Prey is currently impressing critics and consumers alike, but the sales aren’t reflecting its quality. Naturally, people have begun to discuss why a game of such quality is failing to hit high sales numbers. The release of the weekly UK sales charts showed Prey failing to knock Mario Kart8: Deluxe from the top spot. Why is Prey struggling to sell?
Bethesda’s review policy has never quite sat well with consumers. Like it or not, reviews matter. They’ve always mattered as a tool that helps people decide if a product is for them. New games cost a fair amount of money, people want to know if their money is being exchanged for a worthwhile product and experience. Without that guiding light, a number of people will simply wait for reviews to appear post-launch. Naturally, this affects week 1 sales.
The review policy has been called many things, with some suggesting Bethesda simply have faith in their products. It could explain the sheer lack of marketing for the game. To put it into context, Prey launched a week before Alien: Covenant hit cinemas. Interest in Sci-Fi properties is naturally high, but Bethesda has dropped the ball. No TV spots, no pages in publications or YouTube adverts.
Be it ignorance or arrogance, the lack of marketing is mind boggling. Bethesda expects to appeal to the masses without pre-launch reviews or promotion, it simply does not work. There’s the added challenge of selling a brand not familiar to most people.
Releasing demos for big releases has become a rare event in the modern industry. Prey didn’t just offer a demo, it offered the first hour of the full game. Allowing the curious to try before they buy is good practice, but the before mentioned lack of marketing still played a role here. If the masses aren’t aware of the game in the first place, how are they going to try the demo without someone telling them about it?
For the most part, people only heard of the Prey demo due to coverage from various sites and influencers. It’s those same sources that help guide/inform people on whether they should buy a game or not. It’s a cycle that Bethesda is seemingly relying on to do Prey’s marketing while denying reviews.
Releasing a demo is a move that will always gain the respect of consumers. Unfortunately, only console users got their hands on Prey’s first hour. The PC was overlooked, prompting many raised eyebrows and assumptions of issues with how the game would run. These assumptions weren’t without reason. Last year’s Dishonoured 2 was littered with technical problems leading to a fair few mixed reviews. Bethesda published titles tend to ship with struggles on the PC, so Prey’s demo skipping PC was met with justified skepticism.
As a game, Prey is drenched in influences from classic PC games. Overlooking that market seems like a misjudged move. It’s a niche game that aims to do things most modern titles can’t offer. In a way, Prey is arguably a niche game. The PC market is the hub for niche markets, rewarding risk and creativity with admiration and loyalty. The console market, not so much.
Word of Mouth
A week since its release, Prey is already becoming a sleeper hit. As more reviews filter through the game’s audience is starting to take shape. Fans of classic PC games are finding plenty to enjoy. Worries over technical stumbles have been relieved, for the most part anyway. This could slowly, but surely, see sales numbers rise.
There’s not a whole not coming out in the next few months that commands attention like a big budget ‘Triple-A’ release. It’s a perfect environment for Prey’s reputation to grow, seducing consumers longing for a new game to play during a dry spell. In terms of report sales figures, most tend to overlook digital is not record in the charts. That’s a pretty large market unencountered for. Even in the face of sluggish sales, there’s still time for Prey to recover.