Lorne Lanning believes that a lack of marketing support ultimately doomed Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath when it was released in 2005.
Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning knows a lot about the importance of marketing. He says that 2005's Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath died at retail because EA didn't provide the proper support, and that despite strong critical reviews, the game never had a chance to succeed financially.
"Stranger was a major achievement," said Lanning in a recent interview with Eurogamer. "I'm thrilled EA did such a crappy job distributing it back in the day. It's a title that hasn't been exposed to the world. My personal feeling is Stranger was the best game we ever made.
"It was sabotaged. When you see a big game coming out, just ask what the marketing budget is. If you decide as a publisher not to give it a marketing budget, you decide its fate. As soon as we understood there was no marketing budget, we had zero expectations. We had zero incentive to build another game for them, either."
While Lanning is clearly a little bitter, he says that his team's relationship with EA was hardly atypical and that it's the reality of doing business with some of the larger publishers.
"Our story is not unique. This is common in the development community," he continued. "Business decisions are made and the developer's faucet is turned off as a result. In the case of Stranger, it didn't perform because it wasn't exposed and it wasn't distributed and there wasn't the number of factors that go to what you need to have success on the shelf today as a boxed product."
The Oddworld series has been revitalized with successful re-releases on the PSN (Lanning is still in XBLA negotiations with Microsoft), and more remakes are currently in the works. UK developer Just Add Water will launch a downloadable HD version of Stranger's Wrath for the PS3 later in the summer, and Lanning believes that the digital marketplace is a windfall for developers looking to escape the traditional developer/publisher dynamic.
"[Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee] on PSN sold hundreds of thousands of units last year," Lanning said. "No marketing. No advertising. Just people telling their kids to play it, saying, 'I played this when I was a kid. I loved this game. I want you to play it here.' There's a whole new generation of people who are picking up on that. I see that's going to happen with Stranger, too.
"It'll get this second wind of life, where it will be easily accessible and not governed by if Wal-Mart decided to stock it or not. Anyone who wants it can log on and get it. If you have a PSN account you'll be able to get it. That's a huge game changer."
For Lanning's sake, let's hope the PSN is back up in time for the new release of his old game.