|

Expawtation Meownagement

I think Bubsy: Paws on Fire! hurt its marketing and review scores by not incorporating Bit.Trip Runner into the name.

The upcoming Cadence of Hyrule is an interesting comparison point. Both games are non-traditional installments in established franchises (Bubsy, The Legend of Zelda) in the style of and by the developers of an unrelated rhythm-hybrid game (rhythm platformer Bit.Trip Runner, rhythm roguelike Crypt of the NecroDancer).

The Zelda/NecroDancer game is called Cadence of Hyrule for short - the full title is Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda. The short title reflects that it’s a crossover - it’s the main character of NecroDancer, Cadence, in the setting of Zelda, Hyrule. The subtitle includes the name of both parent franchises, and makes it clear that this is more of a NecroDancer game than a Zelda game.

This is really solid expectation management, and it’s working. Whenever I see the game mentioned in a news item, it’s described as a Zelda spin-off or crossover. Not many people are likely to mistake it for a mainline Zelda title.

The Bubsy/Runner game is called Bubsy: Paws on Fire! - that’s the full title. There is no mention of Bit.Trip Runner at all. It’s just Bubsy.

The result is that people expect a Bubsy game unless they happen to look deeper and notice the different developer. A lot of people wouldn’t look that closely - even game reviewers and journalists are hit-and-miss with this and I certainly don’t see the game referred to as a spin-off or crossover in news items. And if you go in expecting traditional Bubsy, you may well end up surprised, confused, and disappointed by the actual gameplay - especially if you aren’t familiar with Bit.Trip Runner.

I really like the game and want to see it do well, but the mismatched expectations seem to have hurt the review scores. The most frustrating to me is Push Square’s 2/10 review which describes the game as “an auto-runner style platformer” and makes no reference to Bit.Trip Runner or developer Choice Provisions. There’s a lot I think is unfair or misleading about this review, but in particular I notice that a lot of the most valid complaints also apply to the Runner games but give no idea how the reviewer feels about those games.

Someone who dislikes Runner gameplay won’t like Paws on Fire! any more than someone who dislikes NecroDancer gameplay would like Cadence of Hyrule, but it’s much less clear that’s a consideration here - enough so that the reviewer doesn’t even bring it up and multiple commenters express disappointment that the game is bad since they like the Runner games. They took the reviewer’s word that the game was bad despite the reviewer failing to establish that the review even applied to players with their tastes.

I chimed in suggesting they give the game another look. I want Bubsy: Paws on Fire! to have the best possible chance to reach its audience.