Bulletstorm Didn’t Make Money, But It Was Worth It

Bulletstorm Didn’t Make Money, But It Was Worth It

Mike Capps, president of Gears of War development studio, doesn’t regret Bulletstorm. That game got a lot of hype – and some extraordinarily odd press coverage – when it was released earlier this year.

It was an odd first-person shooter that was vulgar in tone and creative in execution, rewarding players for, well, being creative in how they executed kills in the game – more points, for example, if you shotgunned a guy into a giant space cactus.

I played it, enjoyed it, and tell people it’s one of my 2011 favorites so far.

But Bulletstorm could hardly crack 300,000 units in its first month, according to a financial analyst. Someone from its publisher EA recently told me the game “under-performed”. And Capps told me yesterday that it “didn’t make money for us”.

A game to regret, though? No way.

Capps is keynoting Game Developers Conference Europe next week, where he will deliver a talk on the topic of making high-quality games. Epic may be defined by some people as the Gears of War studio and by others as the profitable mechanics behind the widely-used Unreal graphics engine. But they’ve also turned out to be a studio that keeps making highly-regarded games, including the critically-acclaimed Infinity Blade, which is considered one of the best iOS games out there, and Bulletstorm which did very well with critics.

Capps’ talk is called “Size Doesn’t Matter: How Epic Brings AAA Attitude to Every Game, from Gears of War 3 to Infinity Blade“. The idea, he told me, is to dispel myths people may have that Epic’s games are high-quality due to infinite budgets or unlimited development times, neither of which the studio actually enjoys. He wants to emphasise that even back during Epic’s Unreal Tournament days, the company did some of its best work thanks to an internal drive to keep polishing and experimenting. Headshots, a;t fire, triple kills – some of the signature elements of the first UT that other studios then riffed on – he said, were only added in the game’s final six months.

These days, Epic is trying hard to make top games on a variety of machines, games that are certainly good ads for Epic’s Unreal Engine on the various platforms on which it runs, but also just very good games. Some are hits. Some are not. Would it have been nice to make money on Bulletstorm? Sure. Capps says they could have taken the easy route all along, not done Bulletstorm and gotten People Can Fly, the Epic-owned Polish development studio on that game to just churn out Gears of War content. That’s not what he wants those folks doing. That’s not what he wants Epic doing. “The studio has shipped AAA content,” he said. “The next thing we do with People Can Fly will be great.”

I hope Capps will use some of his talk to discuss why Bulletstorm didn’t thrive, a topic we didn’t have time to go into during our brief chat. I wonder if it was too short, too new in a crowd of shooter games or too lacking in addictive online gaming – it was the rare first-person shooter with no competitive multiplayer – but who knows. If only all the games that studios were proud of could be hits.

Capps’ keynote will help kick off GDC Europe in Cologne, which runs August 15-17.


  • But Bulletstorm was soo… stupid. And the plot was predictable as hell. The main character was also an unrelatable arsewipe, who didn’t show ANY remorse for killing hundreds of innocent people and half of his own crew.

    And I got tired of hearing the word “dick” after the first 5 seconds, but oh no, I got to hear it 2000 times more in the next 20minutes of gameplay.

  • I’m surprised Bulletstorm didn’t sell that well. It was certainly a solid game and deserved more sales than what it got.

  • Man I wonder why it wasn’t successful? I tuned out on this game when I found out there wouldn’t be competitive multiplayer – I thought it could’ve brought something new to that table.

    • This.

      When I first saw footage of the game I thought “hell yeah, multiplayer is gonna be freakin’ awesome!” But then I find out that there is no competitive multiplayer and well that’s the reason myself and all my gamer friends didn’t buy it. We wanted something new for our LAN’s and this wasn’t it.

  • I hate how everyone bashes company for making sequels instead of new IPs. Well look at all the new IPs out this year which ones have actually succeeded? Shadows of the Damned Flopped, Bulletstorm did OK but didn’t make a profit, Hunted:The demon’s forge flopped, Darkspore did OK for a PC game but probably didn’t turn in a profit. From what I’ve seen the only 2 new IPs that actually turned in a profit is Brink and Homefront, but both of them received lukewarm reviews. People blames companies for making generic shooters yet they are the only games that succeed. Honestly people should let their actions speak louder than their words.

    • Which is why this article is so important. The ACTIONS and attitude of Epic Games is:

      “We made an awesome game that didn’t make much money, so what are we going to do? Make more awesome games of course!”

      • It’s easy for Epic to say that, though, because they get a lot of revenue from licensing Unreal Engine. Most developers don’t have that extra revenue stream – if their game doesn’t sell well they’re lucky if they don’t go out of business.

    • LA Noire, Magicka …

      Add to the fact that it’s a shitty economy and the market is fairly flooded, I hardly think it’s a sign that developers should keep flogging old IPs.

      • I would’ve bought LA Noire if it had a PC release.

        Magicka looked all right and reviewed well, but I don’t like the art direction.

        Ditto to the flooded market comment. I haven’t got time enough to play waves of 20+ hour games.

  • Well thats dissapointing, because it was a very good game.The only problem with it, is that it didn’t take us entirely to the Serious Sam style of gameplay.

    Lets hope they don’t give up on it as a franchise

  • I didn’t buy or otherwise play Bulletstorm because I found the whole set up annoying. I’m sure it’s funny for someone but to me just saying dick or ass or fuck isn’t funny until you actually make a joke that happens to contain those words.

    I’d have been hilarious back when I was 5 though!

  • Played through the 5min PS3 demo and was bored by the end of it. Whilst it was fun at first to yank enemies with the leash and kick them onto spikes etc, it was basically impossible to die, negating any challenge. Perhaps if you could play co-op with a friend after a few beers it may have held some interest but alas no. Agree that MP could have saved it

  • I find it ironic how they took the mick out of Call of Duty, considering Bulletstorm was so generic, boring and unoriginal.

  • I’m right with T here.

    I played the demo for this game, which had a very self-aware, breaking the 4th wall intro video that also contained phrases like, “Dick-Tits.”

    I immediately thought this game was annoying and stupid. I tried to skip this video, it was unskippable.

    The demo strated and the two AI partnners stood beside an opening in the wall, which was the exit. One was male and so buff he’d make make The Hulk look petite. The other was a female, so freaking skinny in some black catsuit type dealio… Boring, Cliche and stupid.

    I then walked past them both to exit the current room and the lady pipes up with, “…Ladies first.”

    Oh emasculating comments from the chick. I’d best check my inventory for some oinment for that SICK BURNNN.

    I went ahead and shot one guy. The next was some dude in ragged dusty clothing and a mohawk. I remember thinking, “I killed you a million times in Borderlands.”

    I pressed the guide button. I pressed Y. I confirmed I wanted to return to the dashboard.

    It’s amazing to think bulletstorm was made by a group of adults. Because it feels like every juvenile, stupid, cliche, piece of crap ‘joke’ you could find.

    Big dudes with bigger guns shoot bad dudes into bits and theres a skinny looking chick in a skin-thight outfit… The punch line to the jokes are just swear words… They utilise the games great graphic fidelty to show me some ab-so-freaking-lutely horrendous derivitive graphic design. Brown stuff I’ve seen ad nauseum since Gears of War came onto the scene.

    Bulletstorm rubbed me the wrong way to an extent I never thought possible. The games tone and style was so horrifically bad that I didn’t care if it was fun to play.

    • I agree 100% with this comment. Bulletstorm looked arcadey-cool, but it’s ANOTHER first person shooter, when there are so many other types of interesting games out there

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!