Gamasutra has a nice news article on PC gaming recently. It correctly points out:
Its real-time collaboration Sins of a Solar Empire was one of 2008’s most impressive success stories on Sales Numbers; its 500,000 units may seem piddly at first glance compared to big console blockbusters, but its sub-$1 million budget puts that figure in a completely different light.
The lesson seems simple, but it’s often overlooked in our NPD-obsessed industry: return on investment is a lot more important than units sold, especially as budgets continue to balloon dangerously.
I think this is especially true. It doesn’t matter if the next GTA or some random EA game sold 6 billion copies but took 6 billion dollars to create. Most of the money will probably be spent on making the graphics look mildly awesome, but with minimal relevance to the gameplay. 6 billion units sold is massive but not enough to get a comfortable return. So developers and/or publishers will take the easy way out: cry “Piracy!” and proclaim that PC gaming is dead.3
Find it absurd when Ubisoft can proclaim that selling 2.9 million units of Far Cry 2. Considered a “slow burner” and that 2.2 million units of Prince Of Persia are a “slower take-off”. Just how much capital did those two games require?
I guess that’s why I prefer to read and support indie developers. There’s just less arrogance around, especially when it comes to sales numbers and projection. And who doesn’t like to support the underdogs? While the big publishers are more contented to simply churn out sequels, and even canning projects that are deemed to have no sequel potential like some rabid Hollywood producer, indie developers tend to take more risks at innovating stale genres, provide interesting new gaming experiences, or simply reliving the forgotten classic genres of gaming.
[Opinion: The New Old Wave of PC Games]