Remedy shares have hit a 17-month high after Alan Wake 2 released to overwhelming critical praise on October 27, scoring a 91% on OpenCritic and 89 on Metacritic. The game and its marketing were fully funded by Epic Games, and on PC it was released exclusively on the Epic Games Store, with Remedy entitled to 50% of the net revenue once Epic recoups its investment (details of these developer friendly terms here). The survival horror sequel was also released for consoles, of course.
Remedy’s years-long journey to the release of Alan Wake II also takes in the emergence of the Remedy Connected Universe – or the RCU, as coined by Remedy itself. So let’s take a closer look at how the RCU is transforming Remedy’s business today and beyond.
A Powerhouse of New IP
Remedy scored its first big hit with the release of Max Payne in 2001. The studio worked with Rockstar for the console port, and later Rockstar’s parent company, Take-Two Interactive, acquired the rights to the Max Payne IP for $10M. A sequel was part of this deal, but it sold poorly despite critical acclaim, and Rockstar later took the development of Max Payne 3 in-house, with Remedy in a light consulting role.
After working for seven years on Max Payne, Remedy spent six years working on the first Alan Wake game, partnering with Microsoft Game Studios as its publisher. Microsoft was not interested in pursuing a sequel, however; unlike Max Payne, Alan Wake was written with room for multiple sequels. Instead, Microsoft later worked with Remedy to create a new transmedia IP that became Quantum Break.
In 2017, Remedy launched an IPO on the Nasdaq First North Finland exchange, in part to raise funds for multiple development projects. In 2018, a TV show for Alan Wake was announced, and in 2019, Remedy bought back the publishing rights for Alan Wake from Microsoft.
505 Games provided publishing and marketing support for Remedy’s next big IP, Control, which was released in 2019 to critical and commercial success. Control’s second expansion formally introduced the RCU: “AWE”, released in 2020, was Remedy’s first explicit crossover event connecting Alan Wake and Control.
In a blog post discussing the expansion, the company teased: “What if there’s actually been a plan in place for over a decade on how some of our games are connected – a Remedy Connected Universe, if you will – and payoff for certain things is … down the line?”
Control established the rules of this grander supernatural universe. And while the first Alan Wake game took place within the RCU, The games don’t answer larger mysteries, though they do provide some context to the nature of those events.
Within the RCU, the events of Alan Wake I are loosely known as an Altered World Event (AWE): occurrences that alter reality in unpredictable and dangerous ways. The Federal Bureau of Control is tasked with their study and containment. In Alan Wake II, the FBC from Control is a constant presence, and there are several other cross-universe references.
Following Alan Wake II and the upcoming Control 2, Remedy is developing an RCU-set multiplayer spinoff with 505 Games, codenamed Project Condor. Remedy is also working on a live service title, codenamed Vanguard, with Tencent after the Chinese giant acquired a minority stake of 3.8% in Remedy in 2021. Also, in partnership with Rockstar, Remedy plans to release Max Payne 1 & 2 as a single title remade in its current game engine.
The Not-So-Secret Sauce
An estimated €50M budget makes Alan Wake 2 the most expensive cultural product of all time in Finland. Finnish culture has always been part of Remedy games, and Martti Suosalo’s portrayal of “Ahti,” the mysterious Finnish janitor from Control, has won Suosalo a BAFTA. Sami Järvi, often referred to by his pen name Sam Lake (Järvi is the Finnish word for lake), is the creative heart of the RCU. Starting out at Remedy as a writer, Järvi became the face for titular character Max Payne to keep the project within budget. Järvi has since helped create the worlds of all Remedy games.
“Over the years, I have woken up to the fact that we have an absolutely amazing culture in Finland, which is a great asset,” Järvi has said. “It allows you to stand out in the market and is considered very exotic internationally.” Alan Wake II goes even further into Finnish culture by setting part of the game in a small town in Washington state founded by Finnish immigrants. Järvi’s interview on AW2 and the RCU can be read in full here.
With 505 Games funding the Control universe of games, Epic backing the Alan Wake universe, and Remedy opening a new studio in Sweden, the RCU is primed for scaling up and potentially becoming a leading IP universe.
Since 2016, Remedy has transformed into a multiproject studio with greater financial stability, diverse partnerships, and the freedom for employees to pick which projects they work on. With the release of Alan Wake II, Remedy’s RCU titles are the tentpole titles holding up the studio’s other experimental expansions into new genres and different markets around the world.
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Insomniac Delivers a Marvel in Spider-Man 2
- Developer: Insomniac
- Publisher: PlayStation Studios
- Platform: PS5
- Genre: Open-world action-adventure
- Sales Overperformance: Spider-Man 2, the sequel to the highly successful Spider-Man and Miles Morales titles, has become PlayStation Studios’ fastest-selling title. Within the first 24 hours of its release, it soared to a remarkable 2.5M copies sold, and this climbed up to 5M copies sold in the first week — which would translate to at least $175M in gross revenue.. Additionally, Spider-Man 2 outshone Super Mario Bros. Wonder in its debut week, surpassing it in sales even in the UK, where the Switch's install base is larger than that of the PS5.
- Great Consumer Reviews: Spider-Man 2 has garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews, with a Metacritic average score of 90. The game is mainly praised for the vast size of the playable world and the ability to switch play between Miles Morales and Peter Parker. One criticism, though, is the repetitiveness of the open-world experience, a common problem for big open-world games.
- Design Innovations: Apart from the expanded open-world experience, Spider-Man 2’s key innovations come in its playable characters and dual protagonist system. Switching between Peter and Miles during free-roam gameplay is seamless, and enables players to find bespoke side missions and quests for each character. The ability to switch protagonists is woven into the narrative, allowing players to do so when the game's progression demands it. Accessible through Peter Parker, Venom is also a playable character who offers players an array of combat options. Insomniac Games showcased perfect execution here given how Peter Parker, Miles Morales, and Venom interact in the recent Spider-Man zeitgeist.
- Insomniac′s Future: The studio’s previous title Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart sold 1.1M copies on the PS5 and has struggled on PC, but Spider-Man 2 further solidifies Insomniac’s position as a key part of PlayStation Studios. With its Wolverine game already in development, Insomniac is a powerhouse outfit that specializes in getting the best from third-party IP.
- Looking Ahead: With a PS5 user base of 40M and normalized supply, Spider-Man 2 will continue to sell well as we approach Black Friday and the holiday season, especially as part of console bundles. The series' success on PC, bringing in at least $85M so far, indicates substantial additional revenue for Spider-Man 2 when it comes to the platform in the coming years. It will also be interesting to see whether the release of a New Game Plus mode by the end of 2023, alongside some other new features, will be enough to curb the premium cost versus relatively meager total gameplay hours (approximately 40 hours) debate that’s ensuing publicly.