|Amalur currently faces a foe much mightier than anything in it's own world: Debt|
On paper, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning sounded like a sure hit. It had a strong (and massive) development team behind it, one with a lot of money to throw around. The story was written by one R.A. Salvatore, a fantasy and science-fiction author with dozens of successful and well-received novels under his belt. The creatures of this fantasy world were largely unique, designed by Todd McFarlane, whose work on Spawn has spawned an entire industry of creative designs. The studio itself was headed and founded by a retired Pro-baseball player named Curt Schilling who wanted to strike out into making games.
Once off paper and into concept, Amalur looked even better. The game looked wonderful, with bright vivid colors, fluid player movement, and a plot that was just a little bit different than the standard "prophesied hero come to save us all." Amalur was setting itself up to be the big competitor of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a title that many had been looking forward to for years, attempting to lure away fans with a massive marketing push that focused on Reckonings use of color, smooth motion, and pretty much anything else Amalur had that Skyrim didn't. Both were very open games with dozens (if not hundreds) of hours worth of sidequests and exploring to be had. Both were RPGs with tools to let the player craft and design their own hero. Both were coming out at the same time.
The sad thing is, Amalur shouldn't have failed. While I don't think that it would have stolen the crown from Skyrim, I enjoyed my time with the demo and planned on purchasing the game...but the way Amalur's release and sale was handled left me thinking that while 38 Studios had skill at making a game, they definitely had a problem when it came to selling that same game. Jump to the present, and the inevitable result of this has been the folding of the studio. So where did Amalur do wrong, and is there still time to fix it? Curt, if you're out there, this one is for you.
|$60 still? Even when your company is going down the tubes?|
Worse still, Amalur has completely failed to even begin to compete (although it has amusingly enough tried once) with Skyrims digital sales. In the few months that Skyrim has been out, I can recall at least three different sales on Steam, sales which slashed its price down to $40, even on one occasion (for an entire week) $30. What has Amalur done to compete? Once (and I can't remember if this was against the $40 or $30 sale of Skyrim), Amalur's price was dropped to $50.
Selling a product that many have already declared inferior to a rival product at the same price? Not a smart move. Selling it for more? Terrible move. If you want to get those units moving, drop Amalur fast and start putting it on some real sales.
One of the largest failings for Kingdoms of Amalur has been the overall lack of support from developers and fans. Again Amalur is trying to compete with Skyrim, and if you look at the post-release support for Skyrim, it's easy to see that there is a very clear pattern that helps Bethesda make its game so popular and fuel its growth after launch. Patches, a creation kit to allow fans to create mods, more patches...Skyrims developers have continued to work hard at making sure that their title is up-to-date and functional while giving the fans all the tools that they need to create their own content. To compete, Amalur has released....DLC packs?
Once again this is an area where Amalur is effectively stabbing itself in the foot. One of the most common complaints I've heard from players is that the large number of glitches present in the title, glitches still present after months of time and several DLC packs, have not persuaded them to continue playing the game (the second most common complaint is how easy the game is). Let's face it, bugs ruin the experience, and developers not fixing any bugs, even when they are well known is a sign to players that they simply don't care.
|Want something else? Tough luck|
|One of FOUR DLC packs available for purchase in just three months|
Additionally, without the player base to support it, the rapid release of so many DLC packs not only gives Amalur a sense of being either incomplete or more costly than it already is (game + DLC) but makes the game almost seem desperate for attention with it's constant flow. While other games can get away with a constant flood due to an established player base (and a season pass), a new title can't follow in their footsteps without raising eyebrows. Realistically, the only way Amalur could have gotten away with a flow this quick is by releasing either a cheap season pass option or making the DLC free.
So how to fix this? Well, the damage here is already mostly done. First, Amalur needs to focus on polishing what it has to offer, not pumping out as much additional content, especially since that's only competing with Skyrims free content. Lay off the new content, polish the old, drop the prices, and most of all offer some free stuff as a sign of goodwill to those who have stuck around hoping Amalur will become something more than it is. Need a role model? Look to Valve. They've given out every bit of their DLC for free and amazingly enough, they're an incredibly successful studio.
Kingdoms of Amalur isn't a bad game by any means, but the way it's been presented to gamers through it's high price, lack of support, and its huge abundance of DLC has damaged its reputation to the point where it's poor sales are killing the studio. If Amalur wants to have any hope of fixing itself and possibly salvaging what's left of its once proud creators, some drastic changes need to be made. Curt, if you're reading this, I don't think anyone wants your creation to fail. As a designer trying to make a go with my own studio, I don't enjoy seeing another studio go down. Amalur was a solid product, but without the support it needs to compete Amalur will be nothing more than a memory along with 38 Studios. Polish up the game, drop the price, release a mod kit so the fans can get involved, and make sure that DLC doesn't label itself as a bid for attention.
For the rest of us, Amalur is a study in how a good game with the right design can still completely fail with all the right (or wrong) mistakes. Just because the game is done does not mean that your job is done. You can build the greatest game in the world, but if the price is too high, the support isn't there, or the game begs too much for players to spend spend spend...you'll fail. No matter who you are.