Crysis in Crisis, Unreal In Real Trouble

By Alec Meer on December 15th, 2007 at 2:25 pm.

Spare any killing sprees, mate?

Sad tidings for fans of heavily normal-mapped pretend-man-shoots. Seems both Crysis and Unreal Tournament 3 haven’t exactly stormed up the charts, which is a tragic and strange state of affairs for what were seemingly two of the most eagerly-anticipated PC games of the year.

Crysis managed just 86,633 copies in its first month on sale in the US, and UT3 a truly depressing 33,995 – which is less than the number of people who read RPS every pico-second. Yes.

The reasons? Well, there’s a lot of possible reasons. Someone will doubtless shout at me about how piracy isn’t hurting game sales in the slightest and even bringing it up means I’m allowing myself to be pupeteered by the entertainment industry, but I’ll risk quietly waggling my eyebrows at the version of Crysis leaked to Bitorrent well before the game was on sale, and let you lot draw up your own theories on that front. Personally, I suspect it contributed a little, but I really can’t believe it was anything like this significant an effect. The huge glut of other high-profile action games over the last couple of months is a far more likely smoking gun. But not the only one.

Next Generation theorises that fear of crazy hardware requirements kept people from buying Crysis. Could very well be there’s something in that – certainly, a fair few RPS readers have mentioned they haven’t picked it up because they’re convinced their PCs can’t handle it, while hearing that it takes three graphics cards and $1800 to run it at Very High settings hardly gives it a sense of being aimed at the layman. While UT3 runs smoothly and prettily on a much less beefy PC, it’s tempting to speculate that it too was perceived as having unrealistic requirements – an inaccuracy that even some of the media believed.

If sinister focus groups and demographic testing decides that fear of hardware hunger was the root cause of low sales, it’s unlikely we’ll see another game to raise the technological bar as Crysis did for quite some time. Worst case scenario: we revert back to consoles defining PC games’ graphical clout. That would be sad. But hey, at least we’ve still got Death Worm.

Or perhaps it’s just that Crysis and UT3 are on everyone’s Christmas list, and come January they’ll each have sold ten times as many copies as poxy Halo 3.

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194 Comments »

  1. The_B says:

    I think it is actually a case of release shedules. I mean, I know marketing wise people assume the most games are sold at Christmas, but for the PC market – where hardware costs need to be taken into account as they are arguably more of an issue than the consoles – then releasing lots of games with high – or percieved high – system requirements is actually going to be a bad thing, as people will assume they can’t affoard to get all the good games. Without trying to imply I am the PC market, it is the reason why I myself haven’t yet got Crysis or GH3 – I simply can’t affoard it till after Christmas, after having bought Gears of War, Orange Box, UT3 and ET:QW all within the same month…

  2. Lacero says:

    I think hardware is the problem for crysis, I know I’m waiting for the new Nvidia cards next year before I buy it. Perhaps the sales for games that push computers this hard will be less front loaded, and offer us a way out of the week one sales spike? Maybe I’m being too optimistic.

  3. Homunculus says:

    In other news, the Witcher sold over a million copies, apparently. So it’s not all doom and gloom in the PC games retail space.

  4. Narvi says:

    How many copies has the Orange Box sold, for comparison?

  5. The_B says:

    I doubt true figures for OB will ever be known until Valve release Steam purchase statistics.

    And it is interesting to note the sales of The Witcher, especially after it’s reviews. And my point of about UT3 – it doesn’t actually have high specs, which has been reported – but do people think it does, and in fact are more ignorant to certain things than perhaps they should be?

    -And I say this without wanting to get into another argument about whether Witcher is any good, there’s three other posts for that, and besides I’m downloading the demo as we speak, so I’m not qualified yet. :P

  6. Evo says:

    We can’t really tell with the OB because so many copies are going to have been sold via Steam.

    I’m with The_B on the release schedules being so closely packed, especially this year.

    I think that the majority of people will just buy a few of the big games at launch, then after Christmas when money starts rolling in again, people will starting shopping madly!

    Fear not then my friends, fear not :)

  7. Leelad says:

    I’m wrong but i’d prefer to think that PC gamers and reviewers are looking past “OMG ORSUM GRAFFIX” and looking for an actual game.
    Quake Wars goes on my list of games to avoid because it’s put down as an online game…I want something to play when i take my PC into work on a Saturday every games needs a steady offline element at it’s core and a multiplayer as a second “thing” (there is probably a word for what I mean) Online FPS games are (for me anyway) a quick fix they aren’t there for hours and hours of game play to somehow justify buying the game (Oh hey there Halo 3)

    This is what MMO’s are for, Questing gets boring? Twat a rock for metal to sell, that gets crap? There is a Basin in Arathi when you get to dance on players when they die. You can’t do that on TF2 or UT3 when things get a little repetitive.

    I know there is a single player element to UT but it’s pushed and pushed as a GLIMMERING AWESOME LIFELIKE MULTIPLAYER AWESOME GAME ONLINE WITH OTHER PEOPLE ONLY EVER” They’d have been better releasing on the 360 and PS3 only.

    I leave the “i’ll buy that because it looks better than that” mentality to ps3 and 360 owners.

  8. Cigol says:

    I doubt piracy is the biggest factor here. Take a look at the file sizes for each, around 6 and 7 gigs respectively, then take into account they were both released in a packed schedule with several other prominent titles of varying large sizes.

    File sizes won’t bother serious pirates of course but for the average user that concentration of gigs will put off anyone but the most determined – and even then they will likely be selective in what titles they waste their bandwidth on.

    Hardware requirements are an issue (although I can’t say I’ve heard any fears levelled at UT3 to support that argument) but I personally believe the biggest complimentary factor was quite likely the respective demo’s.

    They weren’t flattering when taken in context (hardware requirements, many other titles such as the Orange box, etc, etc).

  9. Pidesco says:

    I think it’s mostly the hardware problem for Crysis. However, it seems to me that Crysis will keep a steady flow of sales as time goes by and people gradually upgrade their PCs.

    Yay for The Witcher! It’s a great breath of fresh air for the genre, and it, along with MotB, makes 2007 the best year for PCRPGs since the heyday of the infinity engine. It feels like end of a long walk through RPG mediocrity.

  10. Tr00jg says:

    Meh… Why didn’t I run out and immediately buy Crysis/UT3? It looks spectacular, but is that going to satisfy my gaming needs?

    I think its a clear sign that indie/casual games are rising to prominance. No-one wants to get bloated 7gig games with a huge price tag.

  11. MIng says:

    I dont think it is quite that bad for Crysis, you can expect it is be included with every other graphics card that is sold at retail for the next year or so.

  12. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    I bought UT3, well, because I like UT. All the talk saying it was leaning back toward `99 style grabbed my eye, too.

    The talk about Crysis being a system killer didn’t phase me. It runs fine on high for me, and I’m running all on last gen gear. Not like Oblivion which I had sitting on my shelf for two months until i built a new computer.

    The Witcher, from what I’ve played so far, is quite enjoyable. Though not quite so enjoyable as my surprise when the collectors edition box was handed to me and I almost dropped it from the weight of it. Yes, it actually came with lots of interesting extras inside, like CE boxes used to.

    I truly do hope these numbers are from people holding off until Xmas. Theres some excellent games on the market these last couple of months, games I really want to succeed.

    Not to mention the piracy really bugs me. Especially when I show up to a lan and end up playing deathworm by myself all night, because I’m the only one with legit copies of the games people wanna play, which reasonably enough don’t agree with their marauding, sea faring brethren.

    Anyway, `nuff said. I’m off to play some Mask of the Betrayer, and punch some dragons and whatnot.

  13. mezz says:

    I didn’t buy them because they just seemed a bit dull compared to the greatness of titles earlier in the year. After playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the Orange Box and Bioshock I just don’t want to go back to Far Cry with better graphics but worse AI (that’s how it seemed in the demo) or sugar coated deathmatch which just makes me long for some TF2 (or real deathmatch like Death Match Classic on Steam).

    Nothing about piracy, system requirements or the death of PC gaming. They just didn’t look like very good games. Glad to see that us PC gamers don’t buy titles simply based on hype.

  14. Steve says:

    I played the demos of CoD4, UT3 and Crysis, but only bought CoD4. I at least, felt the other two seemed a bit… nothingy. I know at least a dozen other people who’ve only got CoD4 – these are genuine FPS fans – and they’re not in the least bit interested in the other two games.

    I truly believe there’s something about them that lacks appeal to a fairly large area of FPS fans.

  15. Matt says:

    I think it can all be attributed to one feature alone.

    Both Crysis and UT3 lack porn cards!

  16. Monkeyget says:

    Epic can only blame itself for the failure of UT3.

    The decicated server was utterly shitty :
    no linux server
    dedicated servers requiring CD key AND the DVD in the player(!!!).
    problems with players unable to connect to servers
    lots of other bugs

    crappy server browser(no even an option to filter for dedicated servers!)
    crappy scoreboard (no ping indication!)
    crappy demo with all the problems above which made you want to run away
    delayed in europe

    In short the game wasn’t ready.

  17. Andrew says:

    I brought CoD4 and the Orange Box – that fills my singleplayer needs (good singleplayer too, not what I got out of the Crysis demo!) in CoD4, and a bit in Episode 2, while I’ve been playing hours of Team Fortress 2 for multiplayer.

    No doubt UT3 is good multiplayer but it’d be a while before I had enough time to try it, and I haven’t talked to anyone who has said it was good.

    Oh, and The Witcher is good, and I’ve not even had time to finish that :D

    Timing/saturation might be the thing. Perceived specs another. Crysis might be just not that good – I never liked Far Cry really, for instance. Not sure about UT3 though.

  18. bildo says:

    personally, I think its the fact that both of them went up against the likes of a tough release schedule competing with CoD 4 and other mentionables. *sigh* whats gonna happen to PC gaming now that consoles are the only platforms being marketed?

  19. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    UT3 was the only demo of any of these games I played, and I’d have to agree it wasn’t that great at all. Everything else I bought in good faith and high recommendation (thanks Fairtra- I mean, thanks, RPS!(and others))

    But yeah, release schedules is a good point to raise. September-November, the big name games were popping out every three days. Now, as far as I know, theres nothing big coming out until Starcraft II, and our release of Assassins Creed.

  20. Taxman says:

    I read on another site that ET:Quake Wars only did something like 18k on the PC which is pretty bad if true…

    Personally I do think the consoles are having a bigger effect this round. All the things that made the PC great have slowly been adopted by the consoles the tech, developers, franchises, features, digital distribution and now even modding with the PS3 and Keyboard/mouse support. All done in a slicker and easier to use package which is hard to compete against.

    The one thing left is it’s independence with no over sight or censorship from the platform owner which will ensure PC gaming stays around in one shape or another (though that future I believe is going to be indy, casual & mmorpg games).

  21. Steve M says:

    Crysis is on my santa list so that’s why i don’t have my copy yet :)

    I’m pretty sure I heard an interview somewhere (possibly 1ups GFW podcast?) where the developer said their plans for Crysis were fairly long-term anyway (in that they expect uptake to be slow initially but for it to sell consistently for quite some time as people slowly get around to upgrading their rigs and want something shiny to play on it…but maybe I’m imagining things).

    UT3..well, it OK but i don’t think there’s much in the vanilla game that’ll hold my interest very long (i’m one of those people that rarely takes it online and botmatches can only hold my interest for so long). It will be interesting to see what the modders will make of it though (is epic running another “make something unreal” competition this year)?

    In any event, if games like the Witcher are selling MUCH better than yet another generic FPS then I think I can live with that…

  22. Monkfish says:

    Those sales figures do look a little depressing, but I think they only take copies sold in brick-and-mortar shops into account.

    Both games are available as direct downloads, though; Crysis through EA’s (horrid) Store and UT3 via services such as Direct2Drive. It would be interesting to know how many additional sales were made through these services.

    Having said that, there’s only around 760 servers in total running for UT3 at this very moment, which does seem to indicate that the game hasn’t really caught on just yet. Of course, the lack of servers isn’t helped thanks to the absence of a Linux dedicated server.

    Lastly, it could be said that the demos for both games actually put people off. UT3′s beta demo was underwhelming, to say the least, and not indicative of the quality of the full game, and Crysis’ demo just made mainstream PCs weep. A lot of people have put the purchase of Crysis off until they’ve got the hardware to do it the justice it deserves.

  23. Icarus says:

    I’m so damn happy that The Witcher sold well. I’m not syaing piracy is a non-factor, but The Witcher was out on torrent sites around the time of its release too, and apparently it’s done fine. It’s a great game, and very much non-cookie-cutter, so I’m really happy.

    I know I was tired of shooters, maybe more people felt like me and didn’t buy either Crysis or UT3, since they already had plenty of shooters. Besides, TF2 has completely taken over as my multiplayer game of choice.

  24. MPK says:

    I haven’t bought UT3 because the men are so macho they make me feel sexually inadequate.

    Also, the hardware thing.

  25. Cigol says:

    Beyond the pretty what is there in Crysis? The AI isn’t adaptive or sandbox capable in the way Operation Flashpoint/Armed Assault* succeeds, so the single-player portion needs to be of COD4/OrangeBox quality to suck people in and that just wasn’t the case. It’s an airhead wearing a suit, masquerading as something greater than the sum of its parts. UT3 meanwhile is just poop.

    *Operation Flashpoint back in the day brought most computers grinding to a halt.

  26. Cigol says:

    Note; that I’m not suggesting either game doesn’t have a lifespan beyond the initial package. The technology is certainly impressive and in the hands of modders I’d expect it to shine but that’s not going to influence early sales is it.

  27. The_B says:

    I know there is a single player element to UT but it’s pushed and pushed as a GLIMMERING AWESOME LIFELIKE MULTIPLAYER AWESOME GAME ONLINE WITH OTHER PEOPLE ONLY EVER” They’d have been better releasing on the 360 and PS3 only.

    Do you know what, I really don’t agree so much on this point. The singleplayer was pushed so much, I remember reading it in nearly every preview, I almost got sick of the “interesting fact that more people played UT2004 offline than on” – we were reminded all too frequently.

    I also wonder if marketing-that-didn’t-have-marketing-money-spent-on-it playing a large factor. In essence, I know a lot of people would say that they’re actually turned off by marketing made for purpose, and there were several ads for UT3 and Crysis about, but not so much for The Witcher. However, the marmite-ness of the game provoked a lot of discussion, and certainly got itself into the conciousness of gamers a lot more, especially those who were just curious as to what it was like. So perhaps in a rather perverted fashion, it’s not games that are “good” that are going to sell well, it’s those that people are curious about.

  28. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    UT3 was barely marketed at all down here. I actually heard so little of it for the last 6-8 months, I had to go looking around the net to find out if it was still coming out or not. Whereas every magazine had dirty great ad’s for the witcher everywhere. This month its just all ad’s for timeshift and game related uni courses.

  29. Pokeylope De'ath says:

    Tragic? It’s more than Crytek deserve. Nobody has ever fully explained to me how releasing a game than virtually none of your potential customers can play is sound business sense?

    Basically, everyone decided to give Crysis a miss, since the chances of being able to run it at anything like decent quality was practically zero. And Crytek have paid for their idiocy with a grade-A flop.

    Good, frankly.

  30. fluffy bunny says:

    I’m not really surprised about UT3′s poor sales. It’s not really been marketed well, and of the major shooters released this year, it’s probably the one that looks the most generic. Plus, I think many hardcore FPS-players are a bit tired of the series. It’s just “old”.

  31. Matt says:

    I enjoyed Crysis myself, the floating bit and the bits leading up to the ship weren’t that enjoyable but I thought many of the npcs came to life on the ship towards the end of the game.

    I also liked that the game tried to be topical. You played as a technically superior enemy to the Koreans, hunting them, which obviously had a relation to ideas about the major Western powers and their foreign policies in mind. This was a battle to win a major resource, possibly a power source. (Much like oil or nuclear power)

    The arrival of the aliens can be read in several ways too. The destructive power unleashed by war and violence perhaps? Or more likely given the nature of the aliens, it was representative of the earth rebelling against mankind’s destruction, or even more simply, destruction from ecological change. The earth essentially erupts like a volcano of ice, smothering the tropical jungles. (Referring to current fears about global warming and the melting of the ice-caps.) So it was nice to see some thought went into it.

    I found it far more enjoyable than farcry, which was a game I never really liked. However, the Crysis forums were full of tech issues, bugs and problems. This along with talk of high spec only definitely will have dented sales.

    Add to this that fps games have swamped the market of late and sales are bound to be lower. In comparison The Witcher entered a market, desperate for a new game of that type.

  32. Gwog says:

    UT3 is awesome and I love it deeply. Too bad Epic might only make a small mountain of cash, rather than a gigantic huge ridiculous mountain of cash like they made on ALL THEIR OTHER GAMES. I however, am neither developer nor publisher so I don’t really care. There will be enough players and enough user content that I’ll be quite satisfied for a long time.

  33. weego says:

    eagerly anticipated by who? By the droves of more causal gamers that don’t read gamer blogs/gamespot/whatever?

    The gameplay on those was old last time round. Its a damn shame they didn’t die on their arses because at least then the shareholders would want to know why they aren’t making games that push the market forward instead of thinking they are important enough to define their own market.

  34. Alistair says:

    It would be more interesting to know what the total shooter sales were. You’d expect some to undersell if the shooter dollar was all going to, say, COD & The Orange Box. Bad timing. And if Crysis & UT3 didn’t sell, what about the Timeshifts and the Jerichos…

  35. Alistair says:

    And re UT3 or Crysis being the same old same old, wasn’t his true for COD and say, Ep 2?

  36. SwiftRanger says:

    “Glad to see that us PC gamers don’t buy titles simply based on hype.”

    Euh, STALKER, The Orange Box and Bioshock had their overhyping and clear faults as well you know. The first wasn’t the completely open-ended game without any bugs as you would expect from a game in the making for more than 4 years, the second was far from the “best gaming deal ever” with an “episode” which was as derivative and as short as episode 1 and as both FEAR addons (but without as much new goodies), a puzzle game that was completed in three hours and a multiplayer shooter with barely enough maps to play on. The third never came close to System Shock 2, period.

    Just like the three aforementioned titles, UT3 and Crysis aren’t bad games, they just arrived too late (especially UT3) I think. Who can legally spend all that cash on so many good titles? On the other hand, the whole DX10 fiasco might be to blame as well. It never became a must to upgrade and even then there are so many misinformed folks that still believe that Games for Windows games (most horrible label ever) are Vista-only.

    And btw, these are only US-based retail numbers, I would love to see how these titles did in Europe, especially in Germany (The Witcher numbers ARE based on the whole world, they sold 100.000 copies in Poland alone…).

  37. Alistair says:

    .. and that Witcher link seems to say they’ve produced a million, not sold a million…

  38. Emil says:

    I’ll probably hear for this bu here goes. I think it’s pretty damned insulting that Crysis is so heavy on the resources. Not even 3 cards in SLI makes it run perfectly (the bechmarks I saw was ranging from 15 – 35 fps, hardly ideal!).

    I bought the game and I love it, but I can’t stop thinking that it was released with too heavy specs in mind as a conscious choice to make us buy new hardware. I’m not going to add anything political about that, but I think the society in general is too focused on consumerism.
    It’s too demanding today, that’s just the simple truth. Nothing runs it, it’s not far from releasing a Pixar movie in realtime and asking people to buy the necessary hardware to render it in an acceptable framerate. I think NVidia had a lot to do with it, they sell hardware for christmas, Crytek sells their game and everyone except the consumer is happy!

  39. Del Boy says:

    Another vote for hardware problems.

    I haven’t bought either because they won’t run on my PC. Nor my mates PC.

  40. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    Who can legally spend all that cash on so many good titles?

    Uhhh…. I did. and more. does that make me a bad person? :(

    or just another consumer whore? double :(

  41. Emil says:

    By the way, Matt you have a few interesting ideas. And I definitely think the current climate issues are a reason for the whole ice thing. It’s like the old coldwar inspired monster movies, bur now the fear is about climate change (and terrorism) so the climate itself becomes a villain.

  42. SwiftRanger says:

    “Uhhh…. I did. and more. does that make me a bad person?

    or just another consumer whore? double ”

    No, a lucky guy I guess. ;)

  43. Emil says:

    “I did. and more. does that make me a bad person? ”
    Heh nope. I bought a pretty massive computer recently and hidef games was definitely one of the things on the checklist of what I wanted it to do. But I will not play along with NVidia now after Crysis and buy a new gfx card right away just to play ONE game in the highest settings. I’ll wait a few years until most games are that demanding and hope that more consumers do the same thing.

  44. MIng says:

    One more thing, these figures are for the US only. I am fairly sure that Europe is a much bigger market for PC games than the US.

    I remember reading, when The Witcher came out, that it had sold 11,000 copies in the UK and Atari were very happy with the sales of the game as it would translate into a couple of hundred thousand copies worldwide.

  45. tcliu says:

    I’m a huge fan of UT2K4, and I’m in no rush to buy UT3. Making UT realistic is like gluing a rack-mounted storage server to an iPod nano. Sure, the specs are impressive, but you’re kind of missing the point. 2K4 has everything I love about UT – whacko weapons, absurdist scenery and cartoonish violence.

  46. Zell says:

    I maintain that Crysis is a spectacular technological achievement that remains a fairly unappealing game. I don’t know why I find mass murder unpleasant in Crysis when it doesn’t bother me in countless other games, but ugh.

  47. Raptornas says:

    It’s clearly a case of release schedules, the Christmas rush is frankly ridiculous and not everyone has 200 quid to throw at the latest release particularly when they all seem to be shooters. I bought the Orange Box and Bioshock and have yet to exhaust either due to limited play time and I want to get Mario at some point thats around 90 quid’s worth of games each with around 9 hours play time each and that will last me for a good couple of months.

    UT3 from the demo is just UT2k4 but even shinier and Crysis while alot of fun is just another sodding shooter I’m far more interested in getting some more games for the wii than more PC shooters.

    Note this has probably been said 100 times before but its I’m pretty convinced alot of other people are feeling the same way and blaming it on Piracy is abit of a cheap shot.

  48. Alex Grose says:

    The Reason for UT3 not being as high in the charts as anticipated is, in my opinion, because there was a 1 year (at least) delay from when it was supposed to be released.

    I imagine that this put many people off.

  49. Raptornas says:

    Oh and I also bought CoD4 but I have a thing for CoD’s melodrama even though it is yet another shooter. So again UT3 and Crysis are just not looking like attractive purchases.

  50. Hypocee says:

    I bought Crysis for my brother, but didn’t buy it for myself after it hit the atmosphere and disintegrated a third of the way through. Haven’t even considered UT3 because people say it’s still like the 2KXes which I loathe. In a packed shooter schedule where even a thing like ET:QW can’t get on my scope, ‘desperately hobbled’ and ‘more of the same’ don’t even get a look in. That simple.

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