The Guardians of the Galaxy have a new foe: lofty publisher expectations. The interstellar misfit band’s latest outing, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, underperformed unstated sales targets, according to a recent financial filing from publisher Square Enix.
Developed by Eidos Montreal and released last October, Guardians of the Galaxy is a tightly paced linear third-person action game in an era in which such titles are increasingly rare. You play as Star-Lord (note: not Chris Pratt’s take on the character), accompanied by most of the team for most of the time, and can issue directions to them in combat. It’s good fun, and sports some seriously stunning environmental art to boot. But Guardians of the Galaxy’s secret sauce is its script. It is, by most accounts, a tremendously well-written game, even nabbing the “best narrative” trophy at the 2021 Game Awards.
Square Enix noted GotG’s wave of critical praise in the financial report, writing, “despite strong reviews, the game’s sales on launch undershot our initial expectations.” Square also said that it kicked off “sales initiatives” for Guardians of the Galaxy last November, with the intent of “work[ing] to continue to expand sales to make up for the game’s slow start.” (Indeed, Guardians is marked down from a bog-standard $US60 ($83) to $US30 ($42) at GameStop at the time of writing, and has seen similarly steep sales on places like the PlayStation Store.)
The filing does not detail how many copies Guardians of the Galaxy sold, nor how many it would’ve needed to sell to hit Square’s financial targets. Representatives for Square Enix did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
At this point, it’s starting to seem like Square Enix is impossible to please. Square Enix viewed the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider, the best-selling entry in one of gaming’s most iconic franchises, as a disappointment. In 2017, Square pulled out of IO Interactive’s Hitman series of stealth puzzlers; the latest game, Hitman 3, published independently, recouped its development costs in a week. In 2020, the lavishly expensive Marvel’s Avengers fell far short of sales targets. Last spring, the co-op shooter Outriders, despite wide reports of busted functionality, took the world by storm, rapidly hitting more than 3.5 million players, with Square even saying it’s “on track to become the company’s next major franchise.” But by August, its developer, People Can Fly, said it had yet to receive any royalties from Square Enix.
In a 2017 interview, Square Enix president Yosuka Matsuda admitted the company’s expectations for Tomb Raider were “extremely high.”
Also in 2017, sources told Kotaku that Square Enix quietly cancelled a third entry in the Deus Ex reboot series — made by the same studio responsible for Guardians of the Galaxy — due to the most recent entry, 2016’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, not selling as much as the company expected. Which is possibly an infinite number.