Failure is a harsh word. With the recent layoffs at Sony created developer SuperBot, it's just another sign that their maiden voyage in gaming may possibly be a swan song. First off, I wish everyone effected all the best in finding future employment and second, layoffs once a project is completed are not an uncommon occurrence. Yet, that doesn't seem to apply here though and no amount of public relations can spin the dismal figures that PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale has amassed since launching in November of 2012. Data suggests that sales between the PlayStation 3 and Vita are well below one million globally and while that doesn't include digital purchases, you can't imagine it fluctuating much. As difficult as it is to say, what else can this be called than a financial failure?
What happened here? Fighting games are arguably more popular than they have ever been and one highlighting the impressive stable of Sony characters, both first and third party, should be a no brainer. Regardless if the concept was borrowed, innovation is taken constantly in this business and it's likely the purest form of flattery another company can give. This goes beyond a simple blanket statement of "No one was interested, so it didn't sell" to a disturbing trend with Sony exclusives. I'm going to outline three factors that directly contributed to SuperBot's arena fighter falling flat.
Confusing the message
Fighting games are simple in concept. Beat someone up using a vast arsenal of moves until the opponents life bar has depleted, once accomplished, you win. Unfortunately, SuperBot decided to take a different route and it cost them dearly. It's no lie that PS All-Stars direct influence was Super Smash Bros, yet what they didn't take from its inspiration was the simplistic beauty of its combat design. In its stead, they developed a system that replaced the damage you deal out directly from basic attacks and instead they build super meter which you use to unleash powerful attacks resulting in a kill. Basically, the only way to hurt your opponent is by building enough meter to unleash one of a possible three supers. For an entry level brawler, that's complicated stuff and it confused the message many were used to and frankly expecting based on where the idea came from.
Arena fighters are the water wings of the genre. Is there strategy and depth to them? Absolutely, but they pale in comparison to what fighters such as Street Fighter, Tekken, Marvel vs Capcom offer in their combat designs. When you play this style of fighter, people want to get in, pick their favorite character and beat their friends to a pulp and they do this by watching numbers or life bars decrease. Adding supers as the only means of doing damage was a clear mistake that confused fans and non fans alike. If you are going to steal from the best, why not take the entire concept and be done with it?
Roster, or lack thereof
While lacking the decades of history and affiliation that Nintendo's roster has, the PlayStation stable is nothing to scoff at. Offering classics that helped build Sony's gaming brand and now to recent, more realistic takes, it seemingly has something for everyone. Saying that, nineteen characters (Twenty if you count two Cole's) is not sufficient to launch any fighting game with these days, not to mention one that is all about fan service and character selection. BlazBlue is the only recent fighter to launch with fewer and has since remedied the error, but also keep in mind the game offered a system infinitely more in depth and a completely fleshed out story with branching paths. I understand that there are factors at play here that hinder the process of bringing necessary additions such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro back for another run, but you can't launch something that is supposed to represent an entire brand without the pillars of it. Former mascots aside, PlayStation gave birth to many storied third party franchises and games. From Final Fantasy 7, to Resident Evil and beyond, not one representative from these games made it in and there are many more just like them. Not to mention recent and past franchise exclusive characters such as Ethan Mars, Wanderer from Shadow of the Colossus, the boy from ICO and the cloaked protagonist from Journey not being there and the list carries on.
The point is, off the top of their head, even the fringe Sony fan can name ten more characters that would have easily been at home on this roster. There is nothing wrong with the characters who did make it in and the game is playable with them, but the fact remains it's simply not enough. Even with the two new additions through DLC, twenty two characters is not even close to being indicative of the PlayStation brand. The single biggest misstep in PlayStation All Stars was making the roster more about who didn't make it in, than who did.
The single biggest misstep in PlayStation All Stars was making the roster more about who didn't make it in, than who did.
Once again, marketing
Sadly, this horse has been beaten to death and its constant failures are blamed for the abundance of underachieving games on the PlayStation 3. Why this keep happening is beyond me and it's a relatively new problem, as Sony didn't have trouble marketing games in their previous two generations.
Marketing was once again nearly non existent for this exclusive, which is further puzzling due to the fact this new IP actually carries the companies brand name with it. With that said, one would think a more vested interest in the games success would be taken, but all we got was one lackluster commercial that was for all purposes, too late. The teaser for a commercial tactic used by Sony doesn't work and it builds an expectation for the final product that is only bound to disappoint in the end. And disappoint it did. The game couldn't have launched at a more ideal time either, as the 2012 holiday season was relatively barren aside from two juggernaut franchise sequels. This would seemingly have been a perfect opportunity for a new and appealing fighter with a host of characters to get behind, to capitalize and stand out. Another opportunity wasted from the marketing team and another lackluster performer at retail for Sony.
This trifecta formed together to create a near impossible scenario for PlayStation All-Stars to succeed. One thing you'll notice I haven't mentioned and something others have held to, is that maybe people just don't care about Sony's characters enough. To that I say nonsense. Sony characters are some of the most recognizeable in gamings past and present. They have franchises who have sold extremely well and feature a wide variety of characters fans can and do get behind. Millions more are out there to join in on the fun a PlayStation brand arena fighter offers and it's a marketing/public relation teams job to make the consumer care.Couple this with confusing design decisions that turned off the mildly interested, to even the most hardened of Sony fans and you have your reason as to why this game did not come close to meeting expectations.
Despite all of this, it isn't all doom and gloom. The game looks and plays like a dream, anyone that actually picked it up can attest to this. Combat systems can be adapted in fighters, which is something that happens frequently from inevitable upgrades in fighting games. There is so much that can be added in terms of story and characters that you would think the company were holding back, which is something I believe SuperBot has done. My take is that this was a place holder offering for the more complete version to arrive later this year, similar to what Capcom has done repeatedly with their fighters.
Unfortunately things haven't worked out as planned and the disappointing sales may have jeopardized the future of a PlayStation All-Stars sequel or upgrade. Let this be a lesson to any developer releasing a brand new game to market, come out with everything you can muster and hold nothing back because you may not get another chance at it.
I only give him credit for the comment about the marketing: that part WAS bad I even admit.
I would have to say I'm disappointed with the supers system as well as the worst 1 player experience since Sonic the Fighters. Though it is a good start. I personally think they should scrap the super system should a sequel come.
The failure of the game has little to do with the battle system itself compared to the other problems. The main problem 99% of the time that turns people off can be found by inviting someone over to your house and 99% of the time they can't find the character they are looking for.
An example, 3 times I have had friends, first thing they say after turning on the game, ask where the heck is Cloud. I had 1 ask where is Crash, one even asked about Megaman, and 3 others say they didn't know anybody besides Kratos and Bioshock (didn't even know he is called Big Daddy lol). People comment on no Resident Evil reps, no Square Enix reps, no Kingdom Hearts reps, no Snake, no Lara Croft, No Hitman, NoDart from Legend of Dragoon, no Spyro/Rayman/Gex/Tomba. People ask why Heihachi is there and not Jin or Kazuya. Why Raiden and no Snake? Literally 2/3s of actual allstars related to playstation consoles are missing.
People ask me why are Jack and Daxter together and Ratchet and Clank together, instead of being 4 seperate playable characters, especially when Clank and Daxter both had their own games and moves and super powers to go with them. Why isn't Qwark or Nefarious a playable character? There aren't enough villains in the character select. You don't see Mario and Yoshi together in Smash Bros.
Playstation is known for being the absolute king of rpg games, undisputed king due to the ps1 and ps2, and yet there are NO RPG REPS at all, NONE. This is crazy, bat**bleep** crazy. I mean how did this even happen? You effectively cut off a huge amount of potential buyers. People never notice this but the best console that ends up selling the best always has the most RPGs in it's game library, this isn't a coincidence.
I mean seriously the BIGGEST letdown is when you hear Sony is making their own party brawler and two thirds of the characters you would expect aren't there and are replaced by characters that are ok but ARE not REPLACEMENT WORTH for what is missing like Fat Princess.
Now after all of the above and you get through that and decide to stick with the game you take a run at the online mode and it is SO HEAVILY broken it is almost unbelievable that Sony actually had a game with that many bug and glitches. Thats ok though because we were told patches were coming to fix so many problems, we have had like what 3 patches now, and there are still a ridiculous amount of bugs and glitches( invisible characters, dying out of nowhere, character select problems, losing party members after a game and having to reconnect, random game crashes, music shutting off, repawns taking up to 10 seconds, lag, huge amount of disconnects and ragequits ragequits not always getting punished by the system or sometimes others lose points too etc...), missing features (Ranked with no items, 1 vs 1 ranked, select a character theme for your menu instead of it being random, character select skins don't show what the character will look like in menu when you change color, host migration/dedicated servers).
Now here is the deal on how the anger in the community gets even worse. You are playing ranked online, a competitive mode in a game where you really have to earn your kills and place your supers effectively to get kills, and SO many games were ruing for you because of 1 of the 10+ glitches and bugs mentioned above. That effectively depresses the player because when your at 99 about to belt up and you lose to a glitch/bug then you want to smash your controller, especially if it happens over and over and over while losing you 10+ points a pop. That in itself is real bad publicity and a huge turnoff. People return games because of this.
I would say it is unreasonable to not be able to sympathize with what gamers are frustrated about. How can you expect them to come and accept a new controversial combat system (Which I love by the way, superior to smash games by far because you have to earn kills in this game by actually fighting) when all the basic things gamers expect are not there. Whatever hope of them going to the game with open arms and a positive outlook was thrown out in the garbage.
I personally would have rather that they did not release the game, even if it had to come in 2013 holiday instead, until they were able to secure much more of the most recognizable allstars, add the expected standard features, and where able to fix the online problems (which they could have still fixed in beta, I mean how the heck do I still keep getting the wrong character in the Vita, how and why?).
I love this game but it is the most frustrating gaming experience I have ever had, and I am shocked it is from a Sony flagship game.
This is bad for the players and even worse for Superbot because they are in a situation where nothing they do will ever be enough, what they do if not done right will get backlash instead of praise (refer to missing standard features mentioned earlier). The game instead of promoting itself now actually demotes itself because it is commonly known as a broken game.
So really what happens is Super is in a no win situation and customers will always be frustrated about 1 of the too many problems.
I mean here is a step by step list of how a customer will have to go through and accept the reality of each step before accepting this game:
1. Accept that many recognizable characters are missing from the roster.
2. Accept the 'super' battle system.
3. Accept missing features.
~If they like single player:
4. Accept very small and short single player mode
~If they like online:
5. Accept the heavily bugged/glitched/Host disconnects/laggy online
6. Accept that the above will effect ranked play.
Hopefully after all that they decide to keep the game. I did but I always wonder if it was worth the headache. This game is the perfect example of a love hate relationship.
Really the best way to enjoy this game is offline 4 players at your house, at least the main problems with the online won't be present.
Super system confusing? Yeah maybe if you're 3 years old. It's very straight forward.
> Beat people up
> Beating up people builds energy
> Use energy for super
And did someone say "scrap the super system"? Yeah let's take away what makes the game unique and just make a generic brawler. It definitely needs tweaks, but to completely scrap it would be stupid.