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Acclaimed Flop

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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.

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) and Sleeper Hit (where a work that no one was expecting much from ends up being a commercial success despite the unfavorable odds).

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.



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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 shows 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]. Unfortunately, One Piece was not able to keep up in the ratings with the other series on Toonami, and in April 2017, Tokyo Ghoul took its place.
  • 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.
  • Detective Conan. 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! did very poorly in Japan in both anime and manga sales, yet this series is well-liked among the American anime fanbase because the series pokes fun at the typical otaku.
  • Pretty Cure:
  • 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 had a very strong fan following and is one of the most well-known horror anime, but its DVDs notoriously bombed for both Geneon and FUNimation. It took 8 years for its sequel 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. 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 the Slice of Life genre) that has failed to find an audience in the West. 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 liked it, and 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 a Dork Age 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 results 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 ofAlice 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 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 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).

    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.
  • 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 (at most, 500 theaters) 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-time).
    • 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.
  • The Master was the kind of film that had the makings of an awards hit: hot-button topic as its premise, strong cast of leads (led by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a director with a strong track record in Paul Thomas Anderson. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Cinema Score 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 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★PreCure a la Mode film. 2049 eventually grossed $259.2 million worldwide, making an estimated $80 million loss.
  • 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.
  • The Hate U Give received glowing reviews and an "A+" CinemaScore, with critics praising lead actress Amandla Stenberg's performance, and for being a rare YA novel adaptation without any fantastical or romantic elements. However, it only made $29.4 million out of a $23m 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 the legendary horror film The Shining by Stanley Kubrick, 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 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 Acclaimed Flop 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.

  • 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's not bad, but it failed because it wasn't universally loved like The Simpsons".
  • 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; They 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 American's 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 
  • Al Lowe noted that due to piracy, Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards sold twenty times more strategy guides than actual games sold.
  • 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 only after the game was heavily discounted, but was hit among critics. Most who hadn't played it saw it as Grand Theft Auto set in Hong Kong. The game focuses more on martial arts rather than gunplay and features light free-running through the city. However, sales weren't so bad for Square Enix to rule out a potential sequel.
  • EarthBound. It didn't catch on when it came out in America, 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 earned 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).
  • Various games made by Clover Studios, later PlatinumGames:
  • 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 out of the genre. It's since gotten an Updated Re-release on modern consoles, including a PC version, and is doing well there.
    • 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. According to Double Fine's own sale numbers, from 2016, Psychonauts in total sold just shy of 1.7 million copies, and about 1.2 millions of these sales happened after the expiration of the publishing deal, turning 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. 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. Speaking of the former, Final Fantasy VII had stylistically redefined the genre with its big-budget, cinematic 3D visuals just two years earlier, and Suikoden II, which stuck to the isometric 2D of its predecessor, looked extremely outdated by comparison, as practically every other major RPG was following the charge led by the new generation of Final Fantasy. 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 many 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, 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 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, Risky's Revenge, suffered a similar fate and it wouldn't be until the third game 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, due to limited advertising and late arrival to the Nintendo 64, didn't sell as well as hoped. But it gained 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 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 no one brought it. The kiddy presentation hurt despite the game being quite dark in places. The developers seem to have realized this because the remake for 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 4 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. It sold 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 was 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.
  • Paper Mario was not a good seller when it came out, despite abundant marketing, a lot of good reviews, and the established popularity of Mario as Nintendo's mascot. This is because it was released on the Nintendo 64's last days, when people were hyped about the GameCube and games like Super Smash Bros. Melee were just around the corner. It was also released at the time where the highly praised Super Mario RPG left pretty big shoes that Paper Mario had a hard time filling. It was Vindicated by History several years later, thanks in part to its sequel managing to fill said shoes, making fans much more appreciative of the series, and until the Nintendo eShop re-released it digitally, copies of Paper Mario remained at their original selling price of US$50 or higher.
  • 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.
  • Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE: It doomed itself on arrival by not exactly being the crossover between Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei it had promised to be; its Japanese sales were pretty low as a result not helped with Invisible Advertising. It also released on the Wii U relatively late in its life cycle when the little momentum the system managed to pick up had slowed down. Then it got exported to the West and suffered some heavy censorship in its localization, which worsened its already spotty reputation among gamers. Not helping matters was the lack of dub and the localized version having Invisible Advertising just like the Japanese version. It ended up selling even fewer copies. Both Japanese and Western critics, however, had very good things to say about it. The Updated Re-release for the successful Nintendo Switch aimed to breathe new life to the game, but it using the censored western version as its base killed off that possibility. It didn't help that the Switch version also wasn't dubbed for markets outside Japan.
  • 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, coming out at a time when the Rhythm Game fad was on the way out, right before the early New Tens resurgence of electronic music (one has to wonder how well it would have sold if it had come out after said resurgence). Coupled with the game's difficulty curve, the general unpopularity of DJ music in general, 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 compared to the Mission Pack Sequels music games.
  • 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 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.
    • 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 the decision to release the game on the same date as Final Fantasy XV, having it quickly overshadowed by the Dueling Games of 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 its US release, not helped by releasing the game in the wake of the success of Kingdom Hearts III, the Video Game Remake of Resident Evil 2 and the 3DS nearing the end of its lifecycle. The game was also subject to a much smaller print run than the first two, making it hard to find outside the 3DS eShop or paying absurd online resale prices.
    • You would think that Yo-kai Watch 4 on the Nintendo Switch would reinvigorate the franchise (due to a step up in graphics and gameplay, as well as being the first game in the series to appear on a home console) after seeing a rapid decline since 2016, especially with the lifespan of the 3DS coming to an end. However, you'd be wrong. Despite launching at number 1 in Japan, and receiving critical praise for the graphics, gameplay, and story, the game had the worst sales in the series, selling 200,000 copies, not helped by releasing the game in the wake of the hype building up for Pokémon Sword and Shield, which would be released just five months later and sell eight times that in Japan and nearly 30 times that in the rest of the world. And to add fuel to the fire, it quickly fell after the release of Super Mario Maker 2 the following week, which sold more copies in its first three days than Yo-kai Watch 4 did in its first five months on sale. The game received an Updated Re-release for the PlayStation 4 that ultimately shared the same fate.
  • Pokkén Tournament, a fighting game aimed at older Pokémon fans that the Internet can't get enough of? What's the problem? Well, until its Wii U release, it was playable only in Japanese arcades. Skilled players could net an hour of play from a single token, making it very unprofitable for arcade owners. This was later subverted thanks to the Wii U version, which launched to great fanfare, and the subsequent Updated Re-release on the Nintendo Switch in September 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. The fact that Titanfall 2 is an external project only published by EA while Battlefield 1 is both published and developed by EA has led some of the more devout fans to believe that EA purposely gimped the success of Titanfall 2 in order to ensure Respawn Entertainment's financial failure, thus allowing EA to buy the IP outright from amongst the wreckage.
  • 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. 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.
  • In the Rhythm Heaven series, the only one to sell well outside of Japan is Rhythm Heaven for the Nintendo DS, even though all of them pleased critics and the few who bought them for their charm. Rhythm Heaven Fever flopped despite being for the ever-popular Wii, while the English version of Rhythm Heaven Megamix was announced on the day of its release and was digital-only... and was also a poor seller. The most common explanation behind Rhythm Heaven Fever's underwhelming sales is that its marketing and box art made it look like a minigame compilation on a system that was already totally overloaded with them, and the reduced price made it look like shovelware. Some parts of the game became memetic, but memes do not sell a game. Rhythm Heaven Megamix did not succeed due to Invisible Advertising and interest in rhythm games having mostly evaporated in North America and Europe. Averted in Japan, where it was made, however; the Rhythm Heaven titles sell well enough that pop musicians and their songwriters make songs just for this series.
  • 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.
  • In 2002, Nintendo, in an attempt to boost the sales of the struggling GameCube console, came together with Capcom for the "Capcom Five", a set of five games — Resident Evil 4, Viewtiful Joe, killer7, P.N.03, and the ultimately canceled Dead Phoenix — that would be exclusive to Nintendo's console. Shinji Mikami even famously claimed that he would cut his own head off if RE4 were ever ported to other consoles. Instead of saving the GameCube, the GameCube's woes merely dragged these games down, forcing them to languish in obscurity even as those who played them heaped praise upon them; of them, only RE4 was a sales success, and even it saw its sales more than double after it was ported to the PlayStation 2. Viewtiful Joe and Killer7 wouldn't gain widespread recognition until after they were released on other consoles.
  • The same problem as the above afflicted the remake of Resident Evil and its prequel Resident Evil 0, both of which were also GameCube exclusives. The former 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 while the latter was somewhat more divisive, it too met an overall positive reception. However, 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.
  • 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.
  • Here is another example of how not even Mario is immune to having a flop every now and then. While Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story put out almost 4 million copies by its last report and became the Mario RPG with the highest sales of them all, its Nintendo 3DS remake, Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey, landed on the complete opposite side, selling barely over 20,000 copies total despite generally pulling in the same 8's, 9's, B's and A's on reviews as the original game. 9 months after the remake's release, Alpha Dream filed for bankruptcy on October 1st, 2019.
  • 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, as the complexity of the editor and low-quality prebuilt games made it difficult for it to appeal to the series' usual audience.
  • 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.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Thunder Cats 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.


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