Dead Space 3's co-op component isn't a copycat feature, argues EA Games' group VP of marketing strategy Laura Miele - it's a testament to just how terrifying Dead Space can be.
Speaking to Gamasutra, Miele described how EA's market research teams have switched from pigeon-holing players in terms of favourite genres or features, to categorising their tastes in terms of mood, situation or time of day.
"It was common for companies to segment the marketplace," she told the site. "Like, there's an Xbox 360 shooter consumer, or you have a PS3 sports fan consumer. And I knew that's not how people were consuming content."
EA's new approach shows that consumers routinely think outside the boxes publishers construct for them. "We went into people's homes," Miele went on. "I went on a couple of these trips, and we asked 300 consumers across the globe to take all their games, place them on the floor and sort them... not a single consumer organized them by platform or genre."
Her findings helped give rise to Visceral's new direction for the Dead Space series - apparently, the first two games enjoyed limited success because they were too scary to play alone. "That's how co-op was introduced. Cooperative play was the ticket; that is the key need and motivation for consumers.
It's not just a question of mimicking competitors, then. "I genuinely believe that there's a deep strategy that isn't just about a checklist of, 'this game did quite well and it had co-op in it, so let's put co-op in this.'"
As comparatively enlightened as Miele's approach seems, we do have misgivings about what it bodes for Dead Space in particular. Sure, it's easier to play a game that doesn't terrify you, but many of those who bought Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 2 did so for the chills - chills which, I suspect, won't be quite so chilling with another player around. Thankfully, you can still play the game solo if you wish.
Visceral claims the new Dead Space mixes balls-out action with suspense, but what we've seen of it suggests that action gets a larger share of the pie. Will returning fans be convinced? Look out for a preview in a forthcoming issue.