With the exception of Limbo, it seems Microsoft only has one more week to prove that this year’s Summer of Arcade wasn’t a complete bust. At this point, everything lies on the shoulders of Lara Croft.
If Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light proves a hit, at least Microsoft can say they managed to bookend the event with two solid releases. While I’m still waiting to hear a definitive consensus on Monday Night Combat, the only title in this year’s Summer line-up to receive any kind of positive feedback has been Hydro Thunder Hurricane (again, with the exception of Limbo). And even there, the positive feedback was backhanded, with most reviewers praising the online while tearing the single player to shreds.
I think this year has been an interesting experiment that shows two very key things.
First, publishers overestimate the value of multiplayer. People, on average, care about the Modern Warfare’s and the Madden’s of the world. Multiplayer in most other releases? Not so much. A new IP bringing the heat with multiplayer these days is rare (Borderlands comes to mind, and that’s a year old game). The reason MW2 and Madden (along with a list of a select few others we all know) work as multiplayer experiences is EVERYONE buys them. Bringing this back to Summer of Arcade, your market is already limited by the fact that not everyone with a 360 is connected to the internet. Add to that the limited appeal of a long-running cult classic series like say, I don’t know, Castlevania, and the net you’re going to be casting out aint that wide. The audience for live arcade releases have shown with their wallets what they’re interested in, and it’s odd to see Microsoft not really listen to them this year. There’s a reason Shadow Complex was in almost every top ten list last year.
The second thing this year has shown is publishers overestimate what people are willing to pay for a short, downloadable game experience. I just mentioned Shadow Complex briefly, and I’m doing so again because point blank it set the bar for what you can get out of a downloadable release for fifteen bucks. For my money, none of the releases so far this year can hold their own against something like Shadow Complex. And I’m even including Limbo, regardless of how much I enjoyed it. That all of these releases were priced at fifteen dollars just makes no sense to me. I think the average consumer has a cut-off point for what they’re willing to pay for a downloadable release (unless a high amount of content can justify the increased price, as with something like SC or even the Sam and Max releases).
I’m holding my final judgment about these releases as a whole until this time next week, but I can’t help but feel sorry for the task ahead of Crystal Dynamics and Ms. Croft.