Dante's Inferno, developed by Visceral Games and published by Electronic Arts, is about to hit store shelves. Ever since the game was revealed there has been endless comparisons to a little game everyone, who hasn't been living under a rock, has heard of, God of War. EA's Chief Executive Officer, John Riccitiello, has been clear that new IP, such as Dante's Inferno, are vital to the company's success. The question on everyone's mind remains, will Dante's Inferno be able to stand against the God of War III juggernaut?
After playing both games' demos, it is by no means a stretch to call Dante's Inferno a God of War clone. The game is shameless in how blatantly it rips off God of War's controls, mechanics and atmosphere, however, this doesn't automatically mean the game is of a lesser caliber than God of War III. Dante's Inferno is actually quite solid and arguably the best God of War clone so far; the controls are tight, the graphics are generally crisp and the premise is intriguing. Granted, these are only impressions from demos of each game and a great deal can change when they hit retail, but judging from each studio's past work (Visceral with Dead Space and Sony Santa Monica with the previous God of War games), it's a safe bet to assume the final versions of each game will be high quality.
The quality of Dante's Inferno is ultimately not going to determine whether the game can compete with God of War III or not, the marketing will be crucial. Dante faces a much bigger challenge being a new IP, which makes it an unknown commodity to the general public. Electronic Arts has shown that they are committed to this game's success, as the announcement of a Dante's Inferno Super Bowl commercial proves. This advertisement will give the game a chance to be seen by one of the biggest audiences on television, it's a very smart business decision on EA's part. In an interview with Industry Gamers, the Executive Producer of Dante's Inferno, Jonathan Knight was not sky about sharing his delight about the support Visceral is getting from their publisher. "When the company is getting behind you like this, you feel like your hard work is given every opportunity to succeed," said Knight.
Even with the marketing support from Electronic Arts, Dante's Inferno may still be out matched. Sony is guaranteed to flood every possible form of media with God of War III promotions. With worldwide franchise sales roughly approaching 10 million, this is a flagship, system seller for the PlayStation 3 and the company will no doubt treat it as such. During of the month of February, God of War III will get its own flavor of Mountain Dew, deals at 7-Eleven, and TV spots on NBC. The full extent of the marketing campaign is not yet known, but expect to see more wide spread TV advertisements, most likely PlayStation VP of Everything Kevin Butler will make an appearance, closer to release in March.
Dante's Inferno does have an opportunity to target the Xbox 360 audience, who won't be playing God of War III. Not many action adventure games of this type are being released on the platform, Bayonetta is probably its closest competition on 360, but that even that game is targeting at a slightly different audience. The downside to coming out in the first quarter of 2010 is the amount of big name titles being released for both 360 and PS3 at the same time: Mass Effect 2, Bioshock 2, Final Fantasy XIII, Beyonetta, Darksiders and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 to name a few. It's going to tough for any game to stand out with such a large number of games competing for people's attention. The PS3 audience is likely to overwhelmingly pick God of War III over Dante's Inferno, most merely because they know God of War exists and know they'll be getting good bang for their buck.
The overall gaming environment isn't looking favourable to Dante's commercial success. It appears to be a solid game, built by a talented developer but that may not matter in the end. Support from Electronic Arts is essential, however, the combined weight of God of War III's dominance over the genre and the stiff competition from a variety of other games on the Xbox 360 and PS3 do not bode well for Dante's Inferno. Be sure to check out our Dante's Inferno review when it is posted in the near future and please feel free to add your thoughts to this on going debate.