The controversy. The controversy never ends.
So I just gave the Gameindustry.biz article on the whole Outriders situation a read-through. Yes, it is weird they have not been paid royalties for a game that, according to Square-Enix themselves, was a success (certainly much more than Marvel's Avengers has been), and I hope that PCF can receive what they are owed from their publisher.
However, seeing how the following line:
He suggests that this may be due to costs around distribution platforms, "entities offering Outriders as an addition to their platform,"
Has led many to assume a reference to Microsoft and GamePass, this has started up a whole sea of its own controversy, and I am now personally thinking there may be other forces at play beyond PCF that are influencing this particular rhetoric. After all, PCF have no access to the numbers themselves, so they don't necessarily have a ground of basis to speculate on anything as to WHY they haven't been paid their royalties, especially with their publisher publicly stating the game was a success and could be their next big franchise. So, why suddenly speculate that the service which, in PCF's own words, helped give a boost to the player base, is what caused them to miss sales targets for royalties that Square-Enix publicly alluded to as actually not being missed?
[THE TAKE-TWO CONNECTION]
Like was just mentioned, PCF currently have a project in the works for Take-Two. Recently, Take-Two came forward giving their thoughts on a GamePass-style model, saying they didn't feel it'd be a "good fit" with the type of games they make. Which is fine; it is their games at the end of the day and they are free to choose whatever model is appropriate.
However, actual data from sales performance of their biggest game, GTA 5, shortly after it left GamePass directly counters this publicly given take. In another Gameindustry.biz article, it's noted that in the UK GTA 5 saw a 44% increase in sales, with this increase coinciding with its departure from the GamePass service. Now, yes, this can somewhat be attributed to simply circumstance, but there is a strong correlation that can be drawn here. Also, granted, this is something which has just recently happened, and would not have occurred in time for Take-Two's earlier statement, but it does open the possibility that Take-Two spoke too soon in reference to if their games are a fit for a GamePass-like service.
That, of course, assumes that the top brass at Take-Two actually care about playing honest with new data that might refute their earlier beliefs. If in case they continue to hold onto their beliefs WRT GamePass going forward, and that coincides with a string of, say, content deals or promotional deals that may lean a certain other way in terms of a platform bias, then there is good ground to speculate that some backstage theatrical business politics could be a motivating factor in making these kind of viewpoints (that could have data which disproves them, rather easily accessible) public.
By putting them out publicly, it conditions a training in reaffirming/confirming existing biases against a given thing that segments of the audience may already have, which can lead those individuals to influence others in their circles to feel similar, drawing more public support for a viewpoint that data may not actually support, but for these type of theatrical business political stagings, it's really the narrative that matters, not whether that narrative is actually verifiable. It would also help in sowing seeds of doubt into other developers and publishers in making such business deals to provide their content Day-and-Date on such a subscription service, which is probably the more harmful of the two consequences.
[THE SQUARE-ENIX FACTOR]
That all being said, it's entirely possible that Take-Two aren't the only higher force influencing some of PCF's speculation. It's in fact possible they aren't involved whatsoever, which means there's a possibility that Square-Enix themselves could be responsible. Now, there are a few reasons for Square-Enix here that don't actually operate in the venue of backstage theatrical business politics that could serve as a proxy attack from a rival platform holder (or, also being fair here, some member of the board or crop of shareholders who could have a financial bias leaning to a given other platform), and I figure it's a good idea to go into those given the wilder one is something I just spent the bulk of the Take-Two side speculating on (and would be similar in the case of Square-Enix if that is in fact their reasoning).
The simplest possible reason is that Square-Enix are just a slimy and greedy publisher, and may want PCF to put the idea out there it is due to GamePass inclusion, to cover for the fact Square-Enix had no valid reason to withhold royalty payment. So with another source out there that can take the blame, Square-Enix can appear more virtuous by going "Hey, even if that was the reason, we'll do right by you and pay you the royalties!", which would be positive PR for them rather than just general indifference if they could in fact not try shifting blame for supposed failed sales targets on something other than themselves.
Although that's the explanation I would like to go with, it's not too sensible of one given how that also creates a negative focus on a platform holder in Microsoft, and potentially can put a strain between their business relationship with them. Which, yes, is one that exists even if it's not as strong of one as is with other platform holders. So, it's also possible that maybe GamePass...IS the reason sales goals were supposedly not met, but again that takes us back to earlier statements from Square-Enix themselves of the game supposedly being a sales success, enough of one to become another major franchise. Given the possibility Outriders has a very modest budget, likely no more or even less than a game like Returnal (which for its publisher was a claimed success @ 560,000 copies sold), it very likely should have easily passed sales thresholds to earn PCF their royalties unless Square-Enix had very unrealistic sales targets internally, or purposefully overspent on areas of the game's development and/or marketing which...maybe would not be too unusual for Square-Enix .
Due to this I'm forced to consider, IF in fact this sudden speculation on PCF's part is from a higher power and that power is in fact Square-Enix, that this could be fueled by backstage theatrical business politics, driven as a proxy on behalf of a certain other platform holder. Considering that Square-Enix has very close ties to said other platform holder, providing them multiple long-term (1-2 year minimum) timed exclusives as well as exclusive content in multiplat content that releases Day-and-Date across platforms, plus co-marketing deals and promotion paid in part by said other platform holder? It's a possibility said other platform holder might've seen the move by Microsoft to negotiate a Square-Enix published property for inclusion into its game subscription service on Day 1, as a threat to future exclusivity deal negotiations with Square-Enix, whether that be more deals similar to Outriders for GamePass, or even making games like the next Final Fantasy Day-and-Date on platforms aside their own.
[WRAPPING IT UP]
Any opportunity to sow public doubt in a competitor product without having to do it oneself, is an opportunity most companies will take up, and being able to leverage powerful partners to front such an effort too luring a prospect to turn away. Now, I AM NOT STATING AS A FACT this is something any certain platform holder is engaging in through the use of publishers such as Take-Two or Square-Enix. I am also not stating as a fact that said publishers are encouraging this as a pass-along towards developers of theirs who may have works on a competitor's product or service that can be played into for forming a narrative dissuading not only customers but also other developers and publishers. That being said, it's not a hard scenario to picture as being reality.
Unfortunately, with how big the gaming industry is now, there is bound to be uglier sides of Washington politics-style shadiness (or the type of shadiness in big companies of traditionally massive industries like music and film) to have worked their way into proceedings, and this is not something beyond possibility for any platform holder. Indeed, all three have exhibited such tendencies in the past. However, this particular possibility is worth a deeper thought given its pertinence to what's occurring at this point in time, and to see if further develops support or rebuke this possibility as being a certain reality of what's fueling things like PCF's recent public statements of speculation.
We will just have to wait and see, but it's a scenario worth keeping on the table. In any case, I'm interested to see what the community thinks about this, so sound off below and let's talk about it.