If the saying “…too much of a good thing” is in-fact true, no one told GTA.
It’s been a while since its release, so you might have forgotten what a huge freakin’ deal GTA V was when it dropped. So allow me to remind you: it was a huge freakin’ deal. Aside from being one of the fastest selling games to garner over a billion dollars (which is a pile of cash so large I wanna’ cry), the series continues to set a new standard in “sandbox” gaming with each version. Frankly, no one can touch GTA in what it does, as it clearly is and will always be the biggest dog in the yard.
Having said that, what about the other dogs? Is there another side of the coin we’re not considering?
Granted, for Rockstar employees, last fall was probably one continuous party. I can only imagine the celebrations and praise they received. Hell, the pats on the back from co-workers alone were probably enough to knock them down on more than one occasion. However, there are those in the industry that came out holding the losing end of the stick after the GTA V release. Put yourself in the shoes of the smaller studios after learning your game would go to market during this time period. It’s almost like finding out your first MMA bout will be against Anderson Silva; it’s an ass-whoopin’ just waiting to happen. Take Painkiller: Hell & Damnation by The Farm 51 for example. You think a low-profile digital title like this had ANY chance of real success? While met with only luke-warm reception at best, this highlights a game that probably would have rated a bit higher had it not been overshadowed by the huge Goliath to its David. Ultimately, it was dead before it left the gate.
And it wasn’t just the little guy that took a hit either. Powerhouse EA also got a bit of a black eye in the fray.
Around the time that Rockstar followed up with its online component of GTA, EA was in the process of trying to juggle both current-gen and next-gen ports of its latest Battlefield entry. Comments recently made by EA’s Blake Jorgensen revealed that even a company their size isn’t immune to such a giant tidal wave of “winning” (as Charlie Sheen would say). “I don't think anyone anticipated the level of that success…I think it sucked dollars out of the old-generation software market…We expected the market to be challenged just because of the transitions to the new generation …as a reminder, Rockstar Games moved that release from the spring to the fall, so it even changed our expectations again as it got moved." He states.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to step on Rockstar’s accomplishments or garner sympathy for EA. Electronic Arts' current financial straights are a result of their own hand in many cases (from under-performing titles to a bad online business model). In-fact, I’m not here to carry water for any developer. What studios in our industry face is no different than those of low-budget films which are released during the summer blockbuster season (and are often forgotten just as quickly). Sometimes you have to rise to the occasion: some do and some don’t. I just hope the unsung heroes (the artists who spend nights sleeping at the office just to meet a Monday morning deadline) don’t end up as a casualty of war.
I can’t imagine it gets any easier finding your next job, when the latest entry at the top of your resume reads, “…please hire…last game crushed by GTA…not fair.”