The developer of one of the highest profile leftist and progressive-driven games of the year has revealed his project to be a complete flop, despite positive reviews.
The invisible hand of the free market gave this “high art” product a knockout punch.
In a recent post-mortem of the game, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, its designer and programmer Johnnemann Nordhagen, complained that the game’s $140,000 budget has resulted in a loss for his company, Dim Bulb Games.
Nordhagen, a former Gone Home developer, says that his title sold fewer than 4,000 copies since its release a few weeks ago despite receiving a positive response from game journalists, who drove the game’s hype prior to its release slightly over a month ago.
As detailed by One Angry Gamer, the game’s sales actually peaked at 6,200 but almost half of its owners requested refunds for the title after playing it for less than two hours, bringing the figure down to around 3,800.
In the post-mortem, Nordhagen patted himself on the back for hiring a “fantastic crew of incredibly talented writers from a wide variety of diverse backgrounds,” failing to note that none of them were ideologically diverse. He noted that prior to its release, the game received a lot of attention from the press, and its presence at conventions and awards groups (including a nomination at the Independent Games Festival) put it on the path for commercial success.
The game featured the writing of VICE Waypoint editor-in-chief Austin Walker, who infamously refused to allow his publication to cover Kingdom Come: Deliverance over ideological concerns.
On Walker’s publication, Waypoint, its writers expressed their opposition to the conservative views of Kingdom Come’s creator, Daniel Vávra, who supported the GamerGate movement for ethics in games journalism and shared viewpoints expressed by MILO. As DANGEROUS previously reported, sales of Kingdom Come are soaring despite the media boycott.
Other contributors to Where The Water Tastes Like Wine include Kotaku writer Gita Jackson, ZAM editor Laura Michet, and former game journalist Leigh Alexander, whose 2014 article on Gamasutra kicked off GamerGate.
“Gamers don’t have to be your audience,” she claimed. “Gamers are over.”
Were that so, Where The Water Tastes Like Wine wouldn’t have been a commercial failure.
Nordhagen bragged about the game’s positive reception from the Washington Post, whose writer Harold Goldberg called it a “giant leap forward for video game storytelling.”
A further dissection of the game from Nordhagen reveals the game’s underlying issues—namely that despite all the hype, the game just isn’t very good. Numerous bugs stemmed from a lack of playtesting, a lack of expertise in actually developing and programming the game, as well as “forgetting that the PC uses a mouse and keyboard”—an issue that caused no shortage of user interface issues for players—contributed to the game’s overall mediocrity.
It’s worth noting that while gamers who bought the title had few good things to say about it, the media, which hyped the title, failed to identify these issues. Reviews of the game were generally favorable. Several publications, including the Washington Post, PC Powerplay, Game Informer, and Hardcore Gamer gave the title near-perfect scores.
Like many of the game’s cheerleaders in the media, a Rock Paper Shotgun writer eagerly promoted the game prior to its release, despite being “chums with several of these people, live with one of them, and am also very fond of wandering and hearing stories.” It wasn’t enough to prevent sales from floundering.
“[…] once you factor in the ~$140,000 I spent paying my contractors and collaborators for the game, you begin to see that maybe it wasn’t, financially speaking, worth it. I guess I will have to wait a bit longer to buy that Juicero.
“Joking aside — that’s dismal. And terrifying. At the end of the day it’s astounding that a game that got this much attention from the press, that won awards, that had an all-star cast of writers and performers, that had a bizarre celebrity guest appearance(!) failed this hard. It scares me.”
Following Nordhagen’s publication of the post-mortem, the creator updated the post to say that the game wasn’t a failure.
“First, many headlines have said that the game was a ‘failure’ or a ‘flop.’ That’s not true, and definitely not how we feel about it,” he claims. “Regardless of sales, this is an amazing artistic achievement and we believe the recognition we’ve gotten proves that. Sales were disappointing, but sales are only one aspect of a successful game.”
On the contrary, sales are the best indicator of a successful game.
On Twitter, Nordhagen expressed anger towards the gaming crowd.
“Motherfucker, you won’t buy my game because its content and creation are the antithesis of everything you stand for. In fact, I forbid you from buying it,” he wrote.
Gators have been digging up past tweets where I said nasty things about GG and saying “this is why I’ll never buy your game!” Motherfucker, you won’t buy my game because its content and creation are the antithesis of everything you stand for. In fact, I forbid you from buying it.
Life comes at you fast.
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