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Acclaimed Flop

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It was widely considered the best film of 2012, but the money it (never) made wouldn't tell you that.
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Every once in a while, some work will leave a big mark in the mind of audiences. The reviews won't give it a score under 9/10, those who saw/read/played it almost unanimously love it, and the work is acclaimed for its originality, unique artistic touch, beautiful soundtrack, etc. Everything is perfect except for one thing: few people bought or watched it. Despite its huge critical success, the work is snubbed in the stores or cinemas and only avoids fading away from public view entirely by virtue of its acclaim.

Maybe it was too original, too unique, or too controversial to appeal to a large base (and maybe deliberately so), or maybe it lacked the advertisement that big and long-installed licenses or blockbusters get. Or just got a very clumsy marketing campaign. It can also be a consequence of The Firefly Effect. But as a result of its glowing reputation, it will usually be sought after several years later by many people who overlooked it at the time, making it all the more difficult to find.

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They are often Cult Classics, but a cult classic isn't necessarily successful critically and can keep a very limited fanbase.

Compare Critical Dissonance (when the opinions of critics and viewers don't match), Magnum Opus Dissonance (when the author loves the work above all else and the audience refuses to), Needs More Love (when a work is good, but ends up being extremely obscure), and Vindicated by History (when the quality of the work is only generally acknowledged many years after it came out).

Contrast Critic-Proof (where the work is commercially successful despite negative critical reception), Presumed Flop (when many people just assume a work did poorly but it wasn't the case), and Sleeper Hit (where a work that no one was expecting much from ends up being a commercial success despite the unfavorable odds).

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See also Hitless Hit Album for examples of albums that caught on despite producing no hit singles.

This is not about works you personally liked that didn't get much attention. This is about works that did poorly despite being acclaimed. Also, please don't add any examples until the work's initial run has finished.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Nichijou sold poorly in Japan,note  but received great reviews from critics, and got a warm, loving fanbase when it hit America and Europe, even in spite of it not having an official release at the time it was originally licensed due to the closure of Bandai Entertainment. It also managed to more than double its original sales with re-releases. After being rescued by Funimation, its sub-only release was a rather big hit — enough that its rerelease included an English dub.
  • Fractale, despite it getting decent to good reviews all around (at least at first), had the misfortune of sharing the same timeslot as Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Fractale never stood a chance. A Creator Breakdown happened partway through production when the creator found out Madoka was trouncing his show, and the quality slipped dramatically from that point onwards.
  • Any Rumiko Takahashi series in the West that's not Ranma ½ or Inuyasha:
    • Maison Ikkoku. Often considered to be Takahashi's masterpiece, it received critical acclaim when it was imported, and maintains a devoted fanbase to this day, with a surprising number even still calling it their favorite anime series of all time. However, the series itself, being more of a slice of life coming-of-age comedy, and more realistic than Takahashi's mega hits InuYasha and Ranma ½, failed to find much of an audience in the U.S. Its original VHS releases were cancelled after a handful of volumes, and was only released on DVD when InuYasha took off, where it also bombed (although the whole series was released, Viz Media was forced to do very small print runs of later volumes). The series is now out-of-print and very difficult to find. There are some fans campaigning Viz to release the series on Blu-ray after they've successfully released Ranma ½ in the format, and Viz hasn't ruled the idea out, but says it will only likely have a chance if Ranma's sales are very strong. Other industry insiders (such as Justin Servakis) have strong doubt that the series will see the light of day in the U.S. again, despite its critical acclaim and devoted fan following. The manga has it a little bit better. The entire series was re-released in English un-flipped beginning in 2001, a solid 12 years before Ranma was. The series is now out-of-print, but still fairly easy to find on the used book circuit.
    • The Urusei Yatsura manga was this for a long time, being a huge bomb for Viz. They only released a handful of issues, but AnimEigo managed to at least release the entire anime TV series subtitled-only, and the movies with dubs. The series has always been well-received (especially the second movie, Beautiful Dreamer), but was, for years, considered too old and long to be considered marketable here. By 2019 (likely coinciding with Takahashi's induction into the Eisner Hall of Fame), Viz had decided to bring back the original manga, with availability in digital and paperback omnibus form.
    • Rumiko Takahashi Anthology has the dubious distinction of being Geneon's worst selling anime ever. Vol. 1 sold 300 units on DVD, while Vol. 2 sold a mere 80. In comparison, the first 28 InuYasha DVDs sold a million units combined. Nonetheless, hardcore Takahashi fans adore Anthology, and it received very positive reviews from the few non-fans that saw it.
  • Slower-paced, non-action anime series like Kikaider and Paranoia Agent have rarely done well in the ratings on American television, regardless of how liked they are by those who watch them. This is because the anime-watching audience in North America is mostly made of teenagers and young adults who come in expecting wild, heart-pounding action. When it turns out to be something else, they often walk away uninterested.
  • Despite having a massive following among those who are already fans of series like Naruto, Bleach, and Dragon Ball Z, One Piece has traditionally had a tough time gaining a foothold in English-speaking countries. The manga has become a tentpole for Viz, though not without several years of struggling before it caught up with the Japanese releases and got promoted at conventions. The anime had not found its ground until the Toonami run, though it experienced diminishing returns and could only pull in about half the numbers Space Dandy and Attack on Titan received. The reason why One Piece always has to earn its success is simple: The kids, teenagers, and young adults who get into titles like the ones mentioned above do so because they are incredibly Japanese in their premises, art styles, and storytelling (in other words, they look and act like anime, or at least their definition of itnote ), whereas the Western-influenced visual design of One Piece is itself an Audience-Alienating Premise for a lot of anime fans despite having an equally unique premise. In other words, hardcore anime fans find it too "Western and cartoon-y", ironically enough. It didn't help that the original dub, which was produced by 4Kids Entertainment, is the most well known version by far, especially at a critical time when dubs for Naruto and Bleach were gaining ground with Western audiences in prime-time slots. It has gotten better as the Funimation dub has gotten more attention, with their uncut DVDs often topping bestselling anime charts, while it has gotten steady recognition on Toonami on Adult Swim.
  • Lupin III, once again, in the West. It has a very devoted fanbase, and many attempts have been made to market it in the U.S. However, its success has always been modest at best. Streamline Pictures tried it, AnimEigo tried it, Manga Entertainment tried it, and Funimation tried it, all unsuccessful. Most notably, Pioneer/Geneon attempted to market the classic Red Jacket TV series from '70s, but it was pulled from Adult Swim after 26 episodes due to poor ratings and the DVD releases stopped at episode 79 (out of 155) due to poor sales. In 2013, Funimation once again gave it another shot by licensing the TV series, which focused heavily on Fujiko Mine, with lots of fanservice (which usually sells very well for them). Unfortunately, the sales were still somewhat disappointing. The only company that's been able to make Lupin work has been Discotek Media, who has released many Lupin properties to DVD to a small niche audience.
  • Case Closed. Funimation licensed the series as one of their earliest non-Dragon Ball Z shows, and went all out with a big marketing campaign for the series' premiere on Adult Swim. Unfortunately, only about 50 episodes were shown (most of which were in the graveyard time slot) before the plug was pulled. Funimation made many attempts to resume the series on home video, but only got to episode 130 before calling it quits. They did release six of the theatrical films, which they said sold better than the TV series, and were considering picking up more. However, the series has remained dead in the U.S. despite having a very loyal following and good critical reception from those who have seen the show. However, Viz has continued to publish the manga, though many of the earlier volumes have fallen out of print. Its own popularity in Japan makes it more difficult than most anime to make money overseas because of the higher licensing fees. There's also its questionable target audience. The show is seen as too dark, wordy, and boring for kids, while being too childish and silly for adult audiences, making it very difficult to market in the U.S.
  • No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!'s anime adaptation did very poorly in Japan in regards to sales, yet this series is well-liked among the American anime fanbase because the series pokes fun at the typical otaku. The manga has managed to be more successful in both Japan and North America, especially after it moved away from the Cringe Comedy of its early chapters and gives Tomoko more chances at having a social life.
  • Pretty Cure is a popular and successful series overall, but some seasons haven't done as well as others:
  • Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, a milestone for the newly established studio Gainax, opened to good reviews and won a Seiun Award. The movie tanked at the box office.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry has a very strong fan following and its anime adaptation is one of the most well-known horror anime, but its DVD sales notoriously bombed for both Geneon and Funimation. It took 8 years for the anime's second season to be licensed in North America, after much, much outcry and demand, thanks to Sentai Filmworks.
  • Big Windup! is largely thought to have killed interest in the sports genre of anime until the 2010s revived it. Despite its thriving fanbase, the English home video release sold extremely poorly, and thus the second season went unlicensed until much later.
  • Lyrical Nanoha is one of the most popular Magical Girl series out there yet the English version absolutely bombed. It's often blamed that the moe looking cover turned off people who didn't know it was an action-packed Magical Girl Warrior series.
  • Yo-Kai Watch in the United States. While it had received largely positive reviews from critics, a small Western fanbase, and aired every evening and Saturday Morning on Disney XD, the series had a disastrous performance in the U.S. Despite regularly being a top-rated show in Japan, in America, its top-rated episode only pulled 500,000 viewers and regularly struggled to beat other shows airing on Disney XD such as DuckTales, Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Star Wars Rebels, and even Pokémon: The Series. It was eventually removed from the network in 2019 for a brief period of time to make way for another anime adaptation of a video game, Inazuma Eleven: Ares. In 2020, the series returned to Disney XD, but with a catch, it only aired on weekend mornings, and the return got little to no promotion or fanfare. Eventually, the reruns were dropped in August 2020.
  • The animated adaptation of From the New World sold extremely poorly, mainly due to the yuri/yaoi themes, and the fact that it aired shortly before Unlimited Psychic Squad which initially portrayed a similarly bleak atmosphere, but much more action-focused. However, when reading online reviews, one finds that the anime is extremely well liked, and there have even been several signed requests for the original novel to be translated.
  • Kimagure Orange Road is yet another classic manga and anime series (one that had a heavy influence on shonen romantic comedies) that has failed to find an audience in the Anglosphere, likely due to focusing more on romance and everyday life than action or supernatural elements; while the main character does have Psychic Powers that he tries to keep secret, it's more of a subplot than anything. While AnimEigo was able to make it work in the U.S. by selling sub only discs to a niche audience, the series is the worst selling anime of all time in the UK. The manga wasn't translated into English until 2014, and was released digital only. However, Digital Manga Publishing launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to re-localize and republish the manga in both digital and paperback formats, giving the series a second chance. It remains a Cult Classic in Western fandom, and Madoka Ayukawa was the most popular character in the then-tiny Western anime fandom before the 90s anime boom.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam and Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam are two of the least successful Gundam series in North America. In the U.S., it might be due to the age of these respective shows and American aversion to older anime. There is also the fact that Mobile Suit Gundam didn't get to finish its run on Cartoon Network due to being pulled from the air immediately after 9/11, although some feel that this was just a convenient excuse for CN to pull a "low ratings" show. Zeta Gundam, although planned for TV airing, instead went straight to DVD. Most seem to chalk it up to the fact that they compared unfavorably to other series such as Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, which was actually the first Gundam series to air in the U.S. Mobile Fighter G Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED would also be popular in North America and have successful runs. Despite the word of mouth by old-school Western anime fans through early anime fandom efforts, the mainstream viewers were simply unaware of the significance of the original or its sequel and could not look past the age of these two shows.
  • Most of the Leijiverse in the United States. Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 have had a long history of not being treated with respect by local American dubbers. When the chance came to see these anime uncut for the first time, only longtime anime fans really took notice. For everyone else, Leiji Matsumoto's style is just too old school.
  • Marry Grave was praised everywhere for its fresh take on the shonen formula and moving love story, put forward regularly with color pages in its magazine, already licensed for translation in several countries and seemed on its way to become a new hit… but the poor volume sales said otherwisenote , leading to its cancellation after 52 chapters, to the fans' shock.
  • The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria is regarded by critics and hardcore light novel fans as one of if not the best light novel to ever be written. However, it remained obscure outside of devoted fans—none of the Japanese volumes broke 30,000 sales, and the first English volume took two years to make it to 1,000, with Amazon stats showing the final volume selling a pathetic 10 print copies in its first month of release.
  • Alderamin on the Sky suffered from this in its native Japan; it was the only novel to appear in the critic-voted list of the top 10 light novels of the 2010-2019 decade in the magazine Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi! that never showed up on any year-end bestsellers list as well. Critics loved its aspirations of being a sweeping war epic, while fans found its geopolitical drama hard to reconcile with its equal focus on a Showy Invincible Stock Light-Novel Hero and his group of equally quirky, superpowered friends, and found its views on political and military leadership to be Anvilicious. In contrast, outside Japan, the books and anime flew under the radar from beginning to end with both fans and critics.
  • Bottom Tier Character Tomozaki made the Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi! critics' top 10 list five years in a row, and the anime adaptation was viewed in much the same way: word-of-mouth from positive critical reviews on both sides of the Pacific caused it to grow a small and dedicated fanbase. However, none of the praise translated into great BD sales: none of the volumes sold above 800 and the series found itself squarely in the bottom of the sales chart.
  • Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight got very high praise from critics who loved its deep character relationships, metatextual commentary, and surreal visuals and storyline reminiscent of the style of Kunihiko Ikuhara. Long-time viewers of Bushiroad mixed-media franchises, who usually watch for light slice-of-life shows with heavy Moe elements, musical numbers and yuri-baiting, found the show to be just too weird and experimental for their tastes. It remains the only anime based on a Bushiroad franchise to not receive a second season, something that even Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, which wasn't originally planned for one, managed to do.
  • Baccano!'s anime adaptation was widely praised by critics and is especially well-loved by North American anime fans, but in Japan it did very poorly in ratings and DVD sales.
  • Dirty Pair never sold particularly well in the U.S. despite their popularity during the first wave of anime fandom. It was enough to get an American comic book adaptation during The '80s. Part of the reason for their failure to catch on may be due to the fact that the early importers of Dirty Pair were the much maligned Streamline Pictures whose philosophy caused them eschew subtitled versions of their imports that would have satisfied purists who disliked dubbed anime.note  The post Streamline era saw the Dirty Pair fade into near obscurity as many more female fans entered the fandom and may have been turned off by the characterizations of Kei and Yuri as cute but ditzy and incompetent (while wearing revealing uniforms). The incoming wave of female anime fans preferred female characters who were smart, empowered, and not objectified for male viewers.
  • Tricks Dedicated to Witches garnered a lot of praise for its unique premise, but it didn't perform well in terms of sales and was cancelled after only 31 chapters.

    Automobiles 
  • The Saturn Aura, launched in 2006, wasn't a huge failure, but compared to other brands in the General Motors product range at the time, it was seen as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute to the Chevrolet Malibu. Critics such as Canadian Driver (now Autos.ca) liked it, and cars.com also gave it good reviews with its more European style by contrast to Chevrolet or Pontiac at the time, but Saturn had competition from Chevrolet and Pontiac and it was launched during the Great Recession of 2007-2008. It eventually disappeared in 2010, but the Buick Regal sedan is its Spiritual Successor and was meant to be a Saturn originally, incidentally. In Europe, where it never got sold, people saw it as a Captain Ersatz of the Opel Vectra (which, it was based on mechanically, and explains why it has more European styling).
  • The Chrysler Crossfire was popular but had low sales during its run. The politics of the era and the fact it was launched during an Audience-Alienating Era for Chrysler didn't help.
  • The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X failed to meet sales expectations despite popular demand in automotive media such as video games and television shows, and the company Mitsubishi Motors had to discontinue both the regular Lancer and its Evolution line due to Misaimed Marketing.
  • The Renault Avantime was well-reviewed and liked by critics but its unconventional design led it to bomb in the market with fewer than 9000 sold, pretty disastrous for a people-carrier. Notably, it's one of the few cars that all three presenters of Clarkson-era Top Gear agree on as being a good car.

    Comic Books 
  • Death Vigil's rating on Comic Book Roundup is consistently more than 9 out of 10 and the artist/writer gets many positive responses from fans on his deviantART page. It, however, has experienced Troubled Production and poor pre-order and revenue numbers, so despite the acclaim, it's set to be canceled after the first story arc.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Disney Animated Canon has a number of examples.
    • Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Bambi (1942), Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Sleeping Beauty (1959) are all highly acclaimed classics which failed disastrously at the box office upon their original release (though they did better in re-releases), although partly due to overblown budgets (Sleeping Beauty nearly bankrupted the studio) as much as audience lack of interest. In addition, the first three were released during World War II, a time when Americans were too busy supporting the war effort to go to the movies (in addition, the entire European cinema market was cut off by the war). The production cost of Sleeping Beauty (an estimated $6 million) reportedly was more than twice as expensive as the production costs of the box office flop Alice in Wonderland (1951), the moderate box office success of Peter Pan (1953) and Lady and the Tramp (1955). Disney invested in a new film format, the then-innovative Super Technirama 70, and some of the film prints included six-track stereophonic sound (rare for this time). Which only added to the cost. Disney also hired additional staff to work on this film, at a time when the rest of the American animation studios were laying off personnel or considering shutting down operations (due to a drop in profits and competition from television). Also controversial was the part of the budget that went to developing background animation (the film's scenery), which Walt wanted to be fully detailed in a style reminiscent of French Renaissance paintings. As Clyde Geronimi (the film's supervising director) complained: "All that beautiful detail in the trees, the bark, and all that, that's all well and good, but who the hell's going to look at that?"
    • The Emperor's New Groove (2000) was very well received but performed at a subpar level at the box office, generally because of Disney's poor marketing efforts. In retrospect, it did not perform too badly, earning $169.3 million at the box office ($89.3m from the United States, and $80m internationally). It turned out a profit. But Disney still considered it disappointing, as it performed worse at the box office that most of their animated films from the 1990s. By comparison, Disney's previous animated feature, Tarzan, had earned $448.2m worldwide.
    • Treasure Planet (2002) is another film that had mostly positive reviews from critics, yet it became a major flop at the box office, and merchandise is scarce. Since its release in 2002, however, it has become a Cult Classic. In this case, the film actually failed to earn as much as its own budget. It earned a total of $109.6 million from its worldwide box office, and the estimated budget was about $140 million. Part of the film's box-office failure was due to Disney choosing to release it during a particularly "competitive holiday season" (their words prior to the release) where the film would compete against other intended blockbusters. It was overshadowed during its debut weekend by three other films: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Die Another Day, and The Santa Clause 2. Apparently Harry Potter, James Bond, and Santa Claus had more box-office appeal than (cyborg) Long John Silver.
    • Disney's sequel to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, simply titled Winnie the Pooh (2011) is a strange case of this in the Canon. Released to thunderous acclaim (including a 90% Rotten Tomatoes score, which was, at the time, the highest score for any Disney Canon entry since 1994), it only made $50 million worldwide against a $30 million budget. This was most likely a result of the dubious decision to release the film simultaneously with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. It actually performed much worse than Treasure Planet (earning about $70 million less). Some of the elements which the critics praised may explain why the audience was not interested. The film was praised (summarizing critics' quotes from Wikipedia): because it was mostly hand-drawn (at a time when hand-drawn animation was considered a relic of the past), because it felt as a nostalgic throwback to an earlier era of animation, because of its lack of "3-D animation and special effects", and because it provided "a nightmare-proof experience for even the youngest viewers" (unlike other Disney films it lacks memorable drama or horror elements). It may appeal to younger audiences, like most of the Winnie-the-Pooh, but it lacks elements that would draw in older kids, teenagers, and adults.
  • Teacher's Pet (the film) from 2004. Despite poor marketing, critics loved it.
  • The Secret of NIMH suffered from poor marketing and competition with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, but was widely acclaimed for its vibrant animation and moving storyline.
  • Cats Don't Dance. Critics loved this film that won an Annie Award for Best Animated Film of 1997, but box office numbers were very poor. This is because Warner Bros. acquired Turner Animation Studios after production was completed, and worried that the film was going to overshadow other releases they had, put it in a small number of theaters and gave it no promotion outside of toys from Subway and a few children's storybooks. The movie would later go on to being Vindicated by Cable, thanks to airing several times during the early 2000s on Cartoon Network.
  • The Iron Giant was a financial disaster due to a horrible marketing campaign on Warner Bros' part. However, it picked up a new life on DVD and has become well-known and respected, in part due to Cartoon Network running 24-hour blocks of it every Thanksgiving.
  • Frankenweenie has been acclaimed by critics and was a strong contender to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars (it got the strongest reviews of that year's five contenders), but opened to a disappointing $11 million despite positive reception and a huge marketing campaign. The financial disappointment owes to several factors: an Audience-Alienating Premise, the fact that it's not nearly as kid-friendly as its marketing suggested and the fact that it opened only a week after the more accessible Dueling Movie Hotel Transylvania.
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was critically acclaimed, with critics and filmgoers citing the film's music, mature writing, and animation as being exceptionally strong. However, due to the decision to make it a theatrical release being rather last-minute, it didn't get much promotion and turned out to be a box-office bomb. It was much more profitable on home media later on and is still highly regarded, with some fans still considering it the best Batman film.
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox scored a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, and did even better with what the site describes as "Top Critics", earning only a single negative review (overall 98%). 84% of viewers on the site also said that they liked it, but the film only banked $20.9 million in the box office. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that though the film was targeted as a PG children's film, much of the humor and storylines were more adult and perhaps also the film's unusual visual style and introspective nature. It is also a stop-motion film, which, despite a growing number of them, have typically had a harder time with families than 2D animation or 3D CGI.
  • Pixar:
    • The Good Dinosaur was well received like most of the studio's other works (although considered by many to be one of their weaker films) earning a 77% on Rotten Tomatoes, even receiving award nominations, but has the dubious honor of being their first box office flop. Despite having passed $100 million in the US, it cost double that to make, and it faced competition from the likes of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Creed and Disney's own Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which had the (at the time) biggest opening weekend ever.
    • They had another case with Onward, which unlike the above actually got really good reviews (87% on Rotten Tomatoes), but had the bad luck of coming out as the COVID-19 Pandemic started closing theaters worldwide, leading to a miserable box-office performance. At least an early release on streaming and VOD helped those who missed it in theaters.
  • DreamWorks Animation's Rise of the Guardians received mostly positive reviews from critics, but cost $145 million to produce and only made $103.4 million at the North American box office as it came out right after Wreck-It Ralph. The total worldwide gross was $306.9 million, but it's considered a box-office failure for DreamWorks since the total gross did not meet the cost of production and advertisement. They ultimately lost $83 million on it. In fact, the losses forced DreamWorks to lay off over three hundred workers.
  • Almost any film from Laika can be included. Most of their projects carry a roughly $60 million budget. The Boxtrolls and ParaNorman underperformed domestically, and needed the worldwide box office to break even. Both were very well-received by critics though and were nominated for Academy Awards. The only Laika films to make back their budget domestically are Corpse Bride and Coraline.
    • Kubo and the Two Strings opened to critical acclaim (97% on Rotten Tomatoes), but it was one of the last films released during a largely underwhelming summer. It made $77.5 million worldwide against a $60 million budget, $48 million from North America.
    • Missing Link reached an all-time low, with a paltry $5.9 million opening weekend. It had no competition with new family films. Its final domestic gross was $16.6 million, with an additional $9.3 million overseas, for a worldwide total of $25.9 million. The film cost $100 million, Laika's highest budgeted film thus far. The film then went on to win the 2020 Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature and got nominated for the Academy Awards, as the highlight of a laundry list of critical awards.
  • Ferdinand, a production of Blue Sky Studios, got positive reviews and nominations for the Golden Globe and Academy Awards, but was curb-stomped by Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Still, it was only a flop domestically ($83.1 million), as its $110 million budget was easily recouped overseas ($206.3 million). This and the poor performance of yet another Blue Sky production, Spies in Disguise, were just some of the factors that led Disney to close down Blue Sky in 2021.
  • None of Cartoon Saloon's films have ever made back their budget, with Wolfwalkers making a paltry $200,000 on a ten million euro budget (even though the COVID-19 pandemic also hurt its chances a lot). However, all of their films have been praised by critics and very well received by audiences, and they are four for four in terms of Oscar nominations (even if they haven't won).
  • Snoopy, Come Home only managed to make a fifth of its budget during its theatrical run, causing Cinema Center Films to go bust but is near-unanimously considered a classic and one of the best Peanuts specials.
  • Anomalisa received fantastic reviews, with praise going to its use of Stop Motion to tell the story (when it was originally a sound play), use of sexuality without going into Narm territory, all while keeping the same signature style that made Charlie Kaufman's films unique; but Paramount left the film to die by releasing it on less than 500 screens, which made it impossible for the film to make a profit.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Intolerance was a tremendous critical success, and is now considered D.W. Griffith's masterpiece, but its ponderous length, overly experimental cinematography, and anti-war message drove away audiences on the eve of the U.S.'s entry into World War I. Given its inflated budget - $2.5 million, enough to build a naval cruiser at the time - it went down in history as Hollywood's first big failure.
  • No one was yet calling it the greatest film of all time, but Citizen Kane opened to glowing reviews and a disastrous box office. It didn't win "Best Picture" that year, but it was nominated, and it won for "Best Screenplay". A lot of its early misfortune is due to the powerful media mogul William Randolph Hearst, whom the film was partly based on, refusing to give publicity and actively suppressing it, actually preventing cinemas from showing it.
  • The Wizard of Oz was this when it originally came out in 1939. It was well-received by critics and those who saw it. It even snagged a few Oscar nominations (winning for Best Original Song and Best Original Score). However, it lost money in its initial release and didn't begin to recoup its large budget until it was reissued a decade later. It wasn't until the 1950s, when it became a staple of television showings, that it became the classic it is today.
  • The Monkees' film Head was the last thing anyone expected from the group: a surreal, deliberately plotless satire of their journey through the Show Business meat grinder. It failed at the box office but got a lot of good reviews, and today it's fondly remembered as an Unintentional Period Piece of the psychedelic era.
  • Most Roald Dahl adaptations: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, The Witches (1990), Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The BFG were all flops, but were received very well. However, Willy Wonka recouped its low budget and was Vindicated by Cable. Matilda and James have also developed a cult following over the years. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the only exception.
  • Tucker: The Man and His Dream failed to recoup its production costs and prompted director Francis Ford Coppola to take time off from the Hollywood system. However, critics credit the film for renewing interest in Preston Tucker's cars.
  • The Shawshank Redemption did very poorly in the box office but nonetheless received glowing reviews. The Academy also recognized it and led to its vindication as everyone wanted to know what that film with quite a few Oscar nominations was. It's also the highest-rated film on IMDB with a score of 9.3.
  • Ed Wood is one of Tim Burton's most acclaimed films, even giving one of his stars an Oscar...and is the director's biggest box office failure with a mere $5.8 million domestically.
    • Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski also had two biopics of 'Anti Great Men' (that some add to Ed Wood to form a trilogy) directed by Miloš Forman that count: The People vs. Larry Flynt, about the founder of Hustler, won two Golden Globes and had two Oscar noms, but only scored $20 million on a $35m budget. Man on the Moon, about Andy Kaufman, couldn't ride Jim Carrey's star power like The Truman Show, possibly helped by how in spite of the subject being a comedian, the film was bittersweet and centered around someone with less than appealing ways at attempting laughter — in fact, the writers begged Universal Pictures to release it to the fall festival circuit first rather than position it as their wide Christmas release for 1999 because they knew it wasn't going to draw that big an audience right out of the gate.
  • Wes Craven's New Nightmare is considered one of the best A Nightmare on Elm Street installments, known for being an early deconstruction of the slasher genre, and paving the way for Scream. It's also the lowest grossing of them all, though it recouped its low budget twice.
  • PJ Hogan's live-action Peter Pan did poorly, likely due to opening only a week after The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and on the same day as Cheaper by the Dozen. However, it was highly praised by critics and is regarded as one of the best Peter Pan adaptations out there. These days, it's edging close to Cult Classic status.
  • Charlie Chaplin made a movie called A Woman of Paris at the height of his success, a serious drama that doesn't have the Little Tramp in it. It was given high critical acclaim but it failed due to disappointed audiences upset about the notion of a Chaplin film without Chaplin.
  • The Alfonso Cuarón version of A Little Princess got critical raves in May 1995. But, as Roger Ebert admitted in his review, kids were hyped up for flashier Summer Blockbuster fare like Batman Forever and Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie. Casper and Disney's Pocahontas were getting a lot of hype too, and with the Girl-Show Ghetto working against it on top of all that, the film died at the box office. Warner Bros. was encouraged by the positive responses from those who saw the film, to the point that they brought it back to theaters later that summer (look at the poster at its Wikipedia page) in hopes that families would respond to the raves, but that proved completely futile. This was because Babe, another hit with critics, had become a Sleeper Hit with those families by that point.
    • Cuarón later had another one with Children of Men, also adapting a book, but this time a very bleak science fiction. Deeming it a possible awards contender (and indeed it was, scoring three Oscar noms, including Adapted Screenplay), Universal pushed it from September, when it opened internationally and also failed to perform, to December, when it was blown by more family-friendly fare such as Night at the Museum and The Pursuit of Happyness. Analysts added that the studio didn't have a clear marketing strategy and thus audience awareness was really low.
  • Almost Famous was one of the best-reviewed films of 2000 (Roger Ebert called it the best film of that year), its script won the Oscar, and even today is considered a benchmark of making films about rock music. Financially, the film barely made half its $60 million budget (even after foreign totals, it still failed to break even), due to a misleading print campaign that put Kate Hudson's supporting character front and center and possibly due to handing director Cameron Crowe such a large budget for a niche-appealed premise.
  • Donnie Darko was well-received, but did poorly in cinemas. This was in part due to it receiving a limited theatrical run owing to its subject matter, coming out almost immediately after 9/11. It's a definite Cult Classic these days.
  • 9/11 also screwed over Bandits, which came out a month later and in spite of the having big names and a light subject matter, flopped in theaters. Still, reviews were positive and the performances of Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett were nominated for some awards.
  • Mike Judge's Idiocracy was well-reviewed by critics and is widely considered a clever comedy (although Americans of a certain stripe consider it very Serious Business), but due to poor marketing, it did badly box office-wise. Limiting initial release to only 7 cities and capping out at 130 theaters hurt.
  • Rogue, starring a then-unknown Sam Worthington, was said by the few critics that saw it to be surprisingly good for a film about a giant crocodile and a fine horror/adventure flick in its own right. Poor advertising and a severely scaled back theatrical release caused it to bomb.
  • Star 80 was very acclaimed, with special praise to Eric Roberts' performance. It also never got a wide release (the definition is 600 screens, the film topped at 500) and thus barely made money.
  • Flags of Our Fathers was well-received when it came out in 2006, by both audiences and critics alike. Like many on this list, it even received a few award nominations but failed to make its budget back. (unlike sister project Letters from Iwo Jima, which grossed slightly more and was significantly cheaper)
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a critical success and made nearly every Film of the Year list of that year, topping several, and was particularly praised for its lead performances, music and cinematography. It flopped and made a measly $15m, about half of its budget, and only received nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Cinematography, winning neither. It very likely failed due to its somewhat slow pace and running time (the titular event occurs about two hours in, but continues for another half hour), and possibly due to its Audience-Alienating Premise—the deconstruction of popular Hollywood History by accurately portraying the titular Anti-Hero as a cold, violent, Ax-Crazy sociopath rather than a brave and daring Robin Hood-type.
  • The Hurt Locker was one of the most acclaimed films of the year... and before the Oscar victory brought it back to theatres, its total gross was $12.6 million, less than its $15m budget (it ended with $17m domestically and $49m worldwide, still the lowest-grossing Best Picture of all-timenote ).
    • Detroit, by the same director, also fell victim to this. The film garnered massive critical acclaim and praise from audiences who saw it; but has opened at #3 at the box office amid a very underwhelming summer, making just $7 million in its opening weekend against a budget of $30m.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World received near-universal acclaim for its unique approach. Internet buzz prior to its release predicted a blockbuster and a summer comedy champion. The film tanked next to the guy-centric The Expendables and the girl-centric Eat, Pray, Love, mainly due to the film's target demographic being rather limited in comparison to the other two films. It did better on video, though.
  • The Tree of Life failed to make its budget back (grossing just $12 million domestically on a $32m budget) but won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and won much acclaim from critics (even becoming a top awards contender).
  • Hugo won five of the eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated, tying it with Best Picture winner The Artist for the most of 2011. And its $185.8 million gross would also have made it a net commercial success — had its budget not clocked in at $170 million (not counting marketing nor shipping!).
  • Warrior, Gavin O'Connor's ambitious sports drama, followed on the heels of similarly-themed The Fighter and got strong critical reviews, especially for the lead performances. This strong point was also its undoing: the stars (Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) were still niche supporting/character actors who had not yet headlined many flicks of their own and were only gradually building a bigger reputation. The film was dropped in a September release by Lionsgate and lost money.
  • Dredd has been critically praised but failed commercially, losing its place in the top 10 within just two weeks and not recouping its modest $45 million budget. However, it sold very well on DVD and gained a rabidly devoted fanbase who are campaigning for a sequel.
  • In the 2000s, Adam Sandler acted in two dramatic films, Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me. Critics loved the former and thought the latter was surprisingly decent (79% and 65% on Rotten Tomatoes). Unfortunately, Punch Drunk Love fell just $300k of making back its budget and Reign Over Me only barely broke even. Outside of Funny People (which also flopped), he wouldn't act in another drama until 2014.
  • Punch Drunk Love is also one of many critical darlings that Paul Thomas Anderson made but audiences ignored - in his whole career, only Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood managed to double their budgets at the box office.
    • Magnolia had high remarks and a few Oscar noms, but its three hour length (which Anderson later agreed to be excessive) also hindered the box office, $48.5 million (less than half domestically) against $37 million costs.
    • The current page image, The Master, was the kind of film that had the makings of an awards hit: Anderson directing, a hot-button topic as its premise, and a strong cast of leads (led by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman). But despite strong reviews and having the publicity that most films could wish to have, The Weinstein Company saw different and basically left it for dead in September (despite having had the biggest opening weekend per-theatre average ever for an R-rated film) in order to push other Oscar Bait titles Silver Linings Playbook. The final result failed to make its budget back and proved to be another casualty in making arthouse fare in Hollywood.
    • Inherent Vice made many "best of 2014" lists... and only barely scraped the definition of a wide release, topping at 650 theaters.
    • Licorice Pizza managed to get quite an extension in screen numbers after getting a Best Picture nomination, yet the worldwide box office still fell over $10 million behind its $40 million budget.
  • Bandslam has an 80% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes but made only a little over $12 million at the box office on a $20m budget. Its disastrous advertising campaign is a legend in the industry, as many believed Summit killed its chances by pushing supporting actress Vanessa Hudgens front and center and positioning the title as a High School Musical type of fluff tween-girl piece when it had more of a John Hughes-type of ambition.
  • All Is Lost had serious awards buzz, a powerful lead performance by Robert Redford, an acclaimed soundtrack, and a 93% "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes. But it failed to return its modest $8.5 million budget largely due to almost non-existent advertising, a release topping out at 400+ theaters, and distributor Lionsgate pushing most of their resources into The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
  • Muppets Most Wanted received favorable reviews, but unfortunately, it barely passed $50m domestically (and $80m worldwide) for a number of reasons. It opened next to the Critic-Proof Divergent (which got a 44% on Rotten Tomatoes vs. a 78% for Muppets), which put the teenage girl demographic out of bounds for Kermit and friends; the critically acclaimed Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened two weeks later, restricting the Muppets' audience even further. The film was released after a string of similarly acclaimed family films in Disney's own Frozen (2013) followed by The LEGO Movie and March rival Mr. Peabody & Sherman, meaning its target audience was somewhat exhausted by the time it was released (not to mention Peabody was still taking audiences away from Muppets). The release of two blockbusters in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (also produced under the Disney family) and Noah in the two weeks following also hurt. Finally, its publicity campaign relied on social media Viral Marketing at the expense of traditional marketing, the latter of which proved more effective for its competition.
  • True Romance came just shy of a $13 million gross, and would have needed twice that to even start making a profit, but has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and has become a cult classic in the years since.
  • John Waters' Cry-Baby. It got a good reception from critics but failed to make back its $12 million budget. It's since become a cult classic, inspiring a Tony-nominated Broadway musical of the same name.
  • Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, a film based on the eponymous American Girl character, was released to mostly positive reception, but it didn't fare well at the box office as theatres didn't want to gamble on another "doll movie" following the release of Bratz (which was both a critical and commercial flop).
  • Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story was reviewed as one of the much-better parody films but failed to break even at the box office.
  • The Insider was one of the best reviewed films of 1999 and an eventual awards contender. But a not that appealing subject matter for mainstream audiences (whistleblowers of the tobacco industry) made it not survive at the box office.
  • Midnight Special, an original science fiction thriller by Take Shelter and Mud director Jeff Nichols, was highly praised by critics for its performances, huge emphasis on Show, Don't Tell and being able to channel the early works of Spielberg and Carpenter without it seeming like a ripoff of those filmmakers. However, the film had its release date shuffled around from November 2015 to March 2016, the same month as Warner Bros.' mega-budget tentpole Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As a result of WB putting all of their eggs in one basket with BVS and a slow theatrical rollout, Midnight Special wound up getting the short end of the stick, only making a little over $6 million on its $18m budget and a release that only went a little over 500 theaters.
  • The Kenneth Branagh version of Hamlet received mostly positive acclaim and Oscar nominations, but didn't break even at the box office. Not that it had any chance, given the four-hour runtime ensured the release was never wide - the closest compromise was having some foreign countries receiving a shortened 2:30 cut.
  • The Nice Guys received largely positive reviews when it was released in summer 2016, with many praising the performances of the leads and the direction of Shane Black. It regrettably didn't make much money at the box office amid competition from The Angry Birds Movie, Captain America: Civil War and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.
  • Logan Lucky has been widely praised by critics and audiences who have seen it, with many praising the cast's performances and the film being hailed as a great comeback for director Steven Soderbergh. Regrettably, the film only made about half of what was expected for its opening weekend amid competition from The Hitman's Bodyguard and Annabelle: Creation.
    • Soderbergh also had Haywire, a well-reviewed thriller that was Screwed by the Network (Lionsgate wanted an action flick instead, and then distribution was passed to Relativity Media, which didn't really help that much, with marketing more focused on the action and releasing during the Dump Months) and barely recouped its $23 million budget ($18.9 million in the United States, $32.4 worldwide).
  • The Darren Aronofsky film mother! has opened to roundly positive reviews. However, it only made $7.5 million in its opening weekend beneath It and American Assassin. It also earned a rare CinemaScore of F from audiences, who sought out the latter films instead. The film was not helped by a very abstract and symbolic plot that may have driven potential viewers away − and also the fact that the trailers sold the film as a classic home-invasion thriller, or that Jennifer Lawrence had made some controversial statements that hurt her popularity with conservatives.
  • Despite being the downright most accessible film David Lynch ever did and his most acclaimed based on pure Rotten Tomatoes score, The Straight Story only made $6.2 million of its $10m budget.
  • The 2017 film adaptation of A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino barely broke even at the box office, earning ₱29 million despite critical acclaim. Well, considering how mainstream entries at the film festival like Gandarrapiddo: The Revenger Squad do appeal more to the masa than what is perceived to be too highbrow, it isn't surprising. Producer Girlie Rodis however stated that they were Doing It for the Art as opposed to competing with those "romcoms" mainstream studios churn out every so often, aiming to provide an alternative to the latter that is suitable for school educational viewings.
  • Blade Runner 2049 cost $150-185 million to produce (very ambitious for a sequel to a film that couldn't find a following until it was released on home video) and opened to a lousy $32 million in North America, well below the openings of comparable titles TRON: Legacy and Mad Max: Fury Road. This was despite the film opening against little direct competition (it easily topped the weekend in its opening frame). It only barely surpassed the original film's inflation-adjusted box office total (though it fell short when you include the original's various re-releases), and failed to top director Denis Villeneuve's previous film Arrival, even though those films had lower production values and much heavier competition (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Doctor Strange (2016), respectively). Regardless, the film retains a high critical approval rating, received an "A-" CinemaScore despite its "challenging" nature (which many box office pundits cited as a reason for its failure), and was nominated for five Oscars, winning two (in technical categories). It did not do particularly well internationally either, notably bombing in China when it opened against Geostorm. In an odd case, though it earned more on its opening weekend, it actually lost its first weekend in Japan to the KiraKira★Pretty Cure à la Mode film. 2049 eventually grossed $259.2 million worldwide, making an estimated $80 million loss. It did raise such fears for Dune, especially with the HBO Max availability, but the latter movie ended up successful enough to warrant a sequel.
  • Thoroughbreds was a cheap indie that cost less than $6 million, but it took almost two years to finally come out, made obvious by the fact that one of its stars, Anton Yelchin, was killed in a tragic accident just two weeks after filming wrapped. The film received a positive response at Sundance but was largely overshadowed by Get Out (2017), another thriller that unexpectedly went onto win an Oscar. It was finally released to select theaters in March 2018 to very positive reviews, but it failed to expand outside limited release and didn't even cross $3 million at the box office. Fans harbor hope that it might find a cult audience through TV and video, much like Heathers.
  • After Dark, My Sweet: Got a whole stack full of great reviews praising it as an outstanding example of neo-Film Noir. Roger Ebert even put it on his Great Movies List. It was totally ignored at the box office, earning back barely half of a modest $6 million budget.
  • Back when Dwayne Johnson was not an established actor, his film The Rundown failed at making back its budget, but it gained a remarkably high 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, infinitely better than anybody would have expected.
  • The 2018 remake of Suspiria received positive reviews from critics but its $20 million budget wasn't even made back halfway. Domestic: $2,483,472. Worldwide: $7,940,485. The film opened in the midst of a very competitive October; debuting at number 25 amid competition from Halloween (2018), Venom (2018) and A Star Is Born (2018).
  • Slither, James Gunn's first film as a director and writer, was heavily praised back in 2006 for its unique blend of horror, gore, and comedy (86% Tomatometer!), yet sadly only made $12.8 million on a $15 million dollar budget. It's since become a cult classic.
    • Gunn would be hit even harder with this on The Suicide Squad. Everyone agreed Gunn's wacky approach made for one of the DC Extended Universe's best movies. But being released in the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic, with the U.S. also getting it simultaneously on streaming (and indeed, HBO Max viewership was huge), and the added roadblocks of an R-rating and being unable to fully distance itself from the unpopular Suicide Squad (2016) (both of whom it shared with Birds of Prey (2020), that is a lesser version of this trope as it at least made double its budget on the box office), and recouping the US$185 million budget was an unfeasible task.
  • The Kid Who Would Be King had uninspiring advertisements, a release in the Dump Months, and the terrible luck of following two bad attempts at modernizing old legends in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Robin Hood (2018). So what a surprise it was when upon release the film gathered widespread praise (its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 89%) - but not that it made little over half of its moderate $59 million budget, the studio anticipating a $50 million loss on the movie.
  • Mike Flanagan's Doctor Sleep, a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s legendary horror classic The Shining, was by and large seen as a worthy sequel to the original film as well as a faithful adaptation of Stephen King's original novel, despite its changes from the source and managed please both camps of Kubrick and King. However, the film failed to recoup its 45-55 million dollar budget, making only 31 million domestically and 72 million worldwide. As to reasons why it failed, the cause is believed to be the unfamiliarity of younger moviegoers with the source material , being a horror film released after Halloween, and the film's long running time. However, it managed to debut at a pretty healthy position in the DVD market, which even has a Director's Cut.
  • Black Dynamite did really well in the festival circuit, even winning the Seattle International Film Festival's best picture winner that year (which beat out fellow example and eventual Best Picture Oscar winner The Hurt Locker at the same festival), but due to a relatively new distributor picking it up, it flopped in theaters, closing just short of $300k on a $2.9 million budget and closed after two weeks. Luckily the film found its eventual cult following on DVD and eventually got a show on Adult Swim.
  • Killer Joe was seen by many critics as a great dark comedy with a career redefining performance by Matthew McConaughey, but could only make $2 million on its $10 million dollar budget. The biggest factor in the film flopping was the film's NC-17 rating which meant most theaters refused to screen the film.
  • In the Heights should have been a hit - it was a musical film released at a time when the genre was making bank and was based on a musical written by the guy who wrote Hamilton. But the same COVID-19 Pandemic that delayed the film's release by a year ensured that audiences wouldn't be there in spite of very positive reviews (97% on Rotten Tomatoes and A on Cinemascore), specially with the alternative of watching at home on HBO Max (and even then, it didn't have the massive numbers Hamilton achieved on Disney+). The opening weekend was an anemic $10 million, its second weekend was a 63% drop, and the film ultimately failed to make back its $50m budget.
  • Another HBO Max simultaneous release which tanked was King Richard. It was related to two of the most famous tennis players ever, the Williams sisters, by telling their story through their father-coach - and getting Will Smith to play Richard accounted for most of the $50 million budget. Reviewers loved it, and King Richard became an award contender (even nominated for Best Picture), but opening opposite Ghostbusters: Afterlife (and right before a slightly packed Thanksgiving slate) with a streaming option sunk its box office prospects.
  • Séance on a Wet Afternoon received rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, with stars Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough being nominated for multiple acting awards (including an Oscar nomination for Stanley and a BAFTA win for Attenborough), but it failed to make back its budget until years later, and its tepid box office performance contributed to the demise of production company Allied Film Makers.
  • The Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story has garnered wide acclaim among critics and audiences who saw it, with many declaring it to be just as great, if not better than, the 1961 film. The film also opened to just $10.5 million on a $100 million budget, and it faced both opposition from the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and major competition from fellow musical Sing 2, The Matrix Resurrections and biggest of all, Spider-Man: No Way Home, which had the biggest December opening weekend ever.
  • Ridley Scott's The Last Duel earned high marks from reviewers, but earned less than a third of its $100 million budget between being underpromoted (helps it was a hard sell anyway, with heavy themes and a lack of crowd-pleasing elements) and coming out as the COVID-19 pandemic was keeping older crowds away, not to mention some strong competition.
  • Dark City gained mostly positive reviews, including an overhwelming postitive one from Roger Ebert where he it a rare four stars and called it one of the greatest films he'd ever seen. However, it only made $27.2 million on a $27 million dollar budget, barely breaking even. Eventually, Ebert's glowing review and endorsement of the film led most people to give a second look and it became a cult classic over time.

    Literature 
  • The Cuckoo's Calling was this at first. Upon release, it got critical praise, but only sold a few copies. When the author's real identity was revealed, however, it received a lot more attention. But it was only a flop compared to Harry Potter's sales numbers - and frankly, what isn't - since Cuckoo did in fact sell more copies in its first two months than Philosopher's Stone did in the same time.
  • Early in his career, George R. R. Martin wrote a fantasy-murder mystery novel inspired by the rock of The '60s, the occult, underground comix, and The Lord of the Rings. It was a passion project called The Armageddon Rag. While the critics loved it, it flopped so hard that it scared Martin out of the literary industry for almost half a decade.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Firefly was loved by viewers, but got canceled after eleven episodes due to FOX screwing with it. A letter campaign led to a movie sequel, Serenity, which was just as acclaimed... and bombed just as much due to incoherent advertising. After that though, the series got a long healthy life of spin-offs and DVD releases.
  • The miniseries King was nominated for nine Emmy awards and won much acclaim for its star Paul Winfield but was a rating disaster when first aired.note 
  • The Fox show 24 started this way at first, possibly because it came on so soon after 9/11 and no one really wanted to see a show like that in the wake of a real terrorist attack. However, word of mouth eventually made it a popular series.
  • Arrested Development consistently garnered just enough audience to keep it afloat, but barely managed to raise itself above the bottom of the rating ladder for three straight seasons. It was a critical darling from the word "Go", and its core fanbase is rabid. Seven years following cancellation, fan demand got a fourth season made for early 2016. The American Dad! episode "With Friends Like Steve's" lampshaded this when Francine compares Steve's boredom with Stan to America's reaction to Arrested Development: "It doesn't mean you're bad, it just means he's not interested in you."
  • The Wire was virtually ignored on its first broadcast, but its reputation among television commentators as one of the best shows ever made has become something of a meme.
  • Freaks and Geeks only lasted one season. It was beloved by those who saw it from the beginning. TV critics were so engaged with it they often ranked it highly in their "best of the 00s" lists, with only 12 of its 18 episodes airing in that decade.
  • The Tick had a somewhat successful Saturday morning cartoon at FOX that inspired the network to attempt a live-action series that aired in the early 2000s; critics loved it, but audiences didn't respond as well and it got canceled after the eighth episode of nine aired. The Amazon Prime revival a decade later managed to avert it.
  • Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 was loved by people who actually watched it. But between poor production choices, bad scheduling, and low ratings, the series never took off and was canceled halfway through its second season, with its last episodes being released solely on DVD and later on Netflix.
  • Police Squad!: Its flop was because it couldn't be watched casually. Viewers had to pay active attention to catch the jokes. Keep in mind it aired in 1982 when the VCR was still a luxury item, so it was a yeoman's effort to get the references. In addition, the producers were actually grateful the network canceled them so soon: they felt they were running out of material as it was and weren't confident they could manage a full season.
  • Awake suffered truly abysmal ratings, even for NBC, but was endlessly praised by TV critics, and unlike earlier shows with similar ratings in its time slot, aired its entire season.
  • My So-Called Life was critically acclaimed and is remembered for poignantly capturing the zeitgeist of teenagers in The '90s, but didn't last past a season.
  • Community is beloved by its fans, and was also perpetually on the verge of a cancellation throughout its entire run. Lack of promotion and scheduling shenanigans by the network certainly didn't help, and behind-the-scenes conflict between Chevy Chase and Dan Harmon (which resulted in an entire season produced without Harmon which most fans would prefer to forget) didn't help either, but more than anything, the show is simply a niche product whose humor tended to be more challenging than lighter, more accessible fare.
  • HBO's Enlightened earned terrible ratings, averaging less than half a million viewers for each of its respective seasons. Despite this, its second season was universally praised as one of the greatest pieces of television in 2013 (with the AV Club even naming it the best show of the year, over the final season of Breaking Bad).
  • After VT4 renamed itself to VIER, two shows of their library won the 2014 critical award De HA! Van Humo:
    • The satirical news show De Ideale wereld. Critics have given it lots of awards, but it had very low rating numbers (around 200.000). The fact that the television network that airs it airs it late at night may have something to do with that, aside from the fact that it is not the traditional fare of that network. Over the years it however got increasing viewership and peaked at 400.000.
    • 2013 is one of the lowest viewed and most obscure things the network put out, but it tied in with the above for the award. The people themselves were really glad to have the award because the show had a really low viewership.
  • Party of Five was never a rating hit, and was canceled after its first season, only to be Un-Canceled when it was the surprise winner of the Golden Globe for Best Drama. It had its loyal fans, was a critical favorite, and it lasted a decent six seasons, but the show peaked at #56 in the ratings. In 1995, TV Guide named it "The best show you're not watching." It went on to have an unsuccessful spinoff and is currently best known for launching the careers of Neve Campbell, Lacey Chabert, and Jennifer Love Hewitt.
  • American Dreams was a critical favorite with a loyal fan following. However, it was never a rating hit, was Screwed by the Network, and was canceled after its third season, not resolving its story, with the last four episodes supposedly requiring product placement to even get produced. Fans organized a campaign to help change NBC's mind but to no avail. A 12-minute epilogue was quickly put together, but it wasn't screened until 2013.
  • Hill Street Blues received plenty of critical acclaim and loads of awards during its original run, and today it is widely considered the best Cop Show of its era, and a huge influence on Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire. At the same time, it consistently received mediocre-to-poor overall ratings during its original run. It still ran for an impressive seven seasons, though not really due to the goodwill of network executives who were Doing It for the Art. The audience it did get consisted to a great extent of young, affluent professionals — i.e., exactly the type of people advertisers wanted to reach.
  • Spanish crime drama El Caso was adored by critics and developed a relatively small but devoted fanbase. It got Screwed by the Network, with TVE scheduling it on an overly competitive Tuesday night timeslot and refusing to move it despite its poor ratings performance. The series got shut down after one season, with right-wing TVE execs allegedly feeling uncomfortable about the show being set in the 1960s Spain.
  • Mr. Robot: You'd never know it from the critical acclaim, but the show had surprisingly low ratings. The ratings for Season 2 dipped substantially below one million viewers per episode, putting it well behind other USA Network shows as Chrisley Knows Best.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend received acclaim from both critics and audiences in addition to a large number of awards, but finished dead last in Network TV ratings for two years in a row. In fact, one of the reasons it managed to last for so long was because it kept winning award after award, and CW thought it would strengthen its own reputation by having such an acclaimed show in its schedule, though it couldn't keep at it forever, so when Season 4 was confirmed, it was also confirmed it'd be the show's last.
  • Girls was beloved by critics but got abysmally low ratings for much of its run (averaging less than a million viewers per episode).
  • Pushing Daisies was praised by critics from the moment it first aired, with its pilot episode singled out as one of the best of the 2007-08 television season. Despite the acclaim, the ratings for its first season never really stabilized before it ended abruptly as a result of the 2007 writers' strike. When the show came back for its second season 10 months later, the critics still loved the show, but the ratings for the premiere were very low and never recovered, resulting in the show's cancellation.
  • Super Sentai generally has two metrics that measure a season's success: The ratings and the toy sales. So a season that does well in the former, but not the latter will generally be considered this.
    • Mirai Sentai Timeranger is commonly regarded as a classic among older fans. But among the target demographic of children, the show didn't do quite as well, owing to things from the incredibly dark story to the theme song being difficult to sing along to. As a result, the toy sales for the show were among the worst in the series' 40+ year run, despite the ratings being generally good. Strangely, the series immediately after Timeranger, Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger, ended up being the exact opposite, with its toy sales being so huge it practically influenced the series' direction for the next ten years.
    • Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger ended up generating a lot of ratings and social media buzz during its run, and was far better received than its predecessor, Uchu Sentai Kyuranger. It was even nominated for a Galaxy Award. But merch-wise, the show was a complete and utter bomb, generating sales figures that weren't far away from the above mentioned Timeranger, and caused some panic about the future of the brand itself.
    • Another bizarre occurrence is that typically less well-received seasons of Super Sentai tend to get the best praise when adapted into Power Rangers. The counterpart series for Timeranger, Power Rangers Time Force is a perpetual fan favorite, while the following season Power Rangers Wild Force took a step back... Time Force followed a largely similar story but had a much better final villain and one of the catchiest theme songs outside of "Go Go Power Rangers" and the season's Pink Ranger is normally considered one of the staple characters to see a return in crossover media that isn't Tommy Oliver. On the other side, Wild Force wasn't seen as an impressive show largely due to its Lighter and Softer tones as well as being a case of Tough Act to Follow.
  • The Tracey Ullman Show received fairly mediocre ratings throughout its run despite critical acclaim, partly due to it being on the then just-launched FOX network and partly due constant timeslot changes. However, it did prove successful enough to get a Spin-Off... that became one of the most popular television shows of all time, providing a rather extreme example of More Popular Spin Off.
  • For Life was one of the lowest rated shows on ABC in its premiere season (for context, the two scripted shows that performed worse than it were ending anyways, while better performing shows such as The Baker and the Beauty, Single Parents, and Emergence were cancelled), but its positive reception led to a second season renewal. This season had even worse ratings, leading to its cancellation.
  • Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist was also one of the lowest rated NBC shows in its debut season, but it still had a passionate fan base, which convinced NBC to renew it for a second season. While the first few episodes of Season 2 performed better, ratings dropped during the second half of the season, leading to its cancellation. Many thought that NBC would move it to Peacock, ala A.P. Bio, but that didn't happen.

    Music 
  • Many "Sacred Cow albums" from The '60s and The '70s that frequently enter the list of best albums ever are this, when not Praising Shows You Don't Watch. An outstanding example is The Velvet Underground & Nico, which initially only sold approximately 30,000 copies — but, as put by Brian Eno, "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band."
  • Nick Drake had people who heard his albums at the time loving them, but he sold a fairly small amount of original copies because of his hatred of live performances and doing promotion, plus a lack of singles. His popularity has exploded thanks to word of mouth on the internet, and original vinyl copies continue to appreciate in value even though there are numerous reissues now which preserve the original mastering and sound quality.
  • Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom is considered one of his best, but all of its singles flopped.
  • The Roots: Except for their 1993 debut and 2004's The Tipping Point, just about every one of their albums has garnered rave reviews from both critics and fans, not to mention numerous Grammy nominations. And yet, thus far, the only album they've released that has achieved Platinum certification is 1999's Things Fall Apart, and even that took nearly fourteen years after release to reach that milestone. Meanwhile, except for 2002's Phrenology, none of their other albums have even reached Gold certification yet.
  • Singer/songwriter Nicole Atkins. Her 2007 debut Neptune City was heavily acclaimed by music critics, with some even predicting she would become the "next big thing" in pop. But an unexpected delay in the album's release along with its resulting underpromotion by her then-label Columbia Records quickly doomed the album to low sales (it didn't even chart on the Billboard 200) and almost complete neglect by End of Year lists despite how well reviewed it was. The following years were equally unkind to Atkins: her backing band "The Black Sea" left her in 2009. She released two more studio albums that were well received by critics but performed poorly sales-wise. And in 2012, her home city of Neptune, New Jersey was hit by Hurricane Sandy.
  • Big Star's first two records, #1 Record and Radio City, were both acclaimed and respected by critics when they were released, but their label (Ardent Records, which was owned by Stax Records) having difficulties in marketing the band and distribution problems with Columbia Records in 1974 meant that their records did not sell well. Their catalog was later Vindicated by History after being cited by several influential bands as one of the pioneers of both Power Pop and Alternative Rock.
  • The album Resurrection by the rapper Common.note  Upon release in late 1994, the album was praised by critics for its thoughtful lyrics and mellow-yet-jazzy style of hip hop. Unfortunately, while the album is widely considered to be an underground classic among rap and hip hop fans (even being listed as one of The Source's "100 Best Rap Albums" in 1998), it sold very poorly. It debuted at #179 on the Billboard 200 and then immediately dropped off the charts. Nonetheless, its influence on underground hip hop (most notably The Roots - who, coincidentally, are also listed on this page) is undeniable.
  • Van Morrison's Astral Weeks is widely regarded as his best, but sold a small number of copies when it came out. On the other hand, it has continued to sell steadily ever since its release, and it has never been out of print. One reviewer, Andrew Ford, commented, "Astral Weeks will sell as many copies this year as it did in 1968 and has every year in-between". It finally went gold in 2001.
  • The Beastie Boys followed up their bestselling debut, Licensed to Ill, with Paul's Boutique, a psychedelic showcase of the group's rhymes backed by a mountain of samples compiled by The Dust Brothers. Paul's Boutique contrasted with the frat-bro attitude of Licensed to Ill, which the Beasties immediately denounced. As a result, Paul's Boutique, while getting good reviews, was a commercial failure when it was released. However, it set the tone for the group's later work, which enjoyed more success. Eventually, the album began to be regarded as a rap masterpiece.
  • The Smashing Pumpkins' Adore was highly acclaimed by critics from the day of its release, but its sales were disappointing by the band's standards (as of May 2005, it had only sold 1.1 million copies in the U.S.). It seems to be a case of being Vindicated by History as Pitchfork has commented that the album is cited as "underrated" so often that this can no longer be the case.
  • Carly Rae Jepsen's Emotion gained acclaim from music critics and achieved high ratings on even the stuffiest music websites. Unfortunately, despite its positive reception, the album stalled out at #16 on the Billboard 200 and sold less than her debut album, which music outlets were quick to notice.
  • Richard Thompson, whose virtuoso playing and incisive songwriting is both acclaimed by critics and highly influential on fellow musicians, but whose albums seldom trouble the charts. At his invariably sold-out concerts he often announces a medley of his greatest hits, then stands in silence for a minute or two. He's been called "the best guitarist nobody's ever heard of"; he was ranked 69 in Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
  • Avenged Sevenfold's 2016 album The Stage has been considered one of their best albums by critics and is also quite beloved among fans. It's also their album that sold the most poorly (save for the first one), in part because album sales have fallen off a cliff since their last release in 2013 thanks to the rise of streaming services, in part due to its more experimental nature compared to their previous outings, and in part because they released the album almost completely by surprise after announcing a fake release date. The members noted that half a year after the release, there were still people who weren't even aware that a new album was out.
  • Augie March: It wasn't until Moo, You Bloody Choir (2006) and its breakout hit "One Crowded Hour" that the band experienced real commercial success, but their first two albums and the two EPs that preceded them were beloved by those who had heard them.
  • Magic Dirt: See Augie March; although their music couldn't be more different, change the album and song titles to What Are Rock Stars Doing Today (2005) and "Dirty Jeans" respectively and the above entry just as accurately describes Magic Dirt's early career trajectory.
  • Nas: Despite commonly being cited as the greatest Hip-Hop album and considered a prime case of First Installment Wins, Illmatic sold poorly. It reached #12 on Billboard's Top 200, took two years to reach gold status, seven years to go platinum, and didn't go multiplatinum until 2019, twenty-five years after the album dropped.
  • Paramore's 2017 album After Laughter was met with a lot of critical praise, even by some higher-brow music publications, for their new sonic direction heavily inspired by the new-wave and synth-pop of the '80s, but it also became their worst-selling LP.
  • Gorillaz faced an odd situation of this during their "Phase 3" period built around their 2010 album Plastic Beach. In terms of raw numbers, the album was as much a commercial hit as a critical one, but despite topping album charts, the band didn't recoup that much financially because their ambitions at the time were that enormous and that costly — already deep within intricate, lore-building, but high-budget music videos and a very expensive world tour, EMI (the band's label at the time, who was already on the verge of financial collapse) couldn't continue justifying the project, and thus much of the saga was abruptly canned. Combined with further Creative Differences between the group's founders, the band ended up in a lengthy hiatus before they could justify another Gorillaz album.
    Damon Albarn: I toured around the world, played massive venues all around the world. I made about 20 pounds by the end of it, (laughs) so I won’t be going on another of those. It was incredible fun, I loved doing it, but economically it was an absolute fucking disaster.
  • Despite being highly acclaimed by American critics and commercially successful in the band's native Japan, both ×∞Multipliesnote  and BGM by Yellow Magic Orchestra severely undersold in the US compared to the group's debut release, with the latter not even charting; A&M Records dropped the band as a result.

    Pinball 
  • Indianapolis 500 is considered to be one of Dennis Nordman's best games, with fast action, exciting artwork, stirring music, and lighthearted humor. It consistently ranks in the top 50 of many "best pinball games of all time" lists. However, it was released during the decline of arcade pinball in The '90s, and ended up being Williams Electronics' second-worst-selling game of 1995.
  • Sister game Congo fared worse; although it offers a good variety of satisfying shots and challenging gameplay, it was also saddled with lackluster art, a tie-in to a badly received movie, and the aforementioned decline in arcade gaming. It was Williams Electronics' worst-selling game of 1995, though it is often ranked higher than Indianapolis 500 in players' lists.
  • Pinball Magic is widely considered to be a respectable debut game from Capcom's newly-formed pinball division, but Capcom's small market share all but doomed it to obscurity, and only 1,200 tables were ever made. Worse, while the game is praised by most, it still struggles to escape from the shadow of the Dueling Game Theatre of Magic.
  • Another Capcom example: Big Bang Bar was garnering critical acclaim as soon as the first test games hit the streets, with many predicting it to be the company's Breakthrough Hit. Unfortunately, Capcom closed their pinball division before the game was released, and only the intervention of Gene Cunningham and Illinois Pinball Inc. saved it from total obscurity with a production run of 191 tables.
  • Look at some top 50 lists for pinball, and you will see a number of them from the late '90s: Medieval Madness, Cactus Canyon, Monster Bash, No Good Gofers, and sometimes NBA Fastbreak. These machines only had production runs of about 1,000 (compare to the 4,000 to 10,000 copies most other non-boutique releases get, with breakout successes reaching 15,000 or more). This is because pinball was on a nosedive in public popularity, with few people interested in playing pinball and even fewer operators, proportionally speaking, who wanted to buy these machines. Although pinball would receive a revival in the 2010s, pinball was largely seen as passé during the late '90s, and with repeated financial failures of these highly-acclaimed machines, Williams and Bally would both stop making pinball machines in 1999.
  • Jolly Park is the top-rated pinball machine designed in Spain, but its manufacturer, Spinball SA, was on its deathbed when production began due to a series of flops of less-well-received machines. Spinball did not have the resources to do anything other than manufacturing about 250 of these machines, then go bankrupt. This includes any sort of promotion, becoming a victim of Invisible Advertising by necessity. As a result, very few people had heard of it, even among pinball fans in Spain. It was rediscovered many years later when they started appearing at pinball shows in Europe and North America, and the presence of one creates lines to go play it due to its near-legendary status among some.

    Theatre 
  • The Golden Apple was well-reviewed when it was first produced in 1954, and in retrospect, is often hailed as a refreshingly original work of musical theatre. The original production closed in a few months and the show has only been infrequently produced since. The original cast recording ruthlessly abridged the score to fit on a single LP, yet it took until 2015 for the show to receive a more complete recording.
  • The original 1957 production of Leonard Bernstein's Candide closed after running for a mere 73 performances on Broadway. The cast album it produced sold much better. Later rewrites and revivals have done better.
  • Stephen Sondheim has been known to have a case of these with the best example being the original run of Follies losing everything.
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber has a history of these. By Jeeves, the 1990s rework of his 1970s box office bomb Jeeves, was well-regarded and had a good run in smaller theatres, but its Broadway run ended after 73 performances - due in no small part to its opening less than a month after 9/11. His adaptation of Sunset Boulevard performed well at the box office and earned the Tony for Best Musicalnote , but was torpedoed by an overpriced monster of a set and multiple high-profile lawsuits by leading ladies Webber had dismissed.
  • Side Show was another show that Critics loved, but audiences stayed away, however it has done very well outside of Broadway, the most famous production starred disabled actors.
  • There is a musical version of The Baker's Wife with a Score by Stephen Schwartz, it failed to arrive on Broadway, however a Highlight LP Recording and the song "Meadowlark" meant the show finally opened officially in London. However it failed to attract an audience, despite praise from the critics, the almost 3-hour runtime failed to help, there is now a slimmer version performed.

    Toys 
  • XEVOZ was overlooked when the line debuted, despite favorable reviews and strong fan reaction. The prices of the toys have remained high on the secondary market even years after its cancellation.

    Video Games 
  • A Mind Forever Voyaging: This is one of Infocom's most ambitious projects and one of the rare ventures into serious storytelling that actually revolves around a plot instead of just gameplay and puzzle solving. It was critically acclaimed for it's sociopolitical commentary and worldbuilding. However, it was just not as popular as the more humor based, often Moon Logicnote  puzzle games such as Planetfall, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and the Zork games. The game's liberal and anti-Reagan stance also alienated some gamers.
  • Al Lowe noted that, due to rampant piracy, strategy guides for Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards outsold the actual game twenty times over.
  • Most people into Visual Novels can tell you about Kotaro Uchikoshi's wildly acclaimed Zero Escape trilogy. Far fewer can do the same about his previous work, the Infinity series, which receives the same level of acclaim from the extremely low number of people who know about it.
  • Sleeping Dogs was met with lukewarm sales, taking a year to reach one million after extreme discounts, but it was a hit among critics. Most who hadn't played it saw it as Grand Theft Auto set in Hong Kong. However, sales weren't so bad for Square Enix to rule out a potential sequel.
  • EarthBound (1994). It didn't catch on when it came out in America as a result of JRPGs not being a popular genre there at the time and a marketing campaign that was downright idiotic, but the cult following grew greatly since. Most dedicated fans have played the game on emulators, since official copies are both rare and expensive, and the game was never re-released outside of Japan until 2013 when it was announced it would be coming to the Wii U Virtual Console. The huge number of downloads led to it averting its flop status, and it was included among many other more recognized games on the Super NES Classic Edition.
  • Beyond Good & Evil was met with glowing reviews, some even comparing it to The Legend of Zelda, and relatively high marks all around. It didn't do so well. It got to the point where free copies of the game were being packaged with cheese. Yes, really.
  • ICO. Good thing it got an Updated Re-release, because the PlayStation 2 original is now unobtainable (not at a reasonable price anyway).
  • Ōkami had no advertising, and was released for the PlayStation 2 right when its successor hit the market, both factors causing it (and God Hand) to sell so badly that they led to the dissolution of its original development team. The game is considered one of the best that the PS2 had to offer. The game eventually found its audience with a successful port to the Wii, resulting in a sequel and the HD remaster treatment.
  • PlatinumGames:
    • MadWorld was loved by critics, but had terrible sales. It heavily pushed itself as being a violent, M-rated game exclusive to Wii, a console that owed its success to being accessible to casual and family audiences. The dissonance put it on people's radars, with Moral Guardians raising a stink about it, but none of that "bad" press translated to sales.
    • Vanquish. Critics loved it, but the game itself slipped right under the radar. The game sneaked onto store shelves without any promotion or fanfare, so hardly anyone knew about it until it was released for PSN's games on-demand in 2013.
    • The Wonderful 101 also had this problem: reviews were generally positive, but it sold poorly in Japan and even worse in the rest of the world. Nintendo published the game, but only marketed it online, and being exclusive to the failing Wii U didn't help. Platinum would later launch a Kickstarter in order to self-publish the game on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC, but that remaster sold even worse at retail, due to the same lack of advertising and most fans securing their copies through the Kickstarter campaign.
    • Bayonetta was praised for its originality, style, and excellent gameplay, but sold below Sega and Platinum's expectations. The former passed on funding and publishing a sequel as a result, but Nintendo swooped in to do so themselves. Bayonetta 2 gathered multiple perfect scores, but sold even fewer copies thanks to, again, being a Wii U exclusive. However, enough fans rallied together to get Bayonetta included in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, to its great fortune. Since then, the original game received a PC port, and Nintendo would stick by the series, porting both games to the Nintendo Switch and funding a third game.
  • Several of Tim Schafer's games:
    • Grim Fandango was extremely well-received critically, even managing to win several awards despite having some pretty stiff competition in 1998.note  However, the game didn't sell well, becoming the first LucasArts game to lose money, and marking the company's shift away from the genre. It later received an Updated Re-release on modern consoles, including a PC version, and became Vindicated by History.
    • Psychonauts from 2005 was critically acclaimed, but very few gamers bought it. However, it was beloved enough to get a port to PC/Mac/Linux. Then Double Fine's deal with the publisher Majesco expired, and the studio was able to publish a slightly Updated Re-release of the game through digital platforms such as Steam. This allowed it to become Vindicated by Cable: according to Double Fine's own sales numbers, Psychonauts sold just shy of 1.7 million copies as of 2016, and about 1.2 million of these sales happened after the expiration of the publishing deal. Its re-releases turned enough of a profit to partially fund the sequel, Psychonauts 2.
    • Brütal Legend got great reviews but poor sales. The Misaimed Marketing, which portrayed it as a straight-up third-person action game when it makes a Genre Shift to a Real-Time Strategy after the first few hours, also hurt.
  • Kya: Dark Lineage got some pretty good reviews, but for most people, not that many knew about it. For those who got it, it's a shame it's widely unknown. Doesn't help either that it ended on a cliffhanger.
  • Klonoa: Door to Phantomile for the PlayStation received glowing reviews from critics but bombed at retail for being mistaken as a kiddy. The game would go on to become a cult classic, fetching over $60 on eBay at its peak. Same went for its Even Better Sequel Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil. History repeated itself with the Wii remake, which Namco hoped would sell greatly and regain interest in the franchise, especially since most Wii owners like cutesy games, but the remake sold poorly too, and the planned Klonoa 2 Wii remake was canceled.
  • Jet Set Radio, a platform-rollerblading-graffiti game for the Dreamcast, was extremely well-received and won several awards but didn't sell well even among games for the unsuccessful platform. The game fared much better with an HD re-release on contemporary consoles. Jet Set Radio Future for Xbox suffered the same fate, even when it was packaged with the system.
  • Suikoden II, the Even Better Sequel to the first Suikoden, was also a bomb, but certainly not for lack of quality; it is considered by many who have played it to be one of the best RPGs ever. Rather, it came at the worst possible time: the week before one of gaming history's most anticipated sequels, Final Fantasy VIII, not to mention the Sega Dreamcast launch. After Final Fantasy VII had stylistically redefined the genre with its big-budget, cinematic 3D visuals just two years earlier, Suikoden II keeping the isometric 2D graphics of its predecessor caused it to look extremely outdated by comparison, as practically every other major RPG was making the Video Game 3D Leap. The game did become a Cult Classic within the next couple of years and would fetch massive sums on eBay. The game was finally re-released in December 2014 on PSN, after years of fan requests.
  • Valkyrie Profile was an initial stateside flop due to it being a late-era PlayStation release, receiving a meager marketing push from Enix, and just being too unique for its own good. It did gain a following, and similar to Suikoden II above, become valuable on the aftermarket, but thankfully it received a port on the PlayStation Portable and two follow-ups.
  • Planescape: Torment made very little money, despite being named one of the greatest role-playing games of all time by multiple review organizations. After being re-released by GOG.com, it took the top position in their bestselling list and doesn't tend to stray far from it.
  • Jade Empire sold far less than Knights of the Old Republic and any of BioWare's later original IPs, despite some heavy praise from reviews.
  • Shantae (2002) sold poorly due to being one of the last games released on the Game Boy Color, but was well-received by both critics and players (though it would do much better when it was released on the 3DS Virtual Console). Its sequel, Shantae: Risky's Revenge, suffered a similar fate: it was released as a DSiWare exclusive, a platform best known for stripped-down ports and shovelware. It wouldn't be until the third game, Pirate's Curse, that the series found financial success.
  • The Neverhood was (and still is) widely regarded as a fun and intriguing game with a unique animation style, with many people only really complaining about the difficult puzzles. However, it was released around the time adventure games were going out of style.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day didn't sell as well as hoped, due to its "M-rated cutesy platformer" schtick and being one of the very last releases on the Nintendo 64. Despite these factors giving it Invisible Advertising, it received critical acclaim and a cult following among fans, regardless. Since being put on the Rare Replay compilation, it has sold better on Xbox One.
  • Little King's Story for the Wii received critical acclaim, many reviewers considering it to be on the same level of quality as some of Nintendo's first-party titles, yet nearly nobody bought it. The kiddy presentation hurt, despite the game being quite dark in places. The developers seem to have realized this, because the remake for PlayStation Vita uses a typical RPG/anime art style.
  • BattleZone (the 1998 FPS/RTS version) was loved by videogame magazine critics, but failed to make an impression in the marketplace. The sequel, Battlezone II: Combat Commander, likewise failed to sell, though it was received less warmly partly because its Scenery Porn was the cause of poor performance and partly because the gameplay was slowed down in favor of more RTS elements.
  • Cornerstone, Infocom's attempt to enter the business-software market, generally got good reviews, but sold very poorly, in part because of a general economic-downturn at the time of release.
  • The Panzer Dragoon series, especially its RPG outing, Panzer Dragoon Saga. Being released on the doomed-from-creation Sega Saturn (which has proven nigh-impossible to emulate) sent it straight into obscurity, despite being considered a tour de force of 3D gameplay and storytelling at the time.
  • Burning Rangers, another Saturn exclusive. It was released when the console was nearing its end in America and Europe. While it was a success in Japan, it was a commercial failure in other countries. American or European copies usually go for $75-100 on eBay, while Japanese copies can be found for about $15-30.
  • Kingdom of Paradise, despite gorgeous graphics and relatively high ratings by critics, faced underwhelming sales. It remains a hidden gem in the world of gaming.
  • Steel Battalion was a game that was produced with skepticism and launched with little advertising. The game includes an extremely complex controller that puts the price tag at a ridiculous $200. It was also made for Japan but released on an American console (the Xbox). However, the game was groundbreaking in terms of its simulation abilities, and easily well ahead of its time. So much so that a cult following still apparently maintains the multiplayer expansion even after Microsoft ended Xbox Live.
  • The Legendary Starfy in America. It got very good reviews and has a dedicated following, but sold poorly. In Japan, it sold better, but not as well as the other four Starfy games, which are Japan-exclusive.
  • Total Annihilation: Kingdoms is considered as one of the best RTS games next to its predecessor Total Annihilation, even though it didn't sell much.
  • Spec Ops: The Line was universally praised for its writing, but sold poorly due to advertisements portraying it as a generic modern warfare third-person shooter. They were trying to invoke an Intended Audience Reaction, since the game is a Deconstructor Fleet, but word of mouth just didn't kick in as strong as they wanted. It hurts that the message of the game is "stop playing", which fans sometimes mention when talking about the game.
  • Gladius was universally praised at release; it was even called the best Xbox game nobody played.
  • Shenmue. While the first one sold okay, the sequel didn't. This is mainly because Sega released it as an Xbox exclusive outside of Japan and Europe since video game developers ended production on Dreamcast games in America at this time. Most Xbox owners only cared about shooters and sports games, and Shenmue 2 was neither of those, thus the sequel suffered from horrible sales, and it ended on an unresolved cliffhanger that was never resolved due to Yu Suzuki leaving Sega, and Sega not having enough of a budget to make a third game due to losing so much money on both games. Suzuki had to rely on Kickstarter to get the third game off the ground.
  • Most of Suda51's non-licensed games have dedicated followings and are admired for their audacity. However, only one of his games, Lollipop Chainsaw, was profitable and sold over 1 million units. A mix of Audience-Alienating Premise and quirkiness make his games seem unapproachable to many in both the West and Suda's own native Japan. Killer7 was the first game from Suda to be exported overseas, but it sold poorly due to its unorthodox gameplay and story. No More Heroes was adored by critics, but lacked in sales - 40,000 in Japan, and 208,000 in America. Preceding Madworld, it was an M-rated Wii exclusive and came under fire from Moral Guardians. Despite lackluster sales, it ended up getting a sizable cult following and a sequel and was later ported to the PS3 in hopes that it would sell better there (it didn't).
  • Viewtiful Joe was part of the "Capcom Five" of intended Nintendo GameCube exclusives — alongside Resident Evil 4, which was a runaway hit even if it sold more on the PlayStation 2; the aforementioned Killer7; P.N.03, which got mediocre reception; and the ultimately canceled Dead Phoenix. Widely praised for its stylish cel-shaded look and creative beat-'em-up gameplay, it ultimately moved less than 500,000 copies worldwide, even when it got ported to the PS2 with the added bonus of being able to play as Dante. The director still said that, while Viewtiful Joe sold less than expected, the low budget made it moderately successful, enough to get sequels and for Joe himself to enter Marvel vs. Capcom.
  • While on Capcom and GameCube exclusivity, the remake of Resident Evil was, and still is, widely praised as one of the best games in the series and one of the greatest Survival Horror games of all time, and its prequel Resident Evil 0 was more divisive among fans yet still got good reviews, but both games underperformed due to their exclusivity to the struggling GameCube. Together, their commercial disappointments led Capcom to take the series in a more action-heavy direction with RE4. Only with an Updated Re-release for the remake in 2015 and for RE0 in 2016 did both games get the attention they deserved.
  • Elite Beat Agents: Praised by critics for its tight, challenging, and unique gameplay and amazing atmosphere, it even won GameSpot's Nintendo DS Game of the Year award in 2006, beating out front-runners like New Super Mario Bros., but failed commercially because it was perhaps just a little too weird for most gamers' tastes (not to mention that said atmosphere let to a very jarring case of Surprise Difficulty). This has, unfortunately, effectively quashed any hopes of an official sequel ever being released in the West. Oddly enough, considering the game was a Cultural Translation of the Japan-only import favorite Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, EBA was itself a big import success in Japan.
  • Enslaved: Odyssey to the West received positive reviews, but sold poorly.
  • Perimeter. While the game had pretty good reviews, it flopped spectacularly... and yet for some reason, both an Expansion Pack and a sequel were created.
  • Due to very poor marketing, Cold Fear was largely unheard of by gamers, and most who did hear about it were very quick to dismiss it as a rip off of Resident Evil 4. However, those who played it loved it, and many say it's as good or better than RE4.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. While it was one of the biggest Metal Gear games and received glowing reviews, it sold poorly overseas due to the fact that it was a PSP exclusive. This was averted once it was a part of the HD Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, where it sold much better.
  • MoonBase Commander received fairly positive reviews, but flopped terribly upon its release and won IGN's "Best Game No-One Played" award in 2002. It has somewhat of a small following, if not simply for the fact that it was made by Humongous Entertainment.
  • FreeSpace 2, to the point where it was a Genre-Killer — because if a game that well-received still couldn't sell the genre, what could?
  • Rayman Origins and its sequel Rayman Legends were universally praised but didn't sell very well, probably due to the fact that Executive Meddling dictated that they be released around the same time as Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto V, respectively. The former may have been pushed out of this status by the sheer amount of re-releasing on new consoles, though.
  • The Last Express received high praise for its writing, character development, and intricate-yet-flexible storyline, but the game only sold 100,000 copies, 1 million short of breaking even. This was mostly due to Brøderbund not marketing the game at all, part of which was probably because Brøderbund's entire marketing staff had quit a month before the game's release.
  • Up until the surprisingly great sales of the thirteenth game in the Fire Emblem series, Awakening for the 3DS, every single game in the series of Turn-Based Strategy games since the series' debut all the way back in 1990. Despite the praise the games received, none of them ever managed to crack even a million sales. Out of all the pre-Awakening games, the most blatant example was Fire Emblem: Thracia 776. The game was released in 1999... at the very end of the Super Famicom's life, meaning that it sold terribly — it was the worst-selling game to date in fact. Reviews on the other hand praised the game highly with all-around good scores.
  • While one would expect a crossover between the wildly successful Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei franchises to be a smash, Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE ended up performing well below expectations, even considering the overall failure of the Wii U. This can mostly be attributed to an Uncertain Audience: Shin Megami Tensei fans expecting an Urban Fantasy and Fire Emblem fans expecting a Heroic Fantasy were put off by a story that was neither, instead leaning into an aesthetic inspired by Magical Girl and Idol Singer anime. The inherently Japanese setting and lack of dubbing also failed to attract a casual audience overseas. Critics and curious players found a surprisingly in-depth story and combat system, but not even an Updated Re-release on the Nintendo Switch could breathe a second life into the game's sales.
  • The Metroid series is sometimes said to be one of Nintendo's "Big Three" alongside Mario and Zelda, due to having similar high critical acclaim and influence as a Trope Codifier (in Metroid's case, for the Metroidvania genre) in the gaming industry. However, despite being one of the company's longest-running franchises, it is also one of its weakest, with only a third of the games in the series surpassing one million copies sold. The installment that got hit the most with this was Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, whose launch sales got dwarfed by its predecessor thanks to, among other reasons, being released the same month as Halo 2.
  • DJ Hero was unsurprisingly unsuccessful, due to coming out at the worst possible time: the "plastic controller Rhythm Game" fad was on the way out, but the early New Tens resurgence of electronic music hadn't arrived yet. Coupled with the game's difficulty curve and costing twice the price of a standard retail game due to the turntable controller, nobody was shocked when the game's sales weren't up to snuff. Despite this, the game was well-received by the people who did play it, praising the unique remixes the game incorporated and how original it was in the stagnating genre.
  • Spyro: Season of Ice, Spyro 2: Season of Flame, and Spyro: Attack of the Rhynocs were praised by critics, but sold poorly due to being Nintendo-exclusive titles from a formerly Sony-exclusive series, and being released around the time of the abysmal Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, which scared many away from the other games.
  • Tail Concerto is a fun, cute, and light-hearted platformer for the PlayStation, but it sadly didn't get much attention when it was released. However, does have a following, which was enough for the developers to make a Spiritual Successor with a Shared Universe, namely Solatorobo.
  • Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure was beloved by critics and fans alike for playing to the strengths of the Wii's motion controls and clever (and hard) puzzles. However, between poor marketing and the Animation Age Ghetto, it tanked.
  • Gone Home went back and forth on this after release. The game was a massive critical darling and enjoyed an early burst of strong sales when positive reviews came out, but once the heavy Critical Dissonance surrounding the game set in it rapidly vanished from charts and seemed destined to have mediocre lifetime sales. However, this appears to not have come to pass as it picked up momentum again during multiple rounds of Steam sales (the game's short runtime and relatively high price was one of the major factors fuelling the backlash).
  • Azrael's Tear, a 3D adventure game with some action, had interesting characters and a good story that made you do some serious thinking, not just because of the puzzles, but also because it's increasingly apparent the Immortality Inducer that everyone is after has some very bad side effects, and not all of the characters are what they seem. It also had pretty good music. The critics liked it, too. But its graphics engine was a bit on the slow side, and it had the great misfortune of being released the very same week as Quake, which was much anticipated, had fantastic graphics performance, and was quite addictive.
  • The Yo-Kai Watch franchise may be the fastest contemporary example in Japan of how monumental successes can lead to terrible failures, especially when expanding internationally. The most apparent reasons for its lack of success overseas are Pokémon's tight grasp on the mons genre outside of Japan and that non-Japanese players wouldn't know or relate to the concept of youkai.
    • Despite near-universal praise from critics and those who played it, the original Yo-Kai Watch game sold poorly in North America, in stark contrast to its sales in Japan. Launching the very same day as Call of Duty: Black Ops III definitely didn't help matters. Thankfully, though, the game did much better in Europe.
    • The same fate would befall Yo-kai Watch 2, not helped by releasing on the same day as Final Fantasy XV, and then being quickly overshadowed by Pokémon Sun and Moon.
    • Yo-kai Watch 3 earned the highest review scores for the series in the US from both critics and audiences alike. It also sold only 4,000 copies at best in the US, not helped by the games being released at the tail end of the 3DS's lifecycle. This caused it to have a much smaller print run than the first two games, making it hard to find outside the 3DS eShop or paying absurd online resale prices. The game's poor reception is one of the factors (along with the disappointing overseas performance of The Snack World and the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic) that caused Level-5 to withdraw from the US market.
    • Despite launching at number 1 in Japan, and receiving critical praise for the graphics, gameplay, and story, Yo-kai Watch 4 on the Nintendo Switch had the worst domestic sales in the series, only selling 200,000 copies. It was also released mere months before Pokémon Sword and Shield, which would sell eight times that in Japan alone, and nearly 30 times that in the rest of the world. The game received an Updated Re-release for the PlayStation 4 that ultimately shared the same fate.
  • Pokkén Tournament was a hit among its target demographics of older Pokémon fans and fighting game players, but had one major issue: its initial 2015 release in Japanese arcades was very unprofitable. Skilled players could net an hour of play from a single token, meaning that arcade owners didn't see the value of keeping the machines around. The 2016 Wii U version made up the difference and became a top seller, helped by an Updated Re-release on the Nintendo Switch in 2017.
  • Pocket Card Jockey is a horse-racing solitaire game from Game Freak, the creators of Pokémon. It combines the two into a surprisingly deep package with near-endless replayability. It hit it off very well with many critics and fans, but garnered little attention due to poor advertising from Nintendo, being weird, and being released during a news drought for Game Freak's own Pokémon Sun and Moon, causing irritated Pokémon fans to bash the game despite having never played it or even knowing both titles are from the same developers.
  • Tadpole Treble is a rhythm platformer about the musical misadventures of a young tadpole. Kickstarted with $34,250, 4 years of development by indie software developers, and a score of 90 on Metacritic, it has... less than 100 reviews on Steam one week after release. Note that Steam is the main place to get Tadpole Treble for the PC — even the low-bass toad sung so! Unfortunately, a lot of people simply don't want to play a rhythm game starring a tadpole.
  • Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath was acclaimed for its unique take on the First-Person Shooter and story, and was considered the best Oddworld game in the series since Abe's Exoddus. However, the game sold incredibly poorly due to Invisible Advertising and was even a Creator Killer for a while until Oddworld Inhabitants bounced back in the 2010s. Since then, it's sold much better in its HD remaster on digital platforms.
  • Obsidian was a unique, surreal spin on Myst which launched with $2 million spent on advertising, Thomas Dolby was hired to write its soundtrack, and was lauded by many critics on release. But it sold only 80,000 units and eventually caused its creator, Rocket Science to go bankrupt and fold not long after. It's notable that the game's demo consisted of a very small area with an Unwinnable puzzle and a slideshow, nothing more, which may have been one cause of the game's failure. Despite all this, the game has gained a minor cult following in the adventure genre.
  • Titanfall 2 received near-unanimous critical acclaim, a warm reception from the series' fanbase after a coldly received beta, and a multiplatform launch after the first game's Xbox console exclusivity. Despite this, it ultimately sold only a little over half of the sales of the first game. Many believe that publisher EA's decision to launch the game only a week after their own highly hyped multiplayer shooter, Battlefield 1, in a gambit to launch two shooters against Activison's next Call of Duty, only ended up causing the bigger Battlefield 1 to dwarf the game's presence. That said, the game saw a player count increase following the release of the spin-off Battle Royale game Apex Legends.
  • Blur was a game that received high marks for approaching Vehicular Combat kart racing games with a Darker and Edgier feeling and more skill-based style of gameplay. Unfortunately, it sold poorly thanks to a combination of factors, including an ad campaign that took aim at Mario Kart but only made itself look immature, as well as being released within the same week as rival games ModNation Racers and Split/Second (2010). Its low sales ended with Bizarre Creations being shut down: many of its employees migrated to Forza Horizon developer Playground Games, while lead designer Gareth Wilson went to work on Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed with Sumo Digital.
  • The Rhythm Heaven franchise has always been a critical favorite for its tight gameplay and quirky charm; the games are also strong sellers in Japan, due to the name recognition of series creator Tsunku♂ and successful advertising campaigns with Japanese celebrities. Rhythm Heaven for the Nintendo DS sold well overseas thanks to the success of the Touch Generations line and ads featuring Beyoncé. But Rhythm Heaven Fever and Rhythm Heaven Megamix flopped outside of Japan, despite being for the money-printing Wii and 3DS, respectively. Fever's underwhelming performance is attributed to its marketing and reduced price, which made it look like a shovelware minigame collection on a system that was already flooded with them. Some parts of the game became memetic, but memes do not sell a game. Megamix, meanwhile, suffered from a No Budget localization and Invisible Advertising—it was quietly released in North America as an eShop exclusive—aside from having the same image problems as Fever.
  • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War is fondly remembered by fans as one of the most memorable titles in the Ace Combat series, on par with the best-selling Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. However, being released at the very end of the PlayStation 2 life cycle and with the PlayStation 3 already replacing it, impacted the game's sales negatively, making it the lowest-selling title of the PS2 installments at under 1 million copies sold (in fact, under a third of AC04's).
  • Telltale Games' unique brand of storytelling put several episodic games that were, for the most part, praised for their stories and characters — such as The Wolf Among Us and Batman: The Telltale Series — but aside from the The Walking Dead: Season One and Minecraft: Story Mode, they failed to sell well, contributing to the company being shut down in September 2018.
  • Dragon Quest X was well-received, but it has become the lowest selling Dragon Quest game in Japan by a wide margin, taking three years to sell a million copies in a series normally so popular that its release days are practically national holidays. What also didn't help the game was that due to its implied failure in Japan, it never was considered for localization, and was even saddled with an IP block and later had its offline trial removed.
  • Dr. Muto got generally favorable reception and is generally considered to be a fun platformer. Yet despite being on the three top sixth-generation consoles, the game failed to sell well due to Midway Games not doing much in terms of promotion. Not long after the game was released, Midway shut down its developer Midway Games West, formerly Atari's arcade division, effectively putting the coffin in the ground for Atari.
  • Not even Super Mario Bros. is immune to having a flop every now and then:
    • Despite abundant marketing, strong reviews, and the established credibility of Mario as Nintendo's mascot, Paper Mario 64 saw its sales severely impeded by a combination of its late release date (at the start of the 2000s, when the Nintendo GameCube was just around the corner) and the large shadow cast over it by Super Mario RPG. The greater success of its sequel brought the first Paper Mario into belated cult classic status, and until the Virtual Console re-released it digitally, secondhand copies of Paper Mario remained at their original selling price of US$50 or higher.
    • While Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is the highest seller of any Mario RPG, its Nintendo 3DS remake, Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey, sold barely over 20,000 copies total despite generally pulling in the same critical praise as the original game. The poor sales had a knock-on effect on AlphaDream, who filed for bankruptcy soon after the game's release. This can be attributed to how the Nintendo 3DS was nearing the end of its lifespan, and the original DS version of the game is playable on the 3DS for a much cheaper price, giving little incentive to pay extra for the remake's marginal improvements.
  • Though WarioWare D.I.Y. received very good reviews and developed a solid cult following among aspiring game designers, it was a commercial failure: in Japan, its sales were the lowest the series saw up to that point by a significant margin, and it did even worse in western countries, becoming a perennial bargain-bin filler. This is usually blamed on it being an Audience-Alienating Premise. The complexity of the editor and small number of prebuilt games made it difficult to appeal to the series' usual pick-up-and-play audience, while the otherwise limited mechanics (games are only a few seconds in length, and they can only register simple touch screen inputs) put off those expecting a more in-depth experience.
  • Puyo Puyo series producer Mizuki Hosoyamada was given the keys to the franchise after 2005's Puyo Puyo Fever 2 fell well short of the expectations Sega had for its sales, according to an interview for Sega Ages Puyo Puyo Tsu. Most who have played Fever 2 hold it in good regard for being greatly improved in numerous aspects compared to the original Fever - in particular, it's got a larger story mode and its writing and worldbuilding are done better.
  • Take-Two Interactive had two in 2012: Max Payne 3, which after a strong start in spite of very stiff competition, had slow sales, but eventually broke out to be an undisputed financial success; and Spec Ops: The Line, that was lauded for its dark plot and innovative narrative that downright offered a deconstructive look at shooter games, something that certainly was a hard sell for regular gamers, while ignoring its intended audience in the advertising (which looked like a normal military shooter to trick people into thinking it was) due to hoping word of mouth would kick in. It didn't until far later than they hoped.
  • Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight. In Japan, it fell off the charts after one week, and most of its sales were part of bundles with Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight or Persona 4: Dancing All NightPersona 3 had been 12 years old at the time of the dancing game's release. Despite this, it's liked among Persona 3 fans for its entertaining rhythm gameplay, great visuals, and funny voice-acted cutscenes.
  • Mega Man Powered Up received solid reviews and a loyal fandom for being an excellent remake of Mega Man, with an adorable artstyle and boatloads of content that raised hopes that it would be the first in a series of future Mega Man (Classic) remakes. Unfortunately, due to whatever reason — most citing how it just wasn't super appealing to PSP audiences, as well as how the console itself had an infamously rocky start — it sold very poorly, putting those plans to rest for good.
  • Hitman (2016) was a critical smash, a hit with loyal Hitman fans, a very welcome bounceback following IO Interactive's divisive Hitman: Absolution... and it apparently performed so poorly that IOI was dropped by Square Enix and was left almost completely broke. Much blame was pinned on the game's highly-touted episodic model confusing and alienating potential buyers, so when IOI was able to strike up a partnership with Warner Bros. to independently develop and publish their next planned "season" in the form of Hitman 2 (and then later Hitman 3), they completely ditched the format, and in continuing to make critically-beloved games, they've since received proper financial returns that fully saved them from near-bankruptcy. In case of Hitman 3, which is self-published, they made back its development costs in just a week!
  • Steam's refund policy that allows players to refund games if they have less than 2 hours of playtime leads to some indie games meeting this fate. One such game is Summer of '58, a horror game from Russian developer Emika Games. While the game generally received favorable reviews, because of its short runtime many people refunded the game after finishing it, even some who left positive reviews! As a result, Emika made little money from the game, if any, throwing a wrench into their future development plans.
  • Alan Wake was warmly regarded by critics and audiences, but it had the misfortune of being released on the same week in 2010 as Red Dead Redemption, completely eclipsing it in attention and sales. Alan Wake would eventually become a moderate success through word of mouth and gradual Cult Classic status, but its initial underperformance (especially relative to its notoriously extended development) was enough for Microsoft (Remedy Entertainment's publisher at the time) to can the plans for a sequel in favor of newer projects. It took until 2021 — after their much more lucrative titles Quantum Break and Control (the latter being a stealth-Crossover with the Alan Wake universe) as well as Remedy securing the IP rights from Microsoft — for Alan Wake II to finally be announced for a 2023 release.
  • All-Pro Football 2K8 was Take-Two Interactive's final attempt at making an American football game, after the NFL gave their exclusive license to EA. The game was widely praised for its realistic engine, team customization, and playing as retired NFL legends, but the game sold rather poorly. Modders have kept the game and its servers alive, and 2K8 is now considered one of the greatest football games of all time.
  • According to CyberConnect2, Fuga: Melodies of Steel has only made back about 30% of its development costs despite critical acclaim. CyberConnect2 has urged people on Twitter to continue supporting the game so that they can keep making original passion projects like Fuga. Before that, there was also CyberConnect2's other works in the Little Tail Bronx series Tail Concerto and Solatorobo, both games that did well critically but were considered financial failures due to Bandai Namco's mishandling of their launches (mainly from lack of advertisements). Infamously, Bandai Namco has used their poor sales figures as excuses to not finance any other Little Tail Bronx games.
  • Live A Live received praise for its ambitious scope, dramatic story, and innovative gameplay, but only sold 270,000 copies during its lifetime (which some attribute to it being a young, unproven title coming out amid a flood of better-known series), and it never left Japan—though an English Fan Translation exists. However, it remained enough of a cult hit that it was eventually Remade for the Export in 2022 for the Nintendo Switch.

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  • Sym-Bionic Titan was beloved by critics and fans on the Internet, but lasted only 20 episodes. The most often-used reason is because of a lack of toy companies willing to make merchandise for it. The real reason is more complicated: It was pitched to toy companies with a female protagonist, which made toy companies hesitant as female action figures sell much worse than their male counterparts; this wouldn't be so big of a problem (considering other shows remain on the air with little to no merchandise) if it weren't for Sym-Bionic Titan's titanic budget. It got good ratings, but not enough to turn a profit without the extra push the merchandise would've given it.
  • Invader Zim gained a massive and loyal fanbase for weirdness and Black Comedy such as hadn't been seen on Nickelodeon since The Ren & Stimpy Show. But ratings didn't justify the (very expensive) cost of the animation and it was axed after 1 and a half Seasons.note  It was Vindicated By DVD, and merchandise still sells at a healthy rate to the Hot Topic set. The series was eventually continued in the form of comic books and a movie, Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, which was released on Netflix.
  • Robotomy was well-loved by fans, but Cartoon Network couldn't justify the production costs due to all of their overseas channels refusing to air it. The channel decided to barely market it as a result, as they wouldn't be able to recoup costs even if it was a success.
  • Cartoon Network's DC Nation block. The set-up of two anchor shows interspersed with various shorts and mini-specials about DC was highly praised for its immersion and uniqueness, but only one of the four featured shows received any promotion, with the other three all axed because, despite strong fanbases, good writing, and the recognition of the DC name and roster of characters, their merchandising didn't turn a profit (or, in the case of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, exist at all).
  • Despite having a large adult fanbase, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! did not sell enough merchandise or appeal to the target demographic enough to warrant more than two seasons. It was replaced by Avengers Assemble which allegedly sells tons of merchandise but is widely hated by fans of the previous series and fans of the movies that it so poorly mimics. Adding insult to injury, it's since been shown that at the time of its cancellation, Earth's Mighties Heroes was consistently one of the highest-rated shows on Disney XD.
  • ThunderCats (2011) was hyped and received much acclaim for its animation, writing, voice acting and action. However, Cartoon Network didn't pay much attention to that, more to the toys by Bandai, which were not selling as well as they hoped. Although a move from Friday night to Saturday morning helped in ratings and Bandai was eager to continue with selling the toys, the series ended after 26 episodes, despite being planned to have 65 episodes, and it was taken over by a more marketable replacement, Legends of Chima.
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers received some genuine praise for its darker, more mature stories but alas it appealed more to teens and 20-something college-age sci-fi fans than it did to the toy happy little boys who were the main target demographic and did much better overseas (especially Germany) than in America, which is said to have doomed it to merely being a Cult Classic.
  • Phantom Investigators received critical praise and was the highest-rated Saturday morning cartoon in its 11:30 AM timeslot each time it aired. However, when ratings slipped with young boys but grew with young girls, Kids' WB canceled the show after only six of its thirteen episodes had aired as they didn't want to lose their status as the highest-rated Saturday morning block with young boys.
  • While The Legend of Korra got positive reviews (minus the Sophomore Slump), it never managed to do well in traditional viewership numbers past its first season. Because of its Darker and Edgier nature, the second season was moved to Friday night from Saturday morning despite the show being targeted at teens/ young adults. Its ratings tanked after the move but it continued to do well on Nick's website and other digital platforms. Eventually, it was outright pulled from the live schedule and moved online but whether or not it was due to the ratings or the content (the second episode shown exclusively online had a brutal, unambiguous murder by asphyxiation on-screen) isn’t definitively known even though Nick said they had always planned to do it.
  • Tuca & Bertie got a 100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and won an Annie Award, but was canceled after only one season on Netflix due to low ratings and poor marketing. Likely due to this, Adult Swim Un-Canceled it for Season 2.
  • Dave the Barbarian was critically acclaimed and is widely considered to be one of the funniest Disney Channel shows ever made...but it suffered from low ratings and was suddenly cancelled after just one season.

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