Matto Talks Games – The MGS2 Effect

I like talking about video games, but I also like talking about hilarious and/or stupid bullshit that you sometimes don’t think is important, but actually is. Today, I am putting on my gaming historian glasses to talk in-depth about an aspect of video games we sometimes think is always a good thing, and it is! Most of the time. Great sale figures!

Pretend you are a game developer and a game publisher. Yes, both. We’re not counting self-publishing such as indie titles, because most of my examples I will present in this piece are major video game releases. Say you are a game developer who spent two-plus years working ungodly man hours and your publisher gave you millions upon millions of dollars to make a video game. You can either succeed massively, mildly or just fail. Such is the way of this gaming industry. But hey, if you made a great game and it sells very well? Good for you! You not only received tons of praise, you could probably make any game you want for the same budget, sequel or original game!

What if I told you there was a dark side to all this success? You wouldn’t believe me, but it does exist, mainly existing within the last decade though it’s first real case was released in 2001 for what was considered at the time next-generation platform. It was hyped to all hell, it received tons of praise, got a huge marketing campaign, and you, consumer, bought it full price. You took it home, started to play it… and discovered you were essentially lied to, that it’s actually not worth the full asking price, and was batshit stupid. We’ve all that experience, and it sometimes becomes a heated topic in gaming forums because one person’s experience can be different from another. Yet… what if that experience was shared amongst a lot of people who came together to say “Wow, I sure feel like I was cheated out of $60 dollars.”?

That is how most people saw Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty.

(Photo from MobyGames)

So, let’s talk MGS2. I am not a stranger to the Metal Gear series, as I can attest to my MGS4 review. From the beginning, the Metal Gear series was a unique story driven series that focused on stealth, and while each entry in the series following the first MSX2 game fixed flaws and kinks in the design, creator Hideo Kojima and friends never really ironed out some nagging kinks unless a Director’s Cut a’la Resident Evil 1 came along. Regardless, Metal Gear Solid on the PS1 became a smash hit and one of the defining games on the PS1 along with Final Fantasy VII. With the PS2 on the way, Kojima and friends got to work on a sequel, and it… went through some drastic changes in development. Also, due to the real life and tragic circumstances of September 11th, 2001, story scenes in the pre-release had to be cut and rearranged.

Upon release, however, it received glowing reviews. But there was one major, nagging and divisive aspect that got egg on Kojima’s face. That would be Raiden. Raiden, prior to release, was never shown in any game media whatsoever, a ploy by Kojima as a surprise to his audience. Those who looked deeper into the plot figured out Raiden was suppose to be the player themself, and the plot touched base on that. Hell, in 2001 Kojima predicted internet control by the government! However, Kojima’s storytelling from MGS1 wasn’t ironed out; the writing was, for the most part, idiotic. Our very own Bill Aurion has said MGS2 is what ruined Hideo Kojima’s career as a storyteller. I believe him.

While MGS2 went on to sell over seven million copies, those who bought the game were turned off by the baffling and idiotic nature of the story. While MGS1 had it’s problems with cutscene length, I found the story to be quite acceptable. With MGS2, aside from Snake and Olga’s motives as a whole which did make sense, the rest of the story was laughable, the worst being Raiden and Rose’s relationship woes.

“But Matto, why are you bitching about the story so much!? The gameplay was more refined!” In certain aspects, I agree, it was more refined following MGS1. However, the MGS series (minus Phantom Pain and Ground Zeroes, I haven’t played those so I cannot pass judgement on them) has cutscenes that can last longer than the gameplay itself. I am fine with story driven games, but the story better be good or good kind of bad (ie easily to make jokes out of. See: Other M, which may be a future article piece in the making!), and MGS2’s was neither.

So, how much can you polish and refine stupidity? Give it a skateboarding mini-game! (Picture from MobyGames)

The damage was done; angry video game nerds were incensed at Kojima for the game. Despite it’s huge success MGS2 essentially bred a mutant monster known as “fan entitlement”. While as a consumer we are entitled to a quality product, the worst kind of fan entitlement is not unknown to us here at Pietriots. Need proof? Remember Operation Rainfall starting out? We sure do. Remember all the outrage over censorship and localization during early 2016 and the insane double standards we or mainly Deguello exposed? These can also include death threats! Yes, death threats, over a video game. What do you think happened during the entire time Bayonetta 2 was revealed to when it was released. It is as fucking insane as you suspect.

While Kojima didn’t want to do MGS3 due to the stress of everything that happened following MGS2, fan pressure mounted so much that Kojima once again went into the director’s chair. MGS3… actually was pretty damn swell, well it’s re-release on the PS2 anyway because for some reason the game’s engine didn’t have a third person camera. I actually genuinely like the game, the story and the characters, but thanks to MGS2 the game’s sales for an actually good video game were lower. MGS3’s PS2 release was clocked at three to four million plus units sold. That’s much less than MGS2. Ouch.

This, as a whole, is what I call the MGS2 effect. Take a highly hyped game, with all the glowing praise from gaming journalists and all the marketing, unleash it to the public, and they find out it’s actually a dud. Thanks to the lingering stench of said game, a sequel, prequel or anything of the sort may fall victim to the reputation despite it probably being a much better game. Granted, some games subverted this (see Devil May Cry 3), and actually sold well or better then the game that preceded it. Not all the time though. How about some more examples?

(Picture from MobyGames)

Final Fantasy XIII was the much hyped thirteenth entry in the Final Fantasy series. While hit with delays, that didn’t stop the hype, the media praise and the marketing. Yup, that pattern again; when FF XIII was unleashed to the marketplace, long time fans took notice to how linear it was. Despite what was a fun battle system to be had, the story was stupid, the characters were a mix between annoying, unlikeable and wall paper and the game opened up to a still boring world after fifty hours of game time. All that work for not much pay-off. After that, Square-Enix thought it would be smart to do direct sequels to Final Fantasy XIII. Two of them, and both sold lower than what Square-Enix wanted.

How about UbiSoft? Remember Red Steel, a Wii launch title that was a first person shooter with swordplay? Sadly the Wiimote tech at the time didn’t have Wii Motion Plus yet, so the sword fighting aspect was bad. It also didn’t help it was bland as all hell. It did sell remotely well, but when it came time to Red Steel 2, a much more improved experience, nobody cared anymore. A lot of it had to do with the reputation lingering from the first game, another had to do with the fact third parties in general pissed off a user base thanks to garbage and it being outed the Wii games were basically funding titles that were passing the system. The same thing happened with Watch_Dogs and it’s sequel, though minus pissing off an entire system userbase.

Remember Resident Evil 5? Admittedly it was going to be hard following up RE4, because RE4 was that good and the series creator and his developers left Capcom by that point. As hard as they tried, RE5 proved to be a good video game… if you were playing with another person locally or online. Over five million consumers found this out, and RE6, besides the critical panning, sold worse. The actually good spin-off Revelations for 3DS sold modestly well, but we all know how the sequel to that one turned out.

Anybody remember Titanfall? This Xbox One exclusive from EA had some pedigree behind it. Granted, besides Red Steel this game didn’t create a huge splash in sales figures. Why? It didn’t help the game needed to be online all the time to even remotely work. Yes, it may be a multiplayer focused game, but the fact you couldn’t play it remotely without an online connection was literally the lasting effects of Microsoft’s controversial stupid DRM policies. Titanfall 2, despite noted improvements, performed worse than the first game.

Could there be more examples? Possibly. Success is never a bad thing, but in the worst cases success can be a double edged sword. Just remember… vampires can run on water. Or something which later got retconed into nanomachines.

5 thoughts on “Matto Talks Games – The MGS2 Effect”

  1. Meh, I think Red Steel 2 being sword focused is what killed it. The first game was a really enjoyable shooter for me (one of the few games taking advantage of the FPS pointer), and then it became some repetitive action game. I think Red Steel 2 was good, but when you change so much you have to expect a different reaction. Motion Plus made things more complicated and many people didn’t have it. The Wii itself was also on a downward decline as well, as evidenced by Skyward Sword selling a lot less than Twilight Princess.

    I’ve never been too into the MGS series but the fans I know are pretty hardcore, they will defend the story to the death as some deep philosophical revelation. I think people should be able to get enjoyment out of a story whether it has loose ends or not, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Hell 95% of videogames have broken stories and I love games like Devil’s Third for that reason because they are just enjoyable. That’s kinda how I see MGS, its story’s strength is being ridiculous and over-the-top, not factual.

    I agree that Resident Evil 5 sold off the brilliance of 4 though. I think RE6 is actually a better game than 5, but people weren’t expecting it to be so after 5. At least they expanded the mechanics in 6 and did a good job improving the action gameplay, as much as it didn’t fit the series to go in that direction. At the end of the day both RE5 and RE6 sold very well and made a profit so I don’t think Capcom cares. They absolutely shot themselves in the foot with Revelations though, it sold a ton on 3DS and they changed the userbase completely for Revelations 2 and nobody bought it. What a head-scratcher.

    The bigger link here in my opinion is SATURATION, and Titanfall is the perfect example of this. Most people see no need to buy the game again if they are still playing the first game. Sequels on the same platform always sell less. Metroid Prime 1 > 2 is another one.

    Like

    1. RE6 actually didn’t sell very well, Grub. It actually underperformed. As for your comment on MGS stories, being over the top and silly is not a bad thing but there is actually a bad way of doing it. MGS3 nailed the 60s spy flick style and actually had some of the best supporting characters in the series, but then in MGS4 Kojima ruined all of it. When Kojima tried to be over the top and silly, it just came off as trying too hard.

      If you want good stories with camp in a video game, Devil’s Third is definitely one. Platinum has Bayonetta.

      Like

      1. Not sure where you’re getting that. RE5 and RE6 are both the best selling in the entire series, and also the two most successful games in Capcom’s history, period. (source – http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2017-01-24-has-capcom-saved-resident-evil)

        EDIT: Yeah, they are closer than I thought. As of 2015 RE5 and RE6 are at 6.8 and 6.2 million – http://www.siliconera.com/2015/05/12/resident-evil-5-and-resident-evil-6-are-still-pulling-their-weight/

        Like

      2. From what Matto said, Capcom actually expected RE6 to sell 7 million copies NEAR LAUNCH. Seriously, they honestly expected such an unreasonable level of sales because they were in that much trouble financial-wise and need a success. And they were fucked when they realized that it wouldn’t even reach that level. Remember when they barely even had any money left back in 2013?

        Combine that with DmC and Lost Planet 3 selling below their expected sales targets and you can chalk up Inafune’s aspiration of Capcom’s Western expansion to be more like Western games as a total and utter failure. Then Capcom sold their soul to the devil shortly afterwards.

        Like

  2. Still on the RE6 sales. While the data we now have shows that Matto’s assertion is wrong, it is certainly fair to say that there is a lot less “buzz” around RE6 than there was for RE4. By that I mean there was a lot less discussion about the game in the gaming media and gaming community during and after launch. People weren’t decorating their fan sites with art of the games, other games weren’t trying to mimic its style. So something that we might want to explore is what happened to those millions of sold copies? Is this a shipped vs sold thing? Were Capcom fudging the numbers for accounting/pride reasons? Did they really sell but only in emerging markets that we haven’t ntegrated intot he wider online gaming community? Or did they sell to the non-informed, normie public who don’t live an breathe video games the way we do?
    Maybe something for future research.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s