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Audience Alienating Premise / Video Games

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Audience-Alienating Premises in video games.


  • Succeeding just behind Nintendo and Sega with the TurboGrafx-16, NEC put out another system called the PC-FX to specialize in the same type of 2D games that the TG-16, SNES, and Genesis specialized in, during a time when 3D was becoming the way of the future. Granted, the PlayStation and Sega Saturn also featured an abundance of 2D games, but those were in balance with their 3D libraries.
  • The Virtual Boy. How would you like to have a completely red-and-black light show right up to your eyes? One need not wonder why that thing failed so spectacularly that Nintendo wants nothing to do with it. note 
    • There was also a lot of confusion as to whether or not the Virtual Boy was a portable system (it isn't.) It had similar name to the portable Game Boy, and didn't need to be hooked up to a TV, but was also too big and bulky to wear, requiring the player to hunch awkwardly over a table while the Virtual Boy was propped up by a stand (whereas even non-portable consoles allowed you to sit or lie down however you wanted.)
  • XBAND was a product for the SNES and Genesis that allowed gamers to play 14 different games (per console) online. It was critically acclaimed, but it ultimately failed commercially and was shut down a few years after launch. It came out at the wrong time. By its release in 1994, many gamers were beginning to move onto newer consoles. Online console gaming was also a niche thing at the time, both because the internet was still budding and because most console gamers weren't adults.



  • Any of the games developed by "Mystique" (later re-branded as "Playaround") can apply. The company made pornographic video games for the Atari 2600, a system with extremely limited graphics, a recipe for Fetish Retardant.
    • The weirdest premise would have to be Beat 'Em & Eat 'Em; where you play as two naked girls trying to catch ejaculation in their mouths from a man masturbating on a rooftop (though it's colored yellow for some reason, probably because of color limitations). Even worse is the gender-swapped version called Philly Flasher where you control two men catching breast milk from a witch who isn't even a Hot Witch, but rather a Wicked Witch who appears to be elderly and unattractive due to her white hair, Sinister Schnoz, and Thin Chin of Sin. Really makes you wonder what types of people they were trying to appeal to.
      AVGN: This game really disturbs me. But I don't get it! Is this supposed to be erotic? I don't know about you, but I'm not AT ALL turned on by some old wrinkly shitty witch titties. That's fuckin' nasty, man!
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    • Custer's Revenge is their most infamous game. It's about General Custer raping a Native American woman tied to what is either a pole or a cactus. There is no getting past the blocky low-resolution graphics (in a porn game) and gameplay that's primitive and repetitive even by early 1980s standards, even before you start on how horrendously racist and sexist the premise is (even though it's fairly tame in-game, because of the aforementioned bad graphics). And it was the most expensive Atari 2600 game, retailing a few pennies shy of $50! Despite being unfit for gamers, masturbators, consumers and anyone with tasteful social politics, it ended up selling well entirely due to its Bile Fascination. There's also an alternate version named Westward Ho! that turns the tables (you play as the Native American woman and Custer is the one tied to a pole).
  • Belgian developer Tale of Tales, who referred to themselves as "Purveyors of Beauty and Joy. Realtime artists. Sometimes confused with videogame developers.", made a lot of Art games. Some of their games were warmly received by critics who found their games had artistic merit, but almost always ignored by the gaming community at large. Some examples:
    • The Endless Forest, an MMO (that also can be ran as a screensaver) where you play as a deer and wander around a forest. There is no combat or clear objectives of any kind, so MMORPG fans will be bored by the lack of gameplay. Communications involve deer sounds and body language, so people looking for a social game will have a hard time socializing. Even naming your deer uses pictograms. And if you just want to be a deer and wander through a beautiful forest, the deer all have disturbingly human faces ala Seaman.
    • The Graveyard, a very short game available in free or paid versions. Its objective is to walk straight and sit down. The difference between the free or paid-for version? In the paid-for version, sometimes, the grandmother which you control will die of natural causes accompanied with a short poetry.
    • Luxuria Superbia, a "musical and visual journey" game that's a very thinly-veiled metaphor for sex and orgasm.
    • Bientot Lete, a game that simulates a long distance relationship with a nonsensical chess game and jumbled French dialogue.
    • This culminated with Sunset, a game where you play as a janitor in the middle of a civil war. It was the company's attempt to target the gamer demographic. Except any janitorial chores are skipped in favor of an Event Flag (instead of being interactive like Viscera Cleanup Detail). The game ultimately sold poorly, causing the developers to go on an epic Creator Breakdown-fueled Twitter rant against gamers and the gaming industry, and then stopped making commercial projects.
  • PETA's satirical Flash games, which take famous video game characters and turns them into evil animal-hating villains. Anybody who already agrees with PETA's views won't need to have their mind changed by the games, and anybody who disagrees is likely to only play their games with the intent to make fun of them, making it unlikely that they'll convince anyone. One of the most infamous was Pokémon Black and Blue, a Pokémon... parody, for lack of a better word... that focused on animal cruelty, but severely misrepresents the series, for example by giving severe and blatant Adaptational Villainy to many characters that make them seem completely different from their original counterparts, and comparing Pokémon fighting to real-life cockfighting when it's made clear in canon that Pokémon enjoy fighting as long as it's done in a safe and controlled manner, making it even harder for anybody familiar with the source material to take it seriously. While Nintendo took earlier parodies with stride, making PSA's needing to inform that, for example, Mario isn't wearing the skin of a tanuki, but donning a tanuki-based costume, the Pokémon one was the final straw. They threatened legal action against PETA if they didn't take it down and stop.
  • White supremacist record label Resistance Records has made a number of first-person shooters (Ethnic Cleansing, White Law, and Zog's Nightmare) where you play as a Nazi or Klansman and go around shooting various racial minorities. This should already convince most people to not play them.
  • The flagship franchises of Team Ninja get this sometimes.
    • Ninja Gaiden is ludicrously difficult, to the point of scaring off casual audiences). Team Ninja seems aware of this to some degree and have made fun of it a few times.
    • The Deception series has nowhere near the recognition or mainstream appeal of Dead or Alive, and a look at the premise makes it easy to guess why: You play as a dyed-in-the-wool Villain Protagonist, in service to the Satan, who tortures and kills numerous victims that enter your lair. Some of them are brigands and bandits, but the vast majority of those you kill are good, sympathetic characters, and the games take great pains to hammer home the latter part by averting What Measure Is a Mook?, showing the lives that you're gleefully and creatively snuffing out as belonging to actual people, with names, personalities, and backstories of their own.

Individual Games

  • Agents of Mayhem is a single-player-only Hero Shooter set in a rebooted version of the Saints Row universe, that tried to be both different yet appeal to Saints Row fans all the same. Problem is, Saints Row fans generally hated it, as the series was already off the rails beforehand to the base's contention and this made it looked like it was a watered-down Saturday morning cartoon. Also going Lighter and Softer / Tamer and Chaster, again not appealing to fans who generally like that it worked hard to get an M-rating. At the same time, it was also an attempt to appeal to fans of hero shooters like Overwatch, with its colorful cast of characters with unique abilities, but failed at that by virtue of the aforementioned fact that it only has single-player. Its gameplay was highly derivative of other games, and unlike previous Saints Row entries, had none of the style that made it stand out through its derivative nature. When the game released, it immediately bombed so hard that Volition was forced to lay off over 30 employees, and pull out of any plans for the franchise. Though it has barely avoided being a Creator Killer or a Franchise Killer, as THQ Nordic acquired Volition's parent company Koch Media six months after release, and announced a new, proper Saints Row title is on its way, it remains to be seen how much damage was done by this game, as some fear how detrimental it will be in the long run. Best summed up by Tyler J. of Cleanprincegaming during his retrospect of the series.
    Tyler J.: The game is a Hero Shooter, set in the Saints Row universe, that gets next to everything wrong. It retains the superhero ideals of Saints Row IV, but stuffs them into a hero shooter — a class-based hero shooter at that, and removes what makes hero shooters interesting in the process — the multiplayer. It's a game where you take out a team of three heroes and fight evil, all by yourself. An absolutely befuddling decision from a design perspective, and an incredibly strange choice in general.
  • Akatsuki Blitzkampf is a sort-of pioneer among doujin fighting games thanks to the oldschool-like charm of its game mechanics, the Darker and Edgier graphics and the dystopia-like setting. But the protagonist, Akatsuki, is an officer of this world's equivalent of the Imperial Japanese Navy from World War II ( and so is the Big Bad Murakumo), while many antagonists in both the original, its remakes and the sequel are straight-up Those Wacky Nazis by other names. It's really not needed to explain how... awkward these details can be for some gamers.
  • Akiba's Trip is a wacky game set in Tokyo's famous Otaku-centric district Akihabara and it's very authentic compared to the real thing... until you realize that the gameplay is about fighting a gang of artificial vampires by tearing their clothes off (in some cases including underwear) to expose them to sunlight. It even seems the development team picked up on Western reactions to the game since the spiritual successor Akiba's Beat was a complete revamp gameplay-wise with almost none of the stripping involved. Akiba's Beat ended up selling poorly because of the Cliché Storm, and the next spiritual successor after Akiba's Beat will be a Slice of Life set in a post-apocalyptic Akihabara.
  • Artifact is a digital card game based on Dota 2. The game was immediately savaged upon announcement, and faded into obscurity a few weeks after release. There were a few reasons why the game failed so badly:
    • Valve is a company that is known for innovating the First-Person Shooter genre incrementally through their major titles from Half-Life to Portal and Team Fortress 2, and for helping popular modders to release their mods as standalone games such as Counter-Strike and Dota 2. Seeing Valve focusing development on a Hearthstone and Shadowverse play-alike Collectible Card Game (a genre that is niche and, as of the online era, dominated by free-to-play games except for collectors and serious gamers, including the two aforementioned games), with the only innovation being three-lane gameplay, left a lot of fans bitter and feeling that Valve was abandoning its other franchises.
    • The game is paid-for instead of being free-to-play, and new cards are earned only through microtransactions and trading individual cards, to simulate real-life Collectible Card Game values. This alienated both newcomers (who are more used to free-to-play CCGs due to their accessibility) and serious gamers (who prefer "real" as in physical CCG such as Magic: The Gathering). The late 2010s also saw microtransactions face increasing backlash and controversy, so a game where you must pay upfront for the game itself and are then expected to buy more cards with more real money was doomed from the start.
  • This was a big reason why Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts tanked in sales. Many old time fans were either furious or simply turned off by the fact that they were getting a new Banjo-Kazooie game after years of waiting, only for the art style and platforming of the original games to be completely thrown out for a borderline In Name Only vehicle-based follow up. On top of that, the game's nostalgic factor and unorthodox gameplay had no appeal to a newer audience, especially since the audience in question was now part of the largely adult-aimed Xbox 360 crowd instead of the more family-oriented Nintendo crowd the original games aimed for, guaranteeing the game would flop in sales, thus killing the Banjo-Kazooie franchise stone dead while also taking the original Rare studio down with it.
  • Battleborn failed largely because it couldn't sell its cartoony Hero Shooter/MOBA to the mainstream masses. MOBA fans were turned off by the game's first person shooter elements, which made it difficult for executing the complex strategies. Conversely, shooter fans were turned off by the MOBA mechanics, which they felt added unnecessary complexity. Many casual gamers dismissed the game as a knockoff of the Blizzard's then-upcoming Overwatch just because it too has heroes, a colorful art style, and a first person shooter perspective. The game's rollout failed to do any favors as developer Gearbox intentionally challenged Overwatch by sharing the same month of release, which only lead to unfavorable comparisons. Then there are the negative feelings from Gearbox's poorly received Aliens: Colonial Marines that tarnished the studio's image and turned off potential audiences still incensed by that game. Yet the ultimate killing blow to the Battleborn's potential was its initial $60 retail price that acted as a paywall that barred more skeptical gamers from trying out the game; in contrast, rival hero shooter Paladins managed to maintain a healthy playerbase since it was released in a free-to-play state that could reach out to a larger audience and present itself as affordable alternatives to Overwatch.
  • This might be what prevents the BlazBlue series from gaining wider recognition:
    • Originally envisioned as an RPG, it was eventually changed into a fighting game during development. As such, it's far more story heavy than just about any other fighting series. The cutscenes are often pretty long, to the point that the game can feel more like a Visual Novel with a few gameplay segments than a proper fighting game. Not only that, but the plot is incredibly complex, involving time loops, clones, mystical essence and conspiracies aplenty. To make things even more inaccessible, a lot of key information about the story is found only in various light novels and audio dramas, none of which have been officially translated, and many of which haven't been unofficially translated either. Players who care only about the matches may not have any problems, but players who don't want to completely forsake the plot might find it a daunting task to understand just what the heck's going on. An illustrative comparison can be made to another Arc System Works game, Persona 4: Arena, which in many ways is a Spiritual Successor, but is far more popular; unlike BlazBlue, the game is a spin-off from an already massively-popular roleplaying game notorious for its long cutscenes and complicated plot, and so both elements can be applied to the game without fear of chasing off players, since the people most likely to pick it up have already demonstrated they're willing to tolerate such.
    • The gameplay aspects aren't much better. One of the game's major selling points is that every character has a different mechanic based around one of the buttons; for example, Arakune can summon insects, while Carl uses the same button to control his puppet. This means that every character plays uniquely, unlike some games that bog down in clone characters. Unfortunately, many gamers look at this and think, "So nothing I learn playing one character will transfer to any others?" The massive learning curve implied by the concept is a turn-off to a lot of people. Even those players who can get past the concept may be disappointed to realize that, aside from that one button, many of the characters play almost exactly like the cast of Guilty Gear (most notoriously Ragna and Jin, who are respectively near-copies of Sol and Ky).
  • BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm is a well-made and charmingly self-aware RPG… that happens to star a viral video actress who hasn’t been widely popular since 2009. Those who weren’t fans of Boxxy back then are unlikely to give this game a second glance, while those who were fans probably aren’t anymore. (And those who still are fans may not be into RPGs). All in all, the game was cursed from the start with a very narrow target audience.
  • Can't Escape the Heroine, a video game involving a man trying to fight off women who want to rape him. People not into rape will get turned off immediately, while those into it will be disappointed by the fact that the goal is to avoid rape.
  • Cho Aniki is a Shoot 'em Up with muscular guys in speedos and visual innuendo. It's bound to make anybody not into Macho Camp deeply uncomfortable. While the series has a cult following, it's mostly due to Bile Fascination (which is likely what the creators intended given how utterly bizarre the series is.)
  • The Clown Prince Rises is a freeware game recreating the Aurora shootings. To make a video game about such a horrific tragedy (and put you in the shoes of the one who instigated it) won't exactly endear you to the audience.
  • Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. requires its audience to be fans of (or at least have an interest in) four different topics: Turn-Based Strategy games, the art and motifs of American comic books, classic literature (some of it decidedly obscure, in the case of Califia), and steampunk. Rare was it to find anyone who shared more than two of those interests.
  • A Corny Voyage is a mod for Half-Life 2. The gameplay is a zero G racer where the player pilots a piece of undigested sweetcorn through a person's intestines to reach the anus. Seriously.
  • Criminal Girls and its sequel Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors are above-average dungeon crawlers with excellent characterization, but good luck getting anyone to see beyond the Squicky premise about beating and torturing teenage girls into subservience.
  • Death Smiles, a side-scrolling Shoot 'em Up by CAVE, got a lot of flak for the Gothic Lolita artwork of the game. Most is nice, tasteful and beautiful, but too many instances of pre-teen girls getting sensual with each other (including a bubble bath scene) has gotten the game an ill reputation among fans, mainly Americans. Most shoot-'em-up fans will warn potential players to ignore the artwork for the intricate gameplay for a reason.
  • One of the major complaints leveled against Divekick. The mechanics are extremely simple to the point of using only two buttons, suggesting a fighting game for fighting game newbies, but the game also contains a plethora of references to the Fighting Game Community that few outside of it would get, and is more of a parody of fighting games than anything else. Despite this, it still managed to be fairly popular amongst the FGC anyway despite (or even because of) how simple the mechanics are.
  • Doki Doki Majo Shinpan! is about a witch hunt that involves molesting teenage girls and rummaging through their belongings. While this game beat even The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass in pre-order sales, there is a reason why it was only ever released in Japan and China. It is so disturbing that NGamer denied it any ratings whatsoever.
  • Dragon's Dogma was hindered by the perception that it was a Skyrim knockoff looking to cash in on the latter's popularity. Even though one could tell about an hour in that the only things it had in common with Skyrim was an open world and the presence of dragons.
  • Drakengard 3 is, at face value, a prequel of the first game that doesn't directly tie-in with the first game's events in any visible way. The protagonist is a revered goddess-turned-traitor and a genocidal sex-maniac bent on killing her divine sisters in order to steal their powers for herself while killing their helpless followers who are unable to stop her. The game undergoes Reverse Cerebus Syndrome for a franchise that thrived on its extensive use of dark, disturbing, and hopeless atmospheres; instead it relies far more on raunchy humor to carry out its dialogue. The game's protagonist is also a Sir Swears-a-Lot who uses some of the strongest swears known to English-speakers constantly, despite the first Drakengard and Drakengard 2 only using E10+-rated swears at worst. The maligned sluggish, unrefreshing gameplay that the series is infamous for has not been rectified, and many players also suffered from poor framerates when playing on top of that. Needless to say, it sold far worse than the first Drakengard, selling a measly 150,000 copies within five months of release. In contrast, the first Drakengard sold over 240,000 copies in its first four months of release. The very next game in the franchise, NieR: Automata would move to a more appealing futuristic android-based setting and rectified many of these gameplay setbacks to sell over 4 million copies in two years.
  • Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl. Take a franchise that's beloved by fans for the ability to create your own completely customizable party, and then take that entire aspect out, and you see the problem with Etrian Odyssey Untold. Sure, you could still create your own party in Classic Mode, but then you lost out on all the new content, including the Gunner and Highlander classes and the second dungeon.
  • EXA_PICO has an interesting and highly detailed magic system, a fascinating After the End world full of Magitek where humanity is on the brink of extinction and the planet is so scarred it's trying to commit suicide, and some of the most beautiful music to be found in JRPGs. It's also better known for its main gameplay feature of guarding and exploring the psyches of emotionally vulnerable, magic-using young women who get dressed in increasingly fanservicey costumes or, as of the third game, progressively strip off more and more clothes over the course of a fight to draw on more power. The first game felt a little like the fanservice was thrown in to draw attention, but after that they kept pushing for more.
  • Girl's RPG Cinderellife is a game by Level-5 aimed at young girls... About working at a Hostess Club. It's rated 15+, but the game uses simple language with furigana so young kids who don't know kanji yet could play. The game has been criticized for romanticizing the not-so-glamorous life of a hostess towards young, impressionable girls. Unsurprisingly, the game was a flop.
  • Hatred, a video game about a misanthrope going on a killing spree without any hint of irony or satire, caused massive amounts of controversy, even before the game was pulled from Steam. But even that was nothing to what followed when Gabe Newell himself put the game back up and apologized for the pulling in the first place, which only led to more debates over free speech and censorship, and bad taste concerning real-life shootings which were still fresh in the public's minds and the ones which followed. Even those who were into the general concept of this game, or just looked past the controversy, eventually tuned out due to the rather average gameplay and ham-fisted attempts to be edgy.
  • JFK: Reloaded: A simulation game where you fire the fateful shot that kills John F. Kennedy, scoring based on how well you were able to recreate the actual assassination. It's actually pretty educational, and developed with the noble goal of disproving the Conspiracy Theories surrounding the shooting, but the fact that it's a game whose entire point is shooting a President turns an awful lot of people off (and then there's the potential to send the scenario completely Off the Rails...)
  • The Kiseki/Trails series can be a hard sell for new players. An Eastern RPG series spanning several installments that unlike most popular franchises take place in the same world with a single, interconnected and dense continuity. The games are famous for their very, very meticulous World Building and loads and loads and loads of NPC characters with in-depth subplots and backstories. Every character has a name, personality, and relationship with other characters, and the history itself with in-universe short stories and newspapers can easily bombard the player who just wants a save the world plot. Ignoring all that, Slow-Paced Beginning pretty much defines the stories in every game since the series takes the time to give the cast plenty to talk about, letting them establish their personalities gradually. While there's the expected dramatic storytelling and high stakes, the games want you to firmly understand the where and why of the situation and get attached to the characters first. The admittedly generic brand of The Legend of Heroes can turn away players in of itself, not to mention having scripts that rival the longer visual novels in length. The series has a rabid western fanbase that eagerly take in the series' lore and developing Myth Arc, but it's an acquired taste.
  • KZ Manager is a resource management game where the resources are prisoners in a concentration camp. The game requires you to force your prisoners to work so you can earn money to buy poison gas with, and then use said poison gas to execute enough prisoners to keep your public opinion up. Yeah.
  • Lawbreakers failed as hard as it did because it couldn't adapt to modern sensibilities. From the start, game director Cliff Bleszinski intended the game to be a throwback to Darker and Edgier arena shooters in both its gameplay, design, and business model. However, the game struggled to capture the hardcore shooter fans since it launched without competitive modes and contained hero shooter elements that undermined its appeal. Any potential hero shooter fans were turned off by gritty art style and generic characters. Then there was the questionable marketing as Cliff took some sly potshots at Overwatch and compared his game to Dark Souls because of its high difficulty, which scared off those looking for a casual experience. The decision not to make an Xbox One port excluded many of Cliff's fans, who he built up through the Xbox-exclusive Gears of War. Furthermore, the Cliff's refusal to pursue a free-to-play model either before or after launch prevented more skeptical fans from trying out the game out. Ultimately, the game died a quick death as it couldn't win over gamers in a saturated market that demanded colorful and accessible games.
  • Lester the Unlikely. It's the story of a Hollywood Nerd and his journey to discover his inner strength and self-confidence, which later manifests as outer strength and the ability to kick ass. Most people never figure this out, because you spend the first half of the game playing as a Hollywood Nerd who is deathly afraid of turtles and is highly vulnerable to fall damage.
  • Lose/Lose is a space shooter in which killing enemies results in random files in your Home folder being permanently deleted. The premise alone is more than enough to scare people away from even downloading it. Unsurprisingly, it's classified as malware by several antiviruses.
  • Love Live! School Idol Festival. Rhythm Games are known for being one of the few modern game genres in which Scoring Points is a core draw of the game for many players, and scoring has historically been based strictly on one's performance within the chart. School Idol Festival is one of the first games to change this by having the cards you draw from mobage pulls — which can be earned with in-game rewards or by Bribing Your Way to Victory — and equip influence your score, with cards generally getting more powerful the rarer they are. Many beginners with experience with other rhythm games play the first song available, "Bokura no Love Kimi to no LIFE" on Easy, get a perfect run on it (or at least close to it), and are shocked to discover that they only got a C for their efforts due to their weak starter cards and no perfect-performance recognition whatsoever note . The game is still well-loved by fans of Love Live! despite this; many players generally focus more on collecting cards, which are well-known for their Costume Porn, and unlocking the characters' Side Stories.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was an ahead-of-its-time postmodernist deconstruction of the recycled tropes of fiction and the escapist nature of video games, married to a stirring examination of the themes of life, love, and building a better future... as the sequel to a popular, story-heavy but relatively-straightforward stealth-action game. The creators predicted this trope, so said premise was deliberately hidden by the marketing lead-up, to ensure that people who otherwise wouldn't be interested in the game would still buy and play it. Unfortunately, subverted expectations can be even more alienating than just an off-kilter premise. Nowadays, it gets more respect than it used to, but at the time it was the very definition of a Contested Sequel.
  • Metroid:
    • Metroid: Other M: The Metroid franchise is traditionally much more beloved in Western countries than in its home country of Japan for several reasons. One major one is that the tastes of Japanese and Western audiences generally trend toward opposite ends of the Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness, with Japan often preferring tight, linear narratives, something a Metroidvania game by-design can't really give its players. So part of Other M's goal was to appeal specifically to Japanese audiences. Putting a heavy emphasis on story and character in a series that traditionally leaves those elements mostly understated is going to alienate many of its fans by default, both in Japan and out, let alone the fact that many of the writing decisions in those regards were seen as being questionably written, and through Values Dissonance, seen as outright misogynist by many Western players. The result is that Other M didn't sell noticeably better in Japan than previous Metroid installments and outright flopped everywhere else.
    • Following Other M, Metroid Prime: Federation Force was a squad-based multiplayer shooter... when Metroid is known for the exact opposite, isolating the player in a world where Everything Is Trying to Kill You with a focus on exploration. Plus being multiplayer meant that you couldn't play as series protagonist Samus Aran; instead A Space Marine Is You. The game also went through an Art Shift, replacing realistically proportioned hard sci-fi characters with Super-Deformed designs. Even with all that, it could have been an interesting spinoff (for example, The Legend of Zelda had also dabbled in multiplayer with its Four Swords games, and there was Metroid Prime Pinball that was well-liked at a time when the Prime series was still alive and kicking), except for the fact that the Metroid fanbase was on edge at the time; the series only gets sporadic releases to begin with, and Other M had sparked backlash so fans really weren't in the mood for anything experimental. Even with Critical Backlash earning the the game defenders, it became a commercial failure.
  • Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City is a platformer in which Michael Jordan has to rescue the Chicago Bulls from a mad scientist. Despite being a well-made game, it gets a bad reputation from the premise alone and is often unfavorably compared to Shaq Fu. It doesn't help that both games were released by the same developer in the same year (late 1994).
  • Monster Hunter is much less popular in the West than Japan, and this trope has its part to play in that.
    • Monster Hunter games are known for their complex virtual ecologies and the detail they put into the lives and patterns of its monsters, and the fact that you're supposed to go out and kill them leaves a bad taste in many player's mouths. Many people would rather just observe them, especially those monsters who don't normally fight back and only attack if you provoke them.
    • The games are very heavy on grinding for Rare Random Drops to get better weapons and armor, which is another point of criticism from Western players. How does fighting the same monster a few dozen times alongside a crew of questionably-cooperative players sound to you?
    • The aptly named Monster Hunter: World was the first game in the franchise where the developers put effort into attracting an audience beyond Japan. It worked and it's the highest selling game in the series.
  • MySims. It's like The Sims, but for younger players (and Asia, since the game was supposedly made to appeal to Asian markets). It has a Moe-tastic art style, LEGO-esque furniture assembling, and quite a few lovable characters, but they took out certain aspects of The Sims that fans loved (like killing Sims). Surprisingly, it has a devoted fanbase, mostly due to the aforementioned lovable characters, it looks or as cute as the already popular Story of Seasons with far less chores, a lot of interesting things to do in game, and because it started getting Surprisingly Improved Sequels immediately, starting with MySims Kingdom.
  • Otomedius is a Gradius parody game which exchanges the spaceships with scantily-clad females showing off their bosom.
    • The same applies to Parodius, its predecessor. While the cute, cartoony aspect is endearing, the raunchy content and, in later games, excessive Fanservice (to the point that the last game of the series is called Sexy Parodius) feels out of place for many players, especially younger players and non-Japanese players.
  • Papers, Please has a very engaging story about working border control for an oppressive communist government and having to make difficult moral choices about certain people trying to make it into the country. Most of the gameplay, however, can be summed up as basically a paperwork simulator revolving around stamping passports. If it wasn't for all the positive press it was getting, it could've easily dropped right under the radar.
  • TheGamingBritShow explains that a lot of why Playstation All Stars Battle Royale failed came down to this. It was obviously trying to cash in on Super Smash Bros.' popularity, but missed the point of what made Smash Bros work; Most of the roster in Smash Bros perfectly fit the wacky party fighter mold that the series created, and it took until Brawl before the series started introducing Guest Fighters, while Playstation All-Stars' roster consists mainly of characters from dark, serious M-rated games, which clashes immensely with the style of gameplay and the more lighthearted E-rated characters (even Snake came from a series that had just enough goofy elements alongside its more serious ones for him to fit into Smash,) and a good deal of the roster came from 3rd party titles right off the bat, giving outsiders the impression that Sony doesn't have enough recognizable characters to carry a Mascot Fighter. Some characters and stages, such as DmC: Devil May Cry Dante and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Raiden, as well as the stages from Bioshock Infinite, even came from games that weren't released at the time, which tainted the celebratory nature of the game by celebrating games nobody had played yet. Gameplay-wise, Playstation All-Stars has the combos and complexity of a traditional fighting game, but not the kind that would attract competitive Smash players, while not being simple enough for casual players, and being in a format that a lot of serious fighting game players (many of whom don't consider Smash a viable fighting game) wouldn't bother with.
  • The Quiet Man is a melee-combat focused game whose premise is that the protagonist's deafness is represented by having gameplay and most of the cutscenes be completely silent aside from subtle droning noises and muffled punching and kicking sounds (and the cutscenes aren't subtitled). Even if the game had been more competently-made in other respects, several reviews and social reactions started with openly wondering why anyone thought this was a good hook.
  • The Rance series of adult RPGs. Most people who have played the games say that the gameplay is very good and the series has an astonishingly complex storyline considering the premise, but the fact that the main character is a Heroic Comedic Sociopath serial rapist turns a lot of people off, especially since Rance forcing girls into sex is often played for comedy, while other characters raping women is instead portrayed as wrong and terrible. (Yes, this blatant Moral Myopia is brought up in the games, though never really excused.) This hasn't stopped the series from being a Long Runner spanning 19 years of releases.
  • Rapelay is, quite literally, a rape simulator. Even with the success of rape-heavy visual novels this fails, since the gameplay amounts to "Hold down mouse button, watch bar fill". People not into rape scenarios reject the game on sight; people into them are bored by the stale mechanics.
  • Screencheat is a multiplayer competitive FPS where everybody is invisible and so players must watch other people's screens to locate the opponent, parodying the Forgotten Trope of 90s-style split-screen multiplayer. This unorthodox gameplay style is a parody of a dated style of gameplay that is unappealing to most people used to competitive, network-based modern shooters, and completely incomprehensible to those who don't remember The '90s.
  • Senran Kagura is a Beat 'em Up/Hack and Slash (and also a third person shooter) series about rival ninja schools with a story that is both light-hearted and dark. It is also a series filled with busty females, Clothing Damage is really common and fanservice is not something it is trying to hide, causing people to turn away from it. Those who are into fanservice might find the Only Six Faces nature of the character design aged.
  • Shaq Fu was doomed from the moment someone decided it would be a hella smart idea to try and float a fighting game on the star power of a professional athlete. Fans of fighting games walked past it because it focused on Shaquille O'Neal throwing punches at martial arts champions in "the Second World", fans of sports games passed it up because it didn't focus on Shaq throwing down dunks in the court, and fans of both genres simply weren't interested in such a mediocre game playing the unbelievably ludicrous concept of Shaq using mystical basketball arts to fight martial arts champions in a parallel world completely straight.
  • Spec Ops: The Line looked like a typical war shooter while telling a tale of madness, despair, and horror. The kind of player who might appreciate the Whole Plot Reference to Heart of Darkness would be put off because it looks so much like a modern military shooter, while fans of military shooters weren't likely to be interested in its message or impressed by its gameplay. The game's real audience turned out to be those who weren't fans of modern military shooters or violent video games, though many of them also passed on the game due it looking like every other modern military game from the advertising. The game's lead writer, Walt Williams, acknowledged that the nature of the game made it practically impossible to effectively market, considering that part of the force of the game's narrative comes from it initially resembling a typical military shooter only to pull the rug out from under the player: revealing that the game is a Genre Deconstruction significantly dilutes the impact. For this reason Williams anticipated that the game would not prove to be a massive commercial success but would end up as a Cult Classic.
  • Street Fighter III, the long-awaited sequel to the Earth-shatteringly successful Street Fighter II, ended up greatly underperforming. Several huge reasons are usually given for its failure:
    • Most infamously, Capcom opted to replace almost the entire cast from the previous games with a new roster of fighters, with Ryu and Ken being the lone holdovers. They were likely trying to replicate the near-complete cast changeover from Street Fighter I to II and hoping for similar success, without realizing how different the circumstances were. The first Street Fighter was a cult hit at best, meaning nobody really cared when everybody except for Ryu, Ken, and Sagat was left out of the sequel. Furthermore, none of the characters in the original Street Fighter beside Ryu and Ken were playable, meaning there were no players upset that the time and effort they spent learning their character's moveset wouldn't carry over to alienate. Street Fighter II, on the other hand, had proven to be a global sensation, with the new fighters becoming household names overnight and subsequently appearing in the Street Fighter Alpha prequel series, as well as the live-action and animated movies and both the Western and Japanese TV adaptations. This meant audiences were far more attached to these characters than the ones from the original game, and their absence in Street Fighter III incited far more backlash than expected.
    • The game was released in 1997, right as American arcades were dying and when 3D fighting games like Virtua Fighter and Tekken were becoming extremely popular. Despite Street Fighter III having cutting edge, beautifully animated hand-drawn sprites for the time, many casual gamers dismissed it as looking cheap or outdated.
    • The game was far more complex and strategic than Street Fighter II or any of the Alpha games, turning off new players. It later found success among tournament players and the Fighting Game Community, but to this day, it still has a reputation for being very unfriendly to newbies or casual gamers.
    • The game was developed for Capcom's brand new CPS-3 arcade cabinet. This allowed for far more detailed, fluid sprites than in the CPS-2 fighting games like the Alpha series, but consequently made III far more expensive for arcade operators. This, coupled with the declining popularity of 2D fighting games and arcades in general, meant that many operators passed on ordering the game. The advanced graphics also meant that III couldn't be ported to most of the then-current home consoles without sacrificing features or animations, as had happened with X-Men vs. Street Fighter the previous year. It didn't get a home release until two years later, and even then, only for Sega's Dreamcast system. While the Alpha games and Street Fighter EX had sold well on home consoles, Capcom couldn't repeat that same success when III was only available on the Dreamcast, a system that had never been as successful as the PlayStation. III eventually saw a PS2 release in 2004, seven years later.
    • In the end, Capcom released a third Alpha game the following year, which brought back even more of the characters from Street Fighter II (namely Cammy, Balrog, Vega and E. Honda) in an effort to Win Back the Crowd. While the CPS-2 hardware meant that the graphics in Alpha 3 didn't look as good as the ones in III, it also made the game much cheaper for arcade owners and allowed it to be released for the PlayStation, where it sold a million copies. The CPS-3 ended up dead in the water, and Capcom's future 2D fighting games like the Marvel vs. Capcom and SNK vs. Capcom series wound up either utilizing the CPS-2 or different system boards like Sega's NAOMI hardware. Those games also made sure to mostly feature Capcom characters from Street Fighter II and the Alpha trilogy in order to avoid alienating fans in the same way they'd done with III.
  • Street Fighter V eventually found its niche and became a success, but its first year or so was rough indeed:
    • Street Fighter V is the most simplified entry in the Street Fighter series since Street Fighter II, the idea being that the simplified game-play would bring in new players, while a stripping-down of single-player content and a stronger focus on online and competitive play would bolster the hardcore fan-base. The result was that the casual audience complained that there was not enough single player content, while the hardcore audience complained that the game was too dumbed-down and boring. Capcom expected the game to sell 2 million copies in its first month, a mark it had failed to reach 8 months after its release.
    • Capcom was worried about this during broadcasts of their Capcom Pro Tour tournaments. As such, they started placing bans on their sexier DLC costumes at tournaments. This move served to immediately divide fans, with some deriding Capcom for censorship and others stating that such a ban basically proves Capcom knows how ridiculous the Stripperiffic costumes look.
  • Stretch Panic is about a girl who uses a possessed scarf to fight her demon-possessed sisters. She must exorcise the demons, which require points that you must obtain by pinching and stretching women with comically over-sized breasts.
  • Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, a freeware RPG Maker game where you play as the two Columbine shooters who go on their infamous murderous rampage. The second half of the game involves the duo going to Hell fighting enemies from Doom and becoming minions of Satan (the South Park version).
  • That Dragon, Cancer has garnered rave reviews in the tech press and on Steam, but it's about experiencing the viewpoint of a father (who is based of the developer of the game) caring for his baby son, who was suffered (and eventually succumbed to) cancer. The game is an idealized experience of the real-life event of the limited time the father (and the family) had to his son. Needless to say, for large amount of gamers, the subject matter is uncomfortable, and even a large amount of those who like tear-jerking works of art were put off by the fact that it was based on a personal real-life event.
  • Them's Fightin' Herds:
    • The game's origins as a former My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fangame that got Screwed by the Lawyers and then got re-imagined as an original IP has turned off more than a few potential fans. Fans of My Little Pony have been turned off by the fact that the characters they know and love are no longer part of the game, while some potential players were turned off by its connection to My Little Pony. In other words, MLP fans dislike it because there aren't enough ponies, but MLP haters hate it because there are too many (thinly reskinned) ponies.
    • There's the problem of the game having cute animal characters, which would appeal to a more casual crowd, but instead of offering a simplified Fighting Game experience for newcomers to the genre, the creators have decided to go for a full-fledged 2D fighter, which is known for being one of the most complex genres for newcomers.
  • Licensed Games have a poor reputation, but it's hard to think of a worse choice of adaption than the 2009 First-Person Shooter Tunnel Rats: 1968. The existing property, in this case, was 1968 Tunnel Rats, a film that had opened the year before and, despite decent reviews, made less than $36,000 on a budget of $8 million. The film's director was Uwe Boll, a man infamous for making terrible video game movies and challenging his critics to boxing matches. So, based on a movie no one saw, by a highly unpopular director, with gameplay of crawling through interchangeable tunnels disarming booby traps and cutting the ears off of dead Viet Cong. Reviews were extremely negative, a planned XBOX 360 port never happened, and Replay Studios went bankrupt a couple months later.
  • In Tyranny, you start out playing as a minion of an extremely successful Evil Overlord, Kyros, in a Crapsack World. The advertising emphasized what a brutal world it was, and how much evil the Player Character could get up to in Kyros' name, which left people expecting a lot of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy. The truth is more complicated: the player can be a Noble Demon or even pull a Heel–Face Turn instead, and even Kyros has their reasons for what they do. Still, a lot of people are leery about playing a dark, non-comedic game with a Villain Protagonist by default.
  • The Unholy War is a great game which combined fast-paced combat with very slow paced turn-based strategy, not targeting any of those two genres' audiences. Action-oriented gamers are scared by the "slow and meticulous" chess-like gameplay while the strategy-oriented gamers are scared by the "quick and dumb" action gameplay.
  • Viva Piñata. While it had moderate success and even an animated series, the problem was that it failed towards both age demographics. Most teens and adults were turned off as it looked too kiddy, while many kids were turned off because the micromanagement was too complicated.
  • When the Switch port of VOEZ was first announced and released, people who hadn't played the game (or at least other Rayark games) before found it revolting that the game could not be played in TV mode. Not just that, but the game initially was best played with the Switch laid flat on a table, something that's difficult or not possible to do if, for example, you're on a bus or sitting on a park bench. Fortunately, a later update allows the game to be played with a controller, both in and out of TV mode.
  • Wall Street Kid for the NES. Yeah, a stock market simulator is not exactly a concept with mass appeal, especially when it's being sold on the same 8-bit console as Super Mario Bros. and The Legend Of Zelda. The demographic primarily consisted of children who wouldn't be interested in such a thing, while adults who would weren't normally buying game consoles for themselves. Add some very, very boring aesthetics on top of that (the game is literally about 90% just white text on a black background) and you've got a game which was kind of doomed to fail from the start. To make matters worse, it was based off a misguided Japanese fad that anyone could get rich by being smart with the stock market that had little to no interest in the US.
  • Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is exceptionally difficult to market, to put it kindly. Watching one of its trailers, it looks like some sort of student art film project, and your only clue as to what the gameplay is like is that you need to "gather stories"; it's up to you to dive in blind and find out what that entails. The gameplay, such as it is, is wandering around the United States, finding events to witness and people to meet, learning the backstory of sixteen people in particular. It's a very slow burn of a plot, and how much you get out of it is determined by how willing you are to invest in its characters while not being turned off by the main gameplay concept of "a skeleton walking across a map."
  • Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z, a Gaiden Game (ironically, in a series with "Gaiden" already in its english title) revolving around a brand new character who's the arrogant, crude, foul-mouthed antithesis to Ryu who's out to kill him (which obviously is never going to happen,) plays more like God of War than Ninja Gaiden, and despite playing a ninja there isn't even a jump button. Ryu's involvement is literally the only thing making this a Ninja Gaiden game aside from the title. It also isn't hard enough to appeal to the Ninja Gaiden-loving demographic, but people outside the demographic would likely be scared away by the Ninja Gaiden label. Ultimately the was critically lambasted and just barely sold 100k copies, when even the original release of Ninja Gaiden 3 (considered the worst of the mainline games) sold over half a million.
  • Yandere Simulator takes place in a Dating Sim inspired setting, where you play as a teenage girl who stalks someone at her school, and systematically removes rivals for her crush's affection using methods ranging from matchmaking, to manipulation, to good old fashioned murder. It doesn't help that one of the game's mechanics involves taking Panty Shot photos to win favors with the game's Knowledge Broker. In a controversial move, Twitch has it listed as a blacklisted game, most probably because of the aforementioned premise. Some controversies involving the creator have not helped matters.
  • This is often cited for why Yo-Kai Watch is a Cash Cow Franchise in Japan but is less successful elsewhere. The series appeals to Japanese kids because its premise is very Japanese-aimed. The idea is that, even in your everyday mundane Japanese town, mysterious youkai can exist all around you. It appeals to Japanese kids both because the series' world is so similar to their own and because they already know about youkai. However, even a Thinly-Veiled Dub Country Change can't lessen the Japanese influence of Yo-kai Watch, and most kids outside of Japan have never heard of "youkai", so the interest isn't there. Being "too Japanese" is also a reason why most youkai-heavy series are left in Japan.


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