Looking back: R.U.S.E and why gamers don’t reward new IP development

4 mins read

What happens when you take a genre that console gamers don’t usually get to enjoy, work hard to make it look good and play well and then release it? Encouragement to never do it again. That’s precisely what happened to one of Ubisoft’s most interesting games in recent times, R.U.S.E.

From the start the game worked hard to display its strategic credentials. Scale the map right back and you’ll get a tactical view of the battlefield that looks like the tabletop wargames of old. The careful pacing allows players to think and react with precision and implement real-world military tactics. The ‘Ruses’ that the game took its name from added another layer to the strategy, abstractly recreating the role communications and espionage plays in war.

At the same time, there was concessions to the more traditional console gamers. It was possible to zoom right up to individual units, which gave players a dynamic view of the action that is rare in wargames, but expected of console games. There were Move controls in the PS3 game built in to adequately replace the traditional mouse-and-keyboard controls. The gameplay style itself didn’t demand the use of hotkeys, which has been a traditional bottleneck preventing RTS games working well on consoles.

Bringing the two together should have been a big success. It was well received by critics overall (78 rating on Metacritic for the Xbox 360 version), and that was always going to be a problematic area for the game. Many of the less positive reviews pulled the game up for its “slow pace,” but that’s largely the point of these larger-scale strategy games. Would you criticise chess for being slow? Possibly, but you’d be missing the point. Those critics that understood how strategy games work were overwhelmingly positive about the game.

But something went wrong. According to VGChartz (not the most reliable source of game sales data, I know, but a good guideline), R.U.S.E sold just 700,000 copies worldwide. The developers, Eugen Systems, went back to PC-only development for the followup Wargame: European Escalation.

What happened? Gamers constantly cry out for new IP and for developers and the big publishers to push the envelope, but over and over again they don’t reward those developers and publishers that develop new IP and take creative risks. We saw it with Kingdoms of Amalur and its underwhelming sales, and before that R.U.S.E was proof that gamers don’t actually like stepping away from their comfort zones.

It’s a great pity. Though the wargame genre is a niche one, it’s an enormously rewarding genre, and with the emergence of digital distribution, it seems destined that the genre will find its future home on the iPad rather than the consoles. Or, in other words, because console gamers don’t invest in new IP, the genre that is undeniably hardcore is going to end up on the devices that “hardcore” gamers decry as being “casual.”

Ironic, huh?

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  • Did Ubisoft market R.U.S.E. at all? I've never even heard of it, and I get around as you probably know. (Did that come out wrong?) Anyway, I love new IPs that are actually new gameplay experiences like the R.U.S.E. instead of new IPs that are basically the same games we've been already playing with just new names and new characters.

    And I don't even think VGChartz is a good guideline. The owner constantly pulls numbers from his jock (if jock isn't appropriate, I will edit), and then stealthily fixes them when real numbers come in. You're better off asking a fortune teller.

    Take care!

  • R.U.S.E was published by Ubi about two years ago. It was certainly the most high profile wargame to have been released in a long time – I can't think of another major publisher even taking one on. 

    I can guarantee you if you're looking for new gameplay experiences, RUSE will do it for you 🙂

    I'm going to give VGChartz the benefit of the doubt in this case as the data is two years old. If indeed the owner edits data as it comes in, it would have been edited by now. It's well known that R.U.S.E didn't exactly light up the charts. 

  • I played the demo and found it very fun for an RTS game. I never really played RTS games and found the demo very enjoyable, I should of bought the game. Consoles rely too much on franchises than new IPs every year, it's sad. 

  • If you ever do buy the game, let me know. Predictably, R.U.S.E's online community is dead, and I'm always looking out for someone to multiplay with. 

    Thanks for dropping by!

  • Again blame the gamer.

    How about the fact that those games were generic garbage?

    Kingdoms of amalkur sold well considering the game isnt good

  • I felt the same way about enslaved Odessy to the west. One of my favorite games no one bought

  • I don't, but I remember watching one trailer for it before it released, and thought it looked interesting. It looks like it can be purchased for under $20 now…

  • Ah! If you're in to strategy games (and proper strategy games – slow paced, but deep and involving), then R.U.S.E is a safe buy. 😀

  • I've long been interested in RUSE, but admit that I never picked it up.  It got good reviews, even though I heard almost nothing about it until 6 months after its release.  It just keeps getting bumped down the list from newer games that are coming out now, or my backlog of older ones I have yet to play through.

  • It makes me sick. This same exact thing can be said about all the people that gripe and complain that "Vita's got no games!" The idea that only AAA first party titles are good is ridiculous. It blows my flippin' mind! 

    There are so many great games that have RECENTLY RELEASED across the major platforms in the past six months to keep most anyone playing until next year!

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