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PC Gamer: The Uncertain Future of Games Like Deus Ex and Dishonored

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Alpha Phoenix

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Warren Spector is stuck in Prey. The director of Deus Ex, who has worked on many games since labeled "immersive sims"—in fact, he coined the term in a post-mortem of Deus Ex—has been playing the modern games inspired by classics like Thief and System Shock. But he hasn't finished Prey yet. Or, as he puts it: "The crew quarters are kicking my butt."

...

Spector's not the only one who'd mourn their loss. Arkane is still around, but there's this uneasy feeling in the air that there's now some reason to worry. Not about Arkane, necessarily, but the immersive sim in general, this genre held up as the shining example of PC gaming at its most smartest and most complex. None of the last three big-budget immersive sims—Prey, Dishonored 2, and Eidos Montreal's Deus Ex: Mankind Divided—have broken a million sales on Steam.


On sales now versus then:
And then in 2011 Eidos Montreal's prequel Deus Ex: Human Revolution came along, a true immersive sim and one with the Deus Ex name stamped across it. It sold 2.18 million copies in just over a month. The year after that Arkane teamed with Bethesda to bring out Dishonored, a game in the lineage of Thief which enjoyed "the biggest launch for new IP" of the year. Sequels to both followed, as well as Prey, Arkane's spiritual successor to System Shock. The immersive sim was back.

And yet in 2016, Mankind Divided's launch sales were significantly lower than Human Revolution's. In response the series has seemingly been put on hold, though a publicist told me Eidos Montreal are "not quite ready" to answer questions on why it appears to have failed, or whether there will ever be another full-size Deus Ex.


On why Mankind Divided seemingly failed to meet SE's expectations:
There are plenty of potential reasons why Deus Ex: Mankind Divided sold disappointingly. It launched a long five years after its predecessor. Its microtransactions and pre-order model were unpopular, and though reviews were positive, most noted that it felt shorter and had an even less satisfying ending than Human Revolution. And yet, though they lacked those specific problems, neither of Arkane's immersive sims was a smash hit either. Perhaps Dishonored 2's launch issues on PC hurt sales, though the history of video games is full of rocky launches that sold like gangbusters. As I write this, Car Mechanic Simulator 2018 is still in Steam's top 25 in spite of its bugginess.

Much more at the link. Really good read.

Hope the genre goes back on track. I'd take a sequel to Mankind Divided or Dishonored over a mindless multiplayer shooter any day of the week.
 

Stone Ocean

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These types of games underperform because they are treated like shit. Either you get a game full of bullshit like Mankind Divided or you get games pretty much sent to die with awful release dates and almost zero marketing like Dishonored or Prey, no shit they'll do badly when you tell people about them and their first reaction is more often than not "wait that's out already?"
 

Tali'Zorah

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Absolutely loved all 3 of those games and it pains me that all failed to sell much. Hopefully all those games get sequels but I think the only one that really has a chance of getting one is Dishonored
 

BossDarkseid

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Haven't finished Prey - played a bunch at release but its been so long I'm planning to restart soon...loved Dishonored and really enjoyed Mankind Divided...it'd be such a shame if none of these franchises got further entries.

Hopefully some aspect of Ninja Theory's Hellblade development model could be adapted because I feel like most "Immersive Sim" fans don't care too much about bleeding edge tech and poly count etc...so if they could produce a smaller but denser title, with less graphical fidelity, on a comparative budget...it might be more attractive to a publisher.

I think I read somewhere that Deus Ex MD took 5 years because they spent 2 years adapting a Hitman engine for their own purposes...that seems fucking insane. Since Dishonored is getting Death of the Outsider (?) soonish the future perhaps looks most bright for it but...yeah. As the above poster also mentioned, suicidal release dates and marketing hardly help for some of the games.
 
Dec 11, 2010
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By my reckoning Prey was the best of the bunch, but yeah I'm quite concerned that the genre is going into deep freeze again.

Current steam figures -
  • Mankind Divided - 700k
  • Dishonored 2 - 850k
  • Prey - 370k

Dishonored 2 is getting a DLC soon, but it feels like Prey might be toast right out the gate.
 

demosthenes

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Enjoyed deus ex.
Loved dishonored.
Haven't gotten to prey yet.

Sad these games aren't doing well.
 

Sad Affleck

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I think they just need to try a different angle. Instead of relying on hub worlds these action RPGs (I refuse to call them immersive sims) should sell themselves as open world action games like the latest Far Cries, the Arkham games or even Bethesda titles like Skyrim and Fallout 4. I think they'll be much more popular this way.
 

His Majesty

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By my reckoning Prey was the best of the bunch, but yeah I'm quite concerned that the genre is going into deep freeze again.

Current steam figures -
  • Mankind Divided - 700k
  • Dishonored 2 - 850k
  • Prey - 370k

Dishonored 2 is getting a DLC soon, but it feels like Prey might be toast right out the gate.

Prey is the best of those three yeah. What a shame that Bethesda hasn't bothered to do any decent marketing for it.
 

qirex

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I think they don't get marketed right, the ads usually focus on the characters and show action-ey combat, I get it's hard to make stealth look fun in a 5 second clip but they could try something. Longer form videos like dev previews focus on the "play your way" aspect but that's hard in a banner ad or a 30 second commercial.
 

Chairman Yang

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From the article: "It wasn't just immersive sims that didn't sell as well as expected in 2016, however. Titanfall 2, Street Fighter V, and Watch Dogs 2 also struggled for their own reasons—while big, acclaimed games like Overwatch and Battlefield 1 dominated. Dugas says that "your product needs to be more than 'GOOD' today to be successful—whether you are making a movie or a game. People have options and last time I checked there are only 24 hours in a day. If you are not good enough, your audience has gone somewhere else. Bottom line: I believe that if we make outstanding games, no matter what type of genre it is in, people will be there, whether it’s an immersive sim or not."

Basically, I'm not sure the recent underperformance of immersive sims is because of them being immersive sims, or just a general decline in the market for traditional single-player games.
 

Window

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These types of games underperform because they are treated like shit. Either you get a game full of bullshit like Mankind Divided or you get games pretty much sent to die with awful release dates and almost zero marketing like Dishonored or Prey, no shit they'll do badly when you tell people about them and their first reaction is more often than not "wait that's out already?"

I really don't understand this sentiment surrounding this game. Its hub world design is probably the best after the original.
 
Dec 11, 2010
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I think they just need to try a different angle. Instead of relying on hub worlds these action RPGs (I refuse to call them immersive sims) should sell themselves as open world action games like the latest Far Cries, the Arkham games or even Bethesda titles like Skyrim and Fallout 4. I think they'll be much more popular this way.

Structurally speaking, the extremely tight level design is the raison d'être for the genre. Expanding that into an expansive open world feels like it would turn them into very different games.
 
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LordOfLore

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I think they just need to try a different angle. Instead of relying on hub worlds these action RPGs (I refuse to call them immersive sims) should sell themselves as open world action games like the latest Far Cries, the Arkham games or even Bethesda titles like Skyrim and Fallout 4. I think they'll be much more popular this way.
From Spector a few years back:
I’d rather do something that’s an inch wide and a mile deep than something that’s a mile wide and an inch deep.
 

LegitMcfalls

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Man these are some good games and in a genre we NEED more games in. I think Deus Ex and Prey are done but im hoping we atleast get one more Dishonored from Arkane.
 
Aug 13, 2015
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Current steam figures -
  • Mankind Divided - 700k
  • Dishonored 2 - 850k
  • Prey - 370k

Dishonored 2 is getting a DLC soon, but it feels like Prey might be toast right out the gate.

Prey is doing the same as others, those older games got a lot of the sales from deep discounts (50%, 66%, 75%). Mankind Divided sold around 400k in 2016.
 

Sentenza

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I'm not going to claim that's what killed sales (chances are it's statistically irrelvant in the grand scheme) but I know what killed my excitement when these games were released:
they all came with Denuvo.

As I already said in a previous occasion (while praising Prey, incidentally) I'm not firmly into a "I'LL BOYCOTT ANYTHING WITH DENUVO IN!" mindset, but I won't deny that its existence is enough to turn me off from anything that I don't perceive as an absolute must buy.
I see Denuvo, I see a game that goes immediately from "Oh yes, I want to try this!" to "Uh. Maybe in few months, at a lower price. Unless they remove it before".

Back to these three games, more specifically, I have no excuses for Prey, but I know that the word of mouth for both Mankind Divided and Dishonored 2 hasn't been exactly flattering at first. rumors of performance issues, excessive hardware demands, an unfulfilling and incomplete ending, etc.
 

Azzanadra

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These games get treated like shit so its no wonder they get these sales, for Dishonored 2 instead of those weird live action trailers Bethesda should have gotten that high skill high chaos gameplay from that guy on youtube, that would surely appeal to the masses.

And Deus Ex already has the ability to sell well as seen by Human Revolution, Square Enix sabotaged that game with shitty micro transactions and low-key marketing.
 
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Kids today are more into "You kill me, then I respawn and I try to kill you again" this while streaming. Rinse and repeat.

Single Player games with exciting worlds to explore are going the way of the dodo. Much better to sell an early access/survival/crafting/multiplayer with loot boxes and "emergent gameplay" "you create your own story"

You can read this like the "Old man yells at cloud" newspaper header from the Simpsons. But I do not like these games being few and far between.
 

Schlomo

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Structurally speaking, the extremely tight level design is the raison d'être for the genre. Expanding that into an expansive open world feels like it would turn them into very different games.

They would be like Ultima Underworld, which would be awesome.
 

FelipeMGM

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By my reckoning Prey was the best of the bunch, but yeah I'm quite concerned that the genre is going into deep freeze again.

Current steam figures -
  • Mankind Divided - 700k
  • Dishonored 2 - 850k
  • Prey - 370k

Dishonored 2 is getting a DLC soon, but it feels like Prey might be toast right out the gate.

Prey (2017) is prob going to end up a one of thing based on sales. And Raph Colantonio who was the director of the game left the studio this year too, so we cant count on him championing a sequel internally

Its a shame, the game is amazing
 

Sinatar

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Yea other then the crowdfunded games (Underworld Ascendant, System Shock Remake, System Shock 3) I think the immersive sim genre is going away again.

Really really sucks.
 

Sinh_Magnus

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As someone how loved the originals and went day-one with the three games, I was disappointed in both Dishonored 2 and Deus ex. If I have to say, Deus ex disappointed me more than the former, but neither game offered the same memorable experience their prequels had.
They were still great fun and good games, but didn't impress me.

I also felt both games flew under the radar for many people, Deus Ex had also worse reviews than its predecessor and word-of-mouth hasn't been great from what I gathered from the internet. Dishonored 2 suffered a lot from performance issues and was send to die in november last year.

Prey on the other hand, was quite a bet from my part, since after last year I ended up exhausted from the genre. However the game is easily one of the best from this year for me and probably the best one that had come from a western studio.
 

edify

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Mankind Divided wasn't helped by having the most disgusting pre-release content carving seen since Watchdogs imo.

Dishonored 2 ads featured heavily on prime time TV here in the UK leading up to it's release, but I think competing with CoD etc at the most competitive time of the year for game releases really fucked it for that game.
 

Real_Madrid

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Kids today are more into "You kill me, then I respawn and I try to kill you again" this while streaming. Rinse and repeat.

Single Player games with exciting worlds to explore are going the way of the dodo. Much better to sell an early access/survival/crafting/multiplayer with loot boxes and "emergent gameplay" "you create your own story"

You can read this like the "Old man yells at cloud" newspaper header from the Simpsons. But I do not like these games being few and far between.

But we've seen this before many many times. At the start of this gen, everyone was worried that mobile gaming was going to take the place of the big AAA-games, when WOW was in pop-culture, everyone tried to make a WOW-clone etc etc.

As long as there's a market for the immersive SP games, there are going to be games made for it.
MP survival games, target a different audience than the SP games, it just diversifies gaming. Modern technology makes new types of gaming possible, so it's normal that they experiment with it and see what's popular or not.

Gaming will also get an audience that's getting older and older, so we're going to see games for 'older' gamers and they're probably mostly SP/co-op-driven.
 

Sweet Bellic

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Shame. I loved Dishonored and am currently having a blast in Dishonored 2. I haven't been experiencing any of these alleged performance issues so I assume those were addressed post-launch?

Never played any of the Deus Ex games... the protagonist and environments always looked very bland to me. Honestly, Prey also looks pretty bland from the let's plays I've watched. But both games get so much praise around here that I'll just have to go for it (probably during the next Steam sale).

Also, what the hell is an immersive sim? Seems like a terribly vague description of these games.
 
Jun 12, 2013
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This is very depressing. These kinds of games that give you a large sense of freedom in how you approach situations and progress through areas, yet are still very tightly and cohesively designed. It sucks that bloated open world games are all the jazz these days, when the games referenced in the OP are infinitely better designed.
 

Wulfram

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The problem I have with the "immersive sims" I've played is that it feels like I'm pushed to use stealth despite these games not really making stealth all that fun. I just get stuck in a not very exciting series of stealth incapacitations.
 

Sad Affleck

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Structurally speaking, the extremely tight level design is the raison d'être for the genre. Expanding that into an expansive open world feels like it would turn them into very different games.

I think that good level design can still be maintained if these games follow the Arkham City model. Traditional mission hubs could be placed into an open world without much issue. A mission like the one in the beginning of the original Deus Ex would just take place in the dock or pier area of a larger city. All sorts of missions could work as smaller 'dungeons' within a bigger world.

From Spector a few years back:

A noble goal but it is unattainable if no one buys these games.
 

Sentenza

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They would be like Ultima Underworld, which would be awesome.
Yep.
I get the feeling that when people on this forum complain about "open world games" they are actually complaining about dull, derivative, by-the-.number products that are just poorly designed.
They rarely stop to think about what's the part of "open world" that should make these games inherently bad.

In fact, it could be argued that it's precisely its degree of "openness" (read: non-linearity) that made Prey stand out as great immersive sim, in contrast with previous, half-assed attempts like Bioshock.
 

120v

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i'm playing through Prey right now and while it's a fantastic game, it kind of feels like the same game i played several times already. i'm a fan of the genre but i don't think the recent slew really "captivated the imagination" of players like system shock, deus ex, dishonored 1 ect did at their time of release. sometimes simply making a good game isn't enough

i don't think the genre is dying it just needs new ideas
 

Azzanadra

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The problem I have with the "immersive sims" I've played is that it feels like I'm pushed to use stealth despite these games not really making stealth all that fun. I just get stuck in a not very exciting series of stealth incapacitations.

Dishonored is the worst at this, basically forcing you to play the most unfun way as possible by holding the "good" ending hostage with your killcount.
 

tuxfool

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In fact, it could be argued that it's precisely its degree of "openness" (read: non-linearity) that made Prey stand out as great immersive sim, in contrast with previous, half-assed attempts like Bioshock.

Bioshock wasn't trying to be non-linear. It had a very specific area-by-area approach.
 

SolidSnakeUS

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By my reckoning Prey was the best of the bunch, but yeah I'm quite concerned that the genre is going into deep freeze again.

Current steam figures -
  • Mankind Divided - 700k
  • Dishonored 2 - 850k
  • Prey - 370k

Dishonored 2 is getting a DLC soon, but it feels like Prey might be toast right out the gate.

That's fucking sad. All 3 are fantastic games and deserve to be played all the way through. 30+ hours each as well.
 

rrs

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Basically, I'm not sure the recent underperformance of immersive sims is because of them being immersive sims, or just a general decline in the market for traditional single-player games.
Maybe both could apply, with DX:HR/Dishonored being the first console+PC immersive sim in years helping sales, but by the time the long in development sequels are out all that's left is the core audience as the games were expected to sell themselves again
 

Alpha Phoenix

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Dishonored is the worst at this, basically forcing you to play the most unfun way as possible by holding the "good" ending hostage with your killcount.
I think that's just a consequence of how the game is designed. It's not an RPG where you regularly make decisions as part of your adventure. Your killcount is the biggest indicator of how you're approaching the story.
 

General Lee

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I think the main three reasons why immersive sim isn't selling anymore are:

1) Publishers don't really believe in a single player story and push for stuff like what happened with Mankind Divided with pre-orders, tacked on microtransaction modes and essentially a game that was cut in half. While the games are considered AAA, They're still a step below the most popular franchises and it shows in terms of marketing money.

2) Immersive sim was new in 2000, and new titles need to be more innovative further if they're going to remain relevant. This genre was great back then, but these days you can find most of these features implemented in more mass market appealing packages. Prey, Dishonored and Deus Ex all have a bit of a clunky AA feel to them.

3) People that haven't played the originals seem to find the current titles too obtuse, and tbh none of the titles mentioned have a mass market appealing look to them. Of course this is subjective, but I think that's one of the main reasons people unfamiliar with immersive sims might just take glance and think they're not interested – fair or not. Even if the games suggest you can play it like a straight up shooter, they're really better off as more of a stealth RPG genre than anything else. Straight up combat has never been their forte, and I don't think it's something immersive sims need to pretend to do well. Of course you can go the route of Bioshock or Fallout 4 and be successful, but at that point they're not really immersive sims anymore.
 

Mivey

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I really don't understand this sentiment surrounding this game. Its hub world design is probably the best after the original.
I am playing it right now, and god this is such a great rendition of Deus Ex. I don't care if they had to split the overarching plot in two. In a game like this, the larger plot (Illuminati shenanigans) is at best just icing on the cake, and often just forgettable. I mean, how many Deus Ex 1 players remember the exact conflict between the Illuminati, Majestic 12 and the people involved? That's just stuff you read about in a few emails or books. It's completely in your head. The actual meat of the game is exploration and finding one of many possibly solutions for a given problem. Mankind Divided has that. It's not "cut in half" as far as content is concerned, only the larger plot. If you do some of the side stuff, you can easily spent more time on this game then on Human Revolution DC. At least, by my experience right now.

Of course, as with any Square Enix game made by a western studio, it suffered under horrible, horrible mismanagement. From the terrible pre-order campaign, to the ultimatly misguided decision to include Breach mode, essentially last minute. This cost them a lot of credibility. On PC it also had performance issues initially (now quite smooth with sensible settings). Many reasons, really. Of course, this is not unlike Deus Ex IW, a sequel that also had worse sales. Of course, that was because of the game. With MD it seems more about the marketing, and perhaps also about a lack of demand.
 

family_guy

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They spend millions to make these games and barely bother to market them and also release them at weird times.
 
Dishonored is the worst at this, basically forcing you to play the most unfun way as possible by holding the "good" ending hostage with your killcount.
Dishonored doesn't have a "good" ending. It has a high chaos or low chaos ending, and consequences for your actions. Leave death and chaos in your wake and you're only going to make things worst; it makes thematic sense for the story and atmosphere
 

RoninChaos

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From the article: "It wasn't just immersive sims that didn't sell as well as expected in 2016, however. Titanfall 2, Street Fighter V, and Watch Dogs 2 also struggled for their own reasons—while big, acclaimed games like Overwatch and Battlefield 1 dominated. Dugas says that "your product needs to be more than 'GOOD' today to be successful—whether you are making a movie or a game. People have options and last time I checked there are only 24 hours in a day. If you are not good enough, your audience has gone somewhere else. Bottom line: I believe that if we make outstanding games, no matter what type of genre it is in, people will be there, whether it’s an immersive sim or not."

Basically, I'm not sure the recent underperformance of immersive sims is because of them being immersive sims, or just a general decline in the market for traditional single-player games.

I think it's the things mentioned above but I also think it has to do with the baggagethe games had. Deus Ex had the pre order bullshit and micrtransactions. Dishonored 2 had and still has technical issues. For the PC gamer who wants rock solid frame rates and all the bells and whistles needed to get the most out of their gear, dishonored 2 was a big fucking fail. Prey has Bethesda attached to it and all the baggage that comes with that.

You take those things and the fact that there are more games out there than any time that I can remember, and you have an audience that continues to fracture.

People only have so many hours in the day and, anecdotally, I know now with the small amount of time I have I don't want to waste it on a game that wastes my time. It makes the choices of what to play much more narrow. Personally I can't play 40+ hour games anymore so RPGs are pretty much out. Even games that are 30 hours long can be tough. Feature creep and useless collectibles and shit just pad out games and feel like a waste of time. Not that any of those three games mentioned are in the same vein, but I have a much more critical eye towards what I use my time one. Just the micro transaction bs in deus ex really turned me off. I don't want to give my money for a product when the developer is going to stick out their hands like a crackhead and ask for more.
 

Stumpokapow

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Just to highlight we literally had a thread a week ago worried about how Immersive Sims were over.
 
Sep 29, 2011
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Prey should've gotten a Bioshock name (for brand recognition); Deus Ex ended up feeling like a rushed and incomplete game, and had bad PR thanks to the preorder nonsense; Dishonored 2 still has technical issues on PC and it looks like the developer has given up.

They're all still good games, especially Prey and Dishonored 2, but yea.
 

tuxfool

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And it suffered for it (and many other flaws).

It was following in the steps of System Shock which had a very similar structure. Of the immersive sim pantheon only Thief and Deus Ex had a hub structure (in the case if the latter the hubs weren't large and were segmented).
 
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