All-Stars Battle Royale. In short, this has meant that the game practically bombed here in the UK in its first week of sales, only managing to chart at number 38.
First things first – this game was advertised. I’ve seen a few PlayStation games come and go with little advertising but Battle Royale isn’t one of them – adverts and banners on websites everywhere, and there’s even a TV commercial, which – if you’ve not seen it – is below. It’s hardly perfect, but it’s definitely out there, and that’s more than the likes of Starhawk got.
It does seem that Sony’s ad buyers kept away from going all out with site takeovers and backgrounds, instead pushing services like Google’s AdSense to spread the word without the big expenditures, but if you were a frequent visitor to any half decent gaming site chances are you’d have seen adverts.
Any good? That’s Sackboy on a skateboard, Sweet Tooth at a tube station and a – well – fat Fat Princess. For half the ad – thirty seconds – it’s like those cheesy Money Supermarket ads, but without the humour, and zero gameplay. There’s a good ten seconds of so of footage, which does illustrate the game clearly to those familiar with it, but to a casual market is it really obvious what’s going on?
Why are they all fighting each other?
There’s also the factor that some of the characters included, like the bloke in pink, are hardly Sony’s strongest characters. There may be other adverts that I’ve not seen, but where were Kratos, Drake and even the old school guys like PaRappa The Rapper? The last Twisted Metal was hardly the best thing the PS3 has put out, so why focus on one of its leads?
And the line about the Vita version being “included” – perhaps red tape prevented them for saying ‘free’ there, but they really could have pushed the fact that the Vita version’s thrown in at no extra cost, even if it’s just a download and not a game card.[drop2]And then there’s the marketing. Remember marketing’s entirely different from advertising, the former is where the likes of the PlayStation Blog have months of character reveals and a gradual, slow build up to release. Some might say the leaks from the beta spoiled any pre-determined, calculated marketing campaigns, but that’s unlikely, the extra column inches generated by coverage of the leaks potentially outweighed the negatives.
Timing, too, was clearly an issue. Coming out mere days after the year’s biggest title – Black Ops II – was hardly the safest bet. That said, LEGO Lord Of The Rings managed an impressive entry at number six, but that’s a title with a lineage and a ready fanbase, Battle Royale had to earn its new fans, something it’s clearly struggled with judging by these initial figures.
The price was probably a factor in this. Regardless of the inclusion of the Vita code included, the game still costs £40 unless you really shop around, and for a brand new title with reviews only landing a few days before (if reviews even count for anything) and adverts that struggle to convey what the game is about, the more hurdles the less its chances of making a mark.
Let’s not forget though that the game was available on the PlayStation Store, something the current charts don’t track. I’m not for a minute suggesting that the game would have sold more via the PSN than retail – that’s something that may well emerge next gen but I’m not sure we’re there yet. What I am saying is that some will have opted for the digital version, and we won’t know how many (even relatively) until the figures roll out at the end of this week.
The E3 video is better at setting the pace, with smarter character focus, but I still get the impression it’s something of an ambiguity for outsiders.
The game itself is solid enough – I quite enjoyed playing it on the Vita for my contribution towards the TheSixthAxis review – but perhaps the lack of visible scoring is a problem, the ugly as sin user interface, or the fact that some inclusions feel like promotional adverts (hi, Dante) rather than earned positions in the PlayStation’s back catalogue.
But perhaps the biggest issue is that it simply doesn’t pack the same amount of content as its main rival, and perhaps PS3 owners (the Vita version’s not in the top 40 at all) just aren’t interested in seeing characters they’re familiar with jumping around and scrapping in a 2D plain. Why make Drake leap about and shoot in Battle Royale when he can do it in Uncharted? That was always going to be an issue, but few of us thought the game would chart so far down the list.
The PlayStation brand has some great characters, but here together maybe they don’t really work that well outside Sony’s core gaming community, a fan base that has absorbed countless Blog posts for at least half a year. It’s a shame, because the mechanics work well and the online functionality is sound – the idea, too, isn’t exactly flawed.
I don’t really know why the game only managed to chart at number 38, but it’s not for lack of trying this time around. All eyes on charts from the rest of the world, then.