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Just How Well Did TRON 2.0 Do, Anyway?

By TronFAQ on Friday, February 24, 2006 at 1:19 AM
Over on TRON-Sector, I saw a news item for an interview with Landry Walker and Eric Jones about the upcoming TRON comic. Landry is the writer on the comic.

I made mental notes on a couple of interesting points I wanted to comment on, as I read through the interview. Here they are.

First off, the article author makes the statement: "Tron recently resurfaced as the Tron 2.0 video game available for X-Box and PC to unexpected success."

Really? That's news to me. As much as I wish it was true, this sounds like typical marketing speak in denial mode, that was fed to the author. That statement is, unfortunately, not true. Or else, we would already have had an expansion or new TRON game, a long time ago. And the comic wouldn't have gone through development hell for so long.

But then . . . we have to consider the difference between what you and I, and Disney, consider a "success". Unfortunately, I don't have exact sales figures for TRON 2.0 on the PC. Disney has chosen to keep that to themselves. My best guess is that it was a "moderate" success and sold around 100,000 copies at most. Which to some game publishers, would be great numbers. The game Painkiller sold about that many copies, and the publisher deemed that a success. Then an expansion pack was developed and released. Meanwhile, to Disney those numbers were a "failure". They probably expected to sell at least 500,000 copies.

Again, I don't know exactly how well it sold. I wish I did. But obviously Disney dropped TRON like a hot potato for a while, because the numbers from the game weren't "good enough". As someone wrote in a comment in the TRON 2.0 Petition, Disney/BVG didn't have the balls to stick by their product and see it through the rough times. The comic has been their boldest move in the last two years, if you don't count Kingdom Hearts 2.

Landry, at one point, says: "When the game Tron 2.0 came out, there was a bit of an outcry. Where was the MCP? Why had it not reappeared? There seems to be a desire in the entertainment industry to demand repetition."

Landry has also told me the same thing, in discussions on the TRON-Sector message boards. Apparently, people at comic conventions told him they were disappointed that the characters in TRON 2.0 didn't look "enough" like their original counterparts in the film. So, in other words, they were expecting "TRON the movie" as a game. Not an updated version. I suppose the misleading "sneak peek" ad on the TRON 20th Anniversary DVD didn't help. It was ambiguous, and probably lead other people into thinking there was going to be a film sequel. Not a game.

Therefore, people were left thinking: "Oh, it's not a movie and it's not even like the original film, so forget it." So it would seem, anyway. Which really surprises me. I thought the whole point about TRON, why it resonated so much with certain people, is precisely because it was bold and different.

And there's a difference between doing a respectful update to the original, or doing a cash-in. To me, TRON 2.0 for PC and Mac were respectful of the film at all times. The characters -- while certainly different -- still echoed their predecessors' appearances closely. The game levels -- while updated with new concepts and more detailed in appearance -- still retained the classic, neon glow you would expect. The music -- while in large part not Wendy Carlos' score -- fits perfectly for a TRON world. It was a bold update to TRON, but Monolith balanced the fine line between homage and new styling extremely well. How anyone could not be happy with the way the game turned out . . . you've got me.

On the other hand, what was done to TRON 2.0: Killer App on the Xbox in Multiplayer, is a perfect example of Disney/BVG trying to cash-in: with no regard for the subject matter at all. The Doom/Halo style helmets and grunge band style music from Breaking Benjamin, absolutely did not fit with TRON at all. BVG execs must have sat up really late at night, thinking up these wonderful ideas that didn't even come close to being respectful of the property. Rather, they simply had dollar signs in their eyes. If it's like Halo, it will sell!

Well, guess what . . . it didn't.

Thankfully, I have every confidence in Landry and the team at SLG working on the new comic. Which should be coming out in April. The interviews I've read, and discussions I've had, demonstrate to me that they are being completely respectful to TRON. Though again, there will be updates and changes from what went on in the film.

Let's just hope this time, for TRON's sake, the comic is a "big" success. Or else Disney will drop the potato again.
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12 comments so far.

  1. Anonymous February 24, 2006 2:39 PM
    And hopefully this comic p[ublisher has the balls to carry this comic through ...even the hard times...as well
  2. Anonymous February 24, 2006 2:50 PM
    It is probably wise that the comic is only a 6-issue mini series.

  3. Anonymous February 26, 2006 1:36 PM
    The game Painkiller sold about that many copies, and the publisher deemed that a success. Then an expansion pack was developed and released. Meanwhile, to Disney those numbers were a "failure".

    TronFAQ, what you are not considering is that there is more than sales to consider. Painkiller didn't use an expensive third-party engine like Tron 2.0, nor did it have expensive voice talent or other elements. I believe the main reason Disney does not consider Tron 2.0 to be a success is because they spent too much making and marketing it. Now while you and I both know that an overall poor job was done in the sales and marketing department, the fact is the money was spent regardless.

    Riley Pizt
  4. TronFAQ February 26, 2006 6:06 PM
    I won't argue about the development and marketing costs, because I don't know the numbers.

    But as for the engine licensing cost being expensive, I disagree. A license for Lithtech Jupiter costs as little as $10,000, and $50,000 at most. That's peanuts. And it's been that price right from the beginning. It's the reason why so many educational institutions use it for teaching 3-D graphic theory, and machinima use.

  5. Anonymous March 03, 2006 4:32 AM
    A license for Lithtech Jupiter costs as little as $10,000, and $50,000 at most. That's peanuts. And it's been that price right from the beginning.

    Actually that is wrong. The Lithtech Jupiter engine (The version used in Tron 2.0 was technically an offshoot called Triton which was separately licensed and the most expensive version at the time) was either $250,000 or $300,000 not counting royalties at the time of Tron 2.0's development since it was still cutting edge then. I am sure that BVG paid a hefty fee to use it for the game.

    Riley Pizt
  6. TronFAQ March 04, 2006 4:00 AM
    Even if you're right and I'm wrong, $250 - $300,000 is still peanuts for a professional level 3-D game engine. The Quake and Unreal engines sold for over a million, even then. This is one area, where Disney saved themselves a lot of money by going with Monolith.
  7. Anonymous May 03, 2006 2:16 AM
    How many units did Quake and Unreal sell, though? If $250-$300K is correct, and if there were only 100,000 Tron 2.0 game sold, then I would think Disney didn't fair so well financially with Tron 2.0. Just do the math: 100,000 x $45 (or whatever the price was for the game) = $450,000. Subtract the 3-D engine license, and you've barely got a yearly salary for 3 or 4 people; let alone any of the upper-managers working on it. So, factoring in marketing, production, distribution, salaries, licensing, website construction/maintenance, the fact that not all 100,000 units went for the high $45 price, etc., then Disney might've gotten screwed by it. Unfortunately. Hopefully we're all wrong, though.
  8. TronFAQ May 03, 2006 9:51 PM
    For me, it's not even about how well the game did . . . so much as how well it could have done, if BVG had just stuck with it.

    You're right Anon, the game probably broke even at best or perhaps even lost a bit of money. But instead of sticking by their product and listening to all of their customers' suggestions (e.g. releasing better editing resources), they decided to drop it and move on.

    With a little more effort, the game probably could have done a lot better.

    But BVG has demonstrated that all they're interested in, is quick cash-ins. The Xbox version was a quick port with some extra features added, but so poorly tested that the final product is riddled with bugs. The complaints on the Killer App message forums were numerous, and BVG simply ignored them.

    Of course, now they don't even have active forums any more. Wonder why? Hmm . . . :)
  9. Anonymous May 03, 2006 10:58 PM
    I just wanted to say I'm dumb and my whole argument is blown out of the water. I woke up this morning and thought of my post here and realized I miscalculated. I was tired when I wrote, so hopefully you cut me some slack :) $45 x 100,000 is $4.5 million, not $450,000. I don't know what I was thinking. Obviously this means they maybe did make some money.
  10. Anonymous July 19, 2006 11:32 PM
    As far as calculating profit, usually a publisher sells to a wholesaler at less than 30% of MSRP. I'm sure they were completely hosed by this game. I mean, let's face it... there were a few key elements that made it's audience identify with it:

    1) a refuse-to-recognize authority hacker with a clear sense of right and wrong but a rather juvenile set of priorities (ala han solo).
    2) a rich visual metaphor to cleanly explain the processes within a PC. Today we have much richer metaphors wich could have manifested themselves as physical changes within the universe, things like virtual memory, semaphores, race conditions, digitization of analog networks (VoIP, VPN, PoE, etc). Instead they went the GIJoe route: "add more accesories", and picked 'handle' style names for processes. So basically the metaphor back-pedalled from where it was
    3) the metaphor extends to the physical events in the movie, so the processes in the game zone were being exploited through holes in flynn's old unfinished game programs in order to crack external processes from financial institutions.
    4) Unique visual effects
    The sequel has none of that.. and added crazy load times and random crashing (xbox). If it were a mod of another engine, I might consider it an OK game (minus said bugs) but considering this game had every freedom to design the engine in any way they saw fit, they failed on almost every level.
  11. TronFAQ July 20, 2006 5:56 PM
    Various points made, followed by . . .

    The sequel has none of that

    they failed on almost every level

    You're certainly entitled to your own opinion, and some may agree with you.

    But I don't. I think a lot of other people wouldn't agree, either.

    And to say that the game went the "GIJoe" route of expanding upon technology metaphors, is a bit absurd. Could a better job have been done? Sure. They could have gone deeper, added more. Particularly absent, were hacking puzzles. They missed a golden opportunity to have the player hack from within the computer. But implying it's "cartoony" is way too harsh.

    added crazy load times and random crashing (xbox)

    That strictly applies to the Xbox version. It almost sounds to me like you haven't played the PC version. If you had, you would know that the PC version is stable, levels load fast, and it has almost no bugs.

    The Single Player experience on the PC is far better: because it's not full of bugs, and it hasn't had things dumbed down or removed. When I played the Xbox version, I was horrified at the changes made to the Single Player game.
  12. Cryptonite December 03, 2009 11:43 PM
    TRONFAQ, I agree with you that this game could and should have sold better. Frankly, this is the first game I have enjoyed since half-life.

    The game is beautifully done... each screen is a work of art. The music is well done and very apropos to the nature of the game. In short, this is a fitting tribute to the original Tron. It raises the bar for other games, it's so good.

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