Does id Software have a chance in Hell of surviving if DOOM is ultimately a disappointment?
It’s hard to believe it, but id Software will be releasing a new DOOM game in just a few days. This air of disbelief isn’t due to a lack of interest from the fans, mind you. It’s because of the game’s publisher Bethesda’s bizarre handling of the upcoming shooter, which has failed to shed any real light on what players should expect when the game releases this Friday. DOOM supposedly includes a sprawling, 15-hour campaign. This alone would normally be enough to have longtime fans of the series eager to dive knee deep in the dead. However, we’ve yet to see even the smallest snippet of this single-player portion of the game in action. And with the recent revelation of the publisher’s decision to distribute review codes on the day of the game’s release, we can’t help but wonder if thing’s aren’t looking so good for id’s revival of their most beloved series.
After all, it’s not as if these fears aren’t justified. One of the last games we saw get a similar treatment from its publisher was last year’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. Review codes for the latest entry in the long-running series were doled out on launch day, and the title is currently enjoying an abysmal score of 32 on Metacritic. While not always the case, more often than not the decision to hold back review codes until a title is released is a sign of a publisher hoping to sell as many copies as possible before the negative reviews roll out. This decision, while worrisome, would be easier to overlook had the recent DOOM Beta been more well received. Our own Alex Lupella detailed his lukewarm impressions of the multiplayer component here, which it turns out was outsourced to former Halo multiplayer developers at Certain Affinity. With just two days until the game launches, we’ve essentially seen nothing that the game’s developer themselves have been responsible for when it comes to DOOM.
Then again, over the past decade we haven’t seen a great deal of anything from the studio. In fact, they’ve only been responsible for one major release in the past decade, the post-apocalyptic FPS Rage. While hugely-anticipated when it released back in 2011, the game was quickly forgotten. After its rocky launch on PC the game largely fizzled into the memory of fickle shooter fans who’d moved onto the latest releases from other, more modern studios. DOOM is a different beast, though. DOOM is the pioneering FPS that millions of thirty-somethings cut their teeth on back in the genre’s golden days. DOOM is the game that turned the Wolfenstein 3D and Commander Keen developer, then headed by co-founders John Carmack and John Romero, into a rock star company adored by an entire generation. But what if these fears are justified? What if DOOM is indeed a failure? What would such a loss mean for a studio that’s largely existed in the industry’s periphery for the past few console generations?
Honestly, I think the studio would find it a serious challenge to stay relevant if, heaven forbid, DOOM is ultimately an irredeemable mess. You could argue that few developers manage to capture that nostalgic, old-school flavor that id Software does when it comes to their shooters. But studios like Wolfenstein: The New Order developer MachineGames and Shadow Warrior’s current developer Flying Wild Hog have managed to do a great job of capturing that classic PC FPS feel while bringing modern conventions to the table to move their respective franchises forward. That said, there are other, very capable studios who can provide that primal shooter fix that fans of those types of games crave. Combine this with id’s notoriously lengthy development cycles and it’s hard to imagine anyone really caring about their next project, which would presumably launch sometime in the 2020’s if we’re lucky.
Sure, they could try to support themselves just by licensing off their latest engine, id Tech 6, but it’s hard to imagine them making major gains over Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 and Crytek’s newest tech.
I hope all of this is unnecessary speculation, and that DOOM surprises us all when it releases this Friday, May 13th. After all, maybe this relative radio silence is just the studio’s way of keeping us in the dark in an era where constant, 24/7 gaming news spoils most of the big surprises before a game is even released. I’ll be doing my best to remain cautiously optimistic for DOOM. After all, I want nothing more than to see the gory franchise that made me a lifelong fan of the genre succeed.
One thing’s for certain though, if the game does fail it’s hard to imagine where id Software will go from there.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you think that DOOM is going to be what fans are hoping for when it releases this Friday? What do you think will become of id Software if DOOM doesn’t live up to the expectations of fans and critics alike? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.