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Saints Row 4 publisher discusses “inherent challenges” of convincing people it was more than an expansion

Friday, 13th September 2013 09:57 GMT By Dave Cook

Saints Row 4 publisher Deep Silver faced a touch challenge when it acquired Volition’s IP from THQ. PR and marketing boss Aubrey Norris has shed new light on the enormity of the task, and just how it set about addressing the issue.

Speaking with [a]list Daily, Norris explained the task at hand, “There were inherent challenges with Saints Row IV when we picked it up – all the turmoil from THQ’s demise and uncertainty around what was going to happen with it. And then there was an expansion pack, Enter the Dominatrix, that THQ had announced before. There was a lot of confusion about whether or not Saints Row IV would be just an expansion pack, does it really justify a full price, does it really justify a full game?”

Regardless, Deep Silver liked what it saw in the Saints Row fanchise and before long the Saints Row 3 DLC ‘Enter The Dominatrix’ was re-announced as a fully fleshed-out game in its own right. The move came as a pleasant surprise to some, and a shallow cash-grab to others. Months later and the game launched to impressive sales and positive reviews almost across the entire board. Grasping success wasn’t easy, however.

Norris continued, “There is actually more content in Saints Row IV than there really has been in any other Saints Row game, but when you have an expansion that’s announced like that, and then sort of like difficult messaging where it sounds like THQ just took an expansion and decided to call it a game, you’re fighting against what has been done before, and you have to turn around that perception of what it is.

“To be fair THQ actually announced that they were working on another [Saints Row]. They said ok we’re working on this then shortly after that they said ok, we’re taking Enter the Dominatrix and making it into a full game, but they didn’t really announce what that was. That’s where the confusion stemmed from, and we could see that confusion kind of continuing.”

She added, “It’s something that you have to prove to people. It’s not something you can fix overnight. It takes time for people to see all of the stuff that you have. That requires laser focus to show people the scope of the game. We would show the game at a trade show, we’d take the mini-map and we’d unlock everything so people could see how many activities there were. We’d show the things that are new in the game, like superpowers, and really try to emphasize how different it was.”

In the end, Norris said that it took time, a lot of effort and simple, clear communication to both fans and press alike to reveal the true scale of Saints Row 4.

Did you enjoy the end product? Let us know below.

Via GI.biz.

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15 Comments

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  1. Old MacDonald

    I spent 28 hours on the game according to Steam, so I don’t think it lacked content. Loved pretty much every bit of it.

    #1 11 months ago
  2. viralshag

    I haven’t finished the game yet because I’m generally useless like that but it’s a great game and imo was totally worth the money.

    #2 11 months ago
  3. Zackslacky

    Good game. 17hrs 100%.

    #3 11 months ago
  4. SplatteredHouse

    I’m not getting this, until I finish The Third. Which I haven’t started yet. I loved the first two games, but 3, despite being bought and installed…I wasn’t sure I liked the sound of where they were going with it. I’m literally a few clicks from it, but then I go play something else. :/

    #4 11 months ago
  5. frostface

    I didn’t like it myself. It felt like being in God mode right from the start. You’re getting your ass kicked, jump into the air and fly away. Also didn’t feel the need to hijack cars, why would you when you can just run (or fly) faster than them. I can see how people loved the super hero abilities but for me they made the game boring and all the stuff that I really enjoyed in previous Saints Rows became redundant. It wasn’t a graphical leap either on Saints Row The Third. The whole game just felt like an extended expansion pack for me.

    #5 11 months ago
  6. SplatteredHouse

    I just don’t want to play a purple rehash of Prototype!
    I don’t go in for most of this superhero stuff. I have similar concerns/misgivings about its effect on the gameplay, as you. Throw the us pres in as a spritzer, and surely, the result is unappealing. I’m thinking I’ll be waiting for a sale/goty bundle.

    #6 11 months ago
  7. Keivz

    They failed to convince me. I thought SRTT was a 9.0/10 and was really looking forward to a sequel. Without a new city though, I can’t shake the feeling of ‘expansion pack’, so I can’t justify getting it at full price. Perhaps I’ll play it once it’s in the bargain bin.

    #7 11 months ago
  8. Rikki

    It did feel like an expansion… BUT WHO CARES! They changed enough and added enough new stuff to make it just as awesome. 23 hours played on my first playthough, got 100% and now working on my second playthough. And so far it’s the best game I’ve played this year, and one of the best games I’ve played this generation!

    #8 11 months ago
  9. TheWulf

    I liked Saints Row IV as a completely honest treatise of the history of video games, and an honest love letter to them without any of the pretentious arseholes we’re usually forced to endure in these sorts of games. The boss was admittedly a straight up sociopath, but at least that fits better than a billion games where you commit genocide, almost drive creatures to extinction, rob poor people, run over grandmas, and then you’re told in a sanctimonious way by some sycophantic companion or plot point that it was all for the greater good.

    I’m actually kind of tired of that. I’d like games to either admit what’s actually going on, or at least punish the player for being a rabid psychopath.

    It didn’t take itself too seriously, either, which was especially good because there were parts where it was quite clever. The cherry on the cake is that the dialgoue and the characters themselves are some of the better written ones I’ve encountered in a while, and when I wasn’t laughing or grinning like a loon, I was given pause for thought.

    I’d say it’s a game about games, but that doesn’t do it justice. It’s a completely honest game about games. And in it’s own way, it’s really brave and bold, and not like anything else you’ve ever played. I’m very happy with my purchase, and I wish there were more like it. I don’t know how you all feel about this, but it’s nice to play a game and not feel completely patronised by it, you know?

    I felt patronised by Skyrim (Dragonborn my arse), and Grand Theft Auto IV alike because both of those purported my heroism and tried their best to explain away video game mechanics with some of the most ridiculous nonsense imaginable.

    I feel that with Saints Row IV, I was sat down with it and it said the following to me:

    Hey. You’re a grown-up, now. You’re sexually secure, and you can tell fantasy from reality. So we’re not going to pat you on the back every few minutes and tell you that you’re a hero, okay? You’re not. In fact, in video games, you’re often a monster who’s no different than any villain, or even your direct adversary. We may even point that out a few times.

    Video games have become really obscured by a pseudo-intellectual need to be meaningful, and that’s fine when it works. Sometimes it does. But when a game is about murder and greed, there’s really no point. And you’re clever enough to know that. In every game like that, you’re a monster. In Assassin’s Creed you’re murdering people without knowing their guilt, or their lives. You just kill them in cold blood. What sort of person does that?

    You get that. We get that. That’s the problem. Video games haven’t changed much since the ’80s or ’90s, mechanically. They’re still mostly about objectives and rewards. Sometimes those objectives are padded out and the rewards are hung in front of you tantalisingly to keep you playing. Old games didn’t do that, that seems to be a new thing, lazy design is very contemporary. We won’t do that. We’re going to throw toys at you left and right, and we’re never going to put up a pretence about you being some galactic hero. You’re a shitbag. Most video game ‘heroes’ are, but that doesn’t make things less fun, does it?

    You’ll probably even have more fun if you’re not saddled by that.

    So here’s the thing, chief. Video games haven’t changed much since the ’80s and we’re going to talk about them a lot. What they’ve also done is tried to layer on levels of pretentious clothing without ever really changing much. We won’t do that. Our game is going to feel old and refreshingly new at the same time, because we won’t hide from you that it’s just a struggle for dominance and that really, all you want to do is defeat the big bad to prove that yours is bigger. (And more hardcore.)

    With all the bullshit stripped away, let’s see how much fun we can have exploring video games.

    I’m okay with that.

    Can I have more like that?

    I mean, yeah. It works for Gone Home, if you’re not running around killing people, but… I mean, look at BioShock Infinite. I’m sorry to say this but BioShock Infinite was just bollocks. It had this artsy lead in and then you spend most of the game just killing people like a mindless murderbot. The setting would have been better suited to an adventure game, or something more like L. A. Noire.

    Saints Row IV is… just a video game. No pretences. Have fun.

    Edit: I guess what I’m trying to say is that most video games of this ilk are hedonistic by nature, and no amount of pretentious sanctimony can change that. In fact, the pretentious sanctimony is insulting, dishonest, and off-putting. SR IV, however, has no truck with that. It’s comfortable with what it is.

    Instead of the angsty teen who’s trying to be something he’s not that most games feel like, SR IV feels like an adult who’s comfortable with who and what they are.

    #9 11 months ago
  10. TheWulf

    @6

    That’s kind of like saying that Saints Row: The Third is just a reskin of Grand Theft Auto IV. The super powers are just a small part of it, and you’re really missing out if you don’t give it a try.

    It is aimed at a different and older audience this time, though. It’s less contemporary, and deals more with the nature of video games themselves.

    #10 11 months ago
  11. TheWulf

    @5

    That’s because the challenge comes from wardens, later-game reinforcements, missions, and activities. They treat the main world like something of a toy box, you just have to look at it differently.

    Yeah, sure, you can get away from Zin grunts easily, but the same can be said about the police and gangs in Saints Row: The Third, or any other game of its ilk. It doesn’t want to be kicking your arse all the time, just some of the time.

    #11 11 months ago
  12. SplatteredHouse

    @Wulf I appreciate your enthusiasm for this game, and the way in which you’ve expressed that and stood up for it, after you’ve played it. :)

    Also, yes. It’s exactly like your example, tbh. It’s not the first time that advertising has rubbed me the wrong way, wrongly (ie, it’s painted an inaccurate impression, and that impression they introduced has deterred me from playing.) I’m not making a bee-line for SR4, but your opinion does buoy it.

    #12 11 months ago
  13. Uncontested

    Tough job of convincing people of a lie.. Well no shit. I think its hilarious they keep whining about how its not an expansion yet it was clearly covered in Video Game Media that this was developed as a.. *GASP* EXPANSION PACK… to Saints Row 3.. and then in a money grab they said “Fuck it, call it a whole new game!” and slapped a $60.00 price tag on it.

    Sorry but you lost my dollar. Won’t even buy this when its $5.00 on STEAM in the Winter Sale.

    #13 11 months ago
  14. TheWulf

    @13

    Yet all the reviews out there disagree with this consensus. Plus, what’s funny is that people praised Saints Row 2 for exactly the same thing you’re admonishing Saints Row IV for. For reusing open world assets so that they could concentrate on content and building a better game.

    #14 10 months ago
  15. TheWulf

    @12

    Fair ’nuff.

    #15 10 months ago