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Dishonored vs EA’s Gibeau: a win for new IP

Thursday, 11th October 2012 16:26 GMT By Dave Cook

Dishonored has received rave reviews from the majority, despite claims that launching new IP late in the cycle is a mistake. The comments of some execs are defeatist at best and actively damaging at worst, says Dave Cook.

The human race has always feared the unknown. When man first discovered fire, we didn’t instantly start cooking food, lighting our homes or spark up fat Cuban cigars. We got burned by it, and that’s when we started to understand and respect what it was capable of.

New IP is the same. Sure, some of it fails catastrophically, but the industry makes mistakes, consumers get burned, and then the medium as a whole learns. This is progress.

It always falls to a select few, those fascinated dreamers who want to push the boundaries of what’s possible, to show us what can happen when we dare to think beyond the realm of safety.

What if someone told Gabe Newell that founding Valve was a foolish risk? Just how fucked would the industry be today without Steam, or the inspiration of Half-Life?

New IP can achieve this if it is handled well, and that is why I refuse to subscribe to the notion that unique ideas are doomed to fail before they’ve truly begun.

It’s such a weak, defeatist attitude that serves no one but those who want to validate their own foolish opinions. It reeks of close-minded ignorance, like when someone watches a ten-second teaser trailer for a new IP that features no gameplay, then saying something idiotic like, ‘Looks shit’.

What if someone told Gabe Newell that founding Valve was a foolish risk? Just how fucked would the industry be today without Steam, or the inspiration of Half-Life?

Go back even further and try telling Steve Russell and his geeky MIT buddies to stop dicking around with Spacewar! and hit the books. The industry simply wouldn’t exist as it does today without that creativity.

New ideas are invaluable, even if they do fail, because this self-perpetuating industry thrives on iteration, on improving and abstracting the mould. It’s also the reason EA’s Frank Gibeau’s recent comments regarding new IP fall wide of the bullseye his company should be aiming for.

Gibeau stated in an interview that launching new IP so late in the current console cycle is a mistake.

Rubbish. The games industry is beyond the point where console cycles mark the beginning and end of each phase in its evolution. PC and mobile gaming don’t have cycles, and – love or hate those formats – they are now as important as any big name hardware.

Anything that gets more people gaming, and ultimately injects more funds into the industry deserves praise.

Angry Birds may not be relevant to many hardcore console players out there today, but it is to millions of people – millions of people who never considered themselves gamers in the past. Anything that gets more people gaming, and ultimately injects more funds into the industry deserves praise.

Which brings me to Dishonored. I never place games on high pedestals because – as we all know – no game is perfect, but Arkane’s grim tale of revenge is something special. It’s one of those rare games that comes along and rips through the wall of design by committee, focus testing and uninspired sequels.

Some may say, ‘But hold on: it’s just like Thief, Bioshock, Half-life and Deus Ex combined’. Yes you’re right, but look at the quality of games you’ve just name-dropped. They’re all unique IP that haven’t been bled dry by sequels – not yet anyway.

Dishonored takes core fundamentals from all of those games but runs with them to create something that feels new. The city of Dunwall feels like a tangible, unique place, battered by corruption, sin and plague, all without resorting to a murky colour palette.

The city’s inhabitants are truly loathsome, making you become emotionally engaged in Corvo’s struggle. It echoes our own real-world state, wherein national economies are fucked and the poor are getting shafted with both barrels. It’s relevant, and it hits home if you let it.

Some have bemoaned the fact that the game isn’t open world, but you really have to play the game to understand that while Dishonored is a a string of connected play-spaces, they are teeming with possibilities.

It treats you like an adult in the way games used to, not some dullard with a wallet who is there to be exploited.

Do you murder everyone in sight or go for the pacifist route? Do you possess a rat and sneak into a compound’s vent system, or do you complete odd jobs for a corrupt citizen to earn safe passage within its walls? The freedom afforded in a confined space is malleable, and marks a triumph in design.

Even Corvo’s limited skill-set has been called into question by people who haven’t played the game yet. Why give players a massive selection of uninspired tools when a tighter, more useful arsenal can provide wider possibilities? Sometimes restraint is the best option.

It’s also bastard-hard, refusing to coddle players through its meter-less stealth system, gruelling checkpoints and brain-testing conundrums. It treats you like an adult in the way games used to, not some dullard with a wallet who is there to be exploited.

Gratification is your reward, a feeling that Dark Souls player will know all too well. It’s that rare vibe you pick up whenever you overcome the seemingly impossible, and Arkane has scored well. The sheer artistry and talent on top of that makes for killer game of the year material.

So that’s Dishonored, potentially the most intriguing new IP of the generation, and there is still so much more that can be said on the issue of new ideas. After all, big name developers like EA are always looking forward to what comes next, because they have to act now in order to be ‘generation-prepped’ by the time Xbox 720 and PS4 come along.

I get that, but saying that new IP can’t succeed just because new machines are imminent is both defeatist and actively damaging. It’s the wrong message for such a big entity to be broadcasting, especially one that has the power and funds to help nurture fresh properties. We’ve yet to see Dishonored’s sales figures, but given the reception it’s unlikely Bethesda will regret going triple-A with something completely new in 2012. Gibeau should know better: the success of new IP isn’t just dictated by the console market.

Dishonored releases across Europe tomorrow.

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20 Comments

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  1. Maximum Payne

    Good article but how much Dishonored actually sold ?
    I hope its not something like :”3-4 millions is minimum so we can make sequel”

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 It’s not out here yet.

    The point is that sales aren’t everything. They are important, but my point is that new IP is invaluable, and that console cycles are irrelevant due to the iterative evolution of the PC/mobile market.

    The world is bigger than console cycles, essentially, so it shouldn’t matter when new IP launches.

    We need more new ideas not for developers to fear creativity, as Gibeau suggests.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Patrick Garratt

    It’s a calculated risk, innit. There’s a lot of parallel with the first Borderlands launch. It’s actually a perfect time to launch something new, as the megatonners are all lining up for next year. There’s room for air. I’m sure it’ll sell well enough.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Emmzyne

    It probably doesn’t NEED a sequel. Why the urgency for a second?

    It will hopefully give Arkane the attention it deserves, and maybe work on bigger or even triple A titles down the line. I don’t get why everything has to be a ‘sequel of’ these days. Some games could do without having sequels in the past and wouldn’t tarnish the praise for the original.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Patrick Garratt

    @4 I’m sure you’re right, yeah. Problem with games is that a lot of the leg work – art, etc – is done in the first one, so a sequel’s a commercial no-brainer. To be honest, the thought of a second game on next gen in about three years is pretty fricking sweet to me.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Dave Cook

    @4 & 5 that’s it yeah. New IP in the triple-a sector takes so much effort, money and resources to create. Sequels can be the sure thing.

    I would like to see Arkane do a new game next, but they’ve already mentioned sequel potential before.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. G1GAHURTZ

    Really interesting article, Dave, but you say:

    The point is that sales aren’t everything. They are important, but my point is that new IP is invaluable, and that console cycles are irrelevant due to the iterative evolution of the PC/mobile market.

    However, Gibeau was talking about sales, when he said:

    as much as there’s a desire for new IP, the market doesn’t reward new IP this late in the cycle. They end up doing okay, but not really breaking through.

    So, do you think that this game has really done enough to prove him wrong yet?

    I’m not so sure…

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Emmzyne

    @5&6

    I don’t know how the industry works from the inside, I only know from a retail perspective. Don’t get me wrong, the prospect of Dishonored 2 does sound pretty cool. Just if something fresh and new comes out, will releasing sequel after sequel stagnate a good thing?

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Dave Cook

    @7 I get what you mean yeah, and that makes sense. But I don’t see it as a Dishonored proving him wrong, I just think saying things like that out loud is potentially damaging to other franchises.

    Honestly, these days, right now, things haven’t been this good for new IP in years. He’s singling out the console market, which is wrong. The PC and mobile markets are a hotbed of new IP, and routes to market for new IP have never been slicker.

    I just found his comments to be a tad blinkered, and that’s a shame.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. ManuOtaku

    I will say that i hope it sells well, just to debunk that damaging notion, especially and particullary this gen, becuase there are a lot of new IP that didnt do that well, like blur, amalur, bulletstorm, etc, i do really hope publisher strive supporting new IPS, even if it is not money wise on the first outing, they need to realize that they might become great series, that within the proper time, care and nuture, will make good profits in the long run, while creating and establishing new ideas as well, so it will be a win/win scenario for every part involve consumers / developers and publishers.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. AHA-Lambda

    Any idea what Bethesda’s sales expectations for Dishonored are? I really want this game to succeed, and can’t wait to get my copy tomorrow :)

    #11 2 years ago
  12. G1GAHURTZ

    @Dave:

    I’m not sure if he holds that much influence, though.

    I mean, anyone who knows my username on here will tell you that I’m not an EA fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I just think that if a publisher has decided to go for new IP just before the next console gen, I don’t think what Gibeau said is going to change their minds.

    There are loads of new IPs, like you said, but how many of them are really getting close to established, major franchise sales?

    The quality and innovation of them is one thing, but at a time when the market is shrinking as a whole, maybe he has a point that concentrating on what sells well is better from a business perspective…

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Dave Cook

    @12 I will say this as well man, that the market is shrinking – on consoles – and you’re right that companies will always bank on the sure thing from a business point of view.

    But then what does that mean for consumers? Endless sequels? I can see why so many people turn to PC and the indie sector for their doses of innovation.

    I think this is s tricky situation and there’s no clear answer, but I just think that writing off new IP in that manner is a tad premature.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. MarkySharky

    I know this is a new IP which is great but it’s hardly original so I don’t think it’s a massive risk or gamble or anything of the sort.

    I think the gamble was perhaps the scope of the game and reaching that level given the high expectations Arkane set when the details of the game were originally revealed.

    I’m not bashing the game at all as I’ve loved what little I have played so far but the game isn’t brimming with originality as such. Yes, it’s a new IP but mostly in name I feel.

    I think there seems to be a lot of ‘elitism’ in people supporting/wanting new IPs and then the negativity toward sequels.

    It’s like it’s ‘cool’ to love new IPs regardless and also cool to slag off sequels.

    I’m happy with sequels if they evolve the series and bring something new to the table and I feel game is that good I want more of it. However, personally I’ve been stung by sequels that have let me down and almost ruined a series for me such as Mass Effect 3 and BF3.

    It’s not to say they didn’t warrant sequels just they were poor in comparison for me.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Talkar

    I would like to see some facts put on the table here, both regarding the article and some of the comments. Like sales numbers, expected sales did the games mentioned surpass the expectations? Are the sales the only factor regarding how successful a new IP is, if not what else is? How much is the market shrinking? What markets specifically?
    It is all well and good to get a crowd riled up by singling out a guy everybody hates in the first place, i don’t really care for that though…

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Dave Cook

    @15 well, singling out a guy people hate wasn’t the point of this article, merely using his comment as a launch pad for the wider issue which is that he said launching new IP this laste in the console cycle is a mistake. The world is bigger than console cycles. Saying something negative like this puts a damper on the potential of new IP in the pc and mobile space, which aren’t governed by cycles.

    Times have never been better in those markets for indies and new IP because they are so easy to capitalise on. Indies can get Unity for free, they can crowd-fund, hosting on iTunes is dirt cheap. Those markets are relevant and significant too, so to just focus on consoles is silly – not saying that Gibeau was doing that either.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. OlderGamer

    Another good read Dave.

    “But then what does that mean for consumers? Endless sequels? I can see why so many people turn to PC and the indie sector for their doses of innovation.”

    Bingo.

    I know a lot of gamers that don’t buy many Trip A games anymore. The rush to “Franchise”, the DLC, the marketing, the sequels, blagh blagh, boring. The industry(esp consoles) are choking themselfs on that cycle. Gamers will leave en mass if they don’t stop.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. roadkill

    “Dishonored vs EA’s Gibeau: a win for new IP” Wow! What a surprise!

    #18 2 years ago
  19. TheBlackHole

    “Dishonored has received rave reviews from the majority, despite claims that launching new IP late in the cycle is a mistake.”

    Wow… that was taken REALLY out of context, wasn’t it. At what point did ol’ Gibbo say that games late in the cycle were mistake because they wouldn’t be any good? Because that’s what you’re implying.

    His point was valid (and historically, also quite correct), and just because one game breaks through, doesn’t mean any/many more will.

    Let’s see how many more new IP do well between now and the end of the cycle, and see where the percentages lie. I dare say this becomes irrelevant if it turns our Dishonored bombs at retail.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. DSB

    @19 Like Gibeau, your perspective is far too simple.

    It doesn’t matter whether the end of the cycle is near or not, you can still leverage your release to account for that.

    If we suppose that a AAA title sells half of what it normally would on consoles, all you really have to do is angle it towards the PC.

    EA may have painted themselves into a corner there, by building Fortress Origin, but for most other publishers it could still be a very lucrative launch.

    The problem with incompetence is that some people prefer to make up their own rules to avoid aknowledging it.

    A late title might not be as profitable as one that’s released when the market is red hot, but a good, well supported game will still be succesful as long as you tool it for the market. Until EA get their own console, I think they’re better off if they focus on producing games for a living, instead of making up excuses not to do it.

    #20 2 years ago