According to a report by industry website Gamasutra, sales of Sega's Vanquish, released last October, were 820,000 units worldwide in the period from its release date to the end of 2010. Released for both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, it got strong reception from many gaming press outlets, but failing to sell a million units in the launch period can only be described as disappointing.
This is especially the case when Platinum Games' previous title, Bayonetta, sold 1.1 million units in Japan alone when it released there in 2009. Though the titles share little direct subject matter, they both represented somewhat unique takes on well-established genres. Bayonetta can easily be described as a riff on the action style of Devil May Cry, but Platinum successfully injected the title with unique gameplay and a heroine with a decidedly memorable visual style. Vanquish doesn't have the former game's sex appeal, but Platinum took the third-person cover shooting style of Gears of War and gave it a very fast-paced overhaul.
Viewed superficially, Vanquish should have had arguably more general appeal - featuring space marines, guns, and robots aplenty versus Bayonetta's decidedly bizarre mythological melange. So, what was the problem?
Though action games along the lines of Bayonetta are expected to be single-player, a core shooter like Vanquish is expected to deliver a multi-player component. Much debate occurred about that omission at the time of the game's release, with the general consensus in the press attempting to defend the single-player only experience, but sales data would seem to suggest otherwise.
Multi-player modes should never be simply tacked on, but let's take a look at the development timeline. Bayonetta debuted in the U.S. at the very beginning of 2010. Vanquish arrived in October 2010. Platinum's next title, Max Anarchy, will reportedly feature a strong emphasis on multi-player, and will presumably drop sometime in 2011. It strikes me that, instead of pumping titles out so close together, Sega and Platinum would have been better served delaying Vanquish long enough in order to deliver a solid multi-player component. With their upcoming title, it's clear the developers have no lack of interest in multi-player content - why not deliver it in the previous title, which begged for its inclusion?
It's difficult to suppose precisely how well the title would have sold if it had included multi-player, but the fast-paced transformation of the Gears of War style could have delivered a compelling online experience. The upcoming Gears of War 3 had been scheduled for a spring 2011 release, which may have affected plans during the development process, but even the sales juggernaut of Call of Duty: Black Ops could not prevent Medal of Honor from selling over 5 million units to date. Multi-player in Vanquish could have seen the title increase sales over Bayonetta, as its greater general appeal would have suggested.
What do you think? Would adding multi-player to Vanquish have pushed it significantly beyond 820,000 units from October to December 2010?