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BrokenMask

Armchair theories on why POE2 didn't sell super well

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So I'm sure some people have seen that PC Gamer article about this and felt like giving their own input :p So here you go, an own thread for it.

My own two cents is that I think most of comments in PC Gamer article miss the point: Them not liking the game doesn't really explain why it didn't sell well since they obviously DID buy the game or else their comments about not liking game for being too verbose doesn't make sense. Both of games do also have good reputation by critic scores and such so its unlikely to be bad reputation spreading. I'd like to think its because turn based games are becoming more popular due Original Sin 1 & 2, but I'd be biased if I said that since I just like turn based games and Kingmaker still sold well with RTwP so clearly gameplay genre isn't only reason.

My own theory is that it has less to do with isometric rpgs being unpopular genre(since that wouldn't explain success of both Divinity Original Sin 2 and Pathfinder Kingmaker) and that its more of marketing/brand name thing. Like, you could assume that Pillars 2 sold less well than Pillars 1 because CRPG fans who played the first one didn't like it enough to want to play the second one, but let's face it, CRPGs are still rare enough that hardcover crpg fans want to play everyone they can(though that doesn't seem to stop competive fans that love debating which of their favourites is objectively best) ūüėõ Still I suppose that would drop some interest from buying the second one without waiting for sales. You could also assume its because pirate/sailing theme is less popular than "normal" fantasy, but people also complain about being tired with CRPGs not doing enough new things.(would be easier to tell if they had done Pathfinder Skulls & Shackles instead of Kingmaker whether pirate theme is less popular :P) But I have to go with "marketing".

Like, first POE could benefit from free publicity due to being among first wave of "super successfull kickstarters about return of style that has been dormant for years", second one isn't as big deal anymore since there have been lot of CRPGs(lot of them crowdfunded) since then, Torment Tides of Numenera, Kingmaker, Original Sin 2. And I think Divinity has gained something of Brand name due to successful marketing, I mean sure, there have been lot of divinity games and spinoffs in past, but none of them were that famous or popular, but Larian Games has succeeded to make Divinity first thing everyone refers to when they talk about turn based games. Pathfinder on other hand has benefit of also drawing interest from Pathfinder players, sure Pathfinder isn't AS huge as D&D, but its still among top five most player tabletop rpgs.

But yeah, I'm probably forgetting something important that would turn that theory wrong since this is armchair theorizing done while sleep deprivated ūüėõ

To add on that, I think it also helps to think of other CRPGs that didn't become "big thing" like Original Sin did. Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera did have okay enough review scores(though unlike POE 1, the user reviews were more mixed), but virtually no one really remembers those games existing anymore. Sooo yeaaaaaah, I think "marketing!" is pretty good explanation for this even if it isn't the only reason.

Edited by BrokenMask

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Advertise your game with the name of one of the best writers and a legend in industry. Move him away from the game and give the game to a complete inept. Later force the legend to depart from your company. Wonder why people didn't bought the second game. 

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we spent more hours than wormerine playing poe2... many more, so am not one o' those who were disappointed with purchase or discouraged from purchasing altogether. nevertheless, after listening to post-mortem from josh, we arrived at conclusion the obsidian folks misinterpreted poe1 feedback. josh recognized how divinity: original sin 2 developers took consumer feedback to heart and improved game resulting in bigger sequel sales. obsidian anticipated similar results from following same gameplan, but there were a fundamental misunderstanding 'bout poe criticism.

beyond the inevitable and insurmountable too hard/too easy complaints, next most common critique o' poe were almost never stated open and honest. real biggest complaint o' poe were: it isn't bg2. any significant design choice which altered bg2 "standard" polarized the community. the developers had no desire to replicate perceived errors o' bg2 in poe or poe2, and so the "it ain't bg2" complaints were largely dismissed. 

poe were, relative speaking, a hardcore crpg; a genre for which there were significant, but nevertheless niche appeal. the developers o' poe2 chose to refine poe by giving folks who liked poe more o' what they enjoyed in the first game-- a reasonable and rational approach given the obsidian conclusions 'bout dos2 development. unfortunate, the developers o' poe2 were misinterpreting feedback at a fundamental level. by focusing on demands and criticisms o' those who liked poe, obsidian failed to recognize that they were narrowing the appeal o' their title rather than expanding... which, for the most part, were good for Gromnir. 

most o' the bg2 nostalgia demands were nonsensical. per kill xp rewards, pre-buffing and hard counters were not what made bg2 a popular game, but folks clamoring for such were making known just how much they wanted poe to be bg3.  obsidian developers didn't understand this feedback, and am personal glad they ignored such, but regardless, the developers were somehow blind to fact they were making poe2 appeal more exclusive rather than inclusive. 

oh, and there were narrative issues in poe2 which we have discussed ad nauseum elsewhere, but am not convinced such were the downfall o' poe2 insofar as sales is concerned. 

nope, the reason why poe2 underperformed in terms o' sales were 'cause it weren't bg2, or at least not bg2 enough.

HA! Good Fun!

 

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"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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I was reading a parallel thread inside the deadfire sub-forum and was rlthinking " i really wish to know the opinion on Gromnir on this". After that i found this post writed 22 min ago. This calls for telephaty at least ‚̧ԳŹ

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On 11/11/2019 at 4:09 PM, Skarpen said:

Advertise your game with the name of one of the best writers and a legend in industry. Move him away from the game and give the game to a complete inept. Later force the legend to depart from your company. Wonder why people didn't bought the second game. 

Do you mean Chris Avellone? Why would he be a legend? And who is the complete inept (sic)?

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4 minutes ago, xzar_monty said:

Do you mean Chris Avellone? Why would he be a legend? And who is the complete inept (sic)?

What do you mean why would he be? He IS a legend and a household name. He basically was Obsidian and biggest reason guys got so much credit in the start. 
As to who is complete inept you can check who was responsible for both Pillars, it's not hidden knowledge.

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2 hours ago, Gromnir said:

nope, the reason why poe2 underperformed in terms o' sales were 'cause it weren't bg2, or at least not bg2 enough.

this is the only real compelling theory or sub-theory that i've seen hashed out in the forums, that basically goes like:

"rpgamers are a more conservative bunch than you would think and resist major changes to the things they like" which is especially true for a nostalgia-fueled product.

 

i don't think people always know what they want; or if they know what they want, know how to express it; or if they do know what they want or how to express it they don't want to come off as the uncool curmudgeon who "just wants another BG2." I agree with @Gromnir that there was a lot of nit-picking debate over mechanics and it was probably less about the specific mechanics and more about the broader "this isn't BG2" that wasn't being expressed well.

it's a smart business insight from OBS to realize that you can't just lean on nostalgia (those people die off or move on) and you have to expand your audience somehow and modernize the game. It might also just be that there's no easy transition point to bridge nostalgia RTwP to modern RTwP and that's why Deadfire flopped.

This would imply that for a PoE3 they would have to go all-in one direction or another: completely break with the past and push a "modern RTwP" as hard as they can (which may not exist and may require TB-mode), or go back and pick up on as many BG cues as they can (hopefully without regressing the mechanics). But I'm not sure either will get the same sales as PoE1 - PoE1 had the advantage of being first out of the gates for the latter, and I am increasingly skeptical about the size of the market for the former.

 

edit - a constant confounding factor is Tyranny. Tyranny sold better than Deadfire (though according the publisher it still disappointed). It might have benefited from not even having the pretense of being like PoE or BG, so there was no "alienation" factor and could be treated as a thing in and of itself. The sales might have been lower than PoE1 but I think OBS would be happy for Tyranny-level sales for Deadfire (not to mention Deadfire likely had a bigger budget - Tyranny might have done even better if it received the same focus).

Edited by thelee
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56 minutes ago, xzar_monty said:

Do you mean Chris Avellone? Why would he be a legend? And who is the complete inept (sic)?

There are some avellone die-hards out there. Definitely not 600k+ sales drop number of die-hards. Probably like hundreds, if that.

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14 minutes ago, thelee said:

There are some avellone die-hards out there. Definitely not 600k+ sales drop number of die-hards. Probably like hundreds, if that.

Right, ok, thanks for this. I suppose these die-hards regard him as a legend, but I can't see how the epithet could be justified. He's all right, of course. But not a legend.

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1 hour ago, thelee said:

There are some avellone die-hards out there. Definitely not 600k+ sales drop number of die-hards. Probably like hundreds, if that.

Enough to have made PoE the Kickstarter success it was. I think his departure and the things he revealed after that about Obsidian was big contribution to PoE2 failure.

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Its the story, if iso was the problem POE1 would fail, and both would fail to get funded publically. Story was lackluster and felt really different from the original. That's all it is but people would rather point blame at everything else than that

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6 hours ago, Skarpen said:

Enough to have made PoE the Kickstarter success it was. I think his departure and the things he revealed after that about Obsidian was big contribution to PoE2 failure.

I highly doubt it. I think also most of the tell-all came after Deadfire was out (that's how I seem to remember the timing because he was blaming low... sales?... on Feargus's insistence on using Fig). I would venture to say if you sampled the PoE1 audience, the vast, vast, vast majority would have no idea who Avellone (or JE Sawyer) even are. Obviously I can't prove this or have the resources to run such a survey, so at this point it's all opinions and buttholes, to paraphrase someone else.

Edited by thelee
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6 hours ago, thelee said:

I highly doubt it. I think also most of the tell-all came after Deadfire was out (that's how I seem to remember the timing because he was blaming low... sales?... on Feargus's insistence on using Fig). I would venture to say if you sampled the PoE1 audience, the vast, vast, vast majority would have no idea who Avellone (or JE Sawyer) even are. Obviously I can't prove this or have the resources to run such a survey, so at this point it's all opinions and buttholes, to paraphrase someone else.

Yeah, that. The subset of grogs with BG2 as their supreme deity who also are eager to blow Avellone in the narrow alley next to the dumpster anytime cannot be that big. Contrary to what the codex might think, game devs <> Hollywood A listers and their names aren't a bankable asset.

...well, save for some of guys from Japan, I guess, who do stuff like "So and so's The Game: the Electric Hullabaloo". But Japan is weird like that. 

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If Avellone would be such a legend that he draws in hundreds of thousands of customers by using his name alone then Kingmaker would have sold way better than it did, wouldn't it? 

Maybe it's indeed best to steer away from isometric RTwP for a while and instead try to establish the Pillars IP more with more popular game formats that don't need to feed on nostalgia - like a Skyrim on Eora or something like that. I would even be very happy with a more Battle Brothers of the Eastrn Reach, a Slay the Spire of Old Vailia or even a Faster than the Child of Light (all with more roleplaying tweaks).

Just keep telling the story of the world with differnt games. Once your IP has drawn in more players that love and cherish the stories, the lore, the whole world you can shrug off nostalgic IE ballast and try again with an isometric party based RPG I guess.  

Or you simply use a smaller team with a smaller budget, use the actual Deadfire engine and focus on new story, quests, awesome vilains etc. and keep the mechanics as is. Lower sales numbers don't hurt if you don't put too much money into development, right?  

Edited by Boeroer
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39 minutes ago, Boeroer said:

If Avellone would be such a legend that he draws in hundreds of thousands of customers by using his name alone then Kingmaker would have sold way better than it did, wouldn't it? 

But it sold very good and Chris was just a bonus not main developer, so I don't know what your point is. If Avellone is such a noname why so many Kickstarter projects had his participation as a streatch goal? I did not see anyone having Sawyer as a bonus...

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22 hours ago, Skarpen said:

What do you mean why would he be? He IS a legend and a household name.

I am asking why, because there must be a reason why somebody is called a legend. For instance, Pele is a legend in football/soccer for his extraordinary goal haul, his otheworldly skills and his world championships. Etc.

You haven't given any reason why Avellone should be regarded as a legend. Saying "He IS a legend" means nothing. Why is he a legend? In whose opinion? I don't think there's anything legendary about him. He writes quite well. But I haven't seen anything from him that would set him apart from other CRPG writers, and certainly not anything that I would ever consider to be of legendary quality.

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14 hours ago, thelee said:

I would venture to say if you sampled the PoE1 audience, the vast, vast, vast majority would have no idea who Avellone (or JE Sawyer) even are. Obviously I can't prove this or have the resources to run such a survey, so at this point it's all opinions and buttholes, to paraphrase someone else.

I'm pretty sure you're right. The gaming industry, by and large, is not a name industry, i.e. I don't think there's ever been anybody whose game would sell just because it's his game -- in the way a Stephen King novel will sell because it's a Stephen King novel (although if it's utter crap, the one after that may certainly suffer).

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22 hours ago, xzar_monty said:

Right, ok, thanks for this. I suppose these die-hards regard him as a legend, but I can't see how the epithet could be justified. He's all right, of course. But not a legend.

He's an icon in the gaming industry for certain, what with being the main author behind two games often brought up as the best-written games of all time in Fallout 2 and Planescape: Torment (KOTOR 2 as well, I guess). Then again, so is Josh for that matter.

Edited by algroth
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That's a fair point, but to continue on the line thelee brought up above: which percentage of gamers even know or care who wrote those games? This is not meant to bring Avellone down in any way whatsoever, but my sense still is that the number of people who hold him in extremely high regard is small, which makes the "legend" status somewhat dubious.

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7 hours ago, Skarpen said:

But it sold very good and Chris was just a bonus not main developer, so I don't know what your point is. If Avellone is such a noname why so many Kickstarter projects had his participation as a streatch goal? I did not see anyone having Sawyer as a bonus...

It sold very well given that is was done by an independent developer and had lowish budget.  Which made it a nice financial success I guess. But the sales weren't astronomical.

The point is: if Avellone's name has any noticable impact on sales numbers (I don't know but it may be) it's still not a sufficient reason to explain Deadfire's very low sales numbers (compared to PoE). PoE wasn't advertised with "two characters written by Chris Avellone" either by the way. 

The reason why there aren't any "directed by your buddy Josh Sawyer" tags on games may be because Josh hates that (I presume - based on his tweets that evolve around such advertisement techniques. Recent: Death Stranding).


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55 minutes ago, xzar_monty said:

That's a fair point, but to continue on the line thelee brought up above: which percentage of gamers even know or care who wrote those games? This is not meant to bring Avellone down in any way whatsoever, but my sense still is that the number of people who hold him in extremely high regard is small, which makes the "legend" status somewhat dubious.

It depends. I don't think the authorial brand has to be overlooked at all, the author or artist is always a strong pull in the realms of literature, film, plastic arts, music... It feels like video games are pretty exceptional to this rule inasmuch as it's a collective artform that hasn't had an auteur theory shoved right into it - and yet there's also undoubtedly authorial traits one can attach to certain brands and devs, and following that stems from the same. Boeroer brings up Death Stranding in his response, is that not a game whose entire hype is built around it being Hideo Kojima's newest brainchild? All in all I don't think Avellone's name was the sole factor for Pillars' success, or even the main one; but given that it was a project attempting to revive a genre he and a lot of people at Obsidian were basically responsible to popularize in the first place, I do reckon that his name carried a lot of weight for this kind of project in particular. I'm also sure that Avellone's involvement in Degrees of Separation or Into the Breach was probably far less of a talking point.

As an aside, I wonder if a mod shouldn't join the threads we have on this subject together into one, like they did with the Epic/Steam debacle with The Outer Worlds.

Edited by algroth

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1 hour ago, xzar_monty said:

I am asking why, because there must be a reason why somebody is called a legend. For instance, Pele is a legend in football/soccer for his extraordinary goal haul, his otheworldly skills and his world championships. Etc.

You haven't given any reason why Avellone should be regarded as a legend. Saying "He IS a legend" means nothing. Why is he a legend? In whose opinion? I don't think there's anything legendary about him. He writes quite well. But I haven't seen anything from him that would set him apart from other CRPG writers, and certainly not anything that I would ever consider to be of legendary quality.

I haven't played Planescape Torment, and the only work by Avellone I know is Durance and Grieving Mother. And I couldn't stand them, because of the excessive writing. Especially the introduction of Grieving Mother was awful. It was so long and there wasn't an option to say "Goodbye", I had to click on "Continue" again and again and the thing went on and on.

So for me Avellone is associated with pretentious writing, because when you write for a game you have to consider your audience is there to play a game, not sit and read your novels.  Nobody thinks movies should be filled with hours of monologues, why should this happen in games.

Incidentally, this is one of the ways in which PoE disappointed those 600k players that didn't buy Deadfire (just my opinion, of course :) ).

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1 hour ago, algroth said:

He's an icon in the gaming industry for certain, what with being the main author behind two games often brought up as the best-written games of all time in Fallout 2 and Planescape: Torment (KOTOR 2 as well, I guess). Then again, so is Josh for that matter.

 

9 hours ago, bugarup said:

Yeah, that. The subset of grogs with BG2 as their supreme deity who also are eager to blow Avellone in the narrow alley next to the dumpster anytime cannot be that big. Contrary to what the codex might think, game devs <> Hollywood A listers and their names aren't a bankable asset.

...well, save for some of guys from Japan, I guess, who do stuff like "So and so's The Game: the Electric Hullabaloo". But Japan is weird like that. 

 

yeah, I think "being an icon in the PC gaming" industry is like being a D-list celebrity in Hollywood. I know who Avellone, Sawyer, Feargus, Tim Cain, etc. are because I played lots of PC games in the 90s/early 2000s (not to mention John Carmack, American McGee, and... ugh... John Romero). But PC games are tiny market compared to the video game market at large - afaict AAA tiles bank most of their sales from consoles and PC is just a fraction. It's one thing to try to bank your game sales on Chris Avellone or Tim Cain, it's a whole other thing on Kojima (Death Stranding) or Miyamoto (all Mario).

I do think it matters a bit for PC games (hence my "hundreds of sales" comment) - the fact that Avellone and Sawyer were on PoE1 was what first piqued my interest in kickstarter at all, since I recognized their names from Black Isle Studios, but I hardly doubt it matters to the degree that you can move mountains.

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