Cliff Bleszinski: You Can't Sell A $60 Horror Game In This Market

In a post on his personal blog, the former Epic designer talked about his time with "Dead Space 3" (he liked it), ultimately empathizing with developer Visceral Games' push further towards action for the second sequel.

Why does it matter what some currently unemployed designer has to say about someone else's game and the state of the market? Well, one, for all of his time in the industry, Bleszinski's a smart guy, and to a certain extent you have to imagine other designers and producers out there nodding their heads. For another, it echoes (rather purposely, probably) the sentiment of "Dead Space" writer Antony Johnston, who opined last week that the shift was "a necessary evil in order to broaden the fan base," albeit one that's "a very difficult balancing act to pull off.”

Bleszinski reserves the space for "true" horror games to the PC space, to smaller titles that aren't priced at full retail, adding "In the 60$ disc based market horror doesn’t fly - it’s the ultimate “Campaign Rental” that’s played for 2 days and traded in and I’m sure EA knows this."

In a way, this is kind of a chicken and egg argument (or if you want to cross media, the "women don't make bankable action stars" argument that gets thrown around). While the first "Dead Space" was an effective piece of sustained tension that did just well enough to justify a sequel, what's the last major, high-quality horror release that you can name? And not just an action game thick and ropey with gore and blood, but one that deliberately set out to keep you off-kilter and unsettled without the excess of jump scares?

Bleszinski places the blame squarely at the feet of the mythic target demo, "a cocky young male who doesn’t want to be scared, unfortunately, he’s the guy who wants to get in and 'fuck shit up.'" This is the same demo that made the trio of "Transformers" movies billion-dollar enterprises, so let it be said again that it's easy to get rich pandering to the lowest common denominator. But those are also the same kids who probably supported the number one box office positions of "Warm Bodies" and "Mama" in the first few weeks of 2013. Or getting away from the apples and oranges comparison between film and games, (well, sidestepping it, at least), this is an audience that's primed for a horror game, they just haven't been offered one in a while.

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