Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

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Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by D-D » November 2nd, 2017, 1:04 pm

From PC Games N:
Torment: Tides of Numenera's sales have been "disappointing" - but why?
ByJeremy Peel

It is February, 2017, and respected fantasy author Pat Rothfuss is livestreaming Torment: Tides of Numenera. Viewers are watching him play through the earliest scenes of the isometric RPG, for which he has written an inspired companion character. But you would be hard pressed to know he was playing at all.

Sometimes Rothfuss clicks to move his character through the world - until a paragraph of descriptive prose pops up. When that happens he falls silent to read. Occasionally, he chuckles. During these long moments, of which there are many, the screen is almost totally static.

“It couldn’t have been more dull,” inXile head Brian Fargo laments. “I love Patrick, I love the game, but that’s not fun to watch.”

The fact that Tides of Numenera is not exactly a spectator sport might go some way to explaining why this 9/10 RPG will not bother Steam’s top-seller list for this year.

“I would honestly say that Torment has been disappointing sales-wise,” Fargo tells us. “There are some reasons for that, some of which are our fault, and others... let’s just say that a game with a lot of reading is not very much fun to watch on Twitch. I’m not laying it just on that. There are a lot of different dynamics at work… [but] that is an important medium for getting the word out.”

In our review, I wondered whether Torment: Tides of Numenera had a pacing problem. It was a game that finally fulfilled the RPG genre’s promise of making combat wholly optional. But in doing so, it broke a traditional loop: one that intersperses dense chunks of storytelling with fighting and derring-do. Torment’s writing, sublime though it was, taxed the imagination - and offered very little else as respite.

“I believe the combat system was not fulfilling enough, that core loop,” Fargo says. “Reading cannot be the core loop, and that ended up being what that was.”

That problem was one that emerged from inXile’s experimentation in the genre - a side effect of trying to push things forward. But there were other issues they might have seen coming earlier. Tides of Numenera was pitched as a spiritual successor to an underappreciated classic, Planescape: Torment. Perhaps that underappreciation should have rung alarm bells.

“Planescape: Torment wasn’t a huge hit either,” Fargo recalls. He should know: he ran the publisher that bore the brunt of its lacklustre sales. And the release of Beamdog’s Enhanced Edition in April this year proved a timely reminder.

“That didn’t exactly light up the charts, and that was a great title,” Fargo says. “Planescape: Torment has a 91% Metacritic, but it didn’t sell a ton of units - not what it deserved to. I think there’s something to that.”

There is certainly a gulf between those who say they are interested in Torment, and those who actually play it. That might sound like conjecture, but inXile have noticed that “hundreds of thousands” of Steam users still have Tides of Numenera wishlisted. That is why, this week, they cut the game’s price to less than half to see what happens.

“I think this will probably get them off the fence, because it’s not going lower than that,” Fargo says. “I hope they’ll appreciate it for what it is. From an artistic perspective, I think it has to be recognised for being pretty damn good. The writing was great, we had some wonderful characters. So I’m not embarrassed by the title in any way. But it couldn’t have been more un-mainstream.

“It’ll keep selling. Over time it’ll keep going, and going, and going. And we’re proud to have it in our catalogue. But as far as comparing sales to our other titles, I wish it had done more.”

The lessons learned from Tides of Numenera will inform inXile games in the future. For Wasteland 3 they will “change the dials” - focusing less on descriptive passages and more on banter between characters. Fargo’s new favourite writer is Taylor Sheridan, who wrote two sharp screenplays for Sicario and Hell or High Water.

As for the future of the Torment series - Tides of Numenera is probably destined to remain an odd artefact, like one of those you might pick up in the Ninth World. Wondrous, unique, and possibly a little bit dangerous for those who dare to handle it.

“It feels like a one-off, sitting here now,” Fargo admits. “But you might have said that about Planescape: Torment too.”

https://www.pcgamesn.com/torment-tides- ... nera-sales
Summary of Fargo's analyses:

- reading heavy games don't do well on Twitch
- reading cannot be the "core loop" of a game
- the combat wasn't good enough
- Planescape torment didnt sell well either, but inxile thought that torment could do much better

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by troybpierce » November 3rd, 2017, 8:17 am

I think all of those are very legitimate reasons as to why the game didn't sell well.

I personally just started playing the game (haven't finished it yet), and it is much better than I expected. I'm loving it!

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by Quantomas » November 3rd, 2017, 1:47 pm

Torment games are a hard sell for gamers who are driven by compulsion.

The game needs to be marketed better, to people who love science-fiction and reading. There is a big audience for this that is magnitudes of order bigger than the market for RPGs.

Anyone who criticizes ToN's writing has either not played the game or is a compulsion driven gamer. Honestly, the writing is genuinely great and the core foundation of altering the reality through your actions is spectacular, if you care to interact with the world and take your time. The quest writing is among the best there is.

But, InXile, if you simply sit there and wait, most of its potential audience will not know about its true nature. Don't forget the marketing that you currently have simply targets the wrong audience.

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by Lix » November 3rd, 2017, 5:29 pm

inXile have noticed that “hundreds of thousands” of Steam users still have Tides of Numenera wishlisted. That is why, this week, they cut the game’s price to less than half to see what happens.

“I think this will probably get them off the fence, because it’s not going lower than that,” Fargo says.
Torment never made it into the Steam top 100 during the sale, and there's been no visible change in Steamspy numbers whatsoever.

Whatever these hundreds of thousands of people are waiting for, a 56% discount wasn't it.
Quantomas wrote:
November 3rd, 2017, 1:47 pm
Don't forget the marketing that you currently have simply targets the wrong audience.
The marketing is still a big problem for inXile. See how Brian makes sure to mention that this will be the lowest discount you will ever EVER get on Torment -> buy this game now, there's no point in waiting! And then the article is published four days after the sale is over :!:

I didn't see anybody mentioning the discount + free weekend outside of the Torment fan communities, which aren't exactly lively. No Steam ads. They didn't even do a "Tell your friends!" Kickstarter update. I don't understand it.

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by demeisen » November 3rd, 2017, 6:06 pm

“I believe the combat system was not fulfilling enough, that core loop,” Fargo says. “Reading cannot be the core loop, and that ended up being what that was.”
I'm inclined to agree with Brian Fargo there.

I bough the game, played a bunch of it, and enjoyed it, but didn't finish. I really should snag the latest patch and get back to it again - been meaning to for a while.

I very much enjoy reading and story driven games, so I don't think that alone was why I didn't finish my first run. I think it's more what Fargo described above: the combat system didn't really grab me. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either. I ended up preferring WL2's combat, or Obsidian's PoE system. I do like some fighting and tactical depth with my reading :D.

I also think it's probably true that games which involve reading are a harder sell in today's instant-grat fragfest world than they used to be. I don't think it's for the better, but attention spans seem shorter now. You see it all over: movie between-cut durations are way down, and generally everything across most media is geared towards the ADHD crowd. It's not that there aren't any of us who appreciate more thoughtful entertainment like Torment, it's that we're a minority of the market.

I guess InXile has a fine line to walk. Many of us are glad that there's a studio with serious talent behind it catering to some subgenres such as RPG+turn-based-tactical, when the huge AAA studios won't touch that due to lack of mass-market appeal. It's really great to have studios like InXile involved in the less served subgenres. At the same time, they have to make enough money to carry on doing so, so they can't completely ignore commercial viability, either.

I do want to finish Torment, so I'm kind of drawn back to it... Maybe I'll get 'round to that over the cold weather months.

Editing to add: Sicario was a great film.

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by jsaving » November 4th, 2017, 9:26 am

TToN's combat system was almost universally panned for being so slow and cumbersome that people actively sought to avoid Crises. That's not a great recipe for drawing average RPGers into the game, no matter how strong a game's writing might be.

I also think Fargo underplays TToN's failure to resolve, or even substantially wrestle with, its core question of why one life matters. You can certainly decide *that* one life matters, but the game's many wonderfully written encounters aren't dual-purposed to elicit your answer to that question in the way PST's wonderfully written encounters were designed to elicit an answer to what can change the nature of a man.

It's the combination of strong writing, strong plot/overarching theme, and a combat system most people could at least tolerate that led PST to decent though not stellar sales. TToN had only one of these three elements, strong writing, which just wasn't enough to achieve even middling sales success.

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by Crosmando » November 5th, 2017, 4:59 am

To be honest, I hope this means InXile are going to focus on mechanics/gameplay-focused games from now on instead of glorified visual novels.
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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by Gizmo » November 6th, 2017, 7:43 am

Crosmando wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:59 am
To be honest, I hope this means InXile are going to focus on mechanics/gameplay-focused games from now on instead of glorified visual novels.
Nothing wrong with making a glorified visual novel—if it's the sequel to one. ;)

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by kilobug » November 6th, 2017, 9:21 am

Gizmo wrote:
November 6th, 2017, 7:43 am
Crosmando wrote:
November 5th, 2017, 4:59 am
To be honest, I hope this means InXile are going to focus on mechanics/gameplay-focused games from now on instead of glorified visual novels.
Nothing wrong with making a glorified visual novel—if it's the sequel to one. ;)
Or "spiritual successor" to one, indeed ;)

More generally I agree with the arguments on why TTON wasn't a commercial success (neither was PsT), but it's very sad to me because I loved TTON and would very much like to see more games like that one. What I look for in a RPG (computer or pen&paper) is first of all a story, characters, and a weird world, the mechanics should be there to serve the world and the story, not the other way around. But sure, it's not what the Steam crowd like, and there is no way such a story, characters and world-focus game would be a Steam #10 sale.

The success of TTON Kickstarter gave me hope that the subset of people who actually like role playing games in which playing a role, and not minimaxing stats, was the core gameplay was big enough (and motivated enough) so we could get several of them, but I fear TTON commercial flop will kill it for a least a decade or two :(

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by RadonGOG » November 6th, 2017, 1:46 pm

Regarding PS:T-EE:
Do not forget that it´s by far the best EnhancedEdition Beamdog has ever done, the first worthy, polished one. But also one that came after many unworthy ones...

Regarding T:TON:
Well, I´d still like to hear some plans from InXile how to get new patches out. After PillEDeadfire will be released one really should fold in---really, these synergies (mostly tech-wise) shouldn´t be missed. Via money from that permanent price drop? Via a crowdfunding campaign for patches? Or nothing at all?

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by Serjo » November 6th, 2017, 4:18 pm

RadonGOG wrote:
November 6th, 2017, 1:46 pm
Or nothing at all?
Would be my bet if I had to place money on it.

But I'd love for inXile to prove me wrong: I totally agree that the PoE engine improvements would be very welcome in TToN.

If the May patch was the last update we'd get, TToN would only have had 2.5 months of post-release support, which would just be super weird. Meanwhile a similarly modest title like Tyranny is closing in on a full year of constant updates and improvements.

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by IHaveHugeNick » November 12th, 2017, 5:10 pm

Serjo wrote:
November 6th, 2017, 4:18 pm
RadonGOG wrote:
November 6th, 2017, 1:46 pm
Or nothing at all?
Would be my bet if I had to place money on it.

But I'd love for inXile to prove me wrong: I totally agree that the PoE engine improvements would be very welcome in TToN.

If the May patch was the last update we'd get, TToN would only have had 2.5 months of post-release support, which would just be super weird. Meanwhile a similarly modest title like Tyranny is closing in on a full year of constant updates and improvements.
Tyranny also has twice aw much sales.
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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by Serjo » November 12th, 2017, 6:12 pm

IHaveHugeNick wrote:
November 12th, 2017, 5:10 pm
Tyranny also has twice aw much sales.
Both games sold very similar amounts in the first months after release. Tyranny's sales numbers only got past 150,000 when they had their first 50% off sale and promoted their upcoming DLC. During the first half year, they were constantly churning out patches for a game that had fewer owners than Torment has right now. And Torment is multiplatform, so it may even have had more owners than Tyranny at first.

I can believe that publisher attitudes played a role in this, since Paradox habitually supports their games for years on end, while patches for multiplatform games are notoriously expensive.

Somebody upthread suggested that inXile could release their patch only for PC to save money, but their publishing contract might prohibit that. If I were a console publisher, I would make damn sure that no developer would be able to drop support for the console version while continuing to patch and expand the PC version.

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by RadonGOG » November 13th, 2017, 10:52 am

Serjo wrote:
November 12th, 2017, 6:12 pm
IHaveHugeNick wrote:
November 12th, 2017, 5:10 pm
Tyranny also has twice aw much sales.
Both games sold very similar amounts in the first months after release. Tyranny's sales numbers only got past 150,000 when they had their first 50% off sale and promoted their upcoming DLC. During the first half year, they were constantly churning out patches for a game that had fewer owners than Torment has right now. And Torment is multiplatform, so it may even have had more owners than Tyranny at first.

I can believe that publisher attitudes played a role in this, since Paradox habitually supports their games for years on end, while patches for multiplatform games are notoriously expensive.

Somebody upthread suggested that inXile could release their patch only for PC to save money, but their publishing contract might prohibit that. If I were a console publisher, I would make damn sure that no developer would be able to drop support for the console version while continuing to patch and expand the PC version.
Can fix this via marketing: Beta-Patches, PClers playing the fools or good guys for console players that will only recieve the patches one they are refined. And yes, using the power of marketing for good things always sounds that funny... :lol:

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by unguided » November 17th, 2017, 4:44 am

The fans who backed and anticipated TTON, and the very people who profess the most knowledge about these games: Have very little actual idea about game development and creative endevour in general. Though I see the same sort of behaviour in fans of sports teams and politics... Its unfortunately an irreversible and probably terminal human trait.

Their expectation both funded TTON and then delivered it a pretty hard blow around release time, spitefully denying the game the good word of mouth from those who were supposed to be it's backers that could have snowballed a greater buzz for TTON than it got. No need to be a sycophant, just have some perspective, man.

With greater sales success, there would be great chance for their grievances to be addressed in updates. But humans aren't logical like that.

Despite that, champions in the gaming media would have helped. But since we don't want to pay for our games journalism these days, people who could have appreciated TTON are out of a job and it's up to the streamers now..

We don't want to pay for stuff, we don't want to be patient. That's why we can't have nice things anymore. Anyway.. I feel better now after that rant.

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Re: Brian Fargo on the "disappointing" sales of Torment

Post by D-D » November 17th, 2017, 8:32 am

unguided wrote:
November 17th, 2017, 4:44 am
Their expectation both funded TTON and then delivered it a pretty hard blow around release time, spitefully denying the game the good word of mouth from those who were supposed to be it's backers that could have snowballed a greater buzz for TTON than it got.
What about those who just asked for a refund, got it, and never posted a review good or bad?

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