Why bother bringing Alan Wake back?
When Alan Wake first came to Xbox 360 in May 2010, he found himself facing enormous competition.
It has been an exceptionally busy month of May for video games which was headlined by Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption, which became a worldwide hit. As a result, and despite good reviews, Alan Wake struggled to find the audience he needed.
11 years later, developer Remedy – having secured the IP rights from Microsoft – is set to release an Alan Wake remaster for modern consoles. And while this is one of the quietest years for video games in a long time, Alan Wake returns once again in an unusually busy few weeks, with players like FIFA, Far Cry, Back4Blood, and Metroid battling it out. all for the supremacy of the charts.
“I wonder if it’s just our kind of karma where we like to pick dates when other big titles are released,” laughs Johannes Paloheimo, Commercial Director of Remedy. “We are staying true to the tradition here with the remaster.”
Of course, the gaming market is different today. While in 2010, these first weeks are crucial for the commercial success of a game, this is no longer the case today, especially with the rise of digital technology and the decline of the opportunity.
And Alan Wake is no longer a new IP address loaded with a huge amount of waiting. In 2010, it was Remedy’s first game in seven years after its acclaimed Max Payne titles, and it was exclusive to the market-leading Xbox 360.
“I remember when the game came out, I was still doing journalism,” begins Thomas Puha, communications director at Remedy. “And Finland’s biggest newspaper called me and asked, ‘This game didn’t sell for a million, did it bomb?’ The first few weeks are super critical, but there was no point in comparing Alan Wake to something like Max Payne – it’s been almost eight years between games and things have changed dramatically.
“Alan Wake took a long time to come out. People were waiting for him every year, including myself. Then it’s not this year or this year or this year, and at some point you just lose momentum.
“When I joined Remedy, one of the first things I asked was, so what have you been doing for seven years? It was a fascinating discussion, as there were people working there every day. And we certainly learned a lot from this. ”
“Finland’s biggest newspaper called me and asked, ‘This game didn’t sell for a million, did it bomb?'”
Thomas Puha, Remedy
Paloheimo adds: “I was an underdog at the time, but I see it’s kind of like second album syndrome. Coming from Max Payne, Remedy had all the time and financial resources to create the next big thing. And that’s a difficult position to be.
“The ambitions were very high for Alan Wake. But they had to go back and make big changes. They went from an open world to a more linear experience. And there was a lot of internal research on. . what to do? And how can they do it? “
For all the talk around what went wrong with Alan Wake, it’s worth remembering that the franchise not only survived its rough beginnings, but has become a cult classic. There are fan sites dedicated to it, and Remedy has even managed to return to the series via the DLC for its latest hit game, Control.
It may not have sold out in large numbers, but for those who have discovered the game, Alan Wake has lived in memory for a long time.
“It has something to do with the way we build games,” suggests Paloheimo. “The stories, the mysteries, the world… there’s a lot that goes unsaid. The way Sam [Lake, Creative Director] and our other creators address these experiences, it just leaves a lot of mystery on the table that people want to know more about. It goes very deep into your soul. “
Alan Wake was certainly unique for his time, a big-budget horror mystery that drew comparisons to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, which also made a comeback thanks to its enduring fandom.
What was crucial for Alan Wake’s comeback, however, was that Remedy took control of Microsoft’s IP. In 2012, the developer was able to self-publish the game on Steam, which immediately attracted a new audience and allowed the company to have a direct relationship with its fans.
It also allowed Remedy to try things that a large company like Microsoft would find it difficult to see a lot of value in doing.
“Having more freedom with your games allows you to do more groundwork and slowly build audiences,” says Paloheimo. “This kind of work takes a lot of time and effort, and the return may not seem like big enough for a large company.
“Steam was a great financial success for Alan Wake, but we also chose Nordic Game to retail for [the PC version of] Alan Wake. And they were also doing 20 or 30 different digital stores that we don’t run. We saw all these little streams come together to become a river, and from there it just kept growing. It took a lot of time and effort, and for Microsoft it would have been too much work for too little return. ”
“A lot of praise goes to Microsoft for giving us the opportunity to expand Alan Wake outside of the Xbox ecosystem”
Johannes Paloheimo, Remedy
Puha adds: “There would be no Alan Wake without Microsoft. It’s totally understandable that big companies are moving on. It’s a very different point of view on our side, where it’s really ours and we agree the sources of income are low. “
Paloheimo again: “We are very grateful and a lot of praise goes to Microsoft for allowing us to do this and for giving us the opportunity to expand Alan Wake outside of the Xbox ecosystem.”
Alan Wake Remastered was announced in an unusual way. The game was revealed – just five weeks before its release – via The Sudden Stop fan website, something suggested by PR agency Edelman and Remedy felt it was the perfect idea.
And then a few days later, the game got an even deeper reveal as part of Sony’s PlayStation showcase.
“The stars agreed that we could take this very community-friendly approach to announce it and then a few days later follow up with this huge pace with Sony,” Paloheimo said.
“It was a very risky bet. You never know how these things will play out. We’re a company that tries to do big things, but we’re always small and nimble and can do things that big publishers might find. too risky. Sony I could have said ‘no, you can’t say it before we do’. But they were very supportive of us. “
The timing also works for Alan Wake’s return, Puha says. Although the series struggled for sales overall, its spiritual successor – the control of 2019 – continued to reach 10 million players. It was this game that allowed the developer to create the ‘Remedy Connected Universe’ and bring back Alan Wake.
Remedy is hopeful that Control fans will take this opportunity to give Alan Wake a try. And there is also another audience that Remedy hopes to attract with this remaster.
“The PlayStation audience didn’t know Alan Wake, and PlayStation fans tend to like storytelling games, which is what we do,” says Puha.
“That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of fans on the Xbox side who haven’t known Alan Wake, who also enjoys single-player games. I played. [Microsoft-published] Psychonauts 2 over the last couple of weeks, and it’s great that something like that has been released.
“In the last couple of years single-player games have… I wouldn’t say they’ve come back, because they never left. But this discussion of single-player games that are dying… I think we can now forget that. People love single player games. And Alan Wake is a pretty unique storytelling experience, for sure. ”
Remedy owns Alan Wake, but the company does not self-publish this one. In fact, it’s one of the first games to come out of the new publishing division of Epic Games.
“It was in 2019 when we got the last part of the editing rights back, and that’s when we thought we could continue this remaster,” Paloheimo said. “We got to know Hector [Sanchez, head of Epic Games Publishing], before joining Epic. We had a relationship there and we were made aware of the publication initiative. We reached out to him and said, “What if we do something with Alan Wake?” ”
“This talk about the death of single player games … I think we can now forget about it”
Thomas Puha, Remedy
“The way they perceive creative studios and talent, as well as their different approach to publishing, really impressed us. It was something we wanted to support and wanted to be a part of. ”
Puha says, “At this point, Epic Games Publishing was mostly just Hector. So we were very aware of the fact that we were in the process of launching while they were still building this operation. But the initial meeting went so well. think the high-level details were wiped out in a matter of weeks. ”
Back in Paloheimo: “It was really good from the start. Long term forms that tend to be the hard part of a post negotiation that were done and swept away in no time.
“Alan Wake Remastered is a good product to start a publishing relationship. It’s not like we’re creating a new IP or something risky and unfamiliar.”
If speculation is to be believed (and neither Puha nor Paloheimo would confirm or deny anything), this isn’t the last we’ll hear from Alan Wake. And the studio signed a two-game deal with Epic, which Remedy confirmed to us earlier this year set in the same universe.
But the question that remains for me is why? Remedy continues to make games for Microsoft (he developed the single player mode for the upcoming CrossfireX). And in Control, he’s a smash hit (the studio has already confirmed he’s making a sequel). Aside from the cult fanbase, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to dust off an 11-year-old game that struggled to find an audience to begin with. So why bother?
“A lot of people live and breathe Alan Wake here,” Puha replies. “We’ve always said it’s a franchise that is close to our hearts. The idea of a remaster has been around for several years. The game has never been on a PlayStation platform, so there is a huge following. who we miss.
“And, you know, things get old. And while it was cutting edge on Xbox 360 back then, and still looks pretty good, it’s a 2010 game. The redesign and upgrade made sense.
“But really, of course, it’s a passion for us. We love Alan Wake.”