Most FPS games lose money, says TimeSplitters dev

Free Radical founder says Call of Duty and Battlefield are only profitable shooters on market, publishers afraid to pursue projects that don't follow established formula.

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Call of Duty and Battlefield are the only first-person shooter franchises making money, TimeSplitters developer and Free Radical founder Steve Ellis recently told Edge. As a result, the longtime developer believes publishers are wary to green-light projects that buck established trends.

Publishers won't pursue a unique FPS, according to Ellis.
Publishers won't pursue a unique FPS, according to Ellis.

"I spent the whole of 2008 going round talking to publishers trying to sign up TimeSplitters 4," Ellis said. "There just isn't the interest there in doing anything that tries to step away from the rules of the genre--no one wants to do something that's quirky and different, because it's too much of a risk. And a large part of that is the cost of doing it."

Crytek UK (the name Free Radical took on when Crytek purchased the outfit) recently confirmed that TimeSplitters 4 was not in development despite the game having been announced in 2007.

"Nobody really buys any FPSes unless they're called Call of Duty," he elaborated. "I guess Battlefield did OK, but aside from that, pretty much every FPS loses money. I mean, [look at] Crysis 2: great game, but there's no way it came anywhere close to recouping its dev costs."

Ellis left Crytek UK in February 2009 to open a mobile game studio called Crash Lab. He explained that the FPS genre today has morphed considerably from what it once was.

"We've been through more than a couple of console generations and seen things grow and grow to a stage where it's not really the business we got into," he said. "It's not really what we signed up for at the start."

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Setho10

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Edited By Setho10

Most shooters don't make money. In fact most games don't make money. We are at a point where the top 10% of games earn 90% of the profit and the rest are left out to dry. And the sad thing is that it isn't always the best games that come out on top. It has a lot more to do with the fact that the top 5 or so shooters each have a marketing budget of over $50 million, with Battlefield and COD each having a budget over $100 million. Compare that with some other creative shooters like Bulletstorm or Crysis 2 and you can easily see why one game sells more than the other.

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dmdavenport

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Edited By dmdavenport

Whining about a lack of interest in a mediocre game is sad. Yes, it's tough out there, so shut up and get to work. The developers will beat a path to your door if your product deserves it.

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Freezezzy

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Edited By Freezezzy

Well duh! Maybe it's because most FPS games follow the same cookie cutter formula, and because there's so many of them out there like this. Seems ironic that it's a TimeSplitters dev that's saying this, since TS was one of, if not THE, most original and entertaining FPS games ever made, not to mention the fact that it's was loaded with features and tons of replay value, AND (let's not forget this) A FRIGGIN MULTIPLAYER MAP EDITOR!!! But, of course, they're not gonna make another one any time soon. Not enough money in it for them, it seems. Never mind how much the fans want it. Never mind the sheer potential it holds. No, let's just continue on our straight line path into oblivion. If people wonder why the industry is in the sorry state it is today, it's because of idiots like this.

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dubel_07

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Edited By dubel_07

TF2 made more money overnight when it went free-to-play than they had the entirety of the time it had been on the market as a 1, 1.50, 1.99, 2.50, 5.00, 9.99, 19.99 dollar game

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taino1128

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Edited By taino1128

This is B.S. because if FPS games caused companies to lose money, there wouldn't be so many of them.

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keech

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Edited By keech

Most FPS games aren't selling BECAUSE they are copycat games. The general rule is if you're going to blatantly rip something off, your game needs to be better than the one you're ripping off or at least do something creative with it. It's no different in any other genre. Crappy knock off games don't sell.

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Blitzkrieg129

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Edited By Blitzkrieg129

The reason why I didn't like Crysis 2 (on the 360) was because the multiplayer was simply unstable. Latency issues, bugs, it had them all. And the FPS usually stayed at about 20 or so...hardly playable. Last but not least, they tried to copy CoD's formula, and it just made it worse in my opinion. But the campaign they made was fantastic.

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TimeFrame

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Edited By TimeFrame

Borderlands, BioShock.. There have been other solid fps games.. I just can't think of them right now!

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discipleofsin

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Edited By discipleofsin

what about Borderlands? that was the definition of quirky and different. The moral of the story is make good games!

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discipleofsin

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Edited By discipleofsin

future perfect was the BEST game on the Xbox!

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SuigintouEV

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Edited By SuigintouEV

Half-Life, Half-Life 2, and Perfect Dark were pretty good games...beyond that, this has always been the worst genre out there, since the beginning of time. Okay, I'll admit I had some fun fragging people for a month in UT2K3. And that south park game where you pissed on snowballs and had Cow-Launchers. The only reason FPS used to sell back in the day was because of 3D graphics on PC pushing the limits, but at this point we've hit the limits of where graphics can go, so all that's left is excuses and rehashes. Not interested.

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darkcomedian

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Edited By darkcomedian

I really wouldn't mind if games looked worse if developers could innovate once again because games didn't have to look so amazing that they blow their budget on it.

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---Cipher---

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Edited By ---Cipher---

Most bad games lose money. I got Crysis 2 and it was a "meh" game. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good. Mp was laggy and really not that special. SP wasn't that much better IMO. The problem isn't that FPS's don't sell, it's that the market is so saturated with shooters that your competing with everyone and their mom for sales. "insert title here" shooters don't make money because they have no real selling point. CoD and BF are rehashed to death, they have the shooter market cornered but people are screaming for real innovation, yet, new games that release do so little different that it's obvious most people will just wait for the next CoD instead of buying a shoddy uninspired clone. You want a FPS to sell? Make something beyond "just new enough that it isn't copywrite infringement 2.0" make your product stand out from the juggernauts not in their shadows.

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ad1x2

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Edited By ad1x2  Online

Whether we like it or not, they do have a point. The economy sucks so people aren't going to buy every single FPS that comes out. People are going to buy what they are familiar with rather than take a chance with something new. We can complain all we want but unless we show what we want with our money, as in buy the titles that aren't that popular, then maybe more developers will take a chance rather than rip off the established ones.

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acer7x

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Edited By acer7x

If that were true, then there wouldn't be so many of them. So I doubt this

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Cowboy-Bebop

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Edited By Cowboy-Bebop

So basically the only 2 games that "make" money are the same tired garbage games they come out with over and over. I'm sure COD4 cost a lot more money than MW3 since it uses basically the same engine. It's sequel land in games now days so publishers can reap massive rewards the more sequels they can produce. I admit I've bought all the COD's and BF3 but they are definitely garbage. No skill needed. I miss TS and the original 2 SOCOM's. It really is a shame how companies don't try anymore. I wish they would put an HD version of TS and TS2 on XBLA and PSN. Heck just the multiplayer maps would make me happy. So many hours of enjoyment playing split screen with friends. It would be nice to play them online. Maybe Kickstarter can help change the industry back to games for gamers instead of games for publishers. They need to quit making games for ADD kids.

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weisguy119

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Edited By weisguy119

I smell BS. It's just another industry insider trying to justify the high cost of games and all the DRM/DLC shenanigans. "Lose money" is just code for "didn't make us enough money to buy a yacht for our grandchild and is therefore not worth our time".

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svaubel

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Edited By svaubel

Maybe if publishers stopped making crap games more people would be inclined to buy them. Does anyone actually playtest their own games? Who would think that playing the same regurgitated brown FPS every single year stays fun or doesnt get old?

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DAMSOG

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Edited By DAMSOG

Blame the publishers who don't want to risk millions of dollars of investors money on your "new" game that you wan't to release into a market saturated with exactly the same game.....seems legit.

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Stonecutters908

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Edited By Stonecutters908

What a load of sh*t. If Crysis 2 didn't recoup its budget then why are they rushing out Crysis 3 in March 2013? FPS's don't make money? 2012 FPS's Darkness 2 Syndicate Inversion Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Future Soldier Spec-Ops: The Line Far Cry 3 Borderlands 2 007 James Bond: Legends Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 Dust 514 Bioshock Infinite Medal of Honor: Warfighter Halo 4 Call of Duty: Black-Ops 2 Aliens: Colonial Marines Arma III 2013 Metro: Last Light Crysis 3 Army of Four Battlefield: Bad Company 3 (we know it is coming) Call of Duty MW 4 Devils Third Doom 4 Homefront 2 Rainbow 6: Patriots The Industry must have lost its mind then, because all I see is an obscene amount of FPS releases for the next 2 years and I am sure I am missing some.

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shadowkratos774

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Edited By shadowkratos774

seriously can we just make it a law that allvideo game production doesn't surpass the ps2's technology, that it's cheaper and we can go back to taking risks and cheaper games.

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DoubleclickTF

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Edited By DoubleclickTF

@Unholy123 Slow down and read. He never was part of Crysis's development. His company was only a division of Crytek after it was bought. He is no longer working with that company, and therefore not Crytek either. Developers can't just make games happen - they need publishers' financing, and none of the publishers wanted to take a risk on Timesplitters 4. He tried to give you Timesplitters, wanted to, couldn't sell it. And there you are damning him for being greedy or whining or something, without bothering to comprehend what the situation is.

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Hakkology

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Edited By Hakkology

What i wouldn't do for a new ID game, Quake for example. Now that... Would be awesome.

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DoubleclickTF

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Edited By DoubleclickTF

... and in fact, he's not even with Crytek UK anymore either, as the article points out! So it's really got nothing to do with him, and neither does Crytek have anything to do with him anymore.

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firedrakes

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Edited By firedrakes

here is the reason. almost every dam fps is the same dam thing and they all want 60 bucks a pop for less then 10 hour campaign.

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DoubleclickTF

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Edited By DoubleclickTF

@moldyspud I don't know why you're going on about Crytek and the development of Crysis 3. When the company announced Timesplitters 4, it was still called Free Radical. Crytek had not bought it then. Now Crytek has bought it, and given it the name "Crytek UK". As you can tell by the speculative way Ellis is talking about Crytek 2's profits, he is outside of Crysis, not at the heart of the organisation. Crytek is not whining about profits. Neither is Ellis. All he is saying is that years ago, before Crytek acquired his company, he could not sell the idea to anyone despite his best efforts. He is not in a position now to decide what Crytek does with regard to its economic plans either, since he is just the head of one of their development teams. A lot of people commenting really need to take a step back and breathe for a second.

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Assemblent

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Edited By Assemblent

Call of duty and battlefield? No, Killzone.

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dkdk999

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Edited By dkdk999

That simply can't be true. A market doesn't tend to create something over and over which doesn't make money.

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baystatethrashr

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Edited By baystatethrashr

COD turns a profit because all that Activision has to do is print new cover art every year with a different subtitle under Call of Duty.

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JKnaperek

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Edited By JKnaperek

kickstarter ftw

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DireBadger

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Edited By DireBadger

Borderlands seemed to do pretty well. Was that not 'quirky and different' enough for you? Borderlands 2 is the only FPS I'm looking forward to at the moment. If first person shooters are so unprofitable, then why do they keep making them?

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Master_Happosai

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Edited By Master_Happosai

Lack of risk is killing the industry in general. I enjoyed the DS and PSP far more than the consoles because i could always find something unique.

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Khasym

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Edited By Khasym

@DanielL5583 You've got it in one. In truth, the FPS genre hasn't evolved since the early days of Castle Wolfenstein. You can do MORE things now, but the fundamental core of the game, is still following a set path, and blowing away everything that shoots at you. Even multiplayer has been kind of thrown back about 30 years. The most popular forms of MP right now, are GoW 3 Horde Mode style games, where it's more than one player fighting waves of enemies. Until the FPS genre can figure out how to do more than grass cutting endless enemies, they may always be the least profitable genre for gaming. Maybe the most successful among gamers, but the least profitable for developers.

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Yomigaeru

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Edited By Yomigaeru

@Darnasian Unfortunately, that's the first thing companies look at when they want to "cut costs". As it pertains to the gaming industry, dev costs are so high because everyone is looking to replicate the success of the top sellers. It wasn't always like this. Games may have always been a business, but when we had those glory days of the NES and Genesis (followed by the SNES and Genesis), there were loads of sequels, but there were many more original games. A lot of them were terrible: pale imitations of their contemporaries or just flat out bad, original ideas. But we didn't complain. "We" didn't encompass such a large audience back then. Now, gaming is mainstream. It's no longer a hobby for nerds and geeks. With that acceptance came a whole new generation of gamers and developers, both equally obsessed with making games bigger and flashier with each passing year. High development costs are the fault of both consumers and developers.

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hemoleech

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Edited By hemoleech

I don't really like FPSs. Fallout 3/New Vegas and Portal are exceptions, but they are a bit different than a normal FPS because they are mixed with another genre. There's only so much you can do with pure shooters.

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MMaestro

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Edited By MMaestro

No, just FPSs without a business strategy lose money. Battlefield 3 did great because they KNOW they're in it for the long haul. Crysis 2's high costs were justified by the quick turnover of Crysis 3 (licensing out the engine being a bonus).

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DanielL5583

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Edited By DanielL5583

The main dilemma on this front is because the FPS genre is one of the more restricted genres in gaming, and sometimes it has to merge with another genre to work in creative ways, like an FPS/RPG (Fallout 3 for instance). Crysis and CoD4: Modern Warfare upon release were revolutionary in one way or another. Same goes for BioShock and Metroid Prime. The thing that causes the restrictiveness of FPS gaming is that you can't really do much outside of killing loads of bad guys right in front of you, moving forward, and rinse and repeat.

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OurSin-360

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Edited By OurSin-360

Bioshock? Halo? Half Life? Portal? c'mon son, didn't even duke nukem make money as bad as it was? lol @ fps's aren't profitable i don't believe it at all. And portal is probably the best example of innovation, it's not even a shooter

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moldyspud

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Edited By moldyspud

@darnasian What variables? We're talking they had a budget for both games totalling 62 million, in one quarter after each game sold they made 360 million... they are now developing Crysis 3. What retarded company would be making a 3rd sequel (not to mention the addon they had made for crysis), if they were somehow losing money? Based on the budget and 1 quarter of sales they made, 138million for crysis 1... where did all that money go? Propaganda? lol give me a break. Even a silly game like APB took several years to spend 100 million to fail at making a game. That's a game that lost money. The profits for crysis is ridiculous. It's just pure greed that influences their whining. This guy in the article Ellis, said "There's no way they made the dev costs back" uhhh, even if Crysis 2 cost 40 million to make, they made 160million in ONE QUARTER. That's 120 million left to profits... They clearly made the money back. What Crytek has done with their profits is beyond me... but if they're whining about not having money, maybe they need to learn how to spend their money better. Or just stop lying to the public. Also, Rockstar has 150million game budgets... if they somehow stopped selling so many copies they'd lower their budget. It wouldn't hurt them at all... Rockstar has nothing to do with this article or the point being made. But Rockstar has 0 problems financially, and EA makes 2.5 billion a year... But we're talking about Ellis and Crytek in this article.

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himsaad714

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Edited By himsaad714

@Darnasian i agree and disagree with your statement. you are probably right most commenters here would do the same thing. but i do things that are bad for "profits" all the time, i spend hours painting art that i give away using paint and canvas i buy out of pocket, ive never sold a piece and never will. the joy i can give someone with a piece of art is far more enjoyable. i create music for free and share it with people, also do a lot of free IT and service work for those in need, just because id like to help. not everything in life is about profits sometimes you should just do it because you love it. In my opinion art like ip should be shared . a society will only go further with selfless acts of culture and learning. might be idealistic but thats my viewpoint. lastly i feel like most of these devs and publishers have become jaded with aspiring profits. you cant keep earning higher profits every fiscal year that trend will always come to an end. sometimes you make less than the year prior.

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Darnasian

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Edited By Darnasian

@jinzo9988 "Instead of coming up with creative ways to rip off customers, find ways to cut dev costs." You do realise that means to fire people and that's not a good thing.

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jinzo9988

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Edited By jinzo9988

As much as die hard fans of TimeSplitters want another TimeSplitters game, it's not going to make money... period. It's not an ultra-serious summer blockbuster action game with tons of explosions and violence. That's just reality... an oft disliked reality. I think part of what is to blame here also is dev costs. We're at an unfortunate point in the industry now where a game that sells 1 or 2 million copies can still be a failure in profits. If your game isn't going to sell that much, don't put so much into dev costs. Instead of coming up with creative ways to rip off customers, find ways to cut dev costs. Not everything needs the Hollywood big-budget treatment.

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Darnasian

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Edited By Darnasian

@moldyspud Dude I'm not saying you're wrong...although I do not agree with you just because of one thing....variables...there are way more variables into the creation of the game then they were mentioned here and believe me that's not mch profit for a huge company like EA. MW3 alone did over 30 million sales in total and to put it like that over 18 million were preorders so you do the math and see how well that game did alone. You are now talking from a consumer perspective but you have no idea how's it to be a publisher/developer...it's a multi million industry now and 3 million sales are good only if they have profit from them. Rockstar would go bankrupt if they had only 3 million sales considering their budget crosses 50 million dollars for every game.

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sortajan

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Edited By sortajan

The FPS is a bit like Dracula, it has to have soil from its native land (the PC) to survive. There are only a couple of genres like that, but the FPS is one of them.

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moldyspud

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Edited By moldyspud

Yeah like I said, those sales were JUST quarterly... as in reported the quarter after the game released. So it's old data, I have no idea how many they really sold, and what they sold as, but those 3m copies for each game were at full price. They probably sold 4-5 million copies in total... maybe some at reduced prices... who knows. But that's just more money for them. Also for the person who said the budget doesn't include any other costs besides equipment, I know you're wrong. Quoted below from a lead game producer: "Video game budgets were mostly centered around artists, programmers, designers, QA and testers. Nowadays, a huge portion of a game's budget resides in marketing, in fact, for some games, 200% of the budget will go into marketing while the game itself will cost anywhere between $10 and $20 million to actually design and produce." So even marketting is included in game budgets now. So, 62 million bucks to make crysis 1 and 2, 360,000,000$ (quarter after each games release) made minus 62 million in development. You do the math... that's a lot of money. And they've made more than that no doubt. Crytek are just whining greedy babies.

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Darnasian

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Edited By Darnasian

@MJ12-Conspiracy I really want a Crysis 3 after the interesting things I've seen in the interviews and the trailers...

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himsaad714

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Edited By himsaad714

@dogman7 Also dude not trying to get into an argument i respect you opinion and will even defend it, but think about it like this. to blame issues on others is a cop out excuse and to say that call of duty is at fault for "really screwing things up" is just like saying im not allowed to paint an art piece because another guy has already painted a great art piece prior. say two guys are painting canvas at either end of the block. and say people really like one guys painting over another. do you really think that the other painter who is not being enamored should copy the other guy just because people like it. he would look like a hack, worse than just sticking to his original painting. if no one likes your work it should be for your personal ideas not for rehashing of someone else work. at least you can still have pride you created something no one else has. yeah it might have failed but at least you tried.

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MJ12-Conspiracy

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Edited By MJ12-Conspiracy

First Person Shooters lose money because they are the wrong thing at the wrong time or too much like what the other guy is doing. Timesplitters has enough fans who want the game to come back because.....well because we are sick to death of COD and Battlefield and we want something better. NO! the reality here is Crytek are hacks and they'd rather pretend we are all dumb so that they can sell another unwanted Crysis then blame piacy and the industry or the other guys for making war games instead of making games people loved and want to see again..... Sorry but I'm a little irritated and I'm sick of bein g told what I should like....I hate war, I hate war games but I like a good battle between good and evil with a laugh and that's kinda what Timesplitters was.....

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c0kemusheen

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Edited By c0kemusheen

Hrmm. I believe Crysis 2 sold pretty well considering there is a sequel slated for release. Also, I wasn't a big fan of Crysis 2 and I couldn't care less if they made money off it. Halo series is different, innovative and very profitable. I think this Crytek UK guy needs to get his head examined..

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OJ_the_LION

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Edited By OJ_the_LION

I think he's probably right, and certainly there seems to be a lot less experimentation going on than even a few years ago. Of course, part of that is that when new IPs do show up they've often been, at best, mediocre (Haze, Brink, and others come to mind). Still, this obsession with modern war shooters won't last forever, just like 10 years ago every game seemed to be WWII themed. It'll be up to the dev and publisher willing to take a risk to decide the future then.