9% of the respondents to my Crysis SurveyGizmo were under the impression that the game will not work on a Windows XP system, another 41% thought it was released too early. But the worst has yet to come: it ranked 4th out of 5 for the best of 2007 question, barely beating Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. This was the same game that the media was hyping as the ultimate breakthrough and gaming blockbuster! What happened?
Crysis is developed by this fantastic & extremely talented studio by the name of Crytek which recently relocated to Germany. Although the company went through the effort of equipping their employees with two PC’s; a communications rig and an offline development box, they still got banged on by a brutal wave of pirated copies upon release. Too add insult to injury, in my amateur opinion I believe some of the actions undertaken by the studio and/or publisher lead to some major issues, let’s discuss.
The survey which I had released on a few multi-gaming communities netted about a 100 results, which I find more than satisfactory as this provides us with some useful information. Let’s start with the good stuff:
The Singleplayer Experience. 72% were either Very Satisfied or Satisfied with Crysis. As could be expected, Crytek has come through once again on this end. Far Cry brought groundbreaking AI to the gaming scene and also set the standard for all things visual at the time. That being said, Singleplayer isn’t where the revenue is at anymore, next.
Release Quality (bugs/glitches/errors/artifacts). Only 12% were Dissatisfied or Very Dissatisfied. I find this a solid statistic as this could be interpreted as meaning 88% of the players do not encounter enough issues to hinder or ruin their gaming experience. For a demo and initial release, the quality assurance folks at EA & Crytek can pat themselves on the back.
Game Controls. Only 2% were Dissatisfied or Very Dissatisfied. Again, Crytek demonstrates strength in easing up the learning curve which in turn should help converting demo players to paying customers. There’s nothing like sliding into gameplay within a couple sessions.
Now for the Bad News. Just remember, no matter what happens, we’ll blame the publisher!
Minimum Hardware Requirements. 28% were Dissatisfied or Very Dissatisfied. One can deal with missing out on a game mode or a promised feature being pulled out of the final release in the last minute (*cough*fast rope for battlefield*cough*). But, what is frustrating as all hell is playing the game and thinking that you’re in some techno party with crazy strobe lights everywhere, rendered frame, pause, rendered frame, pause, render… you get the picture. We’re talking a quarter and change of the players here, that’s hard to swallow, especially when you’re reviewing sales data that hasn’t even broken the 100’000 units mark during a holiday season (as reported by the NPD group).
The Multiplayer Experience. Only 12% of people asked were Very Satisfied or Satisfied with their online experiences. Wait, what? Let me make this clear for everyone reading, multiplayer is the key to a continuous revenue stream. This isn’t 1998 where you can expect to stay in the headlines with a strong singleplayer game (i.e. Thief: The Dark Project). You can make ANY excuse in the world, but nothing and I mean nothing will get you those lost potential customers back. You only have once chance at a first impression, and if you fail, it’ll take so much more work as publisher to get that same player to try the game out again. As a modder, you learn this the hard way. A recipe for destruction is blowing your marketing budget on a poorly examined plan. I say this with all confidence because a publisher that releases a title, waits till the hype fades, and then, only then, decides to get punkbusted in on the action has either rushed the release or lost their mind. If Crysis’s Multiplayer was a Children’s Drawing and Maddox was grading it, well you know the result (or should, click).
It would be unfair for me to put out this criticism without throwing out some ideas to remedy the situation. The majority of the advertising cash is blown, the radio chatter dwindling and worst of all, not many people playing online. So what should EA & Crytek do to get back on track? Well here’s my list of actionable items.
Bundle Crysis with High-End Graphics Cards & PC’s. You want to create a stronger base of happy players, one way is by giving people who you know will be able to run it just fine, a big discount. Bundle it with well branded video cards (Nvidia) or PC manufacturers ( Alienware). Then let those players rave about Crysis on super-high settings all day…
Develop Singleplayer Add-on Packs. I didn’t stutter, Singleplayer. Such a technique could be used to reignite the multiplayer base by getting existing & potential consumers back on the platform. Singleplayer already has a great reputation and building off that could bring positive side-effects for the online world.
Monthly Competitions on Clan Scores. Every month give prizes to the clan with the highest “average score per player”, minimum 10 players. Clans & communities who usually run the servers will take care of word of mouth and lower your advertising expenses for such an event.
Limited Time Only Discounted Digital Sales. They’re already losing out to online piracy, why continue to give people a reason to do so. Offer Crysis at $24.99 for the period of one month. Call of Duty 4 & Team Fortress 2 kicked Crysis in the junk and if they don’t take care of that revenue today, the Nanosuit will short circuit to the point that it’ll be doing the electric side yelling “I’m Johnny 5 bitches!”
There are other ideas and I’m sure Electronic Arts has a few things lined up. The above comments may seem like a lot of work and probably are given time spent versus revenue (I do think it would be profitable, only question is to what degree). Although Crysis is a full-blown game I do sometimes see it as a tech demo for potential clients of CryEngine 2. I think a lot of players (including myself) sometimes forget that there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes then some Dev’s eating pizza and having tree-cutting contests in-game.
All in all I hope Crysis will find its way again as an immense amount of dev effort has gone into it, my overall feeling is that online player momentum could be rebuilt once trust, stability and incentive is given to gamers worldwide.
I’d love to hear some feedback on this article as well as your opinions on the future of Crysis. You can also find my article on modding Crysis here.