Thirteen years ago, Finnish game studio Remedy Entertainment released the psychological action-adventure title Alan Wake (with assistance from Microsoft Game Studios). The game was highly anticipated as Remedy was coming back to the gaming scene nearly a decade after their last title, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, released to both critical and commercial success in 2003. However, even with the fair amount of hype surrounding it, Alan Wake failed to cross 200,000 units sold in the U.S. within its first month. Some of this, as reported by The Guardian at the time, was no doubt due to Rockstar Game’s behemoth, Red Dead Redemption, releasing on the very same day. Take-Two Interactive chief Ben Feder said in an interview with VentureBeat, “We sucked the oxygen out of the room with Red Dead.” That, alongside the fact that the U.S. were still recouping from the financial crisis of 2008, and it’s easy to see why even the relatively positive reviews from critics weren’t enough to get the American public to purchase the game. Thankfully, Alan Wake would go on to sell nearly five million copies with the help of a spin-off title, Alan Wake: American Nightmare, and be looked back upon as a niche success.
Remedy would move away from the series in the years following, finding success with a new publisher in 505 Games and their critically acclaimed action-adventure title, Control, which released in 2019 and has since been greenlit for a sequel. Fans of the studio, however, were eager to see if the developers would ever return to the Alan Wake series. Analysts often noted that due to the fairly obtuse nature of its gameplay and narrative, alongside its niche fanbase, that the series would not receive a proper sequel, especially when considering its underwhelming initial sales. Nevertheless, Alan Wake II, to the joy of fans, was officially announced at The Game Awards in the winter of 2021. As of this writing, the game has been officially released for a month and has garnered tremendous critical acclaim, even tying Balder’s Gate 3 for the most amount of nominations at this year’s Game Awards, including Game of the Year. Unfortunately, regardless of this critical success, the game may be following in the footsteps of its predecessor when it comes to sales numbers. Which is why I’m here to call upon you the reader to, much like Alan himself, help change the fate of this game’s commercial future.
In a post on X a couple weeks ago, executive director and industry analyst at Circana (formerly NPD) wrote that Alan Wake II, “did not rank among the top 150 titles on either PS5 or XBS in Oct monthly active users, according to Circana’s PET.” Though he clarifies that the game released at the tail end of the tracking period, it’s nevertheless a concerning stat for a new, relatively substantial release. 2023 has no doubt been a monumental year in gaming as far as the number of quality titles that have released, each of which are pulling for gamer’s time and wallets. Alan Wake II is a sequel to a relatively niche game, and one whose quality was unexpected, even though Remedy has proven themselves in more ways than one with Control. So to see it start off with supposedly middling sales much like its predecessor is a shame, but one that we the gaming public can rectify, especially if we want to see more titles that push the storytelling and audiovisual boundaries of this medium the ways in which this game has.
My urge for you, the reader, to purchase this game doesn’t come as a fan of Alan Wake, or even a fan of Remedy. I have never played Alan Wake, and nor did I even plan on purchasing this game. My experience of playing through Control a few years ago was memorable, though far from what I would consider to be a life-changing one. But with all the recent acclaim from fellow journalists, and a recent sale on the Epic Game’s Store, I thought to give the game a shot. Now six hours in, and I find myself in awe and having a hard time putting it down. Mind you, I am not the audience for a game of this nature. Horror on any scale is not something I entertain when it comes to this medium, The Last of Us being the only series I have pushed myself to complete, which itself was an arduous task to say the least. Yet, the ingenious ways in which Alan Wake II utilizes its audiovisuals and gameplay mechanics to tell its enthralling supernatural narrative is something I’ve never quite seen from this medium, and it has me hooked. Director Sam Lake knows the story he wants to tell, the way in which he wants to present it, and how he wants the player to discover it. This is an immaculately carved experience whose presentation and sense of immersion is second to none when compared to its 2023 contemporaries.
These experiences, these innovations in game design, are not commonplace at the AAA level, particularly in recent years (though 2023 has been somewhat of an exception). For as much as I’d love for high critical scores and showers of industry accolades be enough for studios to stay afloat and continue making groundbreaking titles, that is not the world we live in. As such, it is imperative to support games like this, to ensure their commercial success and tell money-grubbing publishers that games like these do indeed have a space to be successful. So, reader, if you’re able, willing, and have a PC that won’t combust with the game’s required specifications, head over to the Epic Game’s Store and use their 33% off coupon code to purchase Alan Wake II, a game that I personally believe may very well be one of the best this year has to offer (Note that the deal expires November 28th, 2023).