Alien: Blackout and Bandwagon of Mobile-Game Outrage
Back in November of last year, word got out that 20th Century Fox had trademarked the name Alien: Blackout for use in conjunction with “game software.” This news fueled speculation that this was the title for the brand new shooter being worked on by Cold Iron Studios after their acquisition by the FoxNext games division. Many fans held out hope that this was going to be the long awaited sequel to Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation, which released to commercial and critical success back in 2014. In fact, it was widely believed that the game was going to receive an official announcement at the 2018 Game Awards, but when that came and went with nary a word of confirmation, people were understandably confused. However, all of our questions were answered when Alien: Blackout was officially announced on December 6 albeit with one unexpected piece of information...it’s a mobile game.
As one has come to expect with these things the internet was quick to implode in on itself, scores of angry tweets flooded social media in response to the announcement, the majority of them comparing it with the Blizzcon, Diablo Immortal debacle a few months back. Many fans are furious that the next installment of the Alien IP appears to simply be a Five Nights at Freddy’s rip off rather than the FPS survival horror experience they were anticipating. This disapproval is further compounded by the fact that the game will have no narrative connection to Alien: Isolation despite featuring the same protagonist, Amanda Ripley.
We seem to be repeating this same cycle of outrage that occurs every time a studio is expected to make a major announcement regarding one of their future projects. Rather than confirming what most people had hoped, they instead reveal plans for an upcoming mobile game, thus instigating a PR firestorm as upset consumers bash the company for being so out of touch. But how much of this outrage is truly deserved? How do we determine when a studio is truly at fault for misjudging the wants of their customers and when it is the fault of customers themselves for having built their expectations up so much in the first place?
In the case of Alien: Blackout I believe that the criticism is, for the most part, unfair. Many people seem to simply be jumping on the mobile game hate bandwagon. I’ve never been a huge fan of mobile games but I understand their value to a video game studio; they’re easy to make, can rake in a ton of revenue and are available to play for virtually everyone with a smartphone. I’d never blame a developer for making one as there is a substantial market for them. However, they should never be advertised as the next big project for your company especially when it is known you have already have far more ambitious titles in development. Putting mobile games on the same pedestal as Triple-A games is asking for trouble and is the root of the Diablo: Immortal controversy that got Blizzard into hot water. Choosing to bookend your annual gaming convention by announcing a mobile version of one of your most popular IP’s was woefully misguided especially amongst the buzz that a new game was in the works. Obviously, the problem was only exacerbated by the now infamous “Do you guys not have phones?” comment. On the other hand, Alien: Blackout was not announced at a massive convention and I assume this is part of the reason they chose not to have it appear at the Game Awards. One can only imagine how much more vocal the opposition would have been had it happened then.
It seems that the biggest issue with the announcement of Blackout is that fans misinterpreted the signs as pointing towards something far bigger than what was intended. The lack of news regarding the Cold Iron developed Alien title, which is still in the works by the way, resulted in massive speculation causing them to attribute any bit of Alien related news as being indicative of an impending announcement. When their predictions turned out to be false they took out their disappointment on the studio responsible. Now whether, Alien: Blackout will be any good or not is anyone’s guess (If you want my honest opinion, I’m not holding out too much hope for this one…) but that’s not what's important. If you don’t think it looks good, or don’t like mobile games in genera,l then don’t play it, end of story. Don’t blame a company that was under no obligation or expectation to deliver an announcement for an entirely separate product for not delivering what you wanted. That being said, if this next Alien game sucks I’m going to sound like a real jackass in retrospect.