Rockstar Vs. Pachter

Why A Western Game Can Be Popular Everywhere

Red Dead Redemption is a Rockstar game. And where Rockstar goes, "highly anticipated" is sure to follow. Thanks to the Grand Theft Auto series, Rockstar has a well-earned reputation, so it’s somewhat puzzling to hear industry analyst Michael Pachter raise doubts about Red Dead’s sales potential.

Whilst Red Dead Revolver left some people a little cold with its on rails shooter action, Red Dead Redemption promises to offer something akin to GTA, but just in the Wild West. This was the formula everyone thought Rockstar was going to follow for the original, but didn’t. However, this time around, things could be different.

As the spiritual successor to Revolver, Redemption looks set to offer everything Rockstar does best. That is: open world, sand box gaming. Players are free to run, walk, ride around the world and interact with everything and everyone, including riding trains and stagecoaches. In true Rockstar style, players will be able to follow the main storyline or amuse themselves with side missions or just amble around creating their own fun.

Rockstar + western + sandbox gaming = sure fire hit

Not according to Mr. Pachter.

Rockstar’s Neil Stephen told MCV that the team has "very high expectations for what we think is our next blockbuster gaming franchise." Not so, says Pachter, who doesn’t dispute that the game may look great and will no doubt be a critical success, but he does doubt the mass appeal of Redemption’s setting.

"I am not sure that a game set in the late 19th century has tremendous mass appeal. I would have said the same for Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia, God of War, Dante’s Inferno and any other "period" pieces, yet most of these sold quite well," Pachter told Industry Gamers.

He continues, "My bias is that a game that is set in the US West will not be particularly appealing to European audiences, and a game where the most powerful weapon is a Gatling gun will not be particularly appealing to US audiences."

Okay, so I’m guessing Mr. Pachter hasn’t heard of the spaghetti western. You know the European films that took the American Western and made it their own, adding more violence, ambiguous heroes and launching the career of one Clint Eastwood with the Dollar films. Made in the 60s, these films rescued the flagging western genre from the realm of cowboys and ‘injuns’ to create new tropes that would be translated into fantasy, science fiction and war film settings, to name a few. But I guess that cinematic history doesn’t hold much sway with Pachter when it comes to the appeal of westerns in Europe.

As one forum poster wrote, "That’s like saying people from Earth won’t like space games." Sometimes Internet wisdom actually wins out.

Then there’s the old, ‘US gamers only like big guns’ argument. Okay, so there could be a grain of truth in that, but how does that account for the success of Oblivion, Zelda, World of Warcraft and Streetfighter where there are no guns at all? Plus Redemption has lassos and there’s no way Pachter’s going to convince me that lassos aren’t cool. No way, Pachter, no way! So back off.

Pachter’s argues that the game has to be more than just good to enter the blockbuster stakes, he says, "Rather, the game has to be great (likely), has to appeal to a large potential audience (questionable), and has to have solid marketing support (likely)."

I think Pachter’s underestimating the universal appeal of the western and if any game can turn the tables on the big guns, big bucks trend, then I think Redemption could be the one. While I’m not expecting Redemption to set records and sweep Modern Warfare 2 under the carpet, I do think Redemption could be the beginning of a very fruitful series for Rockstar.

I guess one of us will be eating humble pie come May 21st.

Most played: Mass Effect 2

Most wanted: Red Dead Redemption

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