Bulletstorm and People Can Fly
Having just finished The Beatles: Rock Band with Meagan, I have now completed all of the non-Kinect-enabled Xbox 360 games in the house. My Steam backlog is pretty healthy thanks to their sales over the last few years, but rather than dip into that I’m ready to get another full size console retail game. I’ve got 34 games in my “want” list at Goozex, but which one to get?!
There have been some articles lately concerning Epic Games’ support of People Can Fly despite Bulletstorm not making a profit. I’d already played and enjoyed the Bulletstorm demo from earlier this year, so reading up on this little bit of news was enough to bump this title up to the top of my list. It’s on its way from Goozex so hopefully I’ll have it this weekend. Interested in some background information?
People Can Fly is a Polish developer established in 2002. They published Painkiller in 2004, then the PC port of Gears of War in 2007 for Epic Games. Their performance on the Gears porting process led Epic Games to acquire a majority stake in August 2007. One year later Epic announced that EA would be publishing “new IP” already in development by People Can Fly. A year and a half later (April 2010) the title was announced to be Bulletstorm, and it was released in February 2011. All told that’s just under five years of development.
Unlike the movie industry, development costs are not widely available for video games, so it’s not known exactly how much Bulletstorm cost to bring to market. In March of this year Epic President, Mike Capps, gave us a little insight by saying, “So if you don’t sell a million units you lost money, basically.” Bulletstorm sold 300K units in its first month and Mike Capps was “pretty confident” they would hit the above one million number. As it turns out, they probably didn’t. The news this month from Mike Capps at Epic was that Bulletstorm “didn’t make money for us.”
So why would a game that’s well-regarded critically (84% on metacritic) fail to turn a profit? According to Mr. Capps, “less than 1% of…new IP sold a million units,” which you recall was his target for profitability, so it’s not uncommon for new IP to be unprofitable. It also had a very immature tone and marketing message (“dicktits” anyone?), and maybe that didn’t appeal as broadly as they hoped. It was also a first-person shooter without competitive multiplayer which probably held some buyers back.
Despite the lack of profitability, Epic is standing behind the game and People Can Fly, going so far as to say, “The next thing we do with People Can Fly will be great.” With all the studio closures after poor sales this year, it warms the heart to see some long-term thinking over at Epic.
I’ll give more details on the actual game after I’ve spent time with it. Have you played any Bulletstorm and have some thoughts to pass along?