... But is that a good thing or a bad thing?
I was planning to touch on this last week, but that was before Xbox One came out and provided a very ripe ground for a lot of conversation. Still, considering that this is a game from a series that I'm interested in (even if I haven't played it yet) I think that it's worth commenting on.
Dark Souls and its predecessor of sorts Demon Souls have been games that can be said to have been successful on their own terms, especially Dark Souls. The uniquely dark take on the presentation, the unforgiving difficulty, the way that the player is engaged are all things that have earned a decent sized and very loyal fanbase for the franchise. Enough to ensure that a sequel would be made.
Dark Souls 2 promises to bring more of the same kind of game that gave the first one the fanbase it did, but Namco is hoping that by treating it like a AAA title that they think can reach more people, but I'm not exactly sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing because of the way they've decided to go about it. To quote: "With Dark Souls and [PS3-exclusive spiritual predecessor] Demon Souls it was very focused, small-scale. We're treating this as a massive, massive triple-A title."
Normally getting a game that people may enjoy but might not have heard of into the hands of more potential fans could never be called a bad thing. As Jim Sterling mentions in the article though, the extremely worrying thing about this approach is that they're using the term "AAA title", a phrase which as of late has not come to have a very good connotation for either gamers or companies.
To wit, the original Dark Souls is considered highly successful for what it is, it's sold roughly 2 million copies and as I mentioned has a very vocal and supportive fanbase. Now, compare that to another game, let's say the Tomb Raider reboot, which sold millions, literally millions more copies than Dark Souls, has been called a great game in its own right, but is considered a failure because it didn't sell all the copies to all the gamers the second that it came out. It's the same story with Resident Evil 5, which had a dev team larger than some rural towns.
"We're going to go guns-blazing with it, and hope to God that it works. We're going after people who love and adore Dark Souls, while hopefully widening the net a little. I'm not saying that every Skyrim player's going to be jumping on Dark Souls, but it would be nice if some of them did. It's a different game, sure."
That would be PR director Lee Kirton, who also gave the first quote as well, talking about the ambitions for this sequel. The problem is that hoping for even a part of the audience of a game like Skyrim might be shooting for the moon, and unlike the reassuring continuation that "if you miss you'll still be among the stars" I think that failure in this case means a hard crash landing to the unforgiving earth below.
My reaction to this news isn't quite as averse to Jim's. I'm just hoping that Namco knows that even though Dark Souls was a sleeper hit, that they can't just expect to throw more money at it and all of a sudden have a game that's going to be competing with the behemoths that are already out there. Part of the reason that Dark Souls was arguably as successful as it was is the fact that it was produced with down to earth expectations for how it would do, and when it exceeded those expectations it was a wonderful surprise, rather than something that was mandatory in order for it to be successful.
I just think that it would be wise for everyone involved to remember that.