Alan Wake shipped exclusively for the Xbox 360 in May of 2010, but that wasn't the initial plan.
The game was in development for more than five years by a studio named Remedy, the group behind the Max Payne series. Remedy signed up to work with Microsoft Game Studios to release Wake, and that explains the reasoning for the 360 exclusivity.
Alan Wake released to largely positive critical fanfare and a more than eager crowd of supporters. Its sales, however, were slightly limited. The NPD research group reported that the game sold a relatively paltry 145,000 units in its first two weeks. While hardly a commercial failure, a flagship title like Alan Wake was likely expected to pull more than what it did.
Remedy CTO Markus Maki spoke with CVG about the decision to become an Xbox 360 exclusive, despite the fact that it would narrow the final product's potential sales outlets. He cites business and technological simplicity as the primary reasons for signing the deal.
Our strategy was one of focus…That's actually a really core Remedy element, well if you forget the ambitious goals we had. We needed to be top notch in some areas, but we knew we couldn't do everything better than some developers out there. For example, this meant there was no multiplayer. That wasn't in our core set of skills and it would have been a huge effort.
We also took the approach to license middleware that made sense, even when we didn't end up using it all for one reason or another. And then, the big deal – to go with Microsoft and take one big technological effort, the PS3, out of the equation. That then changed the technology risk to a business risk – but that's a subject for a different talk altogether…"
Maki also spoke briefly about the decision to ignore third party engine technology and build their own from within the studio. The decision to independently create an engine explained a lot of the lengthy development time for the game itself.
We looked at Unreal and other technologies out there…at that point, we didn't dare commit to shipping a game on third-party tech until the developers of that tech had shipped a game on each of those platforms.
Five years later, [I'll admit] that the reasoning wasn't solid because these guys beat us to the punch easily.
Maki went on to say that he and his team are happy with the engine they built at Remedy. And, this is me chiming in, I can safely say that I loved the game, its look and its story immensely. It's good news, then, that the engine has already been built in order for the team to continue work. Should the company move forward with a sequel, they don't need to start from scratch.