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Uncertain Audience

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"At times it's far too childish for RoboCop fans, and at other times it's a little too dark for the kids! And in the end, it really appeals to no one."
Smeghead concluding his review of RoboCop 3

Uncertain Audience takes place when producers have not positioned a certain enough target for their work's release.

Occurs when a form of media seems unaware of its target demographic, attempting to appeal to a wide range of different people. While these attempts are made to reach various audiences and thus ensure greater financial success, they often result in alienating groups with opposing tastes. It can be a candy-coated Squee with a squick center for some people (like a Tootsie Roll lollipop for those who don't like chocolate, or prefer real chocolate) or vice versa (like salted peanuts that you can't eat until you bust 'em open). For chocolate-munching, peanut-swallowing people on the other hand, this genre blend can be the perfect flavor for you. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, though, your best bet is to stay away from this.

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Food metaphors aside, it can appear in various forms:

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Compare and contrast Multiple Demographic Appeal, where a work deliberately appeals to different audiences (usually with better success), and Audience-Alienating Premise, where it's the actual concept that has trouble finding an audience rather than the executionnote . Compare Bathos, where the juxtaposition of incompatible genres or moods is done deliberately for humor.

As a reminder, this is not to be used for Complaining About Shows You Don't Like.


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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • This commercial for salads from Domino's Pizza mocks people who enjoy salads as buzzkills who ruin pizza night by making everybody get salads instead, yelling at them to "Eat a pizza once in a while!" It’s unclear whether they want to appeal to people who dislike salads and enjoy pizza, nullifying the point of adding salads to the menu, or people who dislike pizza and enjoy salads, which is the demographic the commercial mocks as "soulsmashers". It also completely ignores anybody who may enjoy both pizza and salad.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Akame ga Kill! is relentlessly dark, with main characters dying left and right, but at the same time there are heavy comedy elements that can seem very out of place, such as Lubbock's constant flirting and Tatsumi's Clueless Chick Magnet tendencies, as well as lots of fanservice. Not helping is that the whole Gray-and-Gray Morality part of the story is more of an Informed Attribute, making it hard to tell if it's supposed to be for older audiences looking for a darker Shonen series, or a lighter-themed Shonen series for younger audiences. Older audiences find the humor distracting and feel the darker setting is too tame, while younger audiences found the show's themes a bit extreme and hard to get past, alongside the show's heavy amounts of violence and distracting fanservice.
  • Appare-Ranman! was a flop with general audiences despite its good critical ratings—it revolves around a cross-country race in a Steampunk-inspired setting very loosely based on turn of the century America, but despite the over-the-top setting, characters, and action, the series also has multiple character arcs and backstories revolving around serious topics such as women's rights and the folly of revenge. Viewers who tuned in to see colorful, ridiculous action a la REDLINE found it hard to tolerate the angsty backstories and morals, and those who might have been interested in the characterization found it hard to take seriously because of the more out-there elements, and the series' sales suffered because of it.
  • Back Arrow was a notable flop despite the reputations of its creators, and most of it can be attributed to the creative styles of director Goro Taniguchi and writer Kazuki Nakashima clashing. While both creators make superficially similar anime—high-concept, flamboyant Mecha works, the actual content of their stories can't be more different: Taniguchi uses his mecha as a front for geopolitical intrigue and weighty character-driven depictions of war, while Nakashima is a firm purveyor of old-school Super Robot stories, where flashy, ridiculous action and pure idealism lead the way, and this anime attempts to do both styles at once to disastrous results. There's classic Super Robot tropes like robots that run on pure willpower, Combining Mecha, New Powers as the Plot Demands, Bloodless Carnage invocations of The Power of Love and The Power of Friendship, and stuff that's just plain goofynote  out the wazoo, but this is combined with dark and serious elements such as a weighty War Is Hell storyline, the protagonist and his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits rubbing elbows with generals and princesses and eventually becoming a great power nation themselves, and the protagonist's Superpowered Evil Side killing hundreds. These events constantly occur back-to-back at the same time, leading to a tone so schizophrenic it can almost seem like you're watching two shows at once, such as when a battle filled with angst from the heroes about having to possibly kill is ended by a literal friendship powerup where Everyone Lives, only to immediately be followed by a riot stirred up by the Big Bad that ends in a civilian massacre. It's not a surprise that the show never did great numbers, since it requires tolerance of both the most extreme seriousness of a Real Robot anime and the most ridiculous silliness of a Super Robot one, something that few fans have the ability to do.
  • Part of the reason Berserk: The Golden Age Arc ultimately underperformed is that it tries to strike a balance between being a Gateway Series that can serve as an introduction to the rest of the franchise by adapting the acclaimed Golden Age series, and a Truer to the Text adaptation that finally throws longtime fans a bone after the prior major adaptation (Berserk (1997)) ends on a cliffhanger, leaving some important characters and moments Adapted Out. However, it ultimately struggled with both groups. To longtime fans, the films (barring the presence of those Adapted Out characters) feel redundant when a well-liked adaptation of the same material already exists (which also sparked immediate, oft-unfavorable comparisons between the two), especially since there are plenty of other stories and characters that fans had been dying to see in animation for decades. The film approach of only covering important plot points (a consequence of adapting fourteen volumes of manga into about five hours of material) also leaves the plot feeling rather rushed and missing a lot of the slower, more introspective moments, so newcomers end up missing out on a lot of the story's thematic content and character interplay, and thus a lot of the original's appeal. Consequently, while the films do have their fans, those fans tend to see them as more supplementary to the manga version rather than a good replacement or introduction to it.
  • Boruto is caught between appealing to the fans of the original Naruto manga, or to new viewers. For long-time fans of Naruto, it's a story focusing on the children of the characters from the original manga, said parents being characters fans have followed for nearly two decades and therefore like more than their kids. They also find the concept of a story that is supposed to be set after the long history of war was seemingly ended to be a Happy Ending Override. Non-Naruto fans had no desire to watch it, simply because it's a continuation of a long-running series with a certain level of infamy among the anime community for Filler, and thus lack any emotional connection to it that might have hooked them in. This isn't helped by the fact that newer fans simply won't know much about Naruto if they haven't seen the original series, as Boruto doesn't do much to inform newcomers on the setting. Combined with the low stakes of the story for most of its release and lack of a good story hook for either party, it makes it a hard sell for any viewer, something fans of the show admit is a major problem.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card can't seem to decide whether it's intended for kids who are new to the series or adults who grew up watching and reading the original run. On one hand, it is still serialized in the very same Shōjo magazine as the original run, and the anime adaptation aired in a kids timeslot, but on the other hand, since it's a direct continuation, it requires familiarity with a work that's over 20 years old, and all of The Merch are things like collector-grade figures and replicas, as well as expensive cosmetics and clothing, with very few things kids could afford or would be interested in.
  • Case Closed failed when it was broadcast on late nights on Adult Swim in the United States because of this uncertainty, combined with Values Dissonance, is why failed: it was too childish for [adult swim], yet too violent for CN's then late-afternoon Toonami block, having brutal murders and complex plots involving suicide, drugs and business dealings, but also many childish comedy moments.
  • Cells at Work! CODE BLACK is a spinoff of an Edutainment Show (admittedly one that can get pretty gory and depressing by Western standards) aimed at children, and is even more Anvilicious about the importance of healthy living than its parent series. Yet the manga runs in a Seinen magazine, and it isn't afraid to show the negative consequences of unhealthy habits through its Crapsack World setting where Anyone Can Die, and it doesn't shy away from graphic depictions of health problems like drug addictions and sexually transmitted diseases, which, combined with the sheer bleakness of the setting and likelihood of the main characters to either die or end up in situations even worse from when they started, makes it too dark and dramatic for the child audience of the parent manga to enjoy. Meanwhile, the show's heavy-handed commentary about the health effects of bad habits fails to appeal to most adult readers, since the series doesn't offer any insight that couldn't have already been found in a self-help book or Google search. It's been commented that the only people the manga could appeal to are the adult Periphery Demographic of the original series, since they already know the franchise's M.O. when it comes to morality plays and edutainment.
  • As a Space Western, Cowboy Bebop runs the gamut in terms of genre and tone, from comedy ("Mushroom Samba") to gruesome horror ("Pierrot le Fou"). This sometimes leads to extreme Mood Whiplash, though it is also what makes the series so popular. In fact, in the preview for "Black Dog Serenade" Jet even warns the children and women in the audience that they won't care for the plot of the next episode because it’s aimed at middle-aged men. What makes it work is how each episode is a showcase of a slightly different genre, but with consistent characters, making it more "a little bit for everyone" instead of trying to appeal to everyone at once.
  • Much of the reason DARLING in the FRANXX is a fairly controversial show—it's often described as the fusion of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gurren Lagann, as it absolutely borrows stylistic cues from both. Consequently, it has a high-concept, sexualized, inherently silly premise of robots with pilots sitting at the controls in doggystyle, but the series itself, for most of its run, is relatively slow-paced and serious, focusing on interpersonal drama, love triangles, and tragic backstories. A lot of people interested in bawdy, farcically over-the-top action were wondering when the show would stop focusing on sad teenagers, and found the show's conflict hard to get hyped about. Meanwhile, the people who liked the show's character focus and drama were either unable to get past the premise, or were driven off by later episodes bringing the silly stuff to the fore—culminating in a lady the size of the planet fighting space aliens.
  • One of the issues surrounding Digimon Adventure: (2020) is that it's unsure whether it wants to appeal to newcomers or fans of the original Digimon Adventure. The show simultaneously acts as a Continuity Reboot that takes creative liberties with the original while also requiring new viewers to have knowledge of the previous incarnations of the franchise.
  • Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA suffers from an uncertain audience due to being a combination of genre and setting. It's a Magical Girl anime set in an Alternate Universe of Fate/stay night, following Illya. As the Fate franchise is already a world involving magic, it had trouble attracting a large audience for years, and it was not until much later into the manga's lifespan that it began to attract a serious fanbase. From the perspective of fans of the Magical Girl genre, it lacks anything really unique about its setting, coming across as a Cardcaptor Sakura clone, which means fans of the genre simply lack a reason to watch it if they aren't fans of the Fate franchise. For fans of the Fate series, it's a strange and out-of-genre work that doesn't mesh well with the complicated lore and themes of the greater franchise, at least during its first season. Even beyond that, the fact it's part of the Fate franchise means it automatically alienates some viewers simply because of how complicated the series is for outsiders. It also suffers from having Lolicon elements (especially 2wei, which turned off readers/viewers who were able to look past it), meaning people who might find everything else fine were put off by the uncomfortable vibe the show had. And for the few fans who actually liked the magical girl parody and referential humor of the first couple of seasons, they were put off by the third season's shift into Darker and Edgier territory, which went to the point of completely jettisoning Illya and her supporting cast to focus on an Alternate Universe version of Shirou going through a bleak storyline with as much if not more suffering than Heaven's Feel.
  • F-Zero: GP Legend, an anime adaptation of Nintendo's F-Zero racing series, failed due to unclear appeal. Among general audiences, the series was full of dark themes and moments such as the villains being explicit murderers, alienating younger viewers, but the characters were too over-the-top for older viewers. Even fans of the games didn't take to it as it played too fast and loose with the source material (and considering that F-Zero didn't have much lore to work with in the first place, that's saying a lot), while other Nintendo fans would ignore it due to F-Zero being obscure outside of Captain Falcon's appearances in Super Smash Bros.
  • .hack//Legend of the Twilight's anime adaptation: On one side, it‘s considerably more light-hearted and childish than .hack//SIGN, with more comic relief and cute monsters. On the other side, it also has more Fanservice and Implied Twincest between the two main characters, such that the series has become infamously immortalized because of it.
  • Heike Monogatari suffers from the unfortunate combination of being a retelling of a literary classic from a different perspective that also crams a Door Stopper of an epic poem into eleven episodes. As a result, despite the critical praise for its art and animation, it suffered heavily from this: viewers who weren't familiar with the epic or the historical events behind it were confused by the large amount of characters and major events that get quickly glossed overFor example  while viewers who were familiar with the poem were also disappointed with all the creative liberties the series took with its source material.
  • It's unclear just who Higurashi: When They Cry Gou is supposed to appeal to. While new fans may be interested in it as being an alleged reboot, it's actually a Stealth Sequel. The first half of the series, which consists mostly of adaptations of the original sound novels, contains lots of references and plot thread dropping that require knowledge of the original series and will likely leave them wondering what is going on. Returning fans who would likely be interested in a sequel, however, will likely wind up frustrated by having to watch twelve straight episodes consisting largely of stuff they've already seen, and will tune out long before the Wham Episode starts bringing new content to the fore.
  • This trope was a contributing factor to the cancellation of IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix, with the tone of the Humongous Mecha races being viewed as too outlandish for older audiences and the series also containing lots of material that ranged from uninteresting to inappropriate for younger audiences. Neither Cartoon Network nor Adult Swim could keep the show alive.
  • The original Interspecies Reviewers manga is noted to have this issue by fans: the series has an extremely raunchy premise (a group of sex-addicted adventurers having sex with various Cute Monster Girl prostitutes in a fantasy world), which involves a lot of frank and explicit discussion of sex and fetishes, some of which can get very niche. This obviously excludes younger demographics and comedy fans who aren't interested in something so lewd...yet, despite its premise, the manga is extremely tame in terms of Fanservice, as the sexy stuff is only discussed in speech and writing and left up to the readers' imagination; in fact, it takes multiple volumes to show one instance of partial nudity. This, as you can imagine, turns off ecchi fans who go in expecting explicit imagery from the series' premise, only to get none. While the anime adaptation's Hotter and Sexier content led to it being removed from several TV networks and streaming sites for being too raunchy, it also makes its target audience much clearer and it ended up getting a bigger fanbase that way.
  • Jewelpet Sunshine is often accused of having an uncertain audience. It's a wacky kids' school (specifically the last year of high school, meaning all the major characters are at least 18) comedy that deals with issues such as incest and zoophilia.
  • Kakushigoto: My Dad's Secret Ambition, just like any other Koji Kumeta manga, comes with a healthy dose of his trademark Surreal Humor. While the gags work fine in isolation and wouldn't be out of place in one of his more out-there stories, they really don't gel with the slow-paced slice-of-life tone of the manga, which is heavily implied to be autobiographical. The result is heartfelt parent-child bonding and philosophical musing on parenthood and growing up being interrupted by wacky gags, which is jarring to say the least. The manga fares a tiny bit better by keeping the weird moments in separate chapters from the down-to-earth ones, but the anime plays them back-to-back and includes a Sudden Downer Ending which makes the Mood Whiplash even worse. The result is a series that's not bizarre enough for Kumeta fans who love his trademark style of writing, but too bizarre for those not familiar with his series who would otherwise be interested in a slow-paced slice of life with family themes.
  • Missions of Love can't decide if it's a mature shoujo romance or a shounen moe sex comedy. And it's serialized in Nakayoshi, a manga magazine for young girls, further confusing things.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi starts out looking like a harem comedy, then takes a hard turn into a fighting series in volume three. Afterward it remains a fighting series, albeit with Harem Comedy elements left in it. It works pretty well. This can be blamed on Executive Meddling — Ken Akamatsu wanted to write a fighting series, but the publisher wanted another harem series like Love Hina. Akamatsu essentially pretended to be writing a harem comedy, and gradually turned it into the fighting shounen he'd wanted.
  • The anime adaptation of Nekopara was kneecapped by not being able to figure out if it wanted to appeal to younger or older fans. The anime is a slice-of-life spinoff revolving around a Canon Foreigner that downplays the games' Harem Genre elements, supposedly so series creator Sayori could watch it with her children. However, the anime also requires heavy knowledge of the visual novels, something that kids will not be able to have since they are H-games, and it also contains many examples of family-unfriendly content in the form of blatant Male Gaze and barely-disguised sexual innuendo. As a result, it flew under the radar with younger audiences due to the nature of the franchise it was adapting, and the adult audience of the visual novels found it to be much too saccharine and juvenile for their tastes. The anime became the lowest-selling part of an otherwise extremely successful franchise.
  • Despite its massive popularity, Neon Genesis Evangelion falls into this trope. It has mecha play an important role in the plot, but is also heavily focused on interpersonal character drama — the audience for the two contrasting elements is very different. This might be why the series is so divisive.
    • Petit Eva is even more confusing. It's a school AU spinoff in Super-Deformed style, without any of the self-awareness or (however momentary) actual character drama seen in similar Evangelion spinoff media like Shinji Ikari Raising Project and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days. This seems to imply that it's targeted towards children, but even more permissive Japanese parents wouldn’t want to introduce children to a series as dark as Evangelion.
  • Sailor Moon Crystal was seemingly targeted at fans of the original Sailor Moon manga, as it claimed to be a faithful adaptation of that material... But then it made several changes to the end of the first season that upset that particular demographic. Then the third season attempted to court fans of the original '90s anime by changing the art style and the cast's personalities to more closely resemble it, but fans of the original anime had already been turned off by the lack of focus on the ensemble cast vs. focus on Sailor Moon herself, a facet of the original manga. The series seemingly also failed to attract new fans, as a fourth season hung in limbo for years and underwent yet another art change before finally being retooled into two movies, Sailor Moon Eternal. Sailor Moon Eternal then tried even harder to cater to fans of the anime, further driving the original audience away.
  • Shugo Chara! has a young female protagonist, adorable fairy mascots, and sparkly Magical Girl battles, since the manga ran in Nakayoshi, a shoujo magazine for young girls. It also deals with some surprisingly dark and mature subjects (including one character having a Big Brother Attraction), many characters have deep psychological issues, and a huge part of the story is the elementary school-aged heroine's romance with a boy in his late teens (who openly returns her affections). There's also lots of moe elements in order to appeal to otaku. This may be why no licensing company wants to pick the anime version up.
  • The Vision of Escaflowne:
    • Mostly averted as it's considered a famous case of Multiple Demographic Appeal done right, though it did infamously bomb when it first aired in Japan (finding much more love overseas and then being Vindicated by History), partly because the idea of an anime not being a clear-cut Shōnen or Shoujo series (nor being based on a pre-existing manga) was unheard of at the time.
    • It also initially struggled when it first aired in the US under Fox Kids, who tried to market it exclusively to young boys but kept a lot of the romance elements beyond the unaired first episode, which might have contributed to it being much better received in other English-speaking countries (particularly Canada) and being quickly pulled from syndication. Vision of Escaflowne Abridged discusses and lampoons this in its opening episode.
      Van (to Hitomi): The reason you're confused is that the network skipped the first episode. It seems that... certain elements... didn't test too well with that crucial "has a penis" demographic.
      Hitomi: And they thought that was more important than maintaining continuity and the plot?
      Van: You're watching Fox.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: By some accounts, about half the creators wanted it to be an idealistic show and a Milestone Celebration about the joy of being an entertainer and making people smile, and the other half wanted it to be a gritty Deconstructor Fleet with heavy War Is Hell themes. Needless to say, these two concepts got in the way of each other a lot, and towards the end, the series had gotten too grim and cynical for people who liked the goofy stuff, and too saccharine and annoying for people who liked the darker stuff. For a particular example, the series introduces the Battle Beast, a traumatized boy reduced to an animalistic level and trained to kill who offs multiple named characters, and then has him turn over a new leaf and learn to have fun after the main character plays paintball with him.

    Comic Books 
  • Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld fell victim to this throughout nearly all of its runs after its original and most successful run. The original comic was conceived before the Magical Girl Warrior was codified in the West (to put it in perspective, Sailor Moon would not debut on American television for more than a decade after the original maxi-series) leaving the creators with no idea where to go with a princess character that journeyed between Earth and Gemworld. Their solution was to make the series a full-on horror title that proved extremely unpopular and was quickly cancelled. Several decades later, after the Magical Girl Warrior had been codified, and following a series of well-received animated shorts, DC revived the character for the New 52 relaunch in the pages of Sword Of Sorcery, as an adult targeted title with heavy themes that included attempted rape, while having nothing in common with the shorts. The book proved unpopular and was cancelled after failed attempts to bring in readers. In 2020, a new Amethyst miniseries was published, eschewing Magical Girl Warrior tropes in favor of heavy, complex, and mostly boring political intrigue that once again, proved unpopular with readers. While the surface trappings of a magical princess being Trapped in Another World would repel male readers and older readers, the heavy focus on elements like horror and politics turned away anyone looking for a Magical Girl Warrior series, resulting in low readership and short runs.
  • The Children's Crusade (Vertigo) was a Red Skies Crossover featuring Kid Heroes like Tefe Holland, Maxine Baker, and Tim Hunter - published by Vertigo Comics, which generally skewed towards older audiences and didn't really do intra-company crossovers that much. Those who were not repulsed at the prospect of a multi-part crossover featuring almost exclusively children might have been turned off by the awkward juxtaposition of dark themes (the plot involved a child-kidnapping ring) with humor (the bumbling antics of Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine, who've been hired to find a missing boy despite having little actual detective experience.)
  • IDW's first attempt at Beast Wars comics get a fair bit of this, due to being primarily focused on characters from the toyline, Beast Wars II, and Beast Wars Neo. Fans of the cartoon are put off because the main appeal to Beast Wars was its strong character work with a limited cast, while the comics have tons of characters that mostly exclude the cartoon's cast outside of cameos. Meanwhile, fans of the anime are put off by the massive amount of Adaptation Personality Change and significant tonal differences, making it feel like the creators were crowbarring its concepts into the American continuity regardless of whether it made sense. This was especially evident with the Beast Wars Sourcebook, which devoted massive chunks of pagetime to obscure characters from Japanese fiction but also rewrote half their personalities to In Name Only levels. It seems like the only people it was made for were fans of Toyline Exclusive Characters like Razorbeast and Torca, who previously didn't have any meaningful followings or characterization. Their second attempt years later is a separate continuity more in line with the original cartoon, after seemingly learning their lesson from this.
  • Much of the reason Marvel's The New Universe failed was that it never really figured out who it was for. The entire premise was based on a sort of proto-Cape Punk, where superheroes, created by a Mass Super-Empowering Event, would have realistic consequences on society and the world they inhabited, and the world itself was Like Reality, Unless Noted and lacked Comic-Book Time. However, unlike stories like Watchmen or Squadron Supreme, which had set lengths, a single creative vision, and played their stories pretty po-faced, the New Universe was a comic line with many creators and ongoing books, and was full of traditional comic book antics like mechsuits and Super Serum and downright silly concepts like a superpowered football team—many of its books wouldn't have been out of place at all in the Marvel Universe. This failed to appeal to fans looking for more thoughtful or deconstructive fare, and fans of Marvel's traditional comics were turned off simply because it didn't take place in the Marvel Universe or feature any of its staple concepts. One commentator noted that it seemed like Marvel was creating a second-rate knockoff of itself to compete with its own books. The concept of a "more realistic" spinoff of the Marvel Universe was done far better in Ultimate Marvel, which kept Marvel's characters and concepts to maintain name recognition, whereas Jim Shooter managed to take similar ideas but forge a more cohesive identity when he created the much more successful Valiant Comics.
  • Runaways (Rainbow Rowell), on the one hand, is marketed heavily towards fans of the original series, with references to their past adventures and the various crossovers with other comics (for instance, Victor von Doombot is a recurring guest character, and a recurring subplot is Victor's trauma from the death of his nephew); thus, casual readers may have to read a bunch of lesser-known comics in order to understand all the plot points. On the other hand, the series was meant to appeal to viewers of the Hulu series, and thus a number of changes to the team's dynamics were made, including Xavin and Klara having their roles in the series severely reduced, Gert having a much larger role on the team, and Nico and Karolina being made an Official Couple, as they are on the show. While some of those changes were well-received, a significant number of longtime fans were annoyed by what they perceive as forced synergy with the TV show.

    Fan Works 
  • The fanfiction My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic has numerous violent and dark plotlines (the story constantly advocates Violence Is the Only Option and that friendship is worthless while also brutalizing and breaking down several characters including killing Twilight Sparkle off for real), but it also has its share of light-hearted elements (spontaneous musical numbers, the story of a statue learning to be a real boy, wholesale references to shows like Today's Special and Strawberry Shortcake with Power Rangers-esque fight scenes) and as a result, the series is too dark for children but too childish for adults.
  • While Pokémon Reset Bloodlines is far from unpopular, it's undeniably very hard to sell. The story's main draw, a superpowered Ash with a harem, is something that doesn't attract viewers who are looking for a compelling read, while those who do have to contend with one of the archetypal "bad fanfic" plot points. Not helped that this fic also tends to deconstruct said power fantasies as much as it plays them straight, alienating the readers lured by the mentioned main draw.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged has this happening to this version of Alfheim Online; the box description zigzags between a child-friendly game about friendship and a more adult game about violence and fighting. Tiffany describes the target audience as being the cast from Lord of the Flies, though he doubts that's a market big enough to profit from. Kirito soon finds out that the game has experienced a recent surge in popularity despite all this, mainly due to a small group of roleplayers finding the game in the bargain bin and thinking it would be a good place to play their planned campaign. It exploded from there, presumably by word of mouth, but it's still clear that it's a chaotic, buggy mess with inconsistent censorship.

    Films — Animation 
  • While revered as a classic nowadays, Disney's Alice in Wonderland had this reaction when it was first released in 1951. Fans of the original novel criticized the Americanized themes, more cartoony character designs compared to John Tenniel's original illustrations, and incorporated elements from the sequel Through the Looking-Glass. Viewers who weren't hardcore fans of the book and wouldn't mind these deviations were turned off by the lack of a proper story.
  • One of the main reasons The Black Cauldron didn't do well was its uncertainty over who it was trying to appeal to; they couldn't seem to decide between making a more serious dark fantasy film that stuck closer to the source material, or a more whimsical and lighthearted fantasy film geared towards children. As a result, they had to edit a lot of the film's more graphic and scary content while adding goofier kid-appeal elements, which alienated fantasy fans and especially fans of The Chronicles of Prydain. Even then a lot of the film's content, such as the Horned King and the Cauldron Born, were still regarded as too intense for young children (it was notably Disney's first animated film to be rated PG, and this was in an era when PG meant a whole lot worse than what it means now), which likely contributed to the film's commercial failure. Nowadays, most people agree the movie would probably have been better if they'd gone full Darker and Edgier, as these tend to be the parts people enjoy most.
  • Chicken Little had issues of trying to combine the usual Disney story conventions with a Fractured Fairy Tale slant in the vein of Shrek (the film was the last animated film greenlit by Michael Eisner in the midst of his feud with Jeffrey Katzenberg, right before Disney's merger with Pixar). Though more successful financially, the film had both jokes that were unappealing to older audiences and a surprising amount of frightening content for younger ones.
  • A common critique of Foodfight! is that the core premise of branded food mascots coming to life is too absurd and nakedly mercenary to appeal to anyone but small children, but the film is so heavy on Parental Bonus-type jokes and plot elements (dated references, blatant Double Entendres, sexual imagery, and the villains being based on Nazis) that it's also completely inappropriate for them.
  • A major reason why Free Jimmy wasn't well-received outside of its native Norway was its tonally dissonant story. It tried to be both a dark comedy with plenty of vulgar, slapstick humor and satire, and a tragic story about an abused elephant trying to escape a circus. Many reviewers felt that those two elements really clashed with each other instead of blending well together, resulting in an uneven tone.
  • Some anime Anthology Films like Robot Carnival, Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond fit in this category due the complete change of mood (and sometimes of genre) in each animated short. For example, in Genius Party there is a science-fiction adventure ("Shanghai Dragon"), a Magic Realism tale ("Doorbell"), a Tim Burton-esque comedy ("Deathtic 4"), a philosophical monologue ("Limit Cycle") and it ends with a Slice of Life romance story ("Baby Blue").
  • Home on the Range may have flopped for this reason. Some elements such as the corny story and lighthearted song numbers feel like they were intended for a younger audience than usual for Disney, but the film also has a "hip" feel to it reminiscent of the Dreamworks Animation films at the time, resulting in a messy film that is generally considered one of Disney's weakest works.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame is generally looked at as a good movie nowadays, but had a bit of an identity problem when it was first released to theaters. At its core, it's a very serious and quite dark story, featuring heavy themes such as religious fundamentalism, sexual lust, and attempted genocide. This would make for a fine movie, but none of it on its own would be marketable to kids (in other words, the main demographic for Disney movies). Quasimodo's wacky gargoyle friends Victor, Hugo, and Laverne are largely there to make it more family-friendly and provide comic relief and slapstick, which the movie devotes quite a bit of screentime to, even at moments where this silliness is completely out of place (most notably when "A Guy Like You" is put on while Frollo is trying to burn down Paris). Even big fans of the movie agree that the wacky gargoyles didn't mesh well with the rest of the movie and serve to bring down the overall quality of the picture - a problem made worse by a perceived lack of effort put into the jokes themselves.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) was meant to appeal to fans of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic as a Big Damn Movie of the series as well as reel in general audiences who weren't already sold on it, but was mostly shunned by critics and general audiences as being either too saccharine or having too much Continuity Lockout. It fared better with fans of the show, but was still divisive for ignoring much of the show's continuity and Character Development from after Season 4, and the action wasn't a big enough step up to compensate. The series' next movie, My Little Pony: A New Generation, instead focused on general audiences with a new cast and setting and de-actionized story, which earned it a better reception on both sides.
  • Pocahontas is a Disney animated film that tries to tackle mature themes such as racism, colonization, Star-Crossed Lovers, and war, and has a rare Bittersweet Ending to boot. But it also has all the requisite bells and whistles of a "kiddie" Disney movie, having animal sidekicks whose slapstick antics take up so much screentime that there's a whole subplot about Pocahontas' raccoon sidekick fighting with Big Bad John Ratcliffe's pet pug. The end result is a movie that comes off as too preachy and serious for children to fully enjoy, but too corny and trivializing of a serious subject matter for adults. The casting of Native American actors to voice the characters suggested an attempt to appeal to Native American audiences. However, the film had no Native Americans in its creative team, played fast and loose with the history and geography, and based its message on a blatant false equivalency by attempting to create a Mirroring Factions narrative between the Powhatan Nation and the British and downplaying the core of the issue as just simply being different from one another, making both Native and non-native critics alike cry "Don't Shoot the Message".
  • The Road to El Dorado couldn't quite shake off this issue when it first came out, resulting in it largely being a Box Office Bomb. It's an animated movie set during the exploration of the new world involving two European friends finding the legendary El Dorado. Despite its wacky premise, it was much darker then advertised, containing blood, innuendos, and not shying away from making the Spanish conquistadors (namely Hernán Cortés) as terrifying as one could imagine. At the same time, it had a lot of slap-stick comedy, quirky songs like a Disney movie would, and in general it was looking like your standard children's animated movie. Without a clear audience, it ended up not doing well, though nowadays, it lives on well online thanks to both of these elements being liked by fans years later.
  • SCOOB! used press releases to assure Hanna-Barbera fans that characters they haven't seen much of in a while are indeed going to be in the movie. The actual movie itself went full on Hanna Barbera Crisis Crossover, retaining the studio's silliness, haphazard crossovers, and playing on emotions of people who already knew the characters. Its only Uncertain Audience point seems to be whether putting it in a modern setting was necessary or We're Still Relevant, Dammit!, which wasn't even that new to HB IP's and, with the exception of Yo Yogi!, wasn't a problem in practice.
  • Perhaps the main flaw of Titan A.E. was it did not seem to have a target demographic: The harder Science-Fiction elements turned off children from it, and the goofier moments (already hit by the Animation Age Ghetto) turned off Science-Fiction fans. According to a publicist, they were aiming for the 10-13 year old crowd. According to the director's commentary, they were aiming for teenagers. Even the VHS reflected this uncertainty — on it you had a trailer for the first X-Men movie, followed by a promo for Digimon (which was airing on Fox Kids at the time).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Artemis Fowl: Many critics were left baffled as to who exactly Disney was trying to market the film to. Fans of the book series were angry at the numerous changes the film made, including changing the Grey-and-Gray Morality from the first book, making Artemis a standard hero rather than a Villain Protagonist, and completely removing the fairies' inherently sexist society as a plot point. Non-book fans weren't interested in yet another generic Disney action movie based on a franchise they weren't familiar with. It did not help that the movie was rife with Special Effect Failure. This led to a movie that pleased no one, and many consider that in spite of its high budget, Artemis Fowl being dumped on Disney+ because the COVID-19 Pandemic closed theaters was the only factor that prevented the company from having a massive commercial failure.
  • Batman:
    • Whereas Batman (1989) was a film adaptation of the comicbook that deliberately went for a more grounded tone (with a sprinkling of campy moments, via the Joker character), Batman Returns went much further but had an inconsistent tone. Due to Protection from Editors, Tim Burton had much more authorial control over the film, but as a result, the tone veers wildly between Darker and Edgier material (Penguin's parents throwing him into the sewers in the opening sequence, the Penguin himself wanting to exterminate Gotham's firstborn children, the exploration of Bruce and Selina not being able to hold a relationship because of their underlying personal problems/secret identities) is juxtaposed with ridiculous camp like Batman strapping an oversized bomb to a henchman and blowing him up, rocket-firing penguins, the Penguin driving around in a giant duck while screaming maniacally and the goofy soundtrack in scenes with the Red Penguin Circus Gang. This even extended to the future direction of the movie — in an infamous case, the film got in hot water with audiences after McDonald's marketed Happy Meal toys featuring family-friendly versions of the characters, for a film that has all manner of surprising violence and darker source material. The subsequent films, for better or worse, adopted a much lighter tone that began to introduce more elements of camp.
    • The Schumacher films also ended up having varying degrees of issues with unclear audiences. It's most obvious in Batman Forever, which ends up kind of in the middle between Returns and the utter absurdity of Batman & Robin: there's a lot of slow, angsty moments and the film depicts the death of Robin's parents and Batman's commitment to the cause in an entirely serious light, with Val Kilmer's performance being The Comically Serious at best and more often completely straight-laced. And then you get to the scenes with Jim Carrey playing The Riddler, or Tommy Lee Jones doing his best at Ham and Cheese, or any of the film's actual action scenes.
  • Battlefield Baseball, which is sort of a spoof of baseball movies... but also has gratuitous violence, an inexplicable plot, and a few musical numbers, all wrapped up in a martial-arts package. It's weird.
  • Blank Check. The setup for how the kid protagonist ends up with a million dollars involves a knowledge of banking practices that very few younger viewers could easily follow along with, while the standard 90's "Home Alone" Antics and attendant "grown-ups suck" tropes keep it from being particularly engaging to parents while they explain how interest accrual works to their confused children. And that's not even getting into the creepy, ephebophilic overtones of our young hero's crush being a grown woman... who does reciprocate his affections.
  • Blood and Chocolate:
    • The film is ostensibly based upon the young adult werewolf novel by Annette Curtis Klause, but makes so many changes to the plot and characters it's barely recognizable. In the process it became a bland and generic supernatural love story that's been told a hundred times, stripping out the more unique and gritty elements from the novel. The end result is that fans of the book weren't interested because it had little in common with the story they loved, while other people weren't interested because it looked cheesy and cliched; it couldn't even appeal to horror fans because it clearly played up romantic drama over the horror elements. The film only grossed $6 million on a budget of $15 million.
    • The attempt to associate it with Underworld - including rewriting the story to take more inspiration from those films and advertising it as being "from the producers of Underworld" - didn't quite work either; the Blood and Chocolate novel is a supernatural romance/Coming of Age drama geared towards a teenage audience with only a handful of fight scenes, while Underworld is an R-rated action movie (it does have romance in it, but it takes a backseat to vampires and werewolves kicking ass). The similarities between the two are few and at its core, Blood and Chocolate has more in common with Twilight than Underworld. Interestingly, an early idea for the Twilight film adaptation was to make it much more action-oriented, until Stephenie Meyer (who had more influence than Annette Curtis Klause) put her foot down and pushed for a more faithful adaptation. Blood and Chocolate's film adaptation was reviled by fans and barely made back half its budget, while Twilight became a smash hit the following year, so the filmmakers of the latter seem to have made the right decision.
  • Cats (2019), as an adaptation of a musical famous for having only the barest bones of a plot, confused and disappointed audiences who were unfamiliar with the source material and would have been expecting more of a standard plot structure. Fans of the musical, on the other hand, were put off by the new story material director Tom Hooper did add, as well as the film's tone being inconsistent not just with the musical, but from scene to scene as well. One reviewer who was a fan of the stage version declared that Cats doesn't even know what Cats is about. Cats is also known for being very Campy and fantastical, and yet Tom Hooper seemed intent on bringing it to realism the same way he had for Les Misérables (2012). This resulted in the movie falling headlong into the Uncanny Valley.
  • The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys is, on its face, a Coming-of-Age Story with lots of comedic elements, but which at times takes a dark turn, with a subplot involving incest and sexual abuse, and a Downer Ending. It also features cheesy animated segments.
  • This is why Drop Dead Fred received negative reviews on release. About half the humour in the movie is very broad slapstick and Toilet Humour seemingly aimed squarely at children, while the other half is made up of blatantly crude adult jokes. The tone of the movie also varies a lot from moment to moment: a lot of it is pure wacky comedy, but the parts involving Lizzie's emotionally abusive mother and ex-husband are played absolutely straight.
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was often noted for this, due to the conflict between its protagonist and its antagonist. People interested in Newt Scamander wondered why he was involved in a grim-and-gritty conflict that didn't involve his magizoology focus at all, while people interested in Grindelwald and the backstory of the franchise's main Greater-Scope Villain would just wonder why a nebbish scientist is the main pivot of the conflict and not the actually-relevant Dumbledore. This was already a bit of a divide in the first film, which had wacky scenes of Newt rounding up magical critters being intercut with scenes emphasizing Credence's abuse.
  • This trope is usually pointed to as one of the reasons behind the failure of Fantastic Four (2015). The director was clearly shooting for something along the lines of a grim, sinister Cronenbergian Body Horror film, while the executives panicked, took it away from him in post-production and hastily finished it as something intended to chase the coattails of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The result is a movie that's too scary for kids, too slow and joyless for casual audiences, too quippy and fast-paced for horror fans, and too different from the source material for comic-book fans, and ultimately ended up pleasing no one, critically or commercially.
  • The 2011 Green Lantern (2011) film was criticized for bumbling trying to split the difference between being aimed at existing comics fans and the general audience. Most people feel like they introduced too much of the mythos too early for the latter but eased into enough that they alienated the former. The film was a Box Office Bomb that lost at least $75 million in its theatrical run.
  • Hancock has issues with this due to a Halfway Plot Switch. The first half is a comedic satire with the premise of "what if a guy had superpowers, but not the usual comic book world's structure to deal with them and is therefore a weird grumpy hobo?", before shifting to his attempts to shape up a bit. The second half, meanwhile, delves into his origins, his history, the nature of his powers, and his true hidden nemesis, who turns out to be the wife of his closest friend, with the comedic elements vanishing in favor of a serious drama of gods and men. This resulted in the film doing rather poorly in review circuits, because many essentially saw it as two very different stories with very different tones mashed together; people who liked the comedic bits found the dramatic bits to be unnecessary and drag the film down, and people who liked the dramatic bits found the comedic bits only lessened the story.
  • Hobgoblins is a blatant ripoff of Gremlins with an even less clear target demographic. It's about a bunch of Grotesque Cute obvious puppets who trap people in twisted versions of their wildest fantasies... all of which seem to be about everybody boning their brains out.
  • Despite being rated "PG", and having lots of childish humor, the movie version of Howard the Duck also contains lots of sexual humor and innuendo, including references to zoophilia. Fans of the comic (along with the comic's co-creator) disliked the changes from the source material, while more casual audiences were confused by references to the comic they didn't understand. The film became an infamous Box Office Bomb as a result.
  • Hudson Hawk was marketed as an action adventure. What it turned out to be instead was a musical comedy (by virtue of there being a singing cat burglar amongst the cast) and a parody of action/adventure/espionage. This played heavily into its ultimate box office fate and current reputation as a result since audiences who'd come to see an action adventure were left disappointed by the noticeable lack of action, critics were similarly unnecessarily harsh towards the film (to the point it won the Worst Picture Razzie at the 1991 Golden Razzberry awards ceremony) for not adequately offering what it had sold itself to be, and comedy audiences who might have appreciated the film on its own merits ended up dropping by to see it too late to save the film due to having already been alienated by the misleading marketing.
  • Ang Lee's Hulk was marketed like a standard superhero blockbuster, complete with all the usual bells and whistles, such as a line of action figures and other merchandise aimed at young children. Despite this, the film itself is actually very slow and somber, with far less action than one would expect from a movie about the Hulk. Many critics stated that the movie feels less like a superhero film and more like a serious family drama that just happens to have a giant green monster in it. The end result was considered too boring and pretentious for the audiences that enjoyed movies like Spider-Man and X-Men, and yet too silly for more serious audiences that might otherwise enjoy the kinds of films Ang Lee is known for making.
  • A big reason why Kangaroo Jack was critically panned was this trope. On one hand, it tries to appeal to kids by advertising itself as a lighthearted kid's comedy about a talking kangaroo (who neither speaks, except for in one hallucination sequence, or has that much screen-time), but on the other hand, it also tries to be an adult-mafia comedy with plenty of dark humor and sexual innuendo that feels too inappropriate to be in what is allegedly supposed to be a movie for kids (not helping matters is the fact that the movie was supposed to be rated R originally). Children were put off by the adult humor, mafia film elements, and especially by the fact that there is no talking kangaroo in the movie, despite what the trailers, posters and DVD cover promised, while adults were put off by the incredibly juvenile, unsophisticated nature of the film and that it's advertised as a Talking Animal kid's movie. The end result was a movie that really doesn't know what it wants to be, leaving the audience (both adults and kids) confused as to which demographic it's meant to appeal to.
  • Last Action Hero was largely marketed as a standard action movie, but turned out to instead be a mass Lampshade Hanging of action/adventure movie tropes mixed with a comparison between Real Life and cinematic reality to the point of seeming like more of an Indecisive Parody instead. The fact that it was originally intended to be an outright Affectionate Parody of action movies before subsequent script rewrites and other production troubles turned it into what it is today didn't help matters.
  • Milk Money is an odd combination between a sex comedy and a family rom-com. The end result is a movie too lewd for a family audience, being about prostitution, but not sexy enough for the kind of audience that would enjoy a more risque comedy. Siskel & Ebert jokingly referred to it as "the raunchy sex comedy the whole family can enjoy!"
  • Pirates of the Caribbean plays up both the romance angle and the pirate angle, as well as the kiddie comedy angle and the zombie curse angle. Taken individually, each would seem to mesh poorly with the others, but (the first, at least) is notable for its success in Multiple Demographic Appeal.
  • Pixels combines low-brow Adam Sandler comedy with loving homages to 80s video games, and the audiences for those topics don't exactly mesh together. People who love video games don't enjoy the film portraying video game players as the archetypal Basement-Dweller, people who specifically love 80s retro games are likely to skew pretty old and therefore wouldn't be too interested in the film's style, and young kids who do love (or at least prove more receptive to) Adam Sandler's humor style probably aren't familiar with half the games the film is referencing. Plus, the studio aiming for the least demanding demographic by marketing towards children ends up questionable when there's surprisingly raunchy jokes and scary fantasy violence.
  • Pod People features an E.T.-like Friendly Alien who befriends a little kid, but also features a duo of poachers and a pop music band with some coarse language and sexual innuendo. It also contains a B-plot about a second alien, identical to the first, going on a murderous killing "spree" against the rest of the trapped-in-a-cabin cast.. so it's E.T. meets Friday the 13th. Possibly a result of Executive Meddling; originally it was written to be a straight up horror film, but when E.T. was released they tried to capitalize on the success and turn it into an alien buddy film. Didn't really go well.
  • The Indian science-fiction superhero film Ra.One starts like a kid's comedy about a nerdy father making a video game for his son in order to make him think that he is cool. Then, after the first musical sequence (which doesn't look at all like something from a kid's film) the movie turns very serious and dark, with the villain from the video game becoming real and starting to kill people, including a main character. Then, the movie turns silly again, but after another musical sequence the movie turns serious once again.
  • RoboCop 3 was a Franchise Killer in large part because it was far more kid-friendly and toyetic than the prior films: the rating dropped to PG-13, and the story featured elements like RoboCop flying around in a jetpack and a prepubescent Playful Hacker controlling ED-209. Meanwhile, it remained a followup to the incredibly dark and violent first two films, and kept a lot of kid-unfriendly elements like gun battles with large bodycounts (albeit with Bloodless Carnage), corporate skullduggery, a major character being riddled with bullets onscreen, and implied suicide.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show incorporates horror and sci-fi themes that probably don't appeal to the average musical fan, while fans of those genres would hardly go after an incredibly campy musical. In the DVD Commentary, Richard O'Brien mentions that this was a concern around the time the film was released.
  • A Spring Tale, a film adaptation of The Snow Maiden. It has a cheery animated sequence accompanying the credits in the beginning, has a lot of Comic Relief moments included, and has the whole marriage drama of Grandfather Frost and Spring Beauty removed; apparently aiming to make it kid-friendly. However, the love interests are every bit as unsympathetic as in the source material (Lel is The Casanova and shamelessly flirts with any woman, single or not, and Mizgir is a selfish jerk and attempted rapist), and the tragic ending is kept vague but not outright changed. As a result, adult fans of the play and the opera would probably be annoyed at the unnecessary comedy and the cuts, while kids would still be pretty baffled by the whole thing.
  • Spice World. The Nostalgia Chick comments on how she has no idea who it was being marketed towards, given that some of the jokes were clearly meant for adults (such as men in thongs and one of the girls suggesting that they get naked for a young boy in the hospital), but other jokes seemed more geared for kids, or at least would be unfunny to adults.
  • Spider-Man:
    • The first two Raimi Spider-Man films had a pretty clear idea of what they were supposed to be: throwbacks to the goofy-but-earnest Silver Age Lee-Ditko comics with a somewhat modernized feel. Spider-Man 3, on the other hand, is notorious for being a bit all over the place. It's both one of the darkest and interpersonal films in the franchise, and also one of the silliest and weirdest, creating a bit of a dissonance between the brooding angsty setting and aesthetic or tragic plots like Harry fully dipping into revenge, and moments like Emo Dancing Peter or Venom with a Topher Grace head. By Raimi's own account, he was against putting Venom in the movie because he felt Venom didn't match the stories he'd been trying to tell in the earlier films, and you can kinda see why.
    • The Amazing Spider-Man has moments where it's easily one of the grittiest films in terms of feel (Peter being a much bigger jerk than in the Raimi films, a noticeably more menacing costume, a darker aesthetic and moody soundtrack, and a recurring plot point being a wider conspiracy and Peter's desire for active revenge) and moments of being one of the silliest (the main antagonist being a mutant lizard man who wants to turn the city into lizard people, Peter's wisecracking and quips being finally added to his character after the Raimi films removed them, and scenes like all the construction workers in the city turning their cranes to help Spider-Man in the climax). Much of this was because Sony found the film's original premise ended up being too much of an Audience-Alienating Premise, and so the film was recut to move the focus away from the gritty parts of the plot.
    • The sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ran headlong into this problem as well. In addition to the issues carried over from the previous movie, the film introduces more subplots and multiple antagonists in an attempt to make a Shared Universe in the vein of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans who liked the darker tone of the first film were confused by the sequel being Lighter and Softer as well as Denser and Wackier (the film opens on a scene with the death of Peter's parents, only to then be immediately followed up with a more comical action scene on the streets of New York), while MCU fans were put off by the darker portrayal of the character such as when he fails to prevent the death of Gwen Stacy and contemplates hanging up the mask altogether. The film ultimately ended up a critical and commercial disappointment that resulted in the franchise being rebooted again in the MCU.
  • Sucker Punch: While the trailers make it look like it was a popcorn flick (with giant robots, dragons and samurai monsters), is actually a serious drama about a girl being put in a mental institution that uses her imagination to escape from harsh reality, involving at least two fantasy sub-plots: One that takes place in a brothel, and another that involves different genres, such as Tolkienesque High Fantasy, Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk, Steampunk/Diesel Punk/War Movie.
  • The live-action film adaptation of Yatterman made by Takashi Miike seems pretty childish, with lots of slapstick humor, colorful special effects, cheesy action scenes and a clumsy villain trio... but it also had many sex-related jokes, including one scene where one robot starts acting as if it was having an orgasm.
  • The 2009 film of Land of the Lost with Will Ferrell, which is probably why it flopped. It has a goofy, slapsticky sci-fi plot you'd expect to see in a kids' movie, but most of the humor that isn't slapstick-based is very dark and sexual.

  • Ink has many light-hearted and whimsical elements from Fairy Tales and Juvenile Fantasy, but it also has lots of swearing, frightening scenes, and deals with several adult themes such as drug use and suicide. It also has several elements from arthouse films (specially in the visual style) and fighting sequences involving martial arts and a shaky camera.
  • The film version of Cloud Atlas received a mixed reaction from critics and audiences probably due to this: The movie, like the book by which it was inspired, involved six different interrelated stories, which were very different from each other: There were two Period Pieces, a thriller, a comedy (The story of Timothy Cavendish) a science-fiction Dystopia similar to Blade Runner and a Post Apocalyptic adventure. While the six stories are connected, there is a complete change of mood and styles in every scene.
  • Small Soldiers is a movie that features a lot of Family-Unfriendly Violence and generally dark moments, to the point that it was rated PG-13 even after the director had to pare it down. It's also a movie about microchips that cause action figures to come to life. Consequently, a lot of the reason for its mixed reception was being a bit too outlandish for adults and a bit too dark for kids. (Notably, this got Burger King very miffed that their kids meal toys were from a PG-13 movie.)
  • A common statement about the notorious bomb Caligula is that it was trying to be both a deep, dramatic historical film that happened to feature sex (which was what writer Gore Vidal and director Tinto Brass wanted, though even their visions were very different), and high-budget exploitative Porn with Plot spectacle (which was what producer Bob Guccione wanted). The result was too trashy and debauched for fans of drama, and too heavy on narrative for people who watched it with their pants off.
  • Godzilla:
    • Though the films seem to alternate audiences, with some being for adults and others for children, Godzilla vs. Gigan can't quite decide who it's supposed to be geared to. On one hand, it has a lot of goofy elements, including a couple of scenes where Godzilla and Anguirus actually talk. But on the other, the fight scenes are disturbingly violent and show more blood than was ever seen in a Godzilla movie before. Part of this is that the films were a response to the rising star of the Gamera series, which at the time also ran hard with kid-appeal while featuring a weird amount of blood and gore.
    • Godzilla vs. Hedorah has plenty of aspects pandering to kids, such as a kid main character, silly-sounding music, and Godzilla flying, but also Family Unfriendly Deaths of people being disintegrated to their bones, a scene where a guy has an alcohol-fueled hallucination, a creepy-looking Muck Monster villain, and fights between Godzilla and Hedorah that, while not exactly gory, are still rather grotesque due to Hedorah's manner of dumping his slime on Godzilla.
  • The Runaways failed to make much headway at the Box Office because executives were unsure whether to market it towards the now-aged fans of the band from their heyday, or the teenage fans of the two leads Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart.
  • The film War Dogs is a Based on a True Story film about a pair of arms dealers who got busted for embezzlement. It's directed by Todd Philips of The Hangover fame, who attempted to bring his usual comedy sensibilities to the project. Common criticisms of it is that the film was too slapsticky to be taken seriously as a Dramedy, but also not funny enough to be an out and out comedy.
  • North was intended to be a kid-friendly film with a few adult jokes here and there, but the kid-friendly scenes were too childish for adults and the adult jokes were too inappropriate for kids.

    • The Mummy (2017), Universal's first entry to kickstart the Dark Universe franchise, failed because it couldn't win any specific demographic; fans of the classic horror movies were turned off by how the movie spends most of its runtime on Tom Cruise's character instead of the titular monster, while mainstream audiences weren't won over by the film's connection to rather obscure horror monsters. Universal eventually scrapped such plans, with The Invisible Man (2020) becoming a solo movie much more geared to their normal horror fans.

  • DC Extended Universe
    • The franchise ran into this from the beginning as the studio attempt to build an interconnected franchise off a film intended to just be a new Superman. WB attempted to recapture the critical acclaim of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy, which were generally serious films, and resulted in the first film, Man of Steel, being noted as quite somber for a Superman movie. At the same time however, the films is aimed at multiple demographics like Marvel's movies even though the audiences may not necessarily like the approach.
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice got a lot of criticism for having the kind of premise and execution that could really only appeal to hardcore fans of superhero comics, while also having an unrelentingly grim and cynical tone that seemed calculated to turn off most of those same fans. On one hand, it was an unabashedly commercial franchise film that was marketed as a set-up for Warner Bros. then-upcoming Justice League film adaptation (hence the subtitle), but it was also a somber and slow-paced rumination on the morality of superhero stories that seemed to suggest that characters like Batman and Superman would be deeply unsympathetic or hated by society if they really existed. And while the non-traditional approach to the characters might theoretically have appealed to viewers who ordinarily don't care for superhero films, most of those potential viewers were alienated by the film's dense continuity and constant references to prior DC Comics stories, which made the plot largely incomprehensible to anyone without a working knowledge of The Dark Knight Returns, The Death of Superman, or Jack Kirby's New Gods.
    • WB's reactionary approach lead to radical changes being made in post-production of Suicide Squad (2016) and Justice League (2017) to lighten the tone. Suicide Squad was intended to be a darker criminal underworld drama but a different cut of the film was made that emphasized the comic book camp, and they ended up blended together for the final product. Justice League was completely revamped with reshoots, making the film more of a standard pulp adventure instead of a more apocalyptic encounter. Justice League in particular was a commercial failure and failed to win over any audiences.
    • Birds of Prey (2020) was attempting to attract Birds of Prey fans and Harley Quinn fans. However, the numerous changes the film made to the Birds of Prey members as well as largely being sidelined by Harley Quinn ended up alienating Birds of Prey fans. Meanwhile, the majority of Harley Quinn's fans are teenage girls, but the film's graphic and extreme black-comedy violence meant it got an R rating, precluding any of them from being able to see it. Furthermore, fans of Harley as she appears with the Joker didn't enjoy the movie as it starts with him kicking her out, while fans of Harley and Poison Ivy stories also weren't satisfied as Ivy doesn't appear at all.
  • This is perhaps one of the biggest problems with The Hobbit film series. It couldn't really decide if it wanted to go with the tone of the book (silly and whimsical, but with darker, more poignant moments scattered throughout) or more like the epic tone of the previous The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This ended up alienating fans of the book, while also falling short of the expectations of fans of the original trilogy.
  • The Nutcracker in 3D is a musical fantasy aimed at children, but features so much fascist imagery that it ends up as Nightmare Fuel. The Mood Whiplash between lightheartedness and grim drama was the main reason the movie was universally panned.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn has been criticized by crime movie fans for the Genre Shift that happens halfway through. Lots of fans of the producers' other works agree that the movie would've been better if the first half had been stretched to the end. That might be a case of Trolling Creator, though.
  • Star Wars:
    • George Lucas himself stated that the franchise was primarily for children with the original Star Wars trilogy was being a light-hearted popular children's fantasy that adults could see with them in the vein of The Wizard of Oz and the The Thief of Bagdad (1940). However, as the Star Wars fandom aged up, adults became a sizable and vocal part of the fanbase, meaning that Star Wars could never really lean solely on its kid demographic in the best interests of merchandising and marketing. Not helping matters is that many of the later Star Wars creators, who happened to be fans of the franchise themselves and thus saw it from an adult perspective.
    • This dichotomy was very evident in the prequel trilogy, which were simultaneously intended to be Darker and Edgier and more Merchandise-Driven. The Phantom Menace, for instance, has some of the most blatant Kid-Appeal Character candidates in the series and tons of silly, pulpy action setpieces that would probably get an eyeroll from older or more serious fans, but its central plot is introduced with a trade dispute over new tax policies and features scenes dealing with political minutia and speeches in the Senate that would likely leave kiddies bored or confused.
    • The Disney-era installments struggled with appeasing multiple demographics despite their relative financial success. Although the newer films are more "adult" than previous Star Wars movies (i.e. more intense violence, less whimsical humor, and a lessened Kid-Appeal Character presence), Disney still markets them towards kids with an abundance of family-friendly merchandise and tie-ins. Disney's attempts to expand Star Wars to newer audiences and markets (most notably the Chinese) have been mixed partly due to the "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny nature of the films and competition from newer blockbusters like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most notably, Solo was aimed at die-hard, nostalgic fans who would be interested in Han Solo's backstory, yet the film's massive budget would necessitate the inclusion of more casual fans, most of whom didn't watch the movie either because they weren't interested the subject matter or felt there wasn't a unique selling point that appeals to them like a famous lead actor.
    • The Rise of Skywalker, currently the last feature film as of this writing, had a very uncertain audience, likely not helped by The Last Jedi leaving quite the Broken Base in its wake and a very Troubled Production. It attempted to appeal to old-school fans who felt burned by the prior installment by retconning as much of its predecessor as it could manage, but also undoes the largest accomplishment of the original trilogy in resurrecting Palpatine, hands Rey even further Story-Breaker Power, and introduces multiple new Force powers and unprecedented technologies, all of which seem designed to annoy those old-school fans. Meanwhile, fans brought on by The Force Awakens were angered by elements like Finn and Poe being mostly marginalized in favor of focusing primarily on the Skywalker legacy from the old films, while fans that enjoyed The Last Jedi were obviously none too happy to see its themes and characters abandoned. This was also evident in its treatment of "Reylo", the series' main Fan-Preferred Couple—bringing the two together with almost no relationship development, which angered the fans who saw it as abusive and creepy, but also killing Kylo off seconds after their first kiss, angering the shippers who wanted the two to have a happy ending.
  • This trope is likely the reason for the failure of a flurry of pulpy period adventure films in the early-90's, like The Rocketeer, The Shadow, and The Phantom, on top of the disappointing box office of Dick Tracy. In an effort to find the next Indiana Jones and Batman, studio execs greenlit multiple popular properties from or set in the first half of the 20th century. This assumed that audiences flocked to Indy and Batman because of a nostalgic allure, rather than Indiana Jones being the product of a collaborative dream team between Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (and starring Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford), and Batman being, well, Batman. Although Tracy was a decent hit, albeit not the blockbuster Disney hoped, and The Rocketeer found an audience among genre fans at home after its box office failure, it turns out the wave of period adventures failed to resonate with younger audiences who had no interest in said properties.
  • Nine Lives. The film is a talking cat movie, which typically only appeal to kids, but the movie has several business scenes which are too boring for kids. The movie also has several disturbing scenes like the main character nearly dying in a coma and a suicide attempt, but also has a lot of Toilet Humour.
  • The 2018 film Red Sparrow was seen as too campy for people who like more serious spy fiction but too serious for people who like camp. Add that the movie has so much objectionable content that it borders on Exploitation Film, and the studio was forced to cut a very misleading trailer.
  • Oh! Heavenly Dog was a failed attempt at a Benji movie for adults. It has several disturbing scenes in it, like Benjamin Browning (Chevy Chase) getting stabbed to death, and contains implied bestiality between Browning character (as Benji) and an adult woman, but also has some instances of Toilet Humour in it.
  • As pointed out in Nathan Rabin's review of Chappie, the film seemingly can't make up its mind about whether it should be a violent, R-rated crime drama or a family film starring a quirky, child-like robot. The result is a film that's too violent for anyone under 17 and too stupid for anyone over 17.
  • Terminator: Dark Fate tried to both appeal to old fans by bringing back Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but at the same time tried to be a clean slate for the franchise by killing off John Connor and replacing him with a different destined savior. Old fans were furious that once again, a Terminator sequel performed a Happy Ending Override on Terminator 2 and were not happy about the series' focal character John Connor not only being usurped but actually killed off unceremoniously in the Cold Open, while non-fans were either intimidated by the references to the previous film or simply didn't care about the new characters. Unsurprisingly it was a massive Box Office Bomb, costing the studio between an estimated 110 and 130 million dollars once everything was said and done.
  • Men in Black: International attempted to attract the old MIB fans as well as a younger demographic by casting more contemporary actors Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson as the protagonists. However, since neither Will Smith nor Tommy Lee Jones reprise their roles, the old fans didn't turn out and Hemsworth and Thompson simply didn't have the star power to draw in a new audience.
  • Jem and the Holograms (2015) is based off a cartoon from the 80s with a small but dedicated fan base. The film includes lots of Mythology Gags and incorporates some of the cartoon's wacky charm into the stage costumes, but then again gives it a Setting Update for the 2010s, switches the set-up from an adventure theme to a Coming-of-Age Story, makes the cast Younger and Hipper and seems to be trying to appeal to the youth of the day. Grown fans of the cartoon were put off by the massive changes, while tweens were put off by how derivative it looked. The result was an embarrassing $2 million gross on a $5 million budget, getting pulled from theatres after only two weeks.
  • The Huntsman: Winter's War was a sequel to a vehicle for Kristen Stewart in her heyday that was also embracing a market for Darker and Edgier fairy tale retellings. This sequel/prequel drops Kristen Stewart from the story, focuses on a side character and goes for a Lighter and Softer tone to capitalise on the popularity of Frozen. Fans of the first film are turned off for the changes in characters and shift in tone, while younger viewers weren't attracted because the first was outside their demographic.
  • Stuart Saves His Family.
    Al Franken: Somebody wrote a review that said something like, "Watching Stuart Saves His Family go into the multiplexes is like watching a platoon of rookie soldiers head into an ambush. The people who will like this movie won’t go to it, and the people who will go to it won’t like it."
  • This proved to be a bit of a problem for Ophelia. It's an adaptation of one of William Shakespeare's most famous plays, exploring it from another character's perspective, which would appeal to Shakespeare fans. But the film also has a Lighter and Softer tone, simplifies and modernizes the dialogue, takes many liberties with the source material (including borrowing a lot from a Romeo and Juliet) and plays up the romance, which seems to appeal more to the young adult crowd (the book it was based upon is also aimed at young adults). However, some teenagers aren't all that interested in Shakespeare and/or may not be familiar enough with Hamlet to fully understand the plot, while Hamlet fans didn't always appreciate how much the story was changed.
  • Perhaps the main flaw of The Black Hole was that it didn't seem to have any specific target demographic. On the one hand, the film includes some rather dark imagery and themes such as the zombified Cygnus crew members, visions of Hell, and Durant's death by drilling, along with hard science fiction elements that would not exactly appeal to younger audiences. At the same time, it also includes kid-appeal elements such as Cute Machines V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B. and the goofy target-shooting sequence. The fact that it was released by Disney only further confused matters.
  • Mulan (2020) was criticized for this, in terms of the changes made between it and the 1998 original. The removal of Mushu and a lot of the more comedic moments imply a desire to make a gritty and realistic war movie, but the film also introduces actual supernatural powers and an evil witch. Reportedly, the removal of Li Shang was to reduce implications of a commander romancing his underling, implying an attempt to play up a more feminist angle, yet several people pointed out how Mulan's importance is credited to her natural superhuman magical powers and not her ingenuity, suggesting that women can only be great if born with special abilities. The removal of musical numbers, casting of Chinese actors and partial filming in Chinese provinces suggested an attempt to deliberately go for Germans Love David Hasselhoff by playing to Chinese audiences. However, the film had no Chinese people in its creative team, featured a very bizarre interpretation of chi that most Chinese audiences disliked, and didn't offer anything to differentiate itself from locally made wuxia films.
  • The obscure Hong Kong movie Thunder Of Gigantic Serpent is essentially three movies in one: a kid-friendly "little kid with a cute pet" movie, a violent spy thriller (including death, gore, and multiple F-bombs) and a Kaiju movie (when the girl's pet snake becomes giant size). As such, it's hard to know who the hell it was aimed at, which may be part of why it's so obscure.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child attempts to return the series to its darker roots by keeping Freddy in the shadows more, integrating more gothic imagery and adult topics, and building up the kills as being more gruesome and shocking than before. At the same time, however, Freddy keeps his snarky, jokester persona from The Dream Master but cranked Up to Eleven with even more one-liners than before, which results in all of the kills falling into laughable territory and contrasts the darker and more serious tone being presented here, almost as if the writers of the Freddy's Nightmares TV series wrote his dialogue. In the end it leaves the viewers wondering who its intended audience really is.
  • Uwe Boll has complained about hating gamers and doesn't want them to see his video game-based movies (nearly all of which alienated gamers because of the poor quality and the deviance from the games where they were based off of) because he wants a "real" audience, whatever that may be.
  • Crossroads: Britney Spears reportedly wanted a film her tween fan base could enjoy, but also a serious drama that dealt with hard-hitting issues. Thus you get a film that deals with Teen Pregnancy, date rape, Parental Abandonment, and losing one's virginity — but has to sanitize said topics to make them palatable for tweens. Thus you get a movie that is too mature for younger viewers, but too twee and cliched for older people who'd be able to appreciate its messages.
  • The Three Musketeers (2011) can be difficult to rate objectively as an adaptation of its source material, because it clearly tries to be as faithful to the novel as possible in some elements and just as crazy and embellished in others. This ultimately played against the movie, as gimmicks like the airships and cool weapons repelled purist fans of the novel and period film enthusiasts, while conventional action flick fans were likely uninterested due to the film being an adaptation of a swashbuckling novel (which wouldn't probably cater to a wide audience either). The fact that an infamous pop-corn director like Paul W.S. Anderson was in charge of the film didn't help either.
  • City of Ember, the 2007 adaptation of The Books of Ember, largely failed at the box office due to lack of advertising, but also an uncertain audience. The film is set After the End in an underground city that is due to collapse soon as the resources are used up, and features scenes such as the twelve-year-old protagonist's grandmother dying and the children having to hide from the Mayor's secret police (who proceed to ransack their homes in a manner very reminiscent of the Gestapo). While this is presented in a child-friendly way, the film goes Denser and Wackier by pandering a bit too much to a young audience - with an occasionally goofy tone and several cast members giving very overblown performances (while the two leads play it straight).
  • Stormbreaker was the first attempt at an adaptation of the popular Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz. The books are known for eventually deconstructing the concept of a Kid Hero (Alex is a young adult who becomes a spy; and rather reluctantly in that regard). And to its credit, the film, coincidentally enough written by Horowitz himself, contains some elements of that. Unfortunately, due to being made at a time when the spy genre was slowly starting to transition away from the campiness of the then contemporary latter pre-Daniel Craig James Bond films but hadn't yet fully undergone the reconstruction that had already been set in motion by The Bourne Series and would eventually be solidified by the Daniel Craig era James Bond, the film essentially tried to simultaneously be both a child friendly Affectionate Parody of spy thrillers and a Deconstruction of the Kid Hero like the Alex Rider books eventually became all at once. This meant that not only did Horowitz have to pull his punches in the deconstruction department in order to allow the film to be palatable for younger audiences, but also that, for every grounded and gritty scene that emphasizes the seriousness and danger of what Alex is up against, there's also an incredibly comical or escapist moment that makes the whole thing seem like an Indecisive Parody of the spy genre instead. All this combined left the end result as a film that was too sanitized and defanged to work properly as a deconstruction, while also being too mundane and grounded to be enjoyable escapism.
  • Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant was an attempt at adapting The Saga of Darren Shan, and it failed primarily because of a tone problem. The books were Low Fantasy and came from a grounded place - only introducing more fantastical elements as the plot goes on. The film is far Denser and Wackier, relocates the setting from Europe to America and makes so many changes to the source material - ostensibly to make it more marketable. This turned off mainstream viewers for seeming like a derivative mess, and alienated book fans for barely resembling its literary counterpart.
  • Black Christmas (2019) was the second remake of the 1974 slasher classic - which had a dedicated fan base. It however had virtually no relation to the original's plot, only taking place on Christmas and having a couple of Shout Outs. The film also has very unsubtle feminist subtext - dealing with rape culture in a way most viewers found very preachy. The director filmed it first to be R-rated but then decided in the edit to release it as PG-13, resulting in a lot of awkward cuts to some scenes. Horror fans were turned off by the heavy-handed social commentary more akin to a college lecture, which also had the effect of turning off feminists insulted by its simplistic messages (trying to deal with toxic masculinity and rape in a movie aimed at teenagers).
  • The Craft: Legacy is in actuality a stealth sequel to the 90s cult horror The Craft. However, many viewers mistook it for a remake because it follows most of the same story beats. It also fails to capture the nostalgia of the original because the only returning cast member Fairuza Balk is reduced to a non-speaking cameo at the end, and it shifts in tone; the original was unique for its time in that its portrayal of witchcraft came from a very grounded place, setting it apart from its successors Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Charmed (1998). Legacy however is more obviously inspired by Urban Fantasy of the day, alienating a lot of fans who felt it was too derivative.
  • Catwoman (2004) was supposed to appeal to both fans of the original comic book character and a female audience as well. Unfortunately, fans were put off by the unnecessary changes made to the character and setting, along with the nonsensical story and laughably bad acting, and despite being targeted for a female audience, the movie couldn't even appeal to women, who were also put off by the sexualization of the character which felt more like it was aimed at men than its supposed female audience. In the end, the movie failed to find any audience and bombed at the box office.
  • One of the main criticisms directed at The Book of Masters is that it doesn't seem to know who it's for. Reviewers noted that the filmmakers tried to appeal to older audiences by evoking the feel of classic Soviet fairytales (e.g. Morozko) while adding Parental Bonus humor, and to younger ones by making a fantasy film in the style of The Lord of the Rings. The result is often viewed as too kitschy by old movie fans, too simplistic (with an underdeveloped plot to boot) by fantasy fans, and So Okay, It's Average by kids.
  • It's a bit unclear what audience the creators of the 1983 Australian crime drama Hostage (also known as Savage Attraction) were aiming for. On the one hand, the Lifetime Movie of the Week-style premise is most likely to appeal to a female audience. On the other hand, the film includes Exploitation Film elements such as gratuitous sex scenes and nudity, which can come across as Fan Disservice for many viewers given the traumatic context. The fact that it's based on a real person's memoir doesn't help either.

    Literature 
  • Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi had a rather divisive reception due to its uncertain audience. The board book design, colorful illustrations, and cutesy rhyming dialogue would make one assume that the book is intended for toddlers, but it uses vocabulary and discusses concepts that are well above a toddler's reading level and understanding. Even if one were to assume that the book is intended as a parenting guide to teach one's children to not be racist, adults have criticized the book's messages on racism for being either vague or oversimplified.
  • The Legend of Rah and the Muggles is hypothetically for children 6 to 12. However, most of the story is of Teletubbies-like hijinks that most kids this age would find horrifyingly boring. After being horrified by the prologue and backstory notes, which gives a frankly terrifying post-nuclear fallout apocalypse scenario with descriptions of political corruption, escalations into outright warfare, biological and nuclear weapons and eugenics. Yes, eugenics; our sweet child-like Muggles are the mutated offspring of war prisoners, war conscientious and "ethnically impures".
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Most of the stories consist of cheesy folktales and urban legends unlikely to scare anyone above the age of twelve. But the illustrations are horrific and grotesque enough to downright traumatize young children. This could be part of the reason they were re-released with less scary illustrations three decades later.
  • Wario Land 4, Super Mario Bros. 2 (as Super Mario Advance), and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games were adapted into obscure gamebooks in the early 2000s. They're something between novels, choose-your-own-adventures, and strategy guides. The books' narratives are boring, mostly direct play-by-plays of the games, not helped by Wario Land 4 and Super Mario Bros. 2 being 2D platformers with rather thin plots. The gamebook aspect doesn't work because the choices are almost meaningless, and there's only one ending for each. They're not helpful as guides, either, since they don't go in-depth and you have to work out how to defeat bosses and solve puzzles from first-person recounts. The games are pretty good, but experiencing them through these books is a waste of time.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle is most often marketed to elementary school students, though its plot delves deep into the theoretical physics of time travel that would be more easily understood by a much older audience. This is also true for later books in the series, such as A Wind in the Door, which requires a baseline knowledge of cellular biology to even understand the conflict of the novel.
  • The Grimoire of the Necronomicon by Donald Tyson is a book that claims to be the foundation of an occult religion based off Cthulhu Mythos beings... barely. Most Cthulhu Mythos fans don't even believe in their existence, and would unlikely to be amused by Tyson's take, where instead of Earth being an Insignificant Blue Planet it's the main focus of the Great Old One's plans. Said Great Old Ones are In Name Only and instead of being Eldritch Abominations beyond human comprehension they've been shoehorned into becoming deities based off the seven classical planets. Actual occultists are turned off by the fact that the actual Ritual Magic is extremely prosaic and simplified, effectively consisting of a few invocations around a highly minimalist "temple" of some rocks and lines. It's a book seemingly aimed at those who know about neither the Cthulhu Mythos nor occultism.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Anne with an E has several episodes and plot lines dedicated to educating kids and young teenagers about societal issues faced by marginalized groups and why diversity is worth celebrating; this sometimes results in a slightly corny, "PSA"-like tone that might make older viewers roll their eyes. At the same time, and probably as a consequence of this, the show presents a remarkably grounded and cynical view of the world and doesn't stray away from dark topics such as discussions of suicidal ideation, PTSD and abuse, which some might find are a bit too depressing for some younger viewers. The writers do their best to balance these aspects to produce a show that can be enjoyed by the whole family, and they mostly succeed, but there are stretches of runtime that will alienate at least some of its viewers.
  • Cursed never really seemed sure who its main target audience was. It was marketed as a Feminist Fantasy retelling of the Arthurian Legend but in practice it has little to do with the Arthurian mythology, merely using it as set dressing for a completely different story (nor does it work as a prequel). The show was also aimed towards teenagers with youthful protagonists, goofy comic relief and young adult-esque drama, yet simultaneously seemed to be trying to appeal to adults (especially Game of Thrones fans) with graphic violence, semi-explicit sexual content and grim subjects like genocide; subsequently, the series came off as tonally inconsistent.
  • The makers of the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie seem to have never decided whether they were producing a jumping-on point for the general trans-Atlantic SF/"cult TV" audience, or a revival of the show for hard-core fanboys. As a result, the latter were repelled by such things as the Doctor kissing someone and being half-human and the Master being able to spit corrosive slime for no apparent reason, while the former were confused about what the "Eye of Harmony" was supposed to be and why the central character turned into a completely different person thirty minutes in.
  • Many Space Western films and series fit this trope:
  • The short-lived police musical drama Cop Rock: The dissonance of cheery, happy songs appearing spontaneously in an otherwise relatively serious police drama was probably one of the reasons why it wasn't very successful.
  • Hayley Goes..., a BBC documentary series with Hayley Pearce investigates subcultures contains elements of investigative journalism mixed with celebrity prurience, and it's difficult to find a sweet spot in the middle where these two investigate. It's not highbrow enough for people who like documentaries, but not lowbrow enough for people who enjoy showbiz, and there was already a small controversy over the episode where Hayley explores gender identities.
  • Joan of Arcadia: A Magic Realism Dramedy which also contains some elements of a police drama (mostly in the parts with Joan's father) high school romance and many religious/spiritual themes.
  • Glee, especially in its first season. It meshes things like oral sex jokes with the teeny angst of Degrassi and the kind of anvilicious messages you'd expect from an 80s kids cartoon along with the cutesy singing appeal of Kidz Bop and The Wiggles. Based on comments from the writers, it eventually decided it was mainly for Tweens.
  • Love Island normally had an audience who enjoyed it for the fanservice and drama, but the 2019-2021 seasons didn't know who they wanted to appeal to; at times the tone zig-zagged between Darker and Edgier and Lighter and Softer, meaning the show had Cerebus Syndrome for what was ostensibly supposed to be light entertainment. Some people didn't like the fact the show started to include characters discussing a Hard Truth Aesop they'd learnt in some episodes; while the moral wasn't exactly orthodox advice, it may have been relevant to its target audience, but then again, this series wasn't for putting An Aesop across. Participants occasionally gave an Aside Glance, as well, making it too meta for some; in short, these two seasons didn't really know who their target audience was.
  • Once Upon a Time fell into this in its later seasons. The first three knew very much that they were going for some Darker and Edgier takes on fairy tales - Cinderella making a Deal with the Devil, Snow White becoming a forest bandit to survive, Peter Pan becoming a Machiavellian villain - leaning more towards hard PG. In Season 4, things became much Lighter and Softer - with characters rarely getting Killed Off for Real, sexual references vanishing overnight and a far more idealistic tone. They also started having characters more directly resemble their Disney animated counterparts. This appeared to be an attempt to draw in a family audience, but the result was often a show that would sometimes be Camp and overly sentimental (whereas previous seasons had more self awareness) - which alienated a lot of the initial fans. But the show would still attempt to touch on the darkness of the earlier seasons - resulting in some jarring tonal shifts like Zelena raping Robin Hood to conceive a baby, but getting redeemed via The Power of Love that same season. While it did make it to seven seasons, by around Season 4-ish it was still unsure who it was meant to be aimed at.
  • Police, Camera, Action! had three occurrences of this:
    • "The Man Who Shot OJ", a two-part Biopic episode about Zoey Tur, didn't have the show's title attached to it (the Title Sequence just read "THE MAN WHO SHOT OJ", no POLICE CAMERA ACTION) and it was more like a typical biography, with police footage being secondary. Fans of the shows didn't enjoy the way the presenter links were done, and biopic fans probably felt it would have been better as a standalone series.
    • "Crash Test Racers" and "Highway of Tomorrow" were Very Special Episodes more focused on vehicle safety. Policing was largely Out of Focus, and it was difficult to know who the target audience was.
    • "Drink Driving Special" from December 2008 and the Gethin Jones series of 2010 didn't seem to realize the target audience wanted a more straight, presenter-links-footage series than an investigative documentary. Fans of the series didn't enjoy this, leading to it being Quietly Cancelled.
  • One of the problems with the first season of Torchwood seems to have been that the writers and directors were all over the shop about whether they were doing a Denser and Wackier Hotter and Sexier show full of fanboy Rule of Cool moments and fangirl feels ("Day One", "Cyberwoman"), or a grey rain-soaked, Downer Ending-filled, gritty urban cop show with barely-relevant SF MacGuffins ("Ghost Machine", "Random Shoes", "Combat"). This led to some weird juxtapositions between episodes and even more disturbing results when the two seemed to overlap.
  • While the Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future toys were made for kids, the show itself was fairly dark, dealing with themes about nuclear war and Nazism, and the title of the show was enough to turn off most adults. The live-action violence didn't help matters.
  • The post-2009 reboot Star Trek shows in general seem to have this problem, trying to appeal to a more mainstream audience by being Darker and Edgier with a more actionized tone while also attempting to attract established fans with their many Mythology Gags. This is especially the case with Star Trek: Picard, which attempts to both court old-school Trekkies by bringing back Patrick Stewart and Jeri Ryan and be a blank slate for newcomers (a la the aforementioned Terminator: Dark Fate). This is not helped by the creators' indecisiveness as to whether it's a full-on Continuity Reboot or merely a Soft Reboot.
  • Most of the time the Ultra Series falls under Multiple Demographic Appeal, but a few series have suffered from an uncertain audience.
    • Ultraman Ace. On one hand, the show had some of the goofiest and most childish episodes of the Ultra Series and some of the worst special effects in franchise history up to that point, like "Give Back the Panda!", "The Choju is Ten Women?!", "Mystery of the Kappa's Residence", and "Shoot Down that Hot-Air Balloon!". On the other hand, the series is equally notorious for its episodes with kid-traumatizing Nightmare Fuel, extreme Family-Unfriendly Violence, and serious threats that overwhelmed even the Ultras, like "Burn! Choju Hell!", "Behold a Great Transformation at Midnight!", "40,000 Year Choju Appears", and "Ghost Story: The She-Devil of Firefly Field".
    • Ultraman Leo suffered from the lowest ratings in franchise history because of its uncertain audience. While known as one of the Darker and Edgier entries in the Ultra Series, its intense Family-Unfriendly Violence and Anyone Can Die approach (seen in the two-part premiere, the Living Saucer story arc, and "Battle! Leo Brothers vs Ultra Brothers!") often turned children off, as they felt it was too dark. At the same time, the series also had many silly episodes with storylines centered heavily around child characters (like "Mighty Momotaro!", "I'm the Monster General", and "The Rhinoceros Beetle is a Space Invader"), meaning adults often found the series too childish at times.
    • Ultraman 80 really couldn't seem to decide on what kind of Ultraman series it wanted to be. For its first 12 episodes, the series played out as a school series, with Takeshi balancing out his jobs as a teacher and a UGM officer while also having to fight kaiju as 80, which kept the show relatable for kids and adults but also keeping the fun monster fights kids loved watching. But then the series got rid of the school angle to focus solely on UGM's adventures, so kids got more kaiju action, they also had more trouble relating to the adult characters. So then around the 30-episode mark, the show got retooled again to Takeshi helping kids with their problems, except none of the kids were his students this time, so while kids found surrogate characters again, adults could not care for them since there was no real reason for Takeshi to know them. As a result of this constant inconsistency, 80 became the last Showa era Ultra Series, and the franchise would be in a near-death state for the next fifteen years.
  • At the 2014 Kids' Choice Awards, there was a tribute to Dan Schneider. However, much of the tribute revolved around shows from the 1990s and 2000s such as All That and Drake & Josh. which hadn't had reruns in years. Much of the audience was too young to remember the shows being praised.
  • The revival of the North American Whose Line Is It Anyway? received this at first. Fans of the original American run disliked the removal of the original host Drew Carey, the new games lacked the same impact as the original ones, and the frequent use of cameos each episode became distracting. Newer fans however found themselves watching a show about several old men doing strange comedy improve with there not being really any major reason to keep invested because it was not as appealing. Thankfully, the series picked up steam again and is more liked.
  • No Good Nick is a show playing off the Cousin Oliver trope where a Long-Lost Relative who was recently orphaned joins an otherwise picturesque family, except the "orphan" is actually a teenage Con Artist trying to scam them. What might work as something darker and more farcical, it's a dramedy sitcom with a Laugh Track and portrays the dramatic moments entirely straight. The general look and feel of the show emulates the tween sitcoms of Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, but the darker story arc portrays overt criminal behavior, including The Mafia, in ways that wouldn't be out of place in a serious adult drama.
  • The Worst Witch (1998 series) had a spin-off titled Weirdsister College, with Mildred now attending college. It was slightly Darker and Edgier, aimed at an older crowd according to Georgina Sherrington. But the acting and effects were still in line with the parent show — including trying to depict college students acting like grown-up children. And the shift in tone meant that it was a bit too dark for the crowd who had grown up with The Worst Witch — tackling maturer themes like Mildred having a stalker who tries to Mind Rape her, Enid getting thrown out of her college, and Hobbes becoming a villain thanks to trauma from bullying. It does still have its fans though, and some feel it was Too Good to Last.
  • The 1/2 Hour News Hour was intended as Fox News' conservative answer to The Daily Show, but was an abject failure. Fox News has a much older viewership than The Daily Show, and trying to tool the humor intended for the younger generation towards the old doesn't work even if it supports their views. And the younger generation will not watch a news channel (especially one that does not support their views) simply because of a show marketed towards them. The result was one of the most poorly-executed shows of its time and was canned after one season. However, its successor Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld retooled the humor down its own unique path and was more well-received.
  • The Black Mirror episode "Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too" is a pitch-perfect parody of a Disney Channel Original Movie in the show's usual format, but the overlap between the two fandoms is small if nonexistent. As a result, Black Mirror fans lambasted it for being one of the series' lightest episodes, but it's also too adult for the usual demographic the DCOMs are targeted towards.
  • Galactica 1980 tried to appeal to a new younger audience by being more lighthearted and kid-friendly than its predecessor, while at the same time also trying to appeal to fans of the original series. Unfortunately, fans were extremely put-off and alienated by the show's overly saccharine nature, and the show wasn't even able to attract enough younger viewers, likely because even they found its tone too childish, resulting in the show getting cancelled after only 10 episodes.
  • The original Battlestar Galactica itself arguably suffered from uncertainty over its intended audience. At its core, it's a very serious and quite dark story, with heavy themes such as war, genocide, and religion (never mind Cassiopeia's status as, essentially, a legal, sanctioned prostitute). Despite this, much of it, especially after "Saga of a Star World", plays as a lightweight action-adventure series, with kid-appeal elements such as Muffit the robotic daggit, Boxy's presence period, and plots recycled from classic westerns. Even big fans of the series generally agree that these elements don't exactly mesh well and serve to bring down the overall quality of the series, which is one reason for the re-imagined series fully embracing the darker aspects of the premise, making it more tonally consistent.
  • Power Rangers: The TV show is rated TV-Y7, i.e. recommended for children seven and up. The toyline is aimed at 3 to 6 year olds. The show is too violent for toddlers (which is why it aired on Nickelodeon and not Nick Jr), but the toyline is too childish for older kids, due to Super Sentai being marketed to preschoolers nowadays, instead of the 8-12-year-olds it was aimed at in the 1990s. You've already grown out of the show before you're allowed to watch it.
  • The Fairly OddParents: Fairly Odder seems to be having identity problems right off the bat. While the general marketing tries to appeal to the classic generation of fans, those fans are most likely grown up, and won’t be interested in the more juvenile and low-budget sitcom aesthetic, especially since the last seasons of The Fairly OddParents left much to be desired anyway. Even younger viewers probably won’t be too invested thanks to all the outdated meme jokes (like YOLO), old references to the original show that will go over their heads, and out-of-place adult jokes (like a reference to South Park, of all things). In other words, who was this made for again?
  • Halo (2022) had issues out of the gate when it was revealed early on that the series would not be following the events of the titular game franchise, but instead branch off on its own alternative "Silver" timeline. This already excluded the majority of potential audience who were avid fans of the games, and even some fans of the books had a hard time taking interest. At the same time, all of the changes the showrunners made for the Silver timeline only served to make the series look like any other generic science fiction series with few action scenes, giving potential new audiences very little incentive to go out of their way to pick it up.

    Multiple Media 
  • This is a major reason why the Transformers Aligned Universe was perceived as a failure by its designers, despite many of its individual components being successful. The main branches of it that actually came out and gained solid fanbases ended up being Transformers: War for Cybertron and its sequel (aimed at older fans who grew up with Transformers: Generation 1), Transformers: Prime (aimed at older kids and teens introduced through the movies and the prior Transformers: Animated, with some nods to older audiences), and Transformers: Rescue Bots and its direct follow-up Transformers: Rescue Bots Academy (aimed at very young children with a Parental Bonus or two). While they all succeeded to varying degrees at appealing to those audiences, any attempt to play with a Shared Universe didn't work out, as fans would invariably be confused and put off by the fact that, Continuity Nods aside, they were watching or playing something unlike whatever they were initially interested in. While the Optimus of all three is broadly recognizable as different takes on Optimus as an archetype, it's very difficult to see them as the same person. Efforts to properly combine the various branches, such as Transformers: Exodus, were consistently unsuccessful and often saw Continuity Snarls or Broad Strokes as a result. This comic sums up how much each entry in the Aligned Continuity can clash with each other in terms of tone, mood and style.
    • Even within the continuity family, Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015) stands out for being very confused about its audience. It's a direct sequel to Prime, but carries over very few of its characters in non-cameo roles and features a very different aesthetic and tone (being sort of in the middle between Prime and Rescue Bots). To fans of Prime, it comes across as a Denser and Wackier followup that fails to match up in any way, while newcomers are put off by the fact that it is a followup, and spends much of its time trying to build on plot points and ideas introduced in its predecessor, such as Optimus's death, the Thirteen, and Bumblebee becoming a leader. Even among Aligned completionists, it stands out for more or less ignoring the Cybertron games.
    • While Hasbro at least tried in most of the globe, the franchise's other owner Takara-Tomy had no regard for this when bringing Aligned media to Japanese markets. For starters, in an effort to appeal to the Japanese-market more numerous model kit oriented crowd, all Prime toys were re-done as model kits that replaced most paint applications with stickers, which alienated older collectors the toys originally aimed for. The Prime cartoon itself was subject to a Gag Dub aimed at pre-schoolers similar to Beast Wars, but its grittier tone and atmosphere didn't mesh well with the character quirks and intended audience. The dub also decided to rework the season 2 finale into the series finale, ending on a cliffhanger, and then making an original sequel anime series named Transformers: Go!; this not only splits the Aligned Continuity into more branches, but its heavy aesthetic based on Japanese elements like ninja, samurai and yokai don't mesh well with the aesthetic or tone of Prime, even with its gag dub, turning off even the fans Prime had over there. Furthermore the existence of Go! also hurts Robots in Disguise (2015) in this regard further, as when Takara imported it there were no changes to the story, which included references to the third season of Prime, which would further confuse its intended audience and casual older fans unaware of Prime's original dub.

    Music 

  • The Acclaimed Flop work of The Beach Boys between Pet Sounds in 1966 and their nostalgia-fueled 1974 revival built around the Endless Summer compilation fell victim to an uncertain audience. The music was too complex for the average pop fan, but perceived as being a bit too lightweight by Progressive Rock fans. This led to their albums being branded as "Progressive Pop".
  • Van Dyke Parks' (famous as an ex-collaborator of Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson) album Song Cycle fell victim to an uncertain audience. It contained too many elements of classical to be considered a pop album, but it also contained just enough elements of pop music for it not to be considered a proper classical album, leading to the album being unable to find its audience and falling into obscurity (though it has achieved Acclaimed Flop status and is Van Dyke's most celebrated solo album).

    Puppet Shows 
  • Why The Muppets was a one-and-done 16-episode failure for ABC. The premise was a Work Com mockumentary in the vein of The Office (US) and Parks and Recreation, with the Muppets inhabiting the real world. However, the show's humor tilted more adult than virtually any Muppet endeavor before it and struggled to find an audience, landing in the unwanted abyss of being too adult for kids and too childish for adults who weren't Muppet devotees. And Muppet devotees were likely turned off by the changes from previous incarnations, like breaking up Kermit and Miss Piggy.

    Software 

    Theme Parks 
  • This is a major reason why Stitch's Great Escape! became one of the most infamous attractions in Disney Parks history. The darkness, 4D effects, and loud noises mean that it was still too scary for young kids (who otherwise would be absolutely terrified to go on SGE!'s predecessor), but anyone older than preteens were most likely irritated by the unpleasant and gross humor. Even Lilo & Stitch fans didn't like how the ride put the titular Stitch, one of Disney's most emotionally complex characters, in a very unflattering light, which has been and still is perpetuated by older American Disney Parks fans to this day. The ride's negative reception led Disney to avoid developing any further major Lilo & Stitch attractions in the U.S. ever since, including a port of the better-received digital puppetry live show Stitch Encounter.

    Toys 
  • The LEGO Star Wars set #75098, "Assault on Hoth", received mixed to negative reviews for a variety of reasons, including its uncertain direction. It's in the Ultimate Collector's Series, which consists of big, expensive sets aimed at older LEGO fans and focuses on accuracy and detail above all else. However, the Assault on Hoth set sacrifices these things for the sake of interactive features For example , something which would be understandable in a set aimed at younger builders who treat LEGO as a toy, but less so for something aimed at teenagers and adults who just want a nice display piece. Meanwhile, its high price and UCS label discourage most parents from getting it for their children. There are other issues that contribute to its poor reception, but the play features taking away from other aspects of the set certainly didn't help its reputation.
  • This was one of the main things that made the Pretender line of the original Transformers a notorious flop. The intention was to appeal to fans of more traditional action figures (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was at its height then) by creating "Pretender shells", basically large hollow figures of humans or monsters that could split in two to reveal a Transformer inside. In practice, the shells made for pretty shoddy action figures, being simplistic and hollow and possessing no points of movement besides raising the shoulders, while the Transformer inside ended up being small and heavily compromised to fit inside the shell (most of the early ones barely even have altmodes). Additionally, they were hitting different age groups; the shells, with their bright colors and chunky designs, suggested they were aimed at the "just out of Playskool" demographic, but Transformers, with its small parts and puzzle-based gimmick, tended to be aimed a few years older than that.
    • Hasbro would not give up on this idea so soon, with next year's line introducing Action Masters, promoted as figures of Cybertronians who gave up their ability to transform to gain power, including many classic characters, making them just traditional action figures of robots. The transforming feature wasn't fully dropped, as each figure came with a weapon or vehicle accessory that could transform, but the fact that the main figures couldn't do such when the franchise is called Transformers was mocked by the action figure collectors and alienated older fans, being the final nail in the coffin as the the original toyline ended that year in America, and not even Takara imported the line for the Japanese audience like they at least tried with Pretenders. They fared better in Europe, where they lasted another year, amusingly with the last ones including Action Masters that could transform. Nowadays non-transforming figures are still made, but they're placed in sub-lines or sold as display collector items rather than being the main toyline of the year like Action Masters were.

    Video Games 
  • ARMS, in part due to its very unconventional gameplay for a Fighting Game, runs into the problem of uncertain audience. The game intended to reach casual fans with its appealing characters, variety of modes, hidden lore, wealth of unlockables, and relatively simple controls. The game also wanted to appeal to competitive players with its surprising amount of depth to its combat and customization options. In practice, however, the two intentions came into conflict, as casual fans were overwhelmed by the surprisingly complex gameplay while fighting game fans didn't feel the game was complex enough for them. The game sold modestly well for a new and unorthodox property, but it didn't quite reach the leagues of Nintendo EPD's other big names like Mario, Splatoon, or Animal Crossing, instead winning over a more low-key following that appreciated its unusual gameplay.
  • The Assassin's Creed franchise runs the gamut of genres, starting with a focus on stealth assasinations, then open combat starting with the third game, then focusing on sanitized historical tourism, until finally becoming a full-blown Action RPG with Origins onwards. With so many different angles for each game, it's no wonder the audience gets up in arms about the new games as they come.
  • The Atelier franchise attracts these claims. The series initially ran on Shōjo tropes, with most of the games have a flowery art style with plenty of pretty boys, and a mostly female fanbas. Yet, starting with the Arland series of games, the franchise took a 180 and a lot of The Merch, DLC costumes, and promotional artwork would become heavily Male Gaze-y, and the games have incorporated more and more moe elements over time, though still keeping many of the shojo tropes, pretty boys and occasional Female Gaze moments involving said pretty boys that might alienate that audience anyway. A survey released in 2019 did confirm that even after these changes, the series fanbase remains mostly women, meaning these changes didn't even do a very good job at attracting a male audience to begin with, at least until Ryza turned the fanservice Up to Eleven and caused a Newbie Boom.
  • Back in 1995 is a Retraux Survival Horror game in the vein of the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill, so you'd presume it's meant to appeal to players with a fondness for the classic horror gameplay style they represent. Then you learn the big twist, which in a nutshell is an elaborate Take That, Audience! to exactly these people, insinuating that they're horribly out of touch, overly nostalgic, and unable to move on from outdated stuff in the past. People who dislike older survival horror games will obviously not be interested in a Genre Throwback with low-res polygons and Tank Controls, while those who do like that sort of thing likely won't be amused by the "message" the game is built around.
  • Balan Wonderworld was created with small children as its target audience, with it having incredibly simplistic controls and level design, but its advertising was aimed at attracting the older fanbases of NiGHTS into Dreams… and Sonic the Hedgehog. Likewise, despite being designed to be played by children, the game is notably lacking in its gameplay tutorials and explanation of its story, requiring players to look up guides in order to understand certain features and read the game's tie-in novel to understand its plot. The game ended up a critical and commercial flop as a result.
  • The commercial failure of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, which ended the Banjo-Kazooie series, can be blamed squarely on uncertain appeal. Established Banjo-Kazooie fans were incensed at how the long-awaited third installment of the series had thoroughly abandoned its exploration-based platforming gameplay in favor of mission-based vehicle building, seeing it as the franchise abandoning its identity. At the same time, the game was full of call backs and continuity to the original games, with the game starting out on Grunty's disembodied skull escaping and attempting to get revenge eight years after Tooie; this left potential newer fans disinterested at best and confused at worst. To add to the uncertainty, the new character L.O.G. explicitly and simultaneously insults both the old style of gameplay and gamers at the time in the prologue, calling the former "painful to watch" and saying the latter "just want to shoot things." The game was fairly well-received by critics, and some players begrudgingly admit the gameplay is fun, but most admit that the game should've been marketed as a new IP at best or a spin-off at the very least.
  • Blazing Aries: On one hand, since it's an H-Game, part of its main demographic might be interested in part of the risque scenes. However, the problem with that is most of them are locked after the second part of the first chapter... and the first part of the first chapter is notorious for being Early Game Hell, thus frustrating those who came for the fanservice and alienating them at worse, and it only gets worse from there, since it's Surprisingly difficult for an eroge even on the easiest setting. And for those came for the gameplay are alienated by the fanservice elements, since its an eroge, and they also complain about the game being unable to decide what kind of Action RPG it is (for example, the combo-based gameplay system might be inspired from the Tales Series, but some of the bosses tend to discourage combos) and vice-versa. Notably, the FANZA and Steam versions of it have the normal difficulty nerfed, particularly due to these complaints, and the removal of sex scenes for the international versions, not to mention a family-friendly option, which would normally attract complaints, is seen as a blessing since it allows the game to have an more distinct identify.
  • Bleeding Edge suffered from Ninja Theory not having a clear vision of what sort of game they wanted to create. Bleeding Edge originally started off as a fighting game, but during its development, Ninja Theory decided to change it into a MOBA, and then into a hero shooter. As a result, the game incorporated gameplay elements from all three genres, with none of them working well together. The game was simply too unconventional and bloated for a fan of any one of the three game genres to be interested.
  • One of the problems with the original Borderlands was that it didn't seem to be sure whether it was a straight Deconstruction of RPGs and first-person shooters, a Parody of the same, or something in-between. As such, it came off as a Shallow Parody, which limited its appeal. The sequel ratcheted the comedy and the parody Up to Eleven, which made it Denser and Wackier, but gave it a much clearer idea of its own identity, and it found its audience that way.
  • Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash was part of a franchise that had always been, at best, a Cult Classic — small but devoted fanbase, very little general awareness, the usual. Zip Lash was intended to save the series by bringing in new fans, by way of a 3DS release and a Genre Shift from an explorative 3D platformer with the premise of going around a house and helping out the family there to a sidescrolling 2D platformer with the premise of saving the world by going through fairly standard environments. Longtime fans were angered that the series had so thoroughly abandoned its aesthetic and identity, while general audiences weren't familiar with the character and just saw it as a generic 2D platformer on a handheld that already had a surfeit of well-received games of that type. Unsurprisingly, the game bombed hard.
  • The considerable underperformance of DayZ as a standalone game could be half attributed to its uncertain audience (the other half being its infamously barebones launch). Making a standalone version of a beloved, if technically volatile zombie-themed ARMA mod seemed like a straightforward path to success, but a significant hurdle came in the form of just how variable the DayZ mod had become. Many different servers added their own variations for different styles of gameplay beyond the original Survival Sandbox, such as communal base-building, fighting enemy hordes, or PVP battle royales, meaning that a DayZ game meant entirely different things to many people. The standalone version — as a partial consequence of being released too early — couldn't commit to any one of these visions, leaving newcomers disappointed while preexisting DayZ fans fell into an unholy mix of "It's the Same, Now It Sucks!" and "They Changed It, Now It Sucks!", causing the game's momentum to drop off like a cliff.
  • Dead or Alive 6 tried to market itself as more tournament-friendly and appealing to western sensibilities, doing so by going Tamer and Chaster and reducing the amount of Fanservice in the game, ie going against its core identity, and the reason the series built its fame, in an aspiration to reach eSports and EVO. Then director Yohei Shimori would flip-flop between statements, stating that nothing changed later, only to go back to the old, confusing a lot of people. It was controversial, to say the least, and in fact said controversy often overshadowed the game itself. Unfortunately, any attempt to reach the big leagues failed, for two reasons: The first was the infamous "Core Values" incident where DOA6 was taken off-stream in the middle of the tournament at EVO Japan 2019, because it got too sexual with the use of female models shaking their breasts and butts to mimic the game. Then, when the lineup of EVO 2019 in North America, comparable to the Super Bowl of fighters, was announced, Dead or Alive 6 wasn't there. Effectively, all the effort and controversy was for nothing, as it was effectively damned to its niche status, getting passed up for other niche but more respected games like Under Night In-Birth and Samurai Shodown, and its direct competitor Soulcalibur VI, a game that didn't suffer from this trope as it went about its own way with zero confusion, incidentally a Hotter and Sexier one. The fact is, the game tried to appease everyone, but did the polar opposite instead.
  • The more divided reception of Diablo III overtime can be partially attributed to uncertain appeal. Blizzard Entertainment wanted the Diablo series to return and be as successful as both World of Warcraft and StarCraft II (since the series had been quiet since 2000). To get newcomers, they made a more grandiose story with a deep and complex lore like their other titles and made the gameplay slightly simpler with more emphasis on set-pieces and boss battles, with the horror appeal dialed down compared to the past games, with a “slightly” more comical tone in the game. To get old fans back, Blizzard tried to reference as much of the past games as they could, ranging from bosses (like Leoric and the Butcher), to locations (such as Tristriam), while keeping the game’s loot system and gear progression like the last game to appeal to those who liked gear gathering, and trying to do as many Call-Back moments as they could. The result was that over time, the game became criticized for not really knowing who it wants to be for: newer fans might not want to play the third game that tries to make references so often, while long time fans wanted something closer to the previous games with a focus on horror and didn’t like how the game seemed like it was trying to be like Blizzard’s other titles instead of itself. As a result, despite being critically well received at launch, in the years that followed, it is often debated how good it is due to the unclear target audience.
  • Unclear audience was a big contributor to DmC: Devil May Cry's divisive reception (more so in terms of plot, tone and characterization than gameplay). DmC has a notably Darker and Edgier tone and attempts to deal with some much heavier topics than the original continuity; while the latter does have some serious and dramatic moments, overall the games tend to be more campy and whimsical. Ninja Theory were specifically instructed to make a 'different' Devil May Cry game, but the end result is that DmC bears little resemblance to the rest of the franchise and either doesn't use any of the classic characters or radically changes them. Many fans of the original games weren't onboard because it was In Name Only, while the Devil May Cry title may have been off-putting to potential players who were into what DmC has to offer, resulting in DmC underselling in some markets. To this day, it's common to hear players say stuff like "It's not a bad game per se, just not a good Devil May Cry game". The game underperforming previous installments in sales prompted Capcom to Un-Reboot the series with Devil May Cry 5 in 2019.
  • An issue that hit Epic Mickey fairly hard is that it wasn't quite sure if it wanted to be a game for little kids, or a game for older fans of animation. It was certainly that older crowd that was most interested in the possibility of a Darker and Edgier Mickey Mouse, which was the game's original pitch, but the game itself turned out to be rather easy and shallow, with most of the creepy imagery and deconstructive elements shown off in those early promotional materials now absent. The young children the game now seemed designed towards, however, would likely be put off by the focus on a character whose only particularly memorable showing in years was in Kingdom Hearts, even before the game's plot, which hinges on fans being at least passingly familiar with very old Mickey Mouse shorts.
  • Several Final Fantasy titles have had this problem.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 attracts these claims. The fact that it centres on a trio of female characters and has a Lighter and Softer tone than its predecessor (the battle system revolves around changing clothes!) seems to turn off male gamers. However there's also a massive heaping of Fanservice, Les Yay and Stripperiffic outfits - which alienate female gamers.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance tends to have this issue because of the changes it made to the setting and gameplay. Being a Spiritual Successor to Final Fantasy Tactics, one of the most beloved Turn-Based Strategy out there, it had to deal with the expectations of the fans coming in who loved the original game, while trying to get newcomers into the game. Fans of the original Tactics hated how the game was more child friendly and low stakes compared to the Darker and Edgier story of Tactics, alongside seeing the gameplay as being dumbed down and suffering from Fake Difficulty thanks to the new Rule system. Newcomers hoping to get in had to contend with the same Rule system without any experience in the game type, and the mechanics were more advanced than what newcomers to the genre expected, alongside the name making it seem like a sequel of sorts. The result was that Tactics fans hated the game for not being like the original, while new fans couldn't get in as easily as the title seemed to want to do, causing it to have a largely negative reputation for a long time.
    • Part of the reason Dissidia Final Fantasy (2015) ended up being a disappointment financially for Square Enix was that the game's console port didn't seem clear on who it was designed for; E-Sports fans, or Dissidia veterans. The game was clearly designed to appeal to the E-Sports crowd with its usage of "classes", removal of the RPG mechanics such as leveling up, the streamlined summoning system and character builds, and 3v3 matches, something that apparently was wanted by Square Enix. At the same time, they wanted to still attract fans of the previous games, so they included a story mode that acted as a follow-up to the previous games story, included some returning characters like Kain, and announced they wanted to bring all of the previously playable characters back, plus they added new characters like Ramza and Noctis. Sadly, the games inability to appeal to either groups backfired: the game never saw any light as an E-Sports due to its technical problems, poor gameplay balance, and the limited customization for characters, failed to appeal to the Fighting Game Community (where it was more likely to get success as an esport) because it required three players per team rather than the traditional 1v1 format, which anyone remotely familiar with tournaments will realize would make it impossible for matches to happen on time even if enough people managed to find teams, while long time fans hated the changes since they removed the RPG mechanics, forced those who played for the story and characters to have to grind to unlock more of it, and also hated how barebones the game's content was, especially the barely-there story. It did not help that the games matchmaking was very laggy, meaning nobody wanted to play online despite being essential to get full enjoyment out of the very multiplayer-focused game. The result was that the game was discontinued only after roughly 1.5 years, and the plans for a larger roster never came to pass.
  • Ghost Recon Breakpoint suffered from an uncertain audience. It attempted to reinvent the Ghost Recon franchise as a loot-based shooter in the same vein as Destiny or The Division. Unfortunately, it was a massive failure. Longtime Ghost Recon fans hated the new mechanics for taking away from the realism and verisimilitude that was a major draw of the franchise for them. Meanwhile, the steps that were taken by Ubisoft to try and make those loot and RPG mechanics more palatable to the Ghost Recon fanbase made them unappealing to the players who like them. The loot system was very shallow and could be outright ignored for the majority of the game, as enemies outside of very specific areas on the map scale up or down to the Player's Gearscore, and even when they don't all human enemies can be killed with one headshot (two if they're wearing a helmet). The end result was a game that was rejected by both bases and flopped hard enough that Ubisoft's stock price tanked, and they delayed all forthcoming games to reevaluate the direction that they were headed in.
  • Nintendo as a whole went through a spell of uncertainty starting in the twilight years of the Wii and ending with the release of the Nintendo Switch. During this period, the company was aware of the Wii and DS's greater success with simpler games geared towards casual players and diminished success with more complex games geared towards traditional gamers. At the same time, they were aware that casual players wouldn't become dedicated consumers the way traditional gamers were. This dual concern led to several decisions that would attempt to reconcile casual and hardcore players, mostly to mixed results. Particular highlights of this uncertainty include:
    • At least one person has theorized that indecisive appeal is the reason why The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is so divisive among fans, as it feels like it can't decide whether it was made for newer players brought in with the Wii's success or veteran players who have been following the series for a long time. The game is loaded with several mandatory hints (mainly from Fi) that clearly explain where to progress most of the time, frustrating veteran players who want to figure things out on their own. At the same time, many of the puzzles not only require considerable spatial and logical awareness as with previous games in the series, but Fi tends to give little or vague hints on what to do with them, alienating newer players who want a more accessible experience. Regarding the game's overall structure, many longtime Zelda players were opposed to the game's focus on a more linear structure, given that previous Zelda games emphasized relatively free exploration with a focus on finding hidden treasures and rewards, often allowing the player to do dungeons out of order. Unfortunately, players into linear games were against the game's vast-yet-empty Sky area, the long, mandatory quests to access the game's dungeons, and especially the high amount of Backtracking in its second half, given that fans of linear games prefer their games to have a brisker pace free of filler content. Finally, the motion-controlled swordplay didn't endear the game to veteran Zelda fans who found the button-controlled sword swings much more reliable, while newcomers presumably coming from Wii Sports Resort found much of the combat frustrating due to how enemies actively block your attacks. The Updated Re-release for the Nintendo Switch addressed some of these issues, such as decreasing the interrupting nature of many of the hints and adding a new control scheme without motion controls, but the conflict between the game's linearity and the rather slow pacing remained.
    • The Wii U's disappointing performance is often credited to its uncertain audience. What it attempted to do was recapture the massive casual-audiences success that was the original Wii by using the same branding and a controller-based gimmick that modified the controller to resemble a more familiar device, while recapturing traditional gamers through more advanced hardware, less emphasis on motion controls, and a launch lineup with ports of many seventh-generation games. But to casual consumers who bought Wiis back in the day, its gimmick of a large tablet-style controller with a second screen and a ton of strange features didn't have the instant draw of motion controls, with many being convinced it was a peripheral by the similar name and lack of focus on the console, and its higher price tag made it too expensive to be an impulse purchase. To mainstream gamers who'd felt burned by the Wii, it was an incredibly underpowered system that could really only play Nintendo games or inferior ports and lacked a lot of features, including a very flawed online mode, which made it a companion system at best. Even to core Nintendo fans, it lacked a lot of the usual Killer App franchises, being focused mostly on lesser lights, Updated Rereleases, and spinoffs, and had to compete with the cheaper, better-supported Nintendo 3DS carrying counterparts or outright ports of a lot of its best games. The console's successor, the Nintendo Switch, addressed all of these issues and managed to outsell its senior within its first year on the market alone.
    • Star Fox Zero suffered from being indecisive on whether to appeal to established fans or newer players. The game's story seemed to aim towards winning back Star Fox fans who lost interest in the series after 64 by presenting itself as a Continuity Reboot to the series, returning to the original fight against Andross. The core gameplay, on the other hand, aimed to breathe new life into the series by heavily changing the Arwing controls, most notably requiring motion controls to aim the Arwing's laser shots. As a result, the game was criticized for both changing too much and changing too little at the same time; potential newer players disliked how the game's presentation seemed to pander to older fans, while established Star Fox fans disliked the new Arwing gameplay, particularly the motion controls. Consequently, Zero underperformed in sales and received mixed reception from fans and critics alike, rendering it as of yet the last original game in the franchise.
  • PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Sony's Super Smash Bros. equivalent, didn't do very well because of its uncertain audience. The gameplay in particular ended up being very divisive due to the confused design: the game's focus on traditional fighting game Combos alienates the casual crowd who wants a simple party game, while the bizarre and unconventional mechanics of using supers only as a method to kill and being the only method to score kills alienates the hardcore crowd. The roster by itself also suffers from this problem: about half the franchises involved are gritty M-rated ones, but the game itself is a cartoony Platform Fighter with tons of wacky concepts. While Smash is no stranger to representing M-rated franchises, they make up a very small portion of the roster and tend to have their seriousness toned down to compensate. PlayStation All-Stars on the other hand plays the seriousness of the characters in question rather straight, making it jarring to see a space Nazi slap his enemies silly with a fish. Even as a pure celebration of PlayStation history, the roster was largely reliant on Guest Fighters from non-Sony games, ironically making it seem like Sony didn't have much of their own history, while what third-parties were there were mostly promotions for upcoming games, such as Reboot Dante and Big Daddy (with most of his accompanying material coming from the then-upcoming BioShock Infinite), instead of more historically significant characters known for being on PlayStation consoles, like Crash Bandicoot and Lara Croft, making it look like Sony barely had any third-party history either. The game failed to birth an ongoing competitor to Smash as a result.
  • Quake Champions ended up awkwardly sandwiched between a signature style of its beloved franchise and the new hotness it was trying to replicate, and didn't quite grab fans of either. Quake multiplayer is known for its fast-paced, highly technical arena shooter gameplay beloved by its fans in large part because of its steep learning curve, with Champions' inclusion of Hero Shooter elements driving some of the old guard off, with many fans seeing it as a dumbing down player expression and making the challenges less rewarding. Meanwhile, expected newcomers were reluctant to join due to Champions still being more mechanically daunting when compared to more-accessible contemporaries like Overwatch and Paladins, as well as having an identity largely based around Quake and other id Software properties, which doesn't carry as much star power to modern audiences.
  • Shantae is missing a clear target demographic, embodying What Do You Mean, It's for Kids? and What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids? at the same time. The creator himself once said that it's "too sexy for a kids' game and too girly for a male gamer game." It's got a cute art style with a bright, primary-color palette, mostly-lighthearted stories, an occasional Black Comedy Burst or dead-serious moment, sexy character designs, and a level of Parental Bonus and raunchy humor that would raise a few eyebrows with parents. As the series has gone on, it's moved to a T-rating, and it has come to target older gamers who'd be the Periphery Demographic for a more "kiddie" series, but the difficulty of the gameplay has stayed low, leaving it underwhelming for adults. That said, the series has still managed to become one of the biggest indie franchises with a passionate fanbase, so it has managed to find an audience despite this.
  • Silent Hill: Book of Memories failed in part because it was uncertain of who it wanted to appeal to, and in part thanks to a good dose of They Changed It, Now It Sucks!, as it was a dungeon crawler in a franchise known for its Survival Horror and puzzle-solving aspects. According to WayForward Technologies who developed it, they sought to simplify the aspects of both the new genre it had entered as well as the old genre it came in a hope of attracting fans of both genres, which ultimately pleased nobody: fans of dungeon crawlers weren't interested in it as the gameplay was far too simplistic and grindy as compared to the other entries in the genre they were used to, while fans of the Silent Hill franchise weren't interested in it as the puzzles were far too simplified and it lacked the deeper horror or psychological aspects they were used to.
  • The Snack World, another Level-5 property; also ran into this problem in the west: the series featured a lot of cute visuals and gags that wouldn't be out of place in Adventure Time (one of the leads is even a Captain Ersatz of Finn); but the dungeon crawler gameplay loop and other jokes (such as the more risqué humor and poking fun at role-playing game conventions) would appeal more to older players. The fact the game was given an all-ages rating in Japan while getting slapped with older age ratings elsewhere has furthered this uncertainty.
  • This has become a huge point of contention for the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise after its third game. Fans can be generally divided into two camps, ones who grew up pre-Dreamcast on the 2D games, and ones who grew up post-Dreamcast with the 3D games. Fans of the former accuse the 3D games of relying on gimmicky features and spectacle to make up for their lack of substantial gameplay compared to the 2D titles as well as increasingly tonally dissonant plotlines. Fans of the latter accuse the 2D games of relying too much on Trial-and-Error Gameplay, as well having nothing but an Excuse Plot to serve as narrative motivation. Sega trying to reconcile these two camps, especially since The New '10s, has led to some of the games being accused of being uncertain who their target audiences are and serves as a huge contribution to the franchise's notorious Broken Base.
    • The first episode of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 particularly suffered from a misguided attempt to cater to opposing groups. To appeal to older fans, Sonic Team and Dimps made the level aesthetics faithful recreations of popular levels from the Sega Genesis games—but the core gameplay tries to cater to new players by having movement physics reminiscient of Sonic Rush, involving very little downhill momentum and with a focus on the Homing Attack. Because of this, potential new players were put off by the aesthetics while established Sonic fans heavily criticized the gameplay for being too different from the Genesis games and not very good in its own right. The second episode managed to resolve both issues by having more original level themes and improved physics, but the first episode's reputation caused Sonic 4 as a whole to underperform, leading it to be Cut Short. The next attempt at a retro-styled game with modern elements, Sonic Mania not only fared significantly better, but effectively acts as a direct sequel to the original games in the Alternate Timeline for Classic Sonic that would be established in Sonic Forces.
    • The growing criticism towards Gameplay Roulette in the series caused Sonic Unleashed to be accused of having an uncertain audience. The game consisted of two diametrically oppposed gameplay styles: the speedy, combat-light daytime gameplay and the slower, combat-heavy Werehog gameplay. Due to the opposing appeal, the game was criticized for not knowing who it was made for on release. While the two gameplay styles are well-done individually, many fans tended to prefer only one of the playstyles while disliking the other as an obstacle to playing the part they liked. In response, Sonic Team has either downplayed the Gameplay Roulette in future mainline Sonic games or eliminated it altogether. The next game, Sonic Colors focused more on the gameplay style of daytime stages in Unleashed and ended up faring much better.
  • Spore was notorious for its uncertain audience, especially when it was first released. The original trailer made it out to be a realistic, scientifically grounded, complex evolution simulator, but the end result was significantly simplified and cartoonish, seemingly to cater to children and more artistic, creative players. This naturally pissed off hardcore gamers and the more scientifically-minded fans. While the artistic-minded players were not as vitriolic, the end result still contained a lot of Scrappy Mechanics, most of all the notorious biodisasters, that impeded players' ability to simply wander around freely for the sake of having more traditional video game challenges (one of the more common mod requests is to remove biodisasters and similarly annoying events). This has calmed down over the years as the original trailer became a distant memory to the younger players who grew up with the game, but the bitter divide still remains in some circles.
  • Starlink: Battle for Atlas's uncertain audience is ultimately what led to it having less than satisfactory sales for Ubisoft. The game's gameplay depth, scope and detailed lore seemed tailor-made for older gamers, but the focus on its toys-to-life spaceship controller gimmick felt more aimed at kids. It didn't help that, by this point, the three biggest games focusing on toys-to-life (Skylanders, Disney Infinity, and LEGO Dimensions) had all died out and taken the genre with them. Not even a guest appearance by the Star Fox cast in the Switch version helped to boost the game's appeal, though this did result in the game selling the best on the Nintendo Switch. However, it didn't sell well enough, and the second wave of toys was cancelled.
  • The Steam Machine ended up being an oddity of video game hardware as it was unclear who exactly Valve was intending to market it to. Fully released in 2015, their very concept was of pre-built gaming PCs loaded with SteamOS (a Linux-based operating system reminiscent of and integrated with their signature Steam platform) with the accessibility found in console systems. The issue lies with how PC gamers weren't exactly up for getting a pre-built extension of a platform they're already familiar with just to be suitable for their living room, and console gamers were alienated by the many, many models to have to choose from, confused by its intended purpose, and overall distracted by the mainstream options at the time of release: the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. In 2018, they realized it was underperforming and stopped offering Steam Machines through the Steam platform, and in 2020, Valve president Gabe Newell admitted that even after their production delays, the hardware they were pushing for was still "super-incomplete" and they were too impatient to get the product out before convincing consumers why they needed it.
  • Street Fighter X Tekken kind of gets this from the title, as given the two games are quite different, fans knew immediately somebody was going to get favoritism. Sure enough, the game turned out to be borrowing Street Fighter IV's artstyle, 2.5-D gameplay, and general designnote . If you liked Tekken, it didn't come across as a crossover so much as a Street Fighter game guest-starring the Tekken cast, but if you liked Street Fighter, you probably already owned at least three different versions of IV and didn't see a reason to pick up something so similar when there would probably be yet another version on the horizon to learn. And then there was the gem system, which let you modify fighters with gems found from buyable packs or random drops—the designers claimed the idea was to lure in fans of CCG-style games. But fans of card games want games that favor strategy over complex inputs and tight reactions, so weren't interested in jumping over the barrier for entry, while fighting game fans dislike anything that removes focus on player skill, especially Bribing Your Way to Victory or randomized elements.
  • Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE suffered an uncertain audience after it was announced and released. Fans of the Shin Megami Tensei series were turned off by the heavily Persona-like characters, gameplay, and story, and the game was seen as a waste of the core mechanics of the SMT series thanks to none of the story or gameplay elements that make the SMT franchise beloved being present. In particular, the lack of an Order vs. Chaos story like every other SMT game had made SMT fans write the game off. Fire Emblem fans were put off by the lack of Turn-Based Strategy and usage of mostly characters from only about two games in the series as the Mirages, alongside finding the story and characters too "anime" for their tastes. The result was that SMT fans felt it was too dumbed down to be enjoyable, while FE fans felt it was too radically different to be worth playing. As if to make this worse, the idol theme of the game caused this issue to be even worse for those who did play it; those who liked idol stuff found its idol content very downplayed and essentially just there for flavor, while those who dislike idol stuff were immediately put off by the game's design. This left a small number of players who played it, and while it was received well, it was financially a flop. It's widely agreed that if the game had been a straight crossover as it was originally announced as, or instead announced as a crossover of the developer teams, people would have been more willing to give the game a chance. Its Switch rerelease did better, but still unperformed, only selling a mere 40k copies in its launch month in Japan.
  • A Total War Saga: TROY had to deal with two very different expectations from the Total War fandom as to what the game should be. One faction wanted the game to be a simulation of Mycenaean Greek warfare, living out the battles of an iconic yet relatively undepicted era as if one were there, and the other wanted the game to be a showcase of the miracles and monsters of Classical Mythology in all its splendor. The game tried to split the difference by going for a "truth behind the myth" approach, depicting many of the characters and monsters of mythology but in a more realistic form that could plausibly inspire their stories: for instance, the minotaur exists, but is depicted as a buff man with a skull helmet. Unfortunately, this failed to marry the two groups: the former group didn't want a minotaur unit in the game at all, and the latter group wanted the real minotaur, not a guy poorly dressed up as him. And even for people who liked the Demythification conceit, there was also the presence of god powers and hero units, leading to the situation where Achilles slaughtering a phalanx singlehandedly before magically healing his wounds through divine intercession was considered perfectly sensible, but a man with a bull head was too far. The first major DLC for the game realized this, and decided to essentially split up the game in accordance to the fandom; while "truth behind the myth" remained a mode, two extra modes were added, with one cutting out the mythically-inspired units completely and significantly changing the mechanics of heroes and divine powers, and the other remodeling all the mythical units into actual monsters and adding some truly fantastical beasts into the mix.
  • Viva Piñata had the teens and adults turned off as it looked too kiddy, while many kids were turned off because the micromanagement was too complicated. Thus, while it got moderate success and an animated series, it failed Microsoft's intent of become their equivalent to Pokémon.
  • Part of why YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG earned such an infamous reputation can partially be attributed to its uncertain audience. It's supposed to be designed as an old school RPG like EarthBound with a story about saving the world and uncovering mysteries in your town with your friends at your back. It's also, hence the "Post-Modern" title, supposed to be a deep analysis of the RPG genre as well as a dark and personal story about how many characters are personally affected by some kind of loss, topped with a complex story. This attempt to be a modern analysis using both an older artistic style and gameplay meant few players enjoyed it, as the gameplay was not particularly deep or interesting enough to satisfy fans of the genre, while people who played for the story were frustrated with how overly complex and confusing the story ended up being. In the end, its attempt to appeal to both modern story views and past gameplay fans meant it had no fans.
  • This is among the reasons why the Yo-Kai Watch series didn't catch on in the west: the game tried to target both fans of Mon games and fans of Japanese culture. The Thinly-Veiled Dub Country Change didn't sit well with people into yokai, while the gameplay and monster designs didn't attract fans of Mon games. The series drew heavily into Japanese mythology and humor not familiar to many Westerners, and the changes made in the English translation didn't endear it to those who were familiar with yokai and Japanese folklore. Within the series, content released after the third game has also faced this problem; with Yo-kai Watch 4 shifting its tone to be Darker and Edgier and gameplay to be more action-oriented and anime such as Yo-kai Watch: Shadowside and Yo-kai Watch: Forever Friends following suit. Existing fans were split on the shift away from the established tone and gameplay; while potential new ones didn't find the new elements complex enough.

    Visual Novels 
  • Go! Go! Nippon! ~my first trip to Japan~ is an English-language Visual Novel made in Japan specifically for foreign audiences. However the makers seem to be unsure on what that audience wants... It's about an Occidental Otaku (supposed to be the player himself) going to stay in Tokyo with two cute sisters for a week. In the developers' intentions, this game would be an educational one, a way to learn about actual Japanese landmarks and customs with a funny product tailor-made for otakus. However, these elements do not mix well since the protagonist's wacky shenanigans are too lame and boring for actual otakus and too off-putting for anyone else (since he's usually portrayed as a dorky Manchild) and the educational part is limited at best since you can't even access to all the info you gathered until you have completed the game (besides that, it's all stuff you can find on the internet for free). Plus, despite the fact that the company that made this is specialized in erotic VNs, there's no sex at all, thus alienating their overseas fans. Despite this, being released on Steam and featured in a series of bundles ensured that the title sold moderately well.

    Web Articles 
  • In the Making Magic article "Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons—Part 3", lesson 15 talks about the pitfall of trying to appeal to everyone and ending up appealing to no one, and highlights the card Molten Sentry as an example of this problem. Molten Sentry could be a 5/2 with haste or a 2/5 with defender depending on the outcome of a coin flip. The idea was that it would appeal to both the "Timmy" and "Spike" Player Archetypes (Timmy being a player who loves Awesome, but Impractical craziness, Spike being one who plays competitively and tactically), as Timmy would find the coin flip fun and exciting, while Spike would appreciate the balance of the possible outcomes. In practice, neither of them liked it: Timmy found it boring because the outcomes of the coin flip were too bland and balanced, while Spike was put off by how the card took what could have been an interesting, skill-intensive choice and left it up to a coin flip.

    Web Comic 
  • Sonichu has an uncertain audience. A fanwork taking heavy influence from both Sonic the Hedgehog and Pokémon would be expected to be family-friendly, and the plot and characterizations are simplistic enough. But couple that with references to shows that would fly over kids' heads such as Gilligan's Island and Family Guy, frequent segues into self-indulgent Author Tracts, and increasingly common graphic violence and sex, and you'll understand why it's as infamous as it is.

    Web Video 
  • Just Bad Games accuses all three of the Tiny Toon Adventures videogames on PlayStation of being this, as they were Point-and-Click Adventure Games marketed at very young audiences but released years after the show was on the air. Fans of Tiny Toons wouldn't be interested in these games as they were now in High School at least, while the intended audience of the game would have no clue what Tiny Toons or who these characters even were.
  • Discussed by the Game Grumps during their playthrough of Link: The Faces of Evil when they begin repeatedly quoting the villain's hammy "You must die!" over and over and acknowledge that it's probably going to piss a lot of people off. They point out that they continue to do things that irritate a lot of their fans like "The Butthole Sniffin' Adventure" from Inside and the Grubba voice from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door not to be Trolling Creators but because they never actually know how popular any one bit is and when a bunch of fan complaints are just a Vocal Minority. Arin explained how he gets tons of messages from fans begging him to never do the Butthole Sniffin' Adventure voice again, and yet it's one of the most requested voices from fans who meet him in real life. They then point out how no matter what they do there will be people put off by it, and thus they need to pick a lane, pick an audience, stick with the bit, and hope for the best rather than attempting to please everyone and ultimately pleasing no one.
  • The 8-Bit Guy brings this up when discussing the 2019 re-release of the Speak & Spell. Young people today wouldn't be interested like children from the 70's as everything can speak nowadays and there's dozens of apps that can do what this toy did. The nostalgia crowd wouldn't be interested as it's not close enough to the original, with its much worse screen and lack of some features, to capture their nostalgic feelings for it. The hacking crowd wouldn't be interested since the new one is completely unhackable owing to being condensed to a single chip on a board. The collector crowd wouldn't be interested since there is such a surplus of originals that you can get them for as cheap, if not cheaper, than the new one in thrift stores and on E-Bay. He ultimately considers it a failure, in spite of the genuine effort they made to make it look and act like the original, because it simply won't appeal to any of the four groups that would potentially want such a thing.
  • Discussed by Todd in the Shadows:
    • In his look at "Cyberpunk" by Billy Idol for his "Trainwreckords" series, he asked his brother about the album and got the response "who is this for?" The album largely failed to appease Idol's existing fan base from his previous works, and it also failed to win over new listeners. The album also didn't resonate with actual members of cyberpunk subculture, who saw Billy as chasing a trend (the album features a song called "Neuromancer", which Billy had never read and was subsequently called out on it by its author, William Gibson). Despite delivering a hit with "Shock To the System," the album largely failed and Idol's career has never fully recovered.
    • He has brought up several times that it's self-defeating to try to make your music critical of itself (if you like the music, you'll probably be put off by the message, and if you like the message, you probably don't want to listen to the music). He in part attributes the failure of Madonna's American Life to this, and argues that even if he had bought into Jewel's explanation that "Intuition" is ironic (he thinks she was only using that as an excuse for making commercialized pop music), the song would just fall into that trap. He also says that Katy Perry's underperforming "Chained to the Rhythm" could never have been a hit because it has this kind of premise.
      Todd: Madonna decided the solution was to make her music critical of itself. And what you get is pop music that makes you feel bad for listening to it. You may remember that Katy Perry tried to do the same thing for the same reasons and got the same results. No one wants this.
    • Katy Perry's "Bon Appétit" uses food-based innuendo and a music video about cooking Katy in an attempt to be sexual while sticking to Katy's usual fun tone and tacky video style. He felt that these elements did not work together at all, and just made the whole thing "too gross to be fun" and "way too stupid to be erotic."
    • He says that during the Witness era, Katy tried to appeal to everyone with messages like "it's important to have conversations with political opponents", but it was rejected because she just came off as a squishy centrist and someone too worried about alienating people to get much out of her "message" era.

    Western Animation 
  • This doomed the first wave of prime-time animated shows that were created in response to The Simpsons, namely Capitol Critters, Fish Police and Family Dog. While The Simpsons firmly established itself as a show explicitly geared towards adults but appealing to kids, the shows following it were unsure whether they were adult shows mostly suitable for kids or full-blown kids' shows. That their writing, designs and animation were more befitting Saturday morning cartoons of the era did not help matters.
  • This may be why Dan Vs. never got much of a mainstream audience. It's a Black Comedy that occasionally deals with mature themes (such as murder and marital problems), has a Heroic Comedic Sociopath as the protagonist, and sometimes heads into very dark territory (one episode ends with the implication that a character is going to be raped). It's also filled to the brim with wacky slapstick, surreal plots, has little-to-no blood or swearing, and would air in the middle of the afternoon just an hour or two after a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic rerun.
  • In-universe during Cleveland's return to Family Guy in "He's Bla-ack!", when the guys roast The Cleveland Show. It certainly wasn't unwarranted; the show was obviously meant to appeal to black audiences, but it starred a character who was little more than a Token Black Friend in the original who had few jokes that didn't center on his race in some way. It didn't help that the show's initial setup was incredibly similar to Family Guy itself.
    Quagmire: It's not a good sign that this is the first time people even realized you had a show.
    Joe: Your logo was stupid. It looked like a big purple penis and your ratings blew.
    Cleveland: We did about the same as Bob's Burgers.
    Quagmire: That's your bar? Shame on you!
    Cleveland: This is good. This is constructive.
    Quagmire: The talking bear was so bad, Seth MacFarlane stopped voicing him after season 2.
    Cleveland: It's hard to make a talking bear funny.
    Quagmire: Oh-ho-ho! But it sure worked out well in movie form.
    Joe: Who was your show's audience? Y'know, who'd you make it for? Some Black guy who never met another Black guy?
  • The first season of The Looney Tunes Show couldn't decide if it wanted to appeal to sitcom fans or fans of classic Looney Tunes, though the show would come to commit to the former with its second season.
  • Likewise Loonatics Unleashed was originally supposed to be a Darker and Edgier superhero reimagining of the Tunes set in a dystopian future. After public criticism, the first season attempted to include some of the humor of the original shorts, while the second season tried even harder to become more of a comedy-action show. However, it never seemed sure how serious or how funny it wanted to be and neither element was handled particularly well. People who wanted a Darker and Edgier dystopian show were put off by the humour, and fans of the original Looney Tunes shorts didn't get enough humour to justify watching a dystopian superhero show.
  • A major reason Father of the Pride flopped so badly was that the humour was too raunchy for children but at the same time too unsophisticated for its intended adult audience.
  • This is the reason why The Adventures of Kid Danger doesn't have much positive attention. It's too far removed from its source material to appeal to its fans, while it doesn't do much to draw in new fans.
  • Magical Girl Friendship Squad seemed to be targeting an audience that didn't exist, or if it did, was too narrow to make the show a success. It was presented in advertisements as an Affectionate Parody of the Magical Girl genre. However, not only did it air on a Science Fiction-focused channel, but in practice, its early episodes were a Shallow Parody that focused primarily on reference and millennial humor instead. Couple that with poor animation, and you have a show that tries to serve multiple groups, but in practice ended up appealing to very few people. It also didn't help that the show went out of its way to insult anime fans, the very demographic the show's premise was supposed to be aiming for.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016) failed in part because it was uncertain whether it was aimed at new fans or returning fans. At first glance, it's a hard reboot with a new Rogues Gallery, tweaked personalities for the girls, and a new Lighter and Softer tone. Yet in practice, it's actually a Soft Reboot, filled with many references and Call Backs to events that occurred in the original cartoon. For example, the series expects you to already know things such as Mojo Jojo being their archenemy and his involvement in their creation, but also has him Demoted to Extra and used mostly for quick gags. This makes the series unappealing to both new fans who don't understand the references and old fans who don't like the new tonal and stylistic changes.
  • Teen Titans Go! arguably runs into this. Though a comedic retool of Teen Titans aimed at kids growing up in the 2010s, it features a lot of references and jokes aimed at older DC fans, as well as adores Parental Bonuses and Shout Outs to pop culture going as far back as the 1960s, despite the fact that even the target audience of the 2003 cartoon would have to look up some of jokes. It's hard to tell if Teen Titans Go is targeted exclusively at kids or if it's aimed at general audiences, but considering its popularity with kids, it might not matter.
  • ThunderCats Roar runs into the exact same issues as Teen Titans Go, where it's a more kid-friendly comedic reboot of the original series that the fans dislike, but throws in many jabs and references to the original series and 2011 reboot series that only older fans would understand. Unlike TTG and its ilk, however, the Thundercats franchise lacked the Pop Culture Osmosis that other long-running franchises boast, making this trope hit much harder, contributing to the show being cancelled after just one season.
  • Crunchyroll ran into a bit of a bind when other streaming services started offering original shows: Crunchyroll itself had to come up with its own original series to remain competitive, but it's an American site that specializes in streaming Asian shows (especially Japanese anime), meaning it cannot produce the kind of show its primary audience expects. This gave its attempts at original shows quite the uphill climb:
    • High Guardian Spice seems to have a severe identity crisis. Everything from the cutesy art style, simple dialogue, and young protagonists who go to a magic school suggest that it's aimed at a general audience of children or at least families, but the fair amount of cursing and the inconsistent use of bloody violence in later episodes are too heavy for younger viewers, while also being too jarring and tonally incongruous for older ones. According to the show's creator, it was originally intended for younger viewers, but Executive Meddling pushed to add more mature content to Avoid the Dreaded G Rating, resulting in gratuitous blood and swearing that feels out of place.
    • The tone of Onyx Equinox varies wildly. On the surface, it appears to aim for a children/teen audience, taking artistic and storyline cues from shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, this is juxtaposed with explicitly adult content, with the regular presence of gory violence (including on-screen ritual sacrifice), foul language, and sexual content. The content and context clearly seem to be targeting two separate demographics, with no attempt to reconcile the varying tones.
  • It's unclear whether Big Mouth is aimed more at teenagers going through puberty or adults reminiscing about their puberty. The show is rated TV-MA and features explicit nudity, heavy sexual subject matter, and other details that make it inappropriate for younger audiences. On the contrary, many episodes take an anvilicious educational approach to subjects like sex education and personal identity that seem more like messages to help young teens still undergoing puberty (though adults may still appreciate them). The scenes featuring children's genitals provoke criticism regardless of the demographic - the sexual humor may be too inappropriate for 12-year-old viewers, but adults watching a show with a focus on child sexuality is often berated as creepy. The show itself loves to lampshade this on occasion, almost always in a Hypocritical Humor fashion.
  • Peepoodo & the Super Fuck Friends struggled hard at even getting picked up due to the apparent uncertain audience for the show; unusually, the uncertainty was more about what platform it belonged on rather than who the intended viewers were. According to the creators of the show, the show is meant to be a sex education show for older teenagers and young adults that is educational and funny. However, it is extremely sexually explicit and vulgar without being truly pornographicnote , meaning streaming services were uncomfortable in picking it up while porn sites also were not interested in putting it on their platforms. It was finally funded through Kickstarter and hosted on its own website, allowing the potential audience to pay for its production themselves.
  • Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet had this problem, being a Darker and Edgier reboot of a series that was itself pretty dark for a children's show but still being marketed as a show for kids in the six to twelve age range. The occasional somewhat clumsy attempt at avoiding censorship didn't help, the most notable example being an episode where the Mysterons are using some kind of Mind Control to make people kill themselves where none of the characters were allowed to say "suicide".
  • My Little Pony: Pony Life reuses most of the characters and concepts from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic but is set in a comedy-focused Alternate Universe that doesn't establish those characters and concepts within itself, reminiscent of Teen Titans Go! If the show is intended for the younger age brackets, it offers little that FiM didn't; if it intended to bring in new viewers, the show doesn't do much that would appeal to them if they weren't interested in FiM. The result is that Pony Life sits in a limbo where fans of Friendship is Magic are apathetic to it, non-fans who weren't interested in FiM probably won't be interested in the show either, and non-fans who are interested in FiM can start watching any time and would probably prefer it to Pony Life.
  • Total DramaRama was marketed towards fans of the original Total Drama, which hadn't aired a new episode in three years (four if you don't count the spinoff), but the plots and comedy style are designed to appeal to an audience even younger than the target demographic of the parent series. Those who watched the show as children are now teens or older, and unlikely to watch a spinoff aimed at very young kids, while the very young kids likely didn't watch the original, and the serialized plot and adult humor makes it unlikely that they'd get invested in that series retroactively. Unlike something like Muppet Babies or Teen Titans Go!, Total Drama isn't even an established franchise property. Even those who think it's a decent show still don't understand why it had to be a Total Drama spinoff.
  • Winx Club: Season 8 was a Soft Reboot with a new childish, doll-like art style (a complete Art Shift from the Animesque style that had been the show's trademark) and the return of season 3 Big Bad Valtor. The new art style and overhaul of the show were confirmed by Word of God to have been done to attract new views from children, but first-time viewing kids wouldn't know who Valtor was or have reason to care without going back five seasons, and older viewers who would otherwise be drawn in by the return of a popular villain were repelled by the massive changes made. Unsurprsingly, there are rumors that it may be the show's final season.
  • This is a big problem with the Spanish Anime-inspired series Virtual Hero. On one hand, the show has a broad comedy of farts, butt jokes, and very immature, sometimes innocent, humor similar to Teen Titans Go!. On the other hand, it has strong language (including R-rated swearing like "fuck" and "shit"), inappropriate scenes like Rubius building a giant penis with Minecraft blocks that comes to life, and starting Season 2, the show gets Bloodier and Gorier at times. Teenagers and adults would not be interested in watching a cartoon based on a youtuber like ElRubius, his jokes or much less his comic books, and children would likely not be allowed to watch the show due to its raunchiness and graphic violence.

 
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ALfheim Online

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