Housemarque, best known for their arcade-style shoot'em-up games such as Resogun, Super Stardust HD and most recently Nex Machina and Matterfall, are stepping away from the genre.
Nex Machina launched earlier this year and was met with great critical success, averaging an impressive 88% on Metacritic. Unfortunately, the sales numbers for both Nex Machina and Matterfall did not align with Housemarque's expectations, as stated by CEO and co-founder of the company Ilari Kuittinen.
"It's bittersweet at this moment," said Kuittinen. "The era, the ten-plus years that we've been mostly working on smaller, downloadable, arcade-inspired console games has come to an end."
The decision to move away from the very genre Housemarque helped build and keep relevant is a hard pill to swallow but a smart move to make: reviews for both Nex Machina and Matterfall have been stellar, yet the sales expectations for both have painted another picture, one that has lead Housemarque to move away from the shoot-em-up genre.
"We did our best. If you make a better twin-stick shooter we'll look at it and say, 'wow, you are good." We did something that very few people can exceed... We made the best game we ever made according to Metacritic, and I think we all feel the same.
"There's the thought that we're a bruised champion, getting out of the ring, still with the belt, but we'll have to recover for quite a long time - maybe move to another weight class, or something like that."
Even with the release of Resogun, which launched as a free for PlayStation Plus members back in 2013 when the PlayStation 4 made its debut, the title saw a huge install base. Unfortunately, it didn't push players towards the genre, which resulted in the company releasing Nex Machina on both PlayStation 4 as well as a platform the company had not touched in the last 20 years, PC.
"We know from those numbers that quite a lot of people have played those games, but I think it's more that they don't want to pay for them. They expect to get them for free," said Kuittinen. "Actually, Super Stardust HD sold more for PlayStation 3 [ten years ago], when it had a fraction of the owners that PlayStation 4 has now with Nex. So maybe those people have just moved on. They are not active in the market anymore."
It is regrettable to see a company that is known for their stellar work in a particular genre to move away from it. At the same time, perhaps change will be a good thing, and a new direction will bring it both exciting and fresh projects and better success for the well-deserving company.
Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Brendan Quinn's review of Matterfall, and see why it deserved a 9 out of 10 and for those who want another hard-as-nails shoot-em-up and have yet to try Cuphead should check out our review of the cartoon-inspired game.
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