I like Arkane’s 2017 immersive sim Prey (opens in new tab) a lot—even more than I liked Human Head’s 2006 FPS of the same name. (Which, for the record, I liked quite a lot too.) But I was always baffled by the decision to reuse the title. Developer Arkane was explicit that its game was not a sequel or a remake, and had “no tie with the original (opens in new tab),” and it’s not as though the 2006 game was such a smash hit that it carried immutable PR value.
It was a fairly widespread point of confusion, in fact, and not just among gamers but also at Arkane. In fact, studio founder Raphael Colantonio, who left Arkane (opens in new tab) in 2017, said in a recent Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences interview that Bethesda’s insistence on using the name “was very, very hurtful,” and ultimately helped convince him that it was time to go.
“I did not want to call this game Prey,” Colantonio said. “I had to say I wanted to anyway in front of journalists, which is not my pleasure. I hate to lie. And those are sales lies, it’s not like a personal lie or whatever, but it still felt bad that I had to support a message I did not want. Not only me, but nobody in the team wanted to call this game Prey. Our game had nothing to do with Prey.
“I’m grateful that a company will give me the means to make a game and trust my ability with so many millions of dollars, I’m grateful of that—but there is a bit of the artistic, creative side that is insulted when you tell this artist, ‘Your game is going to be called Prey.’ You go like, I don’t think it should, I think it’s a mistake. It’s a sales mistake, because we’re going to get the backfires from the [original Prey fans], these ones are not going to be happy, then the ones who didn’t like Prey, they’re not even going to look for our game, they’re not going to find our game.”
“So that was part of, ah, I gotta go at this point, because I’m not in control of my own boat at this point.”
Colantonio also called the decision “a kick in the face” of the developers of the original game, and said he’s often wanted to apologize to the team for doing it. “It never was our intention to steal their IP and make it ours,” he said. “I was like, it’s gross, that’s not what I wanted to do. And so everybody lost. And the sales were horrible, by the way, of Prey. It was not a good decision.”
It was also a kick in the face to fans of the original who were looking forward to a proper sequel. Bethesda actually announced one in 2011 with a very cool cinematic trailer, but pulled the plug several years later, saying that “it wasn’t up to our quality standard.” Interest in the cancelled sequel has persisted in the years since then, though, reflecting some real enthusiasm for what might have been.
Arkane’s Prey famously did not sell well, despite being an outstanding immersive sim, and the confusion surrounding the title and connection to the original game (or lack thereof) no doubt did not help. But in a 2021 interview with MinnMax, Colantonio reflected on other marketing challenges facing the game, and immersive sims in general, which despite being widely regarded as cornerstone games remain a relatively niche interest.
“I think we did a great job at selling this game to people who would naturally like this game,” he said. “It’s very ‘inside baseball’ kind of thing, almost. If you look at it and you know what immersive sims are you totally see it, and you know that you’re going to love it. But I don’t think as a company—and I’m talking like between Bethesda and Arkane—I don’t think we did a good job at really selling it to a bigger number of people.”
“If you’ve never had amazing oysters, for example, it’s really hard to sell that to anyone. I could sell amazing oysters to someone who’s already had them because you know what is special about them, but otherwise people are gonna go, ‘well that’s just like a clam to me’.”
But in that interview too, he was critical of the choice of title. “The choice of name was probably a mistake, obviously,” he said. “Because I think it turned down the fans of the original. It also turned down the ones that did not like the original. Because why would they play Prey 2 if they didn’t like the original? So that was kind of a weird thing.”
Interestingly, while Arkane has moved away from immersive sims since Colantonio’s departure, releasing more accessible (but less interesting) games like Wolfenstein: Youngblood (opens in new tab), Deathloop (opens in new tab), and Redfall (opens in new tab) (which won’t actually be out until 2023, so judgments on that one are reserved for now), Colantonio has embraced the form (opens in new tab) from a very different perspective with Weird West (opens in new tab), with largely successful results. Weird West’s 1.04 patch is expected to go live in September (opens in new tab).
Thanks, Eurogamer (opens in new tab).