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Armchair theories on why POE2 didn't sell super well


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My personal opinion is the first PoE sold well because it was advertised as the spiritual successor of BG and many people had great expectations. Since PoE2 wasn't a big improvement over the first, mostly players who enjoyed the first bought it. And for me, the fact that most people don't even finish their game should be the main indicator for developers, not the sales...

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2 minutes ago, Selky said:

Yes[...]

Then the plot wasn't a reason for you to not buy it since you only learned about that after your purchase (correct me if I'm wrong).
It then may be a reason for you to not buy a PoE3 in the future, but it doesn't explain why Deadfire didn't sell well.

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Boeroer is exactly right. Selky, among others, may have problems with the plot, but as Selky's own example shows, it didn't affect sales. (I do agree that word of mouth does affect sales, but I'm not aware of any DO NOT BUY THIS GAME THE MAIN PLOT IS RUBBISH word of mouth after the release of Deadfire. Obviously I can be wrong here, so correct me if I am.)

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I didn't read a lot about that, but it did came up. Still my argument is: when so many players found the plot bad enough that it could explain a massive sales drop then why are the average user reviews still so good?

I presume sometimes we think our personal gripes and disappointments must be common because they seem so obvious to us - but it seems (looking at several data points) in this case they are not. 

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24 minutes ago, Boeroer said:

Then the plot wasn't a reason for you to not buy it since you only learned about that after your purchase (correct me if I'm wrong).
It then may be a reason for you to not buy a PoE3 in the future, but it doesn't explain why Deadfire didn't sell well.

It does if enough people complain about it, and it was a common complaint after release. Complaints about new Torment's story is the reason I never bothered buying it.

1 minute ago, xzar_monty said:

Boeroer is exactly right. Selky, among others, may have problems with the plot, but as Selky's own example shows, it didn't affect sales.

I was right, I don't like where this argument is going. My backer sticker is right there. You acknowledge that word of mouth is a thing so I'm just going to ignore this part.

13 minutes ago, xzar_monty said:

(I do agree that word of mouth does affect sales, but I'm not aware of any DO NOT BUY THIS GAME THE MAIN PLOT IS RUBBISH word of mouth after the release of Deadfire. Obviously I can be wrong here, so correct me if I am.)

The main plot was trashed everywhere. Even Sawyer acknowledged it. The only complaint that came close to it was bugs/loading screens. It being poorly received is not up for debate.

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What on earth does your backer sticker have to do with anything? Seriously. Why bring that up?

It was NOT trashed everywhere. I would have seen at least some trashing, because I was following the forums. Where did Sawyer acknowledge it, please?

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56 minutes ago, Selky said:

It does if enough people complain about it, and it was a common complaint after release. Complaints about new Torment's story is the reason I never bothered buying it.

I was right, I don't like where this argument is going. My backer sticker is right there. You acknowledge that word of mouth is a thing so I'm just going to ignore this part.

The main plot was trashed everywhere. Even Sawyer acknowledged it. The only complaint that came close to it was bugs/loading screens. It being poorly received is not up for debate.

I don't object that there is a word-of-mouth effect. I am just challenging your statement that this is the main reason for massive sales drops. See user (not even critics) reviews. You didn't address my main counterargument: when the plot got "trashed" so hard and was putting people off from buying the game - why are the user reviews on Steam and everywhere else still so good? On Steam they are at 84% - and while they are not as good on metacritic they are still at 7.8 - which is more than for Kingmaker which sold better. PoE had 8.3. This is better than Deadfire's user score on metacritic - but is it enough to explain 600K less sold copies? And can it be explained by the alleged poor plot alone? I don't think so. Your argumentation so far was a bit self defeating so I have no reason to believe otherwise. If you think you can confute my argument then please do so. In this matter my opinion is not set in stone.

Besides that: It's not our job nor our intention to lead discussions in a way that you like them. What is up to for debate or not is not yours to decide. If you don't want to debate your theories I would suggest that you don't post them in a forum which main purpose (and title) is discussion.

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4 hours ago, xzar_monty said:

For my part, I can say that I do not know a single person who either knew or cared that Avellone was involved in PoE.

I did. Far as I'm concerned there was a time Avellone was the main draw to Obsidian as a company, I saw (and still see) him as an auteur and a really interesting and unique voice within the medium. Torment remains the finest game I've ever played, Fallout 2 isn't that far off either, and he was certainly a driving voice in both of them. Nowadays I retroactively appreciate the work of the whole team a lot more than I did back then, but I still won't deny that he was the main hook for my continued interest in Obsidian following the demise of Black Isle and so on.

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@algroth: Fair enough! But I don't know you. 😀

It appears to me that @Selky is cherry-picking facts to such an extent that proper discussion becomes difficult. For instance, as he writes to me, "You acknowledge that word of mouth is a thing so I'm just going to ignore this part". As if the fact that word of mouth is a thing (of course it is) would automatically prove that the argument goes precisely as Selky says it does -- even if his own behavior (the act of buying the game) is in fact proof against his argument. Word of mouth is there, it's an important thing, but from looking at how the game was received, I find it extraordinarily hard to believe that word of mouth concerning the main plot had a lot to do with the huge drop in sales. Sounds like a very dubious theory.

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The thing about the plot - I think there's an oversampling about the gripes about the plot (the loudest voices in the room don't necessarily reflect the audience at large) -- as evidenced by audience scores. JE Sawyer is not exactly the most unbiased participant, but he tends to have a pretty decent self-awareness and self-critical eye. He was more exposed to the community than any of us, and the general sense I got from his writings was that there was at worst minor aggregate disappointment about the plot (either about the actual narrative or how it was structured). If the plot was trash and that could explain sales drop (or even just a significant chunk of it), I think Sawyer would be one of the first to acknowledge it. It would even be great, because then they 'd know precisely what to fix for PoE3!

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I do think the pirate theme had a lot to do with it. POE was also my first game of this type and I had to play it on story mode to get my head around the system. Having become a fan, I then backed Deadfire, but I recall feeling quite dubious about the ships and the pirate theme. It comes across as being way more of an aspect of the game than it actually is, and sometimes completely new and different things aren't enticing to the average, possibly not very adventurous player. It's probably mostly younger people who pounce on new-sounding things, and they usually dislike single player games. 

The bad main story may also have played a role with people who read reviews, and the number of scripted interactions could be off-putting as it's incongruous with the otherwise more progressive nature of the game. A lot of people talked about it at the time, and I thought it was bad but still gave the game a positive review because it's good besides that.  I've never seen anyone mention it, but I find the art in the interactions with the gods absolutely dreadful. Magran's ears being on the level of her jawline winds me up every time 😂 It's possible that all of these things, if people see them in videos or screenshots or read about them in reviews, can cumulatively put people off.

As for Avellone, I believe the majority of players have no idea who wrote what, and in PoE I didn't find his contribution that amazing. While I like Durance, his ramblings are hard to follow when you are new to the game, and I don't even pick up grieving mother any more, she bores me that much. I seem to recall him (Avellone) complaining that he was made to cut their content, and I feel that if their verbal contributions had been longer, it could have become tedious indeed. Granted, I don't actually find any of the companions very interesting besides Aloth and Zahua, but Avellone's don't stand out in any way to me besides being rambly, verbose and confusing.

As for Kingmaker, could it be that sales of that game were simply higher because it sold well in Eastern Europe?

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1 hour ago, Slotharingia said:

As for Kingmaker, could it be that sales of that game were simply higher because it sold well in Eastern Europe?

Hmmm, is there sourcing for this? Why would it have sold particularly well there?

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Because it's a Russian developer. Owlcat's  hedquarters are in greece (officially - I guess because of easier access to the EU?) but actually the head developers are Russian or East European and they are located in Moscow. 

Because games of German developers sell particularly well in German speaking countries (and same with Asian devs/Asia) I guess that the same may be true for Russian developers selling games in Russian speaking countries.

Good point! Don't know if it's really the case but at least it makes sense.  

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47 minutes ago, Boeroer said:

Because it's a Russian developer. Owlcat's  hedquarters are in greece (officially - I guess because of easier access to the EU?) but actually the head developers are Russian or East European and they are located in Moscow. 

Because games of German developers sell particularly well in German speaking countries (and same with Asian devs/Asia) I guess that the same may be true for Russian developers selling games in Russian speaking countries.

Good point! Don't know if it's really the case but at least it makes sense.  

only problem with that is that if that is true, then the same effect should be at play for American developers in American markets, no? (which may be a larger market than eastern europe anywa)

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14 minutes ago, thelee said:

only problem with that is that if that is true, then the same effect should be at play for American developers in American markets, no? (which may be a larger market than eastern europe anywa)

Games are generally released in English with English VA, and translations into other languages are often bad or non-existent, so it's likely they'll sell more of a product if it's been locally produced and marketed. There's nothing special for the US market about a cRPG being made in the USA or an English-speaking country; while a Russian company making a game like that for the world market, and releasing it in decent Russian (even if they could only afford English VA - which I don't know), is more of a novelty for the locals.

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Eastern Europe + Russia + Central Asia (so basically the extended former Soviet Union) is NOT a very limited market. I lived there for several years (as an expat). If I'm doing a rough estimation on the number of East Europeans+Central Asians who speak Russian at least as a second language I'll land at ~250 million. And they are nearly all emerging markets. Don't know how many of them could be considered potential customers but it's def. not a very limited market. Especially if you don't expect to sell millions of copies worldwide in the first place (like an AAA title would do). And it's not that you will only sell your product there. It's a bonus on top of your potential English speaking customers (in case of Owlcat games).

One example: if you want to sell an English-only game in Uzbekistan you will have a hard time. If it's Russian your odds are way better. 

I'd also argue that a Russian developer is more likely to meet certain preferences of East European and Russian gamers. 

@thelee: And yes. American products sell especially well in America. It's not that obvious because the American market is enormous. Also American games, music an movies sell exceptionally well in Western Europe because of historical reasons. Rel. few Germans actually listen to German music compared to American music for example. 

I think with Russian developers and gamers there's also a portion of "pride" involved. I believe a lot of Russian gamers would buy a (solid) game simply because it was made in Russia (no judgement). 

Just think about it: if you are aiming at 500K copies worldwide and can add like 50 million more potential customers without the need for a costly localisation - isn't that an advantage?   

So all in all I still think the point is interesting and makes sense. Is it actually the case? I have no idea. But I wouldn't dismiss it.

 

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A lot of revival or "core" gamer franchises seem to have struggled with achieving sales with their sequels.  Look at Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, and Dishonored 2.  While those games are not necessarily CRPGs, they all reviewed relatively well, and I suspect they all targeted a similar demographic to PoE and Deadfire.  Sure, you have some closer analogies with P:KM and D:OS 2, but the higher sales of those games were not predicted, and they simply demonstrate the unpredictability of the market especially when you look at the former examples.  So yeah, sales expectations may have been higher for Deadfire based off of PoE's market performance, but what I am more interested in is what project the owners at Obsidian think they could have done instead of Deadfire that would have achieved better guaranteed sales. 

Commercial success is a fickle thing, and I think agonizing over one entry's less than stellar but profitable market performance is a bit goofy.  Look at the Elder Scrolls, which also started out as a literal D&D derivative product.  If I recall correctly, Daggerfall was a modest commercial success, but I believe both Battlespire and Redguard bombed in terms of sales.  Well, the subsequent entry, Morrowind, for good or ill had incredible sales, perhaps due to a captive console market that was hungry for any RPG experience, but it nonetheless had the same folks behind it who made the previous commercial failures.  If I were in Obsidian's position, I would just try to figure out what the strengths of Deadfire were, lean into them, while at the same time evolving the presentation to of those strengths to reach a broader audience.  Maybe that means prioritizing turn-based gameplay to make the game more accessible to the console market, or perhaps it means something more drastic.  

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12 hours ago, Slotharingia said:

I do think the pirate theme had a lot to do with it. POE was also my first game of this type and I had to play it on story mode to get my head around the system. Having become a fan, I then backed Deadfire, but I recall feeling quite dubious about the ships and the pirate theme. It comes across as being way more of an aspect of the game than it actually is, and sometimes completely new and different things aren't enticing to the average, possibly not very adventurous player. It's probably mostly younger people who pounce on new-sounding things, and they usually dislike single player games. 

The bad main story may also have played a role with people who read reviews, and the number of scripted interactions could be off-putting as it's incongruous with the otherwise more progressive nature of the game. A lot of people talked about it at the time, and I thought it was bad but still gave the game a positive review because it's good besides that.  I've never seen anyone mention it, but I find the art in the interactions with the gods absolutely dreadful. Magran's ears being on the level of her jawline winds me up every time 😂 It's possible that all of these things, if people see them in videos or screenshots or read about them in reviews, can cumulatively put people off.

As for Avellone, I believe the majority of players have no idea who wrote what, and in PoE I didn't find his contribution that amazing. While I like Durance, his ramblings are hard to follow when you are new to the game, and I don't even pick up grieving mother any more, she bores me that much. I seem to recall him (Avellone) complaining that he was made to cut their content, and I feel that if their verbal contributions had been longer, it could have become tedious indeed. Granted, I don't actually find any of the companions very interesting besides Aloth and Zahua, but Avellone's don't stand out in any way to me besides being rambly, verbose and confusing.

As for Kingmaker, could it be that sales of that game were simply higher because it sold well in Eastern Europe?

I suppose, the initial impression of "tropical biome + sloops + pirates" had bothered me, but I still supported PoEII.

The main story line from the trailers was the exact thing I had wanted after PoE1 and I was not disappointed. The length of the critical path (Mort Maje=>Hasongo=>Ashen Maw=>Neketaka=Ukaizo) and that the inability to kill Eothas was backed up by lore (how can one destroy a giant adra statue?) I consider to be good things (when an NPC is killable by lore, but protected by plot armor or the game restricts your avatar's movement during cut-scenes, it is irritating).

No strong feelings about Avellone.

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Still havent completed poe1 and I bought poe2 and all expansions. Still havent completed poe2 or entered any expansion. 

I rarely complete game now tbh. But still play a lot of it. I mean to complete them one day at least. Anyways, I didnt find out about poe2 til I just happened across the fig searching for something else. I think the kickstarter for poe1 has a massive effect. Right place righttime type of thing. 

nowt

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Ok..

So I'm neither eloquent, or a know it all, and I really suck at dates (So don't eat meh!) lol 

But is it possible that 'many' things is why it didn't sell well ? some more then others? 

If someone could verify this, but didn't POE2 come around the same time as Assassin Creed odyssey ?

And maybe that didn't help ? Cose I remember being surprised that ''Hey! Pirate in Deadfire! And ACO is doing the same thing, with boat fighting and stuff but with a Sparta vs Athen theme instead of Pirates!'' . (and I remember thinking that when they showed Pallagina and that other Lady with the bird and the Blond guy (Omg I forgot their names already! 😥)

Personally I don't like Pirate in general, because they are always cliché setting . Arr Arr Walk tha Plank! Let's hunt for Treasure! be a Stupid Boring Merc of the Sea! 

And it was a weird 'New Occupation' for the character from POE1 . You just finally fixed mistakes of the past, settled down in your stronghold just to be tossed at sea and dealing with annoying factions left and right . 

The Open World business hurt Single Players Games . It never fail, when they add 'Open World' , the main story SHRINK . 

The Ship battles were really boring, and very...uh..outdated system ? 

Assassin Creed Odyssey Ship Battle is amazing! But even there, I aint gonna grind in a SINGLE PLAYER GAME! Grind should NOT EXIST in a SINGLE PLAYER GAME! Leave that to MMO! 

The 'Tone' of the game, went from Grim and dark to Sunny with Pina colada . Maybe if they kept the Grim and Dark and stay inland , that would've helped .

The Story was so short, thats my biggest grip about the game . So freaking short...so pointless...

Just my though 😊

 

I'll bet ye've got all sorts o' barmy questions! (She mimics your heroic stance) Greetin's, I have some questions... can ye tell me about this place? Who's the Lady o' Pain? I'm lookin' fer the magic Girdle of Swank Iron, have ye seen it? Do ye know where a portal ta the 2,817th Plane o' the Abyss might be? Do ye know where the Holy Flamin' Frost-Brand Gronk-Slayin' Vorpal Hammer o' Woundin' an' Returnin' an' Shootin'-Lightnin'-Out-Yer-Bum is?

 

Elderly Hive Dweller

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17 hours ago, E.RedMark said:

The Open World business hurt Single Players Games . It never fail, when they add 'Open World' , the main story SHRINK . 

I don't like open world either. It just causes me to go back and forth on the world map, needlessly adds annoying map loads and kills the sense of progress.

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