Heavy Rain’s $100M Sales A Good Sign For The Future

Insane Lifetime movie/serial killer thriller Heavy Rain was, as it turns out, a great investment for Quantic Dream, and for Sony.

The Playstation 3 exclusive, made from a budget reported to be around $40 million, earned at least $100 million in a market dominated by sequels and blockbuster action games. Quantic Dream co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumiere revealed the sales figures this week at the Digital Dragons game festival, taking place in Krakow, Poland. In stark contrast to Square Enix’s bizarre assertion that all three of its recent certified hits underperformed, de Fondaumiere rightly crowed that Heavy Rain’s success is something any developer would love to achieve. “Let’s say [Heavy Rain was] $22 million to produce. With marketing it’s maybe $30 million. With distribution, $40 million. Sony earned $100 million with the game, so it’s very profitable. It’s the sort of margin that most publishers would strive for, for any game.”

Whatever you think of Heavy Rain itself, that’s shockingly good news for gamers.

Naturally, “let’s say” isn’t exactly specific. Reports on Heavy Rain’s budget has varied wildly, and developers are notoriously cagey about actual sales figures. But $40 million is on the high side, and whatever you think about Heavy Rain, sales of $100 million is good news. Those of us dismayed by endless sequels and the clumsy shoehorning of trendy gameplay and plot elements into everything regardless of whether it actually fits the game now have a solid rebuttal to the notion that such measures are necessary for any successful game.

The success of Heavy Rain is notable for another reason too. As de Fondaumiere noted, the advertising budget was something like $8 million. That sounds like a lot to those of us who don’t drape ourselves in gold-encrusted silk before work, but it’s a paltry sum compared to franchises like Battlefield 3. BF3 reportedly had a marketing budget approaching $100 million, or just over 10 percent of the game’s approximately $927.6 Million in revenues. That’s a very good return on investment, but Heavy Rain beats it with an ad budget that was approximately 8 percent of its eventual revenues.

This suggests that positive word of mouth and critical acclaim did more than their fair share for Heavy Rain’s success, and better, players didn’t just purchase the game, they also played the hell out of it. David Cage revealed 2011 that Heavy Rain’s completion rate was around 72%. That’s astonishingly high when you consider that Mass Effect reached 58%. Clearly, people bought the game, played it and told their friends, who themselves played it.

You might be of the opinion that Heavy Rain is overrated garbage*, but you cannot deny that the fact it was a hit, despite being so obstinately different from most other games (except, of course, for Indigo Prophecy), is impressive. Two scenes manage to put players into the role of a woman threatened with rape and dismemberment without trivializing or exploiting the moment but instead accurately conveyeying the danger and menace inherent in those situations. Half the game is nothing but conversation. Urination and shaving are actual playable moments. And yet, people loved it.

The last few years have been a tremendous let down from the heights of 2007-2009. At the time it seemed that gaming’s time as a serious storytelling and artistic medium had come. Since then, we’ve seen once-great franchises brought low by having core elements neutered in favor of multiplayer; developers insisting that unreasonably high sales figures are the only possible measure of success; and developers citing what they claim is hostility to innovation as the reason for the industry’s lack of creative animus. But here is a game that bucks convention at every level, exclusive to a single console, with no brand name recognition and a frustrating gameplay mechanic, that still landed strong.

This news is no guarantee that developers will realize that gamers are actually interested in new things, in interesting things, in something aside from tentpole franchises. But a better rebuttal of faulty premises could not be invented. If anything else, it’s enough to make me look forward to the next generation of consoles – assuming, of course, that developers don’t decide to ruin the consoles themselves, instead of just the games.

Via Game Spot.

* I’m not.

Join the Conversation   

* required field

By submitting a comment here you grant GameFront a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate or irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin's discretion.

6 Comments on Heavy Rain’s $100M Sales A Good Sign For The Future

Terry Logan

On April 19, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I’m actually amazed. You’re the same Ross Lincoln who rightly criticised BioWare for the prescriptive, hole-ridden ending to ME3, but apparently you can’t spot something even more blatantly contrived, manipulative, and self-contradicting. Heavy Rain is the antithesis of storytelling – it’s a shallow, meaningless sequence of disconnected scenes held together by a weak story with little-to-no continuity and a tired twist that makes less sense than the Catalyst. But hey, it lets you fry an egg for two minutes and it has poor walking controls, so it must be ‘deep.’

The idea that it would ever be held in a high regard as to what a narrative in videogames should be is legitimately offensive. If anything, Heavy Rain’s media-driven status as a beacon of videogame storytelling is threatening to hold the industry back indefinitely. Everything that people think makes the game mature is purely superficial, while the core is infantile, superficial rubbish intended to make the player feel guilty about finding fault with it.

I despair for the future of the business if this is the new benchmark, I really do.

Ross Lincoln

On April 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm

To be clear, I am praising Heavy Rain for its complete bat insanity, and the fact that it manages to do some creepy things to the player in a really effective way. It took chances. They didn’t always work. The story is ridiculous and dumb, to be true, which is why I joked that it’s a lifetime movie in the very first sentence.

To be clearer, I am not saying it is the pinnacle of storytelling in games. I’m saying it is actually taking chances with story, at least structurally, in an era dominated by the opposite, and it paid off. We need more, not less of that, whatever you think of the ultimate outcome of the game.

And anyway, as Emerson said, a foolish consistency and all that. I don’t believe my praise for the things Heavy Rain did right is incompatible with a severe criticism for, say, ME3. (and again, I didn’t hold up HR as a pinnacle of storytelling anyway.)

R.J.

On April 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Word of mouth is definitely what prompted me to follow the game, and buy it. I hadn’t heard of it until a friend told me about it, and then I was following news about it for quite some time until it came out. While I certainly won’t claim that this is the greatest game ever, I am glad to see that it was immensely profitable since it shows that people still want something different, contrary to what the big publishers will usually claim.

Games are expensive to make, with tens-of-millions of dollars for a budget being quite common, so it is also encouraging to see that this game could make a large profit without getting carried away with marketing. I’ve already seen Battlefield 4 commercials on TV, and all I think when I see one is, “Hey, EA. Maybe spend more money on new IPs or even new ideas within existing IPs, rather than buying air time to tell people to go online and watch a trailer.” I know it is important to raise awareness of the product, but when millions of dollars are spent just to advertise, it’s hard not to wish that money was being channeled into the actual games. And eventually, people forget about advertising, but they don’t forget about quality, and that can translate into continued sales over the long run.

Santiago Matamoros

On April 21, 2013 at 12:04 am

Don’t worry, Ross, your point was clear to those who took the time to read the article.

(Terry seems like he needs attention.)

Terry Logan

On April 21, 2013 at 2:20 am

@Santiago – Actually son, I already posted another comment that followed up on Ross’s response and made it perfectly clear that I’d read the article, which for whatever reason hasn’t been approved yet. Perhaps it’s you who’s too inattentive to read the comments, instead?

No substance to your post at all, try harder.

Michael

On April 22, 2013 at 11:41 pm

I love heavy rain. I just cant wait to play beyond 2 souls.

Which brings me as to why Square Enix believes there game tomb raider is not profitable. They claim it cost 100 million to make which I think is Bull. I think they are trying to use tomb raiders sales to justify the loss of there other video game failures like FF13 versus and so on.