Game Journalists have been hard at work denouncing Cuphead’s difficulty. “It’s just too hard” they write. “We should be able to skip bosses.” However, the Journalists ignore that Cuphead succeeded because of its difficulty.
Games need a hook to get us to purchase them. If you are just the same as the competition (like Lawbreakers) or don’t really provide a solid hook (the new Paper Mario games), then the game crashes and burns. If Cuphead was simply defined by its aesthetics, it wouldn’t be near as successful. Cuphead’s difficult gives consumers a reason to be interested in the game. Not only does this game have a cool 1930s cartoon look, but it’s also tougher than nails.
The Dark Soul meme has lost its meaning at this point, yet I would argue that Cuphead’s success is akin to Dark Soul’s. When every game that is released is a cake walk, games like Dark Souls and Cuphead are tough games in a sea of throwaway titles.
Game Journalists forget that they way they consume games isn’t the way consumers do. Journalists play the game, write their review, and move onto the next title. Journalist want games that are “artful” but can also be beaten in a weekend. They consume and move onto the next. Cuphead impedes this process. To the regular consumer, this is great as Cuphead becomes a longer and more engaging game. Journalists hate this because they only want the game to end.
Since the Wii, consumers argue that every game must appeal to every person. Journalists argue that Cuphead should be easier to appeal to a wider audience. In truth, the goal should be designing games for different customers. Cuphead has sold over 360,000 copies, resulting in revenue of over $7 million. These figures show that Cuphead is doing just fine by being difficult.
In the end, journalists were not the one’s mortgaging their home to create this game. They may want the game to be easier, but is that going to result in greater sales? I doubt it. The Journalists just want the game to cater to their specific taste. They are right in that the game would reach a wider audience by being easier; however, this audience already got the game for free so they could review it.