The co-founder of Free Radical, the now-defunct developer who created the TimeSplitters series, has stated that nearly all first-person shooters in the market lose money.
The bold statement was made by Steve Ellis who told Edge that only Activision and EA can profit from the genre via their Call of Duty and Battlefield franchise:
Nobody really buys any FPSes unless they’re called Call Of Duty. I guess Battlefield did okay, but aside from that pretty much every FPS loses money. I mean, [look at] Crysis 2: great game, but there’s no way it came anywhere close to recouping its dev costs.
A rumor regarding TimeSplitters 4 being playable recently surfaced, before being debunked by Crytek UK, who were formed via the Crysis developer’s purchase of Free Radical. Ellis says that the game not coming into fruition in 2008 was because publishers weren’t willing to take a risk in something different.
I spent the whole of 2008 going round talking to publishers trying to sign up TimeSplitters 4. There just isn’t the interest there in doing anything that tries to step away from the rules of the genre – no one wants to do something that’s quirky and different, because it’s too much of a risk. And a large part of that is the cost of doing it.
As for Ellis’ thoughts on how nearly all first-person shooters lose money with one of the exceptions being Call of Duty, Activision’s last installment, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, had failed to make it into the top 10 games sold in March to which it was then revealed the series has, for the first time in years, experienced a decline in sales. The shooter trails significantly behind the usual 20 million units sold in the IP, achieved by both Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops.
That said, the game managed to make $1 billion in 16 days — a world record — but for how long can the Call of Duty brand keep making billions before it really starts to show signs of decline? We’ll have to wait and see until Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 releases, although the game is already setting retail records.