What does a niche series need to do to find an audience?

The latest Monster Hunter entry garnered a lot of new fans, fans who had previously found the series daunting, or who held a passing curiosity in its premise but never got around to it.
Similarly, Yakuza received some newfound recognition with its prequel, Yakuza 0, and its remake, Kiwami (at least around Waypoint adjacent outlets). If I understand correctly, Yakuza always had its cult following in the west but never struck a mainstream cord, I don’t know if it has yet, but removing the story barrier by setting it before the 6 game series is a really smart move in on-boarding folks who’d rather not go all the way back to the ps2 entries just to follow the story.

These two situations has me thinking about other series that haven’t caught on and why; whether it’s its platform of choice, confusing UI, overly complex systems, expansive story / lore, or simply entering the market at the wrong time.
Patrick mentioned on a recent Waypoint Radio episode that he probably wouldn’t give Monster Hunter the time of day if it had come out at the end of last year, where it was already a packed game season; I believe the timing, along with releasing on main current gen consoles (and the technical improvements that comes with that) helped a lot. I don’t know if I would’ve been as interested in the game had the environments not been as vertical and intricately connected, as well as the sheer detail on the monster animation.

What are some niche games you wish caught on, and how do you think they could improve or change to make that more likely to happen?


What are some niche games you wish caught on?

  • The Frogware Sherlock Holmes games
  • Any Spiders RPG
  • Steep (I know)

how do you think they could improve or change to make that more likely to happen?

  • Don’t release inscrutable, unwelcoming games alongside Hollow Knight, BotW, Nier: Automata, and Persona 5?
  • Focus on what made Crimes and Punishments great - the open ended investigations - and open it up even more.
  • A slight decrease in scope or shift in priorities (less focus on combat and visuals, more on world-building and story) and their games and they could really make something special. Not exactly an easy thing to do I know, but I’d like to see it happen.
  • Promote it, like, even once.
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Would love for Sony to care about Gravity Rush for even five seconds

Edit: I’ve been blessed y’all


The Metro series remains one of the last bastions of the sort of B-tier games we mostly lost this past console generation, and I love them quite a bit. They’re a bit janky and the shooting can be rough and there’s some pretty wild difficulty spikes, but there’s an atmosphere and sense of dread those games craft that few others have for me. If a dev can do just one or two things exceptionally well, and pull it off in several of their games I think a larger audience is hopefully bound to notice eventually.


I think Linelight, which came out last year, is an absolute masterpiece of a game, let down by a lack of PR and, more importantly, bad timing. It came out January 31 of last year, when we kept getting these massive, highly-anticipated open-world games with huge marketing budgets. It just didn’t stand a single chance. The only reason I happened across it was that I was writing for a site that was trying to literally review every single game coming out on Steam, and I’m glad I did, but man, was that release date unfortunate.


Steep (I know)
Promote it, like, even once.

I love Steep, and have probably put over 100 hours into it, but I think they also failed in some pretty important ways. It feels like they didn’t quite learn from the legacy of the past decade of extreme sports games.

Steep really fails to sell you on the fantasy of extreme sports. They very loosely reference the idea that you’re an athlete shooting videos for sponsors, but that’s about as far as it goes.
Compare it to games like Skate 1-3 or Tony Hawk’s Underground. Those games have a very coherent fantasy of a talented amateur working their way to the top. Even the most wacky and arbitrary missions are clearly communicated about how they exist in the world and relate to your character. NPCs make the photoshoots, races, and competitions feel real instead a soulless map icon demanding “get 10,000 points” or “finish in 1:30”.

Steep also falls short on expressiveness. Extreme sports like snowboarding, skiing, skateboarding, base jumping, etc. are not just about adrenaline. It’s also all about creativity and freedom of expression. That’s what sets extreme sports games apart from competitive sport games and racing games. It seems strange that Steep has stock characters instead of a character creator, and extremely limited tools for user-created content.

Don’t release inscrutable, unwelcoming games alongside Hollow Knight, BotW, Nier: Automata, and Persona 5?

Release timing for indies is literally an impossible problem. Right now, name any week in 2019. I guarantee that there will be a big popular release that week, plus 10 promising indie games.

I’ve probably written loads about the weird duality of this game elsewhere on the forums but I do agree the steep fails as an extreme sports game, what made it such an interesting game to me is the weird zen introspective exploration game around the edges. Like the random mountain stories where a mountain will talk to you about anger or how happy it is to see people exploring it, or the few and far between missions where the time limit isn’t imposing and you can travel down the mountain at your own pace and “To Build a Home” is playing in the background.

Chris Plante’s review of the game explains all of this much better than I could.