Talking Point: Is Sony Putting Too Much Faith in the Killzone Franchise?
Posted by Sammy Barker
Hopes and Helghast
Let’s be brutally honest: Killzone has never quite reached its true potential. Despite the media pegging the original sci-fi shooter as Sony’s answer to Master Chief, the Guerrilla Games developed first-person franchise has struggled to appeal outside of its core community, garnering a vocal fanbase sans the mainstream appeal of Microsoft’s unstoppable Halo series. But with the Helghast playing a pivotal part in two of PlayStation’s biggest first-party releases this year, is the platform holder putting too much faith in a brand that has frequently failed to attract universal attention?
It’s clear that the publisher expects big things from its army of orange-eyed antagonists this year. Killzone: Mercenary is already being billed as one of the PlayStation Vita’s biggest releases in Western territories, promising a console quality experience on the handheld’s five-inch screen. It certainly looks the part; we’ve already spoken at length about how the pocketable powerhouse is leagues ahead of other handheld shooters on the platform. But does it have the brand appeal to really push sales of the struggling system, and is there a chance that it could get cannibalised by the imminent Killzone: Shadow Fall?
With the portable spin-off due out on 17th September in North America – incidentally the same day as a small game called Grand Theft Auto V – there’ll probably be two months between the title and its PlayStation 4 counterpart, which is set to release alongside the next generation platform in Holiday 2013. It’s true that both games are tackling a different aspect of the franchise’s fiction, with Killzone: Mercenary putting you behind the assault rifle of a ruthless gun-for-hire while Killzone: Shadow Fall assigns you with the badge of a Shadow Marshal tasked with keeping the peace between the Helghast and the Vektans. But despite the difference in content and themes, we’re not convinced that the games look unique enough to truly put distance between each other. And that’s a problem.
With a relatively small fanbase, some players may be forced to choose between titles, and that could result in neither reaching its full potential. Furthermore, with both games due out in such a short span of time, we’re concerned that the marketing will simply turn into white noise. Consumers – the Joe Sixpack types whose entire gaming diet revolves around Call of Duty and Madden – may lose interest in the games on account of the messaging being split across two different products on two different platforms within the same rough release window.
But worse than that, we’re just not sure that Killzone has the gravitas to sell consoles. It’s a great series – exceptional at times – but despite four releases across multiple PlayStation platforms, it still hasn’t quite captured the hearts of the mainstream consumer. Exact sales figures are hard to pinpoint, but it’s widely acknowledged that Killzone 2 strongly outsold its PS3 successor by some margin. It’s true that the second title benefitted from a prominent promotional campaign and a dearth of other exclusives at the time, but it still depicts a worrying decline. And even then, it took Killzone 2 approximately two months to surpass one million sales globally; Halo 3 hit 3.3 million units in just over a week in North America alone.
The series has always lingered on the cusp of greatness, so perhaps it’s finally the Helghast’s time to shine. Maybe the double-header of Killzone action will propel the franchise into the limelight that it’s always stood on the fringes of. We hope so, because the PS4 and Vita are both in need of a big commercial win – and there’s never been more pressure on those glowing orange-eyes to deliver on the promise that the media manufactured almost ten years ago.
Do you think that Sony is expecting too much from the Killzone franchise? Will the market tolerate two entries in the series within such a short span of time? Let us in the comments section and poll below.
Which upcoming Killzone titles do you intend to purchase? (39 votes)
Killzone: Shadow Fall
I'm getting both of them
Neither, I can't stand the Killzone series
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