Can survival horror recapture mainstream success?


One of the most exciting things  to come out of Gamescom this year was the influx of survival horror games; news of the Resident Evil Re-remake was only the beginning, we also got Alien Isolation, Alone in the dark reboot and Silent Hills. My question for developers though is can this genre really enjoy the mainstream success it enjoyed in the late ’90s/early 2000s?

For anyone who knows me will be aware of my undying love of the Resident Evil series but it has; admittedly, taken a nose-dive in quality and atmosphere. In a strange way I blame Resident Evil 4 for the demise of survival horror.

While it was a fantastic game and a bona fide  classic, Capcom misinterpreted it’s success as a mainstream desire to leave tense horror games behind for more action-orientated games (it was merely the quality of  the experience that led to its’ success).This interpretation changed RE DNA completely and while it payed off in the short-term (Resident Evil 5 is the most commercially successful game in the series). Again Capcom misinterpreted this success as justification of the switch in emphasis and continued down this path.

However it was clear that not everyone in Capcom was convinced or happy with the direction the series was taking; particularly with the release and success of RE:Revelations which melded classic RE with contemporary RE with some success. RE6 also did this but with less success as it was lambasted by critics and gamers a-like. It was clear the direction that RE needed to take; a full on reboot; this led other developers to get the jump on the resurgence of the genre.

Can it be successful again though? With the release of Dead Space in 2008 we all thought that this was the start of something wonderful. Within a sequel it had become diluted, within two sequels it became bastardised. All thanks to the wonderful people at EA and the success of RE5. Can Capcom and the other developers really bring the genre back to the numbers they were doing in their hey-day (15 million copies of RE1-3 have been sold to date).  I’m not sure, the best survival horror of modern times (Dead Space) sold only 2mill copies, hardly a world shattering number, these developers must be aware they will be selling to a niche market.

For Alien Isolation to be classified a success it would have to sell at least that number, but ideally it would do more; this game has the good fortune of being a movie licence so it should; in theory, attract two markets, fans of the movie and survival horror fans. The development cost of this game must be high, purchasing the licence wouldn’t have been cheap as the Alien games always sell well (even though they are all universally terrible) and voice actors from the movie would command a big pay cheque to secure their services.

What about Alone in the Dark? A game that has been rebooted twice since 2000 and never met any commercial success? How can they possibly hope to make that game a success? I do not think this will be a full retail title, i’m assuming that they will focus on the tablet/mobile market (maybe even PSN/XBLA) and hope the low entry cost can amp up sales.

If the demo for Silent Hills is anything to go by, not only will sales of Survival horrors increase, but so too will brown coloured trousers! I feel Silent Hills has the best chance of success in this renaissance of horror. With the great demo, Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro on board this game could be the ‘Citizen Kane of survival horror’ (to paraphrase Empire magazine). The quality of the demo must be praised, it’s atmosphere is absolutely terrifying and it’s puzzles are perplexing (a la SH1 abstract puzzles) if they can bottle this demo and give it legs for 8+ hours then this game will be a winner.

Of course the indie market has been the last bastion of the survival horror, with the success of games like Slender and SCP Containment Breach the genre hasn’t really gone away for PC gamers. If you don’t mind early access, or completely broken game experiences. I feel that Survival Horror fans need a AAA experience to really kick start the genre, word of mouth and game borrowing will hopefully breath life into this genre, but that wont translate into sales. For me, to successfully save the genre all these games need to be of superlative quality, at the very least they all need to contenders for game of the year. All it will take is one of these games to get destroyed in reviews or to sell poorly and the genre is done…for good.

I don’t know if it can achieve this, I don’t know if this beloved genre can survive.

This is the last stand of the Survival horror guys; October is our Alamo, if you want to be terrified by your games then buy Alien Isolation. If that game succeeds then the rest should follow suite…as long as they are good. Wait for reviews by all means (i’ve pre-ordered A:I. I have high hopes), but if you enjoy survival horror, but don’t buy the titles, do not complain about it disappearing forever.

Can these developers save the genre? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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5 thoughts on “Can survival horror recapture mainstream success?

  1. no

    hehe and to elaborate even if the return to it’s roots I don’t think survival games will ever see a large population. Being scared just isn’t as pupular as being entertained. I do think that there is a place for it in the genre though but definitely more than just the current group of jump scare simulators. I hate those but the ones that immerse you in their world with an overwhelming sense of tension are great. Personally I’m waiting for Darkwood to get more developed


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