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The popularity of Call of Duty makes it almost impossible for other FPS games to succeed, according Free Radical founder Steve Ellis.

"Nobody really buys any FPSes unless they're called Call Of Duty," said Ellis, speaking to Edge.

"I guess Battlefield did okay, but aside from that pretty much every FPS loses money. I mean, Crysis 2: great game, but there's no way it came anywhere close to recouping its dev costs."

Ellis coded the multiplayer components of GoldenEye on the N64 and later went on to set up Free Radical, the studio that created Timesplitters.

However, after failing to find a publisher for Timesplitters 4, the company came perilously close to going bust. Crytek bought the studio at the last minute, rebranding the firm as Crytek UK.

"I spent the whole of 2008 going round talking to publishers trying to sign up Timesplitters 4," Ellis explained.

"There just isn't the interest there in doing anything that tries to step away from the rules of the genre - no one wants to do something that's quirky and different, because it's too much of a risk. And a large part of that is the cost of doing it."

Timesplitters 4 has become something of a gaming Bigfoot. Despite the official cancellation, VideoGamer.com learned that the game was being shown off at last year's E3. Last week additional sources claimed to have seen the game running.

Ellis himself has shifted his attention to iOS, having set up a new studio, Crash Labs, with other Free Radical refugees. The company has so far revealed two of its projects – Flying Rocket Defence and Twist Pilot.

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User Comments

Wido's Avatar


Going back to what I previously said, I normally play the singleplayer first than multiplayer. Starhawk is different and of course is not a FPS. Why do I mention Starhawk? Warhawk had a great multiplayer as it was based just on that. Starhawk will be having singleplayer and I am intrigued to see how that fairs up against its main eye candy - the multiplayer. I'll be diving straight into the multiplayer when it comes to Starhawk, as I really enjoyed the experience with Warhawk.

I think there is only one other shooter than can stand next to COD if I am honest and that's Halo. The multiplayer & singleplayer is better in my opinion than compared to COD, even if they are so different from each other, and I am not saying this because I specifically like Halo more. COD to me lost its sparkle after COD4, and repetitive multiplayer kicked in straight away with the likes of WaW and onwards, but WaW main problem for me was the bad glitches that were exposed and made into a game killer.

I look at Black Ops 2 and I do see myself purchasing the game. Future COD title? Hell, at least Treyarch are moving the COD brand forward and the Zombie mode? Barrel of laughs to be had surely? Blacks Ops unfortunately just fell into that abyss for me. Also keeping up with the amount of DLC is off putting at times. One reason why Halo wins in that respect. Lobbies for players that don't have any of the DLC or missing one or two can still search with different parameters to find games.
Posted 12:25 on 04 May 2012
mydeaddog's Avatar


I think there's an interesting point of comparison to be made with the film industry. Hollywood has more or less stopped bothering with mid-budget films these days - you either spend big and bet everything on a blockbuster with an eye-watering budget, or you make lots of smaller-budget films and hope one of them catches a wave.

People in the games industry have been saying for years that things are going to head the same way, and now I think we're really starting to see it kicking in. Hence the reason that the biggest games of the year so far have been Mass Effect 3 at one end of the spectrum, and Trials HD at the other (chuck in Draw Something and Angry Birds 2, if you like). The mid-budget games, on the other hand, are largely dying on their a*se.

Munkee nailed the argument, really: You have to spend big to compete with CoD, otherwise you're boned. Even then, it's really hard. As Wido said, multiplayer is the promised land, but it's so difficult to compete.

To return to the film comparison, think of it this way: Would you want to be working on a superhero film now, in the wake of The Avengers? Nolan's third Batman aside, that movie is going to own the genre for quite some time.

And of course, the key difference in gaming is that we play every day. If you were in the habit of watching the same superhero film on a daily basis, and you had a choice of Avengers Assemble or the Green Lantern flick, what would you pick?
Posted 10:53 on 04 May 2012


Just because they didn't buy your FPS, doesn't mean that people don't buy any other FPS.
Posted 22:22 on 03 May 2012
CheekyLee's Avatar


I don't really see why people are not buying games that aren't CoD. After all, they are all trying so desperately hard to be just like CoD. But then, it's a bit like buying an album by a band called the Breatles. You may as well just stick with the original if all the clone does is play songs you already heard.

Graphics aren't the be-all and end-all that everyone seems to think they are, and the whole world is not as obsessed with FPS as the major studios seem to want us to be. There was simply no reason for Bulletstorm to be as graphically sumptuous as it was, because those that played it and understood what it was about would have been just as happy if it looked a bit rough round the edges. The CoD brigade ditched it because they didn't 'get' the multiplayer. Fair enough, that's their loss, so stop chasing them. I would argue that a cohesive art style (probably cel-shaded) would have helped Bulletstorm to stand out, and then it wouldn't have faced the probles it did.

Rage? All IDs own fault, I'm afraid. Putting fetch quests into my shooter does not make it a good shooter, it makes it an annoying shooter. Dead Island, as Clockpunk rightly points out, did something different and was rewarded for it with much better sales figures than expected. There is a lesson to learn, but I won't hold my breath until it sinks into the brains of any of the major publishers.
Posted 21:16 on 03 May 2012
Wido's Avatar

Wido@ munkee

(I always asked people what they did, or didn't, like about games). Most of them didn't even try, or want to try, the single player game.

Multiplayer is the more top dog option to play straight away nowadays.
Posted 20:48 on 03 May 2012
munkee's Avatar

munkee@ reynoldio

I agree and also love a few of those games. But, I think there's a catch22. From a business perspective:

You need to spend huge amounts to create the ultra-sexy graphics that people want.

You need to budget so that the tech powering the back end of your game is top notch.

You also need the sound guys creating the best audio experience they can.

All these things need to be ready for your first trailers and screen shots. Pre-renders won't cut it and people will be turned off before your game has even gone on sale. Then you need that preview code. The game preview thats gonna make journalists drool over your new work and get them on your side, selling the game to the masses.

It's a *****ing tough market and I think the angle is that if you're multiplayer isn't a COD beater, then you're *****ed. And look how much they spend on COD. How can you compete?

All these other game's we're mentioning are great games. But, they cost a LOT of money and were the sales worth it?

I don't like COD and genuinely preferred the shooty bits on RAGE. But, I also didn't buy RAGE at full price and am only one purchaser. Look at the COD launch night. Look at the COD preorder figures. I genuinely wouldn't want to be a developer, or publisher, in the AAA FPS marketplace.
Posted 19:37 on 03 May 2012
reynoldio's Avatar


There's two sides to the profit equation though, if you can't sell eleventy billion copies then budget better.

I too love Borderlands and Rage and enjoyed Bulletstorm and others and I'm happy to pay for them. It's not my fault if they can't make their finances match up, I'm doing my bit! They should realise that they aren't going to sell CoD numbers and set their sights correctly.

Couldn't be more excited by Borderlands 2...
Posted 19:18 on 03 May 2012
munkee's Avatar


dudester pretty much sums it up.

I've been working in video game retail during these insane COD highs periods. A huge percent of gamers that walk into high street retail are Call of Duty players. These guys do buy other shooters. But, not many and they are always looking for another Call of Duty clone.

So many people came in and bought Crysis 2. The funny thing is that they took it straight home, played multiplayer and returned it. When asked why they didn't like it, I would always receive a "It's not COD, is it?" response. (I always asked people what they did, or didn't, like about games). Most of them didn't even try, or want to try, the single player game.

This wasn't just Crysis 2, either. Most COD fans buy other shooters and go straight to the multiplayer, even on single player focused games. If its not COD, then they genuinely don't want it.
Posted 16:35 on 03 May 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk@ mydeaddog

Indeed it will. But will it come in the volume required to make a profit?

That's the big bugbear, isn't it? I suppose it is the same within the racing genre - dominated by Forza and Gran Turismo, with a few outlying tough contenders, but anything else is instantly marginalised. Is homogenisation really a good thing? Or should more devs embrace alternative structural approaches?

Lets take Dead Island - with all its flaws, it handled the FPS aspect extremely well in a non-linear fashion, with an emphasis on melee weapons with different attributes. A very different approach to a corridor-based gun-or-nothing title. Such implementation may make or break titles, but will at least make them stand out within the market or it should... in theory...)
Posted 14:21 on 03 May 2012
dudester's Avatar


Because whether we like it or not there's millions of people who just literally play cod or fifa and have very little interest in anything else.

But then free radical made haze which got its inspiration from Fosters tvs ads.
Posted 14:03 on 03 May 2012
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog@ Clockpunk

If a game is good/fun, the fanbase will come.

Indeed it will. But will it come in the volume required to make a profit?

Aliens should sell well, unless it turns out to be rubbish, but it has a big license behind it. Ditto Far Cry 3, which comes from an established series. Even then, Ubi will need to sell a lot to recoup the money they've spent... though as they've adapted a lot of the tech from FC2, I don't know what kind of size their budget will be.

Ellis' point isn't that you can't make a good FPS game; it's that you need to sell a lot of copies to make your money back. You could spend less on development, but if you do that you end up with Homefront - a supposed CoD beater that simply have the same level of sheen.

Whatever you think about CoD, Activision spends an insane amount of money on putting it together, and that raises the standards across the genre. Hence Ellis's comments about Crysis 2. "Great game, but there's no way it came anywhere close to recouping its dev costs."

Borderlands did really well, and I'm personally delighted about that. But don't forget that Gearbox were sh*tting bricks in the run up to release. They had no idea it was going to do that well. The art style changed halfway through development, and the sense of humour was also a late addition. Without those things, I seriously doubt it would have sold.

As for Rage and Bulletstom... well, don't get your hopes up for a sequel anytime soon. Both games were original, expensive and lots of fun. Both got excellent reviews and decent ad support. But no-one bought them.

Whereas for all the supposed apathy surrounding BLOPS 2, it's still going to sell millions.
Posted 13:06 on 03 May 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar


As does Farcry 3 and the forthcoming Aliens game. Or is success only measured in ultra-high impossible to attain sales figures, now?

I hate Call of Duty.

I enjoy - very much - Borderlands, Duke Nukem: Forever, Metro 2033, Dead Island, The Darkness, Chronicles of Riddick, Bthe Bioshock series, Deus Ex: HR, Rage, Bulletstorm...

... and I'm desperate for Serious Sam 3 to come to consoles.

Need I continue? If a game is good/fun, the fanbase will come.
Posted 12:54 on 03 May 2012
FantasyMeister's Avatar


Borderlands 2 says hi.
Posted 11:55 on 03 May 2012

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