It’s time for a sequel to the freaky Gamecube classic…
Silicon Knights has had a bit of bad luck lately. Bad luck? I actually call it reality. It’s what happens when a studio with a particular set of skills decides to leave their niche in order to hit a more mainstream crowd. Action games seem to be more popular than Lovecraftian horror tales. Eternal Darkness didn’t sell too well. Nintendo and Silicon Knights took some time off from each other in their relationship. Nintendo originally recognized the skills of Silicon Knights and realized they could fill a gap in the Nintendo library. The mature game. The type Nintendo don’t have the experience in making.
(Nintendo also treasures its “family-friendly” image in the eyes of parents world-wide. When they target the mature gamer they will always make sure that it’s through a partnership or subsidiary or just through making the resources available for third-party developer. Don’t expect Miyamoto to start adding blood into his games and then labeling them under the Nintendo brand.)
So, Silicon Knights scratched Nintendo’s back and Nintendo scratched their back in return, offering development assistance and financial help in marketing. But, the games Silicon Knights created, despite being a critical success, only performed lukewarm commercially. So, the deal was off. Nintendo let Silicon Knights go on their merry way* and SK chose more powerful consoles, a more mature audience, and a broadened, more mainstream set of gameplay. News Flash: It hasn’t been easy for Silicon Knights ever since.
Nintendo turned to Retro Studios to create games with Western sensibilities and to Monolith Soft to create games with massive and complex worlds. Silicon Knights has developed two more games: Too Human and X-Men: Destiny. Both games marched out into the market with aplomb and found themselves met with derisive reception. Nintendo found success with Retro and Monolith but that didn’t put them on the map with mature gamers. Nintendo seems to be searching for methods of reaching the hardcore market with the Wii U. They still have a need for a developer with skills in producing games with mature themes.
My suggestion: Silicon Knights and Nintendo should rekindle the old flame.
Silicon Knights have a specific set of skills that they know how to execute with mastery. They have an uncanny ability to produce immersive fantasy/sci-fi worlds and make them believable by way of atmosphere and backstory. Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain? An action-adventure/RPG that was extolled for its moody atmosphere, compelling storyline, and high-quality voice acting. Eternal Darkness? A Lovecraftian “experience” that won critical acclaim for its psychological brand of horror, generation-spanning storyline, and its unique approach to character development. Too Human? The otherwise-criticized game was praised for blending science fiction with Norse mythology, providing an art design that brought that mythology to life, and delivering an epic and meaningful tale about the ills of transhumanism.
It’s quite obvious to me: Silicon Knight should be going down a route more similar to Bioware games. The mythology and backdrop they can achieve in their worlds can compete with Bioware. And their ability to create a moody atmosphere possibly surpasses their fellow Canadian developers. If they followed such a path I’m confident they would meet success in the eyes of the critics.
But, what about commercially, financially? Why would Nintendo want to take a risk on Silicon Knights again? I think there are two answers.
1) The whole “sophisticated-and-complex-mythological-world” type of game has come into favor due to games like Mass Effect and Skyrim. Whereas Final Fantasy VII once sat on the throne of the epic fantasy world and led the Western World into the embrace of the JRPG, the newest form of epic world that has found favor with the West is the WRPG. It has a different flavor to it. It tastes like Fall-Out, Elder Scrolls, and Mass Effect. I think that’s a market Silicon Knights can tap into.
2) Silicon Knights tried out a new franchise when they first released Eternal Darkness. It was an unknown. But, guess what? It’s a decade since ED was released and most gamers have heard of it by now. It’s something of a legend- often considered the most under-appreciated game of that generation. If Eternal Darkness 2 was announced you can trust that it would be incredibly hyped and benefit from an exposure never available to the original.
Message to Nintendo and Silicon Knights: It’s Time for Eternal Darkness 2!!**
*Nintendo still owns stock in Silicon Knights.
** Dennis Dyack, the founder of SK, has repeatedly stated that Eternal Darkness 2 is definitely a possibility. Earlier this month he replied that Eternal Darkness 2 is “not too much to ask.” And finally, it seems that Silicon Knights has licensed Wii U dev kits. So, maybe Eternal Darkness 2 is also not too much to hope for?