The big news this week is that Sony (and Sucker Punch) celebrated (joyously) the success of their newest open-world franchise, Ghost of Tsushima, which moved 8 million units within a year and half. Former Bend Studio Director, Jeff Ross, took issue with the situation as it related to his own open-world game, Days Gone.
Days Gone Sold Well But It Was Treated Like the Bad Apple in the Family By Sony
At the time I left Sony, Days Gone had been out for a year and a half (and a month), and sold over 8 million copies. It's since gone on to sell more, and then a million+ on Steam. Local studio management always made us feel like it was a big disappointment. #daysgone #PlayStation https://t.co/KMZr2pGe9r
— Jeff Ross (@JakeRocket) January 5, 2022
The tweet (posted above) is Ross’ response to Ghost of Tsushima attaining the 8 million units (sold) milestone. Sour grapes? or, does he have a valid point? I think it is a bit of both. I feel that Ross is genuinely bothered by the fact that Sony always treated Days Gone like a failed IP, despite its profitable commercial run.
We have done coverage on Days Gone and have even reviewed the title, so we have a good picture of what Days Gone is and isn’t.
Sony (and other Publishers ) Value Critic Scores as Much as They Value Sales
Some publishers even go as far as to pay bonuses in royalties to developers that manage to earn a decent Metacritic score with a particular game. Despite much criticism on online forums by some individuals, Metacritic is, for the most part, an outstanding source of information in terms of gauging a game’s overall quality.
Save for a few exceptions, most critics featured in the site’s aggregate scoring system are seasoned professionals that can properly asses a game’s greatness or its mediocrity in an impartial manner. Sony has had a tremendous run of excellent reviewed games over the last decade or so; however, its executives seem to have made the pursuit of critical praise and awards a fundamental part of the company’s internal game development ‘culture’.
When compared to Sony’s high standards in terms of its Exclusive IPs, Days Gone, is definitely a bad apple amongst a field of near perfect ones. Metacritic is not perfect, but when a game gets above the 90% Meta score threshold, it (usually) means that it is a great game. It is difficult for dozens of critics from different cultural backgrounds, educational formation, and gaming tastes to agree on something. Sony values these scores as critical perception of exclusive games help sales on the software and hardware front for its PlayStation brand.
Ghost of Tsushima Wasn’t a Exactly A Masterpiece
GoT holds an 83 Metacritic rating, which is (considerably) a much lower critical reception average score than other Sony IPs such as The Last of Us: Part II (93 rating and consensus 2020 GotY winner) and God of War (94 rating, and 2018 GotY winner) received. Horizon Zero Dawn (another Sony darling) currently holds an 89 rating.
For reference, Days Gone holds a 71 rating. Bethesda refused to pay Obsidian royalties over Fallout: New Vegas barely missing the ’85 Metacritic’ goal post that the company had set for its internal teams. By their standards, Sucker Punch would have missed on bonus payments because Ghost of Tsushima fell 2 points short of an 85 Metascore.
It is easier for Sony to work with an 83 Metascore, than it is to laud a game with the 71 (barely above mediocre) score that Days Gone earned.
Now, some Metacritic scorers come from sources (smaller websites) that might not hold much weight within what Sony considers an important critical score, however, the major video game journalistic sources (IGN, GameSpot, Game Informer) mostly panned Days Gone…badly. GameSpot went hard on the game handing it a 5/10.
So let’s say that a minor outlet would have handed Days Gone an 8/10 score, Gamespot’s 5/10 score would have influenced Sony’s executive brass much more than the minor site’s positive score would have. By contrast, IGN gave Ghost of Tsushima 9/10, which would have fallen under Sony’s strict expectations of ‘excellence’ for its big budget exclusive titles.
Ironically, GoT received a 7/10 score from GameSpot, which is far better than the 5/10 that Days Gone received. This paints Days Gone as far from the ‘masterpiece’ level of quality of other Sony titles. However, most large critical outlets did find GoT to be an 8/10 (or above) game, which is what Sony is aiming at hitting in terms of the quality of its big budget game investments.
I handed Days Gone a 7.5 score when reviewing the game for this site. I had more fun in it than I did in RDR2, and perhaps, than I did in Ghost of Tsushima believe it or not. In Days Gone, Sony crafted a tense and scary atmospheric game that kept me on high alert while driving around Utah on Deacon’s trusty bike.
Beyond that, however, the game was plagued by a gross amount of non-sensical missions, visual glitches, and a – less than likable – protagonist (Deacon St. John). Some of the most pedestrian writing that I have seen from a Sony first party studio didn’t help either. Consequently, the major driving force of the tale, Deacon and Sarah’s ‘love story’, felt comical and even unnecessary during large stretches of the game’s substantial run time.
Days Gone was Mediocre BUT It Had Promise
Days Gone sold well, but most sales came after it went on sale (at bargain $9.99 prices), which might be why Sony considers the game a “big disappointment” in its own director’s words. By contrast, Ghost of Tsushima sold its 8 million copies at or near full retail price.
I have crapped a bit on Days Gone in both this article and my review of the game; all of my criticism of the game is justified (in my view). In reality, the game is quite fun at times and has an unparalleled atmosphere in terms of tense, genuinely scary moments (despite its jarring flaws).
There is nothing quite like running out of gas and being forced to take a hike in Utah’s beautiful but dark woodlands. Stopping every now and then to look behind you, and maybe even just to listen if there are any zombies nearby…or worse, an entire horde.
There is nothing like it, Days Gone is the closest that you can get to the post apocalyptic “Walking Dead” experience in a video game, and likely, anywhere. The experience alone is worth the price of admission, even if the game’s tale sucks. You want the entire adventure to end at the halfway point because Deacon’s errand boy quests can get quite tedious after 20-30 hours of play.
Given the numerous delays, and how big a game Days Gone is, I can see why Sony didn’t want to trust Bend again with a sequel of the IP, but I think that a huge opportunity (for everyone) was lost in canning said sequel. From the bottom of my heart, I think that ‘Days Gone 2’ would have been a very good game.
The game’s visual hiccups would have been smoothed out by the PS5 hardware, and Bend’s greater mastery of the Unreal Engine would have allowed the team to concentrate on polishing things like Enemy/Horde A.I., Shooting mechanics, and other important open-world gameplay design aspects that were mediocre in the first game.
The survival horror and horde concepts were nice, and while the execution of both aspects wasn’t perfect, that’s exactly what sequels are for. Killzone has been used as an example of a crappy game that made a leap into the ‘very good’ category in a sequel, but that’s a bad example. The PlayStation 2 was a terrible system for first person shooters, and Killzone suffered greatly for its ambitions on underpowered hardware, that is not the case here.
I think Uncharted is a better example. The first Uncharted was a very average game in my opinion. But Naughty Dog had established a foundation in which to build upon, and consequently, Uncharted 2 is considered one of the greatest games of all time.
I think Bend established a foundation with Days Gone that could have only gotten better (perhaps to the coveted 80+ Metacritic range), but for whatever reasons Sony did not feel like giving Bend and the IP another chance.
Shame on Sony, I think Days Gone 2 would have been an awesome game to play and wanted to experience the thrill of surviving the hordes of Zombies again in a more refined manner. Bend was very passionate about the project, but sometimes passion can drive teams very far with certain IPs.
What the Future Holds for Days Gone
So what if Days Gone has sold about 10 million copies of the game at bargain prices…that remains 10 million gamers that played that game and a large chunk of them would lay down the cash for an improved sequel. Sony has turned its back on IPs before *cough* The Legend of Dragoon *cough*, but the company have never turned its back on an IP with 10 million units sold. It is shocking that the company has done this now, unless it really hasn’t.
What I mean by this is that Sony turned down Ross’ pitch for a sequel, but the IP remains there and so do its sales numbers. I wouldn’t be shocked if at some point we get a reboot of the franchise under a different development team. 10 million sales are staggering numbers, regardless of the circumstances in which these sales took place in.
While I am not a seer, I don’t think that Sony has killed Days Gone just yet.
Agree with the author on his rating for Days Gone? Couldn’t disagree more and are frothing at the mouth to tell him? Leave a comment on Facebook or send an email and make sure to follow Never Ending Realm on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!