NEWS - Thursday, June 2, 2005

Jade Empire No. 2 On The Charts

Jade Empire: One of the Jewels of April It may be new IP for BioWare, but it’s the same old success the developer has come to expect. You’ll rarely find a bad game from BioWare. Jade Empire was the No.2 title on the Xbox charts this April, and with good reason. All the hard work that BioWare put into the RPG paid off, as the game garnered great review scores. Jade Empire has been a long time coming. BioWare first announced that they were working on an RPG set in an original world in August 2002, before the original KOTOR had been released. News of the Xbox-exclusive RPG went dry for over a year, until in September 2003 the project was named Jade Empire. In an interview with GameSpot that same month BioWare’s joint CEOs Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk divulged that the title had begun over two and half years ago. That means that when it was released this April, it had been in development for over four years. So what did the company’s team of over 50 people get for their four years of work? The third best-selling console title in the month of April (when you combine both SKUs—standard and limited edition), and a 90% GameRankings average. If the Xbox’s previous exclusive RPGs are any indication, the title is likely to have strong legs through the summer and probably into the fall as well. Martial Arts Art A departure from KOTOR, Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate, Jade Empire’s martial arts combat system, ancient Chinese setting, and unique art style represented significant new ground for the company. [ "Jade Empire is another in a line of games that have slowly and steadily turned the Xbox into an extremely viable platform for RPGs." ] "Jade Empire is a game with a very different setting for us. It’s set in a mythical Chinese-style world that could have been, if all of the myths and legends were true. We set out to capture the look and feel of this mythic world and to make the most immersive game that we have ever made... a lot of behind the scenes work went into developing the culture and the world," Jade Empire lead designer Kevin Martens said in an IGN interview. Martens went on to list of some of the extensive books and films that influenced the game’s unique authentic and yet whimsical martial arts art style. "Outlaws of the Marsh is an excellent series that tells the stories of a group of 108 noble outlaws; Journey to the West is the classic story of the Monkey King; and The Three Kingdoms is an epic tale of a massive civil war in Chinese history. The novels of Louis Cha and Barry Hughart are wonderful modern books. Obviously, we watched every martial arts movie that we could find. I highly recommend House of Flying Daggers, Hero, Musa, and Fist of Legend to anyone interested in the genre," he said. Muscling into American Homes BioWare’s fame, Jade Empire’s huge amount of press, and positive review scores assured a certain level of success, but publisher Microsoft Game Studios smartly recognized that the game deserved a big push, along with a few unique advertising initiatives. Delivering a nasty blow In what’s become an increasingly common occurrence for high-profile Xbox releases, Jade Empire was released with both a special and standard edition. The special edition includes more than just the typical extras, by featuring an entirely new playable character/fighting style. It also includes the standard "making of" features for good measure. Xbox gamers more than fans of any other console have proven time and time again that they’re willing to pay a premium for premium content, with Jade Empire being no exception. Nearly half of all first month sales came from the special edition SKU. Microsoft Game Studios also constructed a website that covers all the typical feature lists, wallpapers, screenshots, and movies, but everything has a special emphasis on the martial arts fighting styles within the game. With nearly every aspect of the game’s marketing hammering home these styles and the ancient Chinese settings, MGS introduced consumers to the Jade Empire IP in the best way possible. Fighting to the Top Jade Empire is another in a line of games that have slowly and steadily turned the Xbox into an extremely viable platform for RPGs. The special edition sold 103,000 copies totaling $5,128,000, with the standard edition selling 96,000 for $4,812,000. Not bad for the American release of a new IP so heavily focused on ancient Chinese fighting styles, even though it is from BioWare. With the company confirming that two more brand new IPs are on the way, it almost seems as if the developer can do no wrong.

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