Activision is expecting very big things from its super power action sequel. We find out why.
The first Prototype proved there’s room in the games market for new ideas.
For a fresh intellectual property to go on to sell over 2m copies after arriving in 2009 – during a recession – shows that developer Radical Entertainment and publisher Activision must have done something right.
And now they believe the sequel can sell as much as 4m copies worldwide.
Prototype was well received by critics for its blend of superhero powers and sandbox-style third-person action gameplay, but drew some strong criticism from gamers for its somewhat unlikeable protagonist Alex Mercer and sharp difficulty curve.
Developer Radical Entertainment has responded to this by creating a new lead character, former US sergeant James Heller, who must hunt down and kill Mercer. The studio has also made the gameplay ‘fairer’ and has given players the tools to cause more destruction, whether this is by flinging enemies off the ground, blowing up tanks or even turning them into organic super weapons.
In fact, it’s Prototype 2’s bigger super powers which Radical’s studio VP Dave Fracchia believes are the franchise’s key selling points. In short, he says it delivers ‘the ultimate power fantasy’ to players by making them “feel like a f*cking badass”.
Prototype 2 follows the story of Heller, who blames the death of his family and seeks revenge on mutant Alex Mercer. It’s set over one year after the events of the original Prototype, where the Blacklight virus was unleashed in Manhattan.
As Heller progresses through the streets of New York Zero and its three separate game areas, he can take on new forms and abilities such as an arm blade. This helps him take down hordes of infected and the military on his quest for revenge.
Radical says it wants to bring more consumers to Prototype with this sequel by targeting the masses, not just hardcore gamers. By listening to player feedback and making several key gameplay changes, it’s well on its way to doing so with Prototype 2.
Activision has launched a Prototype 2 online store which is selling art and clothing based on the game, including T-shirts, hoodies and caps. It was set up after Radical saw demand for them at Gamescom. “Fans wanted to rip our hoodies off of us,”?says Radical’s Dave Fracchia.
Activision has teamed up with Dark Horse Comics to produce graphic novel tie-ins that bridge the gap between Prototype and Prototype 2. The publisher also launched a Facebook app that lets users create their own monsters. The Facebook page has over 430,000 likes.
What is Radnet?
Radnet is an in-game ‘advent calendar’ that provides gamers with new events and challenges at certain times. By completing these, users can unlock rewards such as new themes and content. The Prototype 2 Radnet Edition will include 55 free pieces of content like weapons and is limited to those who pre-order the game.
‘How we’re bringing Prototype to the masses’
Radical Entertainment studio VP Dave Fracchia tells MCV why Prototype 2 can become a smash hit.
“You have to look at criticism,” he says. “What things did we do really well with in the original and where did we fail to deliver?
“We sacrificed quality for quantity in the first game. We want to go beyond the hardcore and deliver Prototype for the masses. We want to bring more players to the Prototype party by focusing on clarity, fairness and ease of use.
“And the release period is absolutely advantageous. There were a few games that were getting hints at potentially being released around our game but they’ve all kind of moved, so we literally own April.
“We sold 2.1m copies of the first game and our expectations are much higher for this one. We’re roughly looking at selling between 1.5 to two times more – I think that is our expectation at least. Part of it is because we’re broadening the audience but I think we’re also increasing more awareness to the game. With Prototype we started the hype about a year before release, with Prototype 2 we started it 18 months prior to release.
“The first Prototype was a new IP made during a transition between Vivendi and Activision, during a huge recession. So what you saw was cautiousness in that period of time. And the fact that we were able to sell as many copies of the first game told us we had to do even more this time.”