When I read earlier this week that Borderlands was probably going to get a sequel, I was significantly amplified. I’ve written about my love for the game, but I was worried that it wouldn’t sell well enough to garner a second installment. It wasn’t because it wasn’t a great game, but rather its release date seemed to come in the heart of the lion’s den. It was dropped in the middle of the Fall blitz, where I assumed that new IPs went to die. I’m fucking glad I was wrong. I figured that in the middle of the sequel bombardment that saw Modern Warfare, Uncharted, Left 4 Dead, and Assassin’s Creed all dropping new titles on our collective gaming asses, what sort of love would this diamond in the rough get?
Answer: Apparently a lot.
Answer: Apparently it isn’t in the rough that much.
I’m weary of new IPs failing in general. Games that take risks like Mirror’s Edge seem to be cast into the Land of Forgotten Games. Even shit like Dead Space, which was well-received really didn’t sell like gangbusters. I suppose it’s all relative. Dead Space is a “success” at one-million sold worldwide. Uncharted 2 has as already sold a million, Modern Warfare 2 has sold a zillion fucking copies in two days. No, seriously. I think they’re giving away copies of MW2 with the Sunday paper this week.
So what chance did Borderlands have, I thought to myself.
It’s such a busy part of the year for gamers. I mean, I’ve bought Borderlands, and I’ve loved it, but I definitely haven’t given it the attention I would have if it was released in May, or June, or something. I don’t know. Maybe there isn’t a good time to release a video game anywhere. Is there saturation everywhere? Even the old-school dry spells that were the winter and spring are seeing a deluge next year: Bayonetta (SWEET, SWEET BAYONETTA), Bioshock 2, Mass Effect 2, Final Fantasy XIII. And so on, and so on.
But Borderlands has punched through, it’s sold well. I don’t know, I’m not an economist, I have no idea how much it cost to produce. My rough estimate is: a lot.
If I had to guess, I’m going to say it’s been buoyed by a few things.
First, the gaming community was abuzz about the title for a while. I knew about Borderlands for quite some time, and with every review that came in, it cemented my idea that the title was dope. Sites like Kotaku and Destructoid were all up on its junk. And that’s a good thing. When a game garners a buzz, it attracts gamers. There’s the sense that something is going on, something you want to be a part of.
Oh shit, ended my sentence with a preposition. Don’t tell my professors.
But no seriously, it does. Especially with the online community these days. Games that are drawing players in, draw other players in. “Dude, this game is sweet” gets one friend to buy the game based on another friend. The hive mind, collective consciousness type shit. It has been impressive, even with Modern Warfare 2 cracking open the very Gaming Earth with its saturation this week and filling us with gunshots and Russian terrorists, Borderlands has still been able to bubble up to the surface.
Secondly, I’ve seen advertisements for it everywhere. It’s nice to see a commitment to spend furiously on a new IP. Again, I’m not an economist, but if I had to guess how much they spent on their advertising campaign I’d say: a lot. There’s been tons of commercials on television, and they’re pretty sweet. The game is slick and looks sexy in action, the artistic design has even cell-shaded haters impressed, and if you wrap that all around a catchy song like they did – Cage the Elephant’s Ain’t No Rest of the Wicked, you’re going to draw people in.
It’s nice to see some new shit amongst the same old franchises. Listen, I worship at the altar of Final Fantasy, but I’m always looking for something new to experience. A new franchise, a new title. And every time they seem to fail, I can only imagine it reinforces the thought bubble in the Talking Heads’ minds: New titles flop, play it safe.
And as I said, that makes me stoked.
Maybe it can’t happen for every title, but Borderlands proves it’s possible. Score.