While the act of creation is enough for some artists, everyone has to make a living at the end of the day. Critical acclaim doesn’t put food on the table if consumers don’t buy the game. Unfortunately, the ten games below did not sell well upon release, even though they are now considered classics.
In some cases, the good faith of these beloved titles had a later positive effect. Neither of these games made anyone a millionaire, but they are still remembered more than many of their contemporaries who sold well. Fortunately, many of these are easy to play today.
Shenmue was so expensive to produce, over a million copies sold could not cover the cost of production. The first Shenmue creates a small Japanese town with a day and night cycle and individual NPCs with their own schedules, which was absolutely unheard of in console games until that time.
However, the slow gameplay lacked the mainstream appeal of later open-world games such as Grand Theft Auto. After the release of Shenmue 2, fans had to wait almost two decades for the third game.
Nintendo does its best when targeting a broader demographic. Both adults and children enjoy Mario and Zelda. While its efforts to bring in an older demographic have been critically beloved, sales rarely live up to expectations. Eternal Darkness uses the gaming medium to mess with the player, save corrupt files, and pretend to shut down the GameCube. Unfortunately, this creativity only sold less than half a million copies.
The first Bayonetta was published by Sega and released on Xbox 360 and PS3. A sequel was in doubt due to poor sales, but Nintendo swooped in and Bayonetta 2 became a Wii U exclusive.
Unfortunately, the failure of the console also meant that some people played another game as well. The Nintendo Switch has been a massively successful piece of hardware so far, so hopefully Bayonetta 3 will eventually earn the series’ mainstream success and deserves Platinum Games.
Spec Ops: The Line
It’s strange to think, but Spec Ops: The Line is technically a reboot of the Spec Ops series. However, the goal and style of the game is dramatically different than in older titles. The 2012 game is a loose adaptation of Heart of Darkness and, by extension, Apocalypse Now.
The story uses toys through the medium with the idea of choice in gaming. It is also a commentary on contemporary military shooters and their irresponsible portrayal of war. Marketing didn’t uncover the game’s psychological drama, misrepresenting what it was and many people forgoing this modern classic.
On a console filled with classic RPGs, Earthbound is often considered one of the best of them all. The unusual setting, humor and marketing were all considered factors in the game’s poor commercial performance. Even today, some RPGs are set in a modern city.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon draws to a close, and fans often compare it to Earthbound, so it’s easy to see how the legacy of the SNES game lives on. The game eventually received a sequel, however, so it never made it to the West.