As we reported earlier this week, Tony Hawk's Shred sold 3,000 copies in its first week in the US. But fear not! Activision has announced its cunning plan to get the most from the game this holiday season. It's aiming the game at 'kids', and calling it 'gift-oriented'. In other words, it's hoping parents who don't know better will buy the game for their offspring.
Speaking to Gamasutra, Activision Publishing's CEO, Eric Hirshberg, said:
“For the first time we’re targeting that game to kids. It’s a gift-oriented game, but, that said, we need to build awareness for the game still. … I think you’ll hopefully see a bigger ramp-up as we get further into the gift giving season.”
Wait a sec... raise awareness? Ten years ago, the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series was a phenomenon. The first game was good and promised much, but the critics adored THPS2. The third was universally acclaimed and ran like a dream as the series debuted on PS2. Even THPS4, which came along worryingly swiftly after 3, was high in quality (if a little convoluted at times). Look at the Metacritic pages:
Above: Ah, the Halcyon days of PS2, Dreamcast and the first couple of Tony Hawk sequels. 98/100? Wowser
But then it all went wrong. Tony Hawk's Underground was still a great game, but that too got a sequel far too soon, adding little more than Bam Margera. Soon we were onto 'Project 8' (a decent reboot, immediately superceded by EA's Skate) and then onto Wii, before getting the 'RIDE' board.
Above: Metacritic's yellows and reds for recent Tony Hawk games are indicative of the series' recent slide
Activision has made no secret of its policy for turning games into franchises with yearly updates. But while it may be a highly profitable business model in the short term, is it really sustainable? With Guitar Hero following a similar pattern of declining sales and critical fatigue, surely it's time this business model was re-evaluated?
There doesn't seem to be much you can do to salvage a series that's reached saturation point and lost its hold on the critics. It's dead. 3,000 sales in the US in the game's first week confirms it - nobody cares any more. Looking at those sales and saying 'it'll pick up in the holiday season' isn't the way forwards. Even if it does work and 300,000 unsuspecting parents buy it as a gift only for their child to grow bored immediately, they'll make a promise to themselves:
"Well, I'm never buying that again".
19 Nov, 2010