July 2, 2022

Alan Wake – The Slow Road to Success

I confess right off the bat I didn’t fall in love with Alan Wake.

Alan Wake, the survival horror X-Box 360 game that took seven years to come to market, was to me an exercise in delay and compromise. The script was fantastic – the story well told, the scenes uncomfortable and yet gripping. But it remained within the cliche boundaries of the genre, the game itself little more than a by-numbers Survival Horror game, with fixed camera points to obscure things at times and a heady reliance on mist and fog to create atmosphere.

Yet I didn’t HATE it. There was something to like about Alan Wake.

After its initial X-Box 360 release, it had seemed like Alan Wake, as a series, was doomed as one of those games that simply couldn’t create the franchise it so desperately needed to come good. Sales were pretty low, and feeling was very mixed. After seven years and some millions of dollars in funding, it just seemed to whimper, rather than roar.

Recently though, something rather strange has happened.

For a start, Microsoft allowed it to be released on the PC – which has seen very healthy sales. This has been coupled with a stand-alone X-Box Live offering called “Alan Wake’s American Nightmare”, a sort of pulp entry into the horror genre as Alan Wake gets himself trapped in Night Springs, the television show he wrote the scripts for.

And, more surprisingly, Alan Wake has aged well. To me, it’s still not the finest example of the survival horror genre – but then, the survival horror genre hasn’t had many convincing entries in recent years, has it? Alan Wake is at the very least a competent and well-written entrant into the genre. At best, it’s one of the more notably decent entrants since Dead Space.

The PC version did very well – notching up considerable sales. And American Nightmare was a success too, not just in terms of sales but, more importantly for them, critically too. People liked it, were clear that they liked it, and we mostly all enjoyed it too.

This has been good news for Remedy – who have now confirmed they are working on a next-gen title. Is it another entry into the Alan Wake franchise? Who knows. But when the future of their company looked so ropey a couple years ago, that the game that almost brought them down has brought them right back up again is hilarious and almost iconic and cliche in terms of narrative. It’s almost poetic.

Looking at Assassins Creed as an example, any future installment can only get better, and Alan Wake does deserve an Alan Wake 2. It does deserve a second chance. We’ve already demonstrated we have forgiven it a multitude of sins – a second installment can only learn from the mistakes of the past, for a better game.

It’s taken two years for Alan Wake to go from a relative flop to success story. Moral of the story? Sometimes, the industry shouldn’t so easily give up on a title just because it was a bit ropey at launch.

Alan Wake came good in the end. Like any good writer though, he took his sweet sodding time…


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