BugBear, developer of the fantastically explosive Ridge Racer Unbounded have revealed that the game began life as an unrelated prototype before publisher Namco decided to include their brand in it. When speaking with gaming site Eurogamer, lead producer Joonas Laakso commented, “There’s definitely a misconception among fans that we’re responsible for trying to take the series in a new direction.” Seems it was Namco who contacted Bugbear about the idea.
The prototype in question was shown to Namco multiple times so the publisher were aware of where the game was headed. It already shared many similarities with the series from the gritty back streets to the over the top speed and drifting. Of course changes and tweaks need to be made. “After we knew we were going to make a Ridge Racer title obviously we made changes to make it fit into what we felt a quality Ridge Racer title should be like,” Laakso continued. “Even though it was going to be very different.”
“We took a long hard look at Ridge Racer’s ‘artificial’ feel to make it mesh with what we were doing.” This meant a shift toward a more stylish and mature look.
So why take the Ridge Racer brand rather than release a brand new IP? Bottom line is its down to what sells, and looking over previous track records, new arcade racers don’t tend to perform so well (Burnout and Need for Speed withstanding). Blur and Split/Second for example performed below expectations with both studios shutting down shortly afterward. With the use of a known franchise, it would have given the racer a fighting chance in a society where these types of games are ignored. BugBear even tried to add more content, right down to the last minute of development in order to warrant its full price.
Sadly in the UK at least, sales weren’t too impressive with the game debuting at number 21 before dropping out the top forty entirely the following week. Despite added content, decent reviews and the Ridge Racer name it simply didn’t do enough to grab gamer’s attention over here. But it can hardly be blamed on the content and quality of these types of titles as Blur, Unbounded and Split/Second all received high praise from racing fans and press worldwide. What else can be done?
US sales don’t paint a prettier picture as sales again look bleak. While the game has only been out a couple of weeks it appears this could be an indication of how the game will perform over the next few months.
Laakso concluded by talking about sequel possibilities explaining how their entry in the series is not to be considered as the next mainstream Ridge Racer title, “So there could be an Unbounded 2 and Ridge Racer 8, but whether this will happen anytime soon or come next-generation, we just don’t know yet.”
“Namco Bandai has taken a chance with Unbounded and it seems to have paid off. While it’s definitely not a true Ridge Racer game in the sense of its feel or look, it is still a solid arcade racer and one that hopefully Namco can take note on and build upon in the future.”