Saturday, March 15, 2014

inFamous: Second Son and Titanfall - the jibba jabba.

Things are gonna' get a little console war-y in this post - be ye warned.  March isn't merely a month overstuffed with awesome games (still haven't finished Thief, haven't even taken the shrink wrap off Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, haven't touched the new Walking Dead episode), it's also a straight-up Microsoft vs. Sony month, as major platform exclusives Titanfall and inFamous: Second Son launch.

It is, perhaps, unfair to compare the two - this is so apples-and-oranges it crosses over into apples-and-echidnas, the spiny anteaters, territory.  Comparisons are downright silly, but here we are.  Please note all the plusses and minuses below do not reflect my opinion of either game's quality, but represent what impact each facet of a game should have on its financial success.

Titanfall is the latest entry in what is the most-lucrative triple-A gaming market - the multiplayer first-person shooter, keeping company with titles like Halo, Killzone and of course, Call of Duty (+1), launching across multiple platforms with a potential audience in the hundreds of millions thanks to its PC SKU (+1). It was developed by Respawn Entertainment, a crew famously populated by the talent that took Call of Duty to the stratosphere (+1) and Microsoft and EA are throwing a ton of advertising dollars at it (+1).

It's currently available for PC and Xbox One, and will come to the Xbox 360 on the 25th - likely widening its web of impact, but the fact is it's a new IP, and your average Fratty L. Brodude has no idea of its excellent pedigree.  They've seen the commercials, discounted it as a game they've never heard of, and perhaps moved on (-1).

Titanfall: +4, -1

Like Titanfall, inFamous: Second Son is the product of experienced developers with proven talent (+1) and is enjoying a lot of advertising dollars from Sony (+1), but that is where the similarities end.  While the franchise has never seen the stratospheric sales of The Last of Us or Uncharted, as a sequel, inFamous: Second Son will nonetheless enjoy a built-in market of fans who're no doubt hungry for the latest thing from Sucker Punch (+1).  I know I am.

It's a strictly single-player title, a rarity when every open-world game from Assassin's Creed to GTA to Watch Dogs ensures to include the long legs of multiplayer (-1), and a platform-exclusive, launching only on Sony's latest hardware - which currently confines its prospective market to around five million PS4 owners (-1).

inFamous: Second Son: +3, -2

Titanfall should be owning it up right now, but that's not what's happened. Given its heavy advertising presence and mindshare among gamers like you and I - we know what this thing is - you'd think its sales on PC, at least, would have approached or exceeded the million mark.  But no, thus far, as of last night, Microsoft will only boast to "hundreds of thousands" of folks playing Titanfall.

That seems like a weirdly small number for this title, considering all it's got going for it.  The only hit against the game is the fact that it's a new IP.

Titanfall's limited mindshare in contrast to inFamous was pointed out, last night, by industry insider Pete Dodd (aka famousmortimer), who remarked that inFamous's "social metrics ... are through the roof."

When asked for clarification on what the heck that means, Dodd cited YouTube views, Twitter mentions and preorders, and singled out these two YouTube trailers, each posted within one day of each other.  First up, Titanfall's Official Gameplay Launch Trailer, posted on March 6th.

With a Metascore of 86 on Xbox One, Titanfall has received almost nothing but the highest praise from critics, who insist it's nothing less than an evolution on a genre that had stagnated long ago.  But do the people care?  As of this writing, the above trailer has been viewed two hundred and seventeen thousand, thirty-one times.  Hardly chump change.

inFamous: Second Son, of course, has not yet launched - but I can pretty much guarantee you it won't see review scores like Titanfall.  Its lack of multiplayer will no doubt hamper it with the critics to the same degree BioShock was hamstrung for its single-player-only pastiche, and there are much, much fewer PS4 owners than there are PC owners.  This is inFamous's Official Live Action Spot - which, if you'll forgive me, isn't nearly as good as Titanfall's trailer above.

It was posted on March 7th - after Titanfall's trailer - and has, in less time, been viewed four million, seven hundred and forty-six thousand, nineteen times.  To quote Dodd,
"To find anything even close on titanfall's youtube you have to go back to october.  2.3 mil views. Their E3 video is just over 3 mil."
Good lord.  You'd think this better inFamous trailer would've gotten more views, but whatever.  The people have spoken in their own alarmingly guileless way, and Dodd's right - many, many more people seem to be buzzing about inFamous than Titanfall.

Not within the enthusiast press itself, of course.  For months now, Titanfall has dominated coverage whenever any new media was released, and nothing but glowing previews have appeared.

Is it really, merely, inFamous's position as a franchise that allows it this strength?  Will its apparent popularity translate into healthy sales on the fledgling PS4?

Stay tuned.  We'll find out if YouTube views translates to real-world impact when Second Son drops this Friday.  And now, lets enjoy some brand-spankin' new screenshots of Sucker Punch's latest (click to embiggen).

Blast shards are back.  Yesss!

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