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The Real Reason Balan Wonderworld Bombed

Balan Wonderworld reunited Yuji Naka and Naoto Oshima, the creative team behind classics like Nights into Dreams and Sonic Adventure, but it failed in a way that its predecessors didn't. There are a variety of reasons why games don't perform as expected on the market, but Balan Wonderworld is a stranger case than most. It had everything going for it, including a great creative duo, tons of marketing from its publisher Square Enix, a co-op mode, and even a lengthy demo with exclusive costumes. 

However, once Balan Wonderworld appeared on shelves, and the reviews started pouring in, the much hyped game turned out to be a dud. Critics almost universally disliked the game, though some saw its potential. While no one can calculate all the reasons that a game succeeds or fails, some key issues with Balan Wonderworld could have shown gamers that the game might not live up to all the marketing put behind it.

Balan Wonderworld had bad sales numbers and delayed reviews

Balan Wonderworld's quirky and colorful style isn't for every gamer, but there's definitely a market for mascot-fronted platformers. After all, Super Mario Bros. games still perform well on sales charts. Balan Wonderworld didn't sell well, even in Japan. 

According to Cartridge Games, Balan Wonderworld only sold 2,100 copies when it debuted in Japan, and didn't appear in the top selling games for the week at all. Even though that figures only accounts for physical copies, Balan Wonderworld didn't perform well on online storefronts, either. Metacritic listed Balan Wonderworld as one of the 4 worst games on the Nintendo Switch. Balan Wonderworld didn't make a splash on the UK charts, either. In fact, Super Mario 3D All-Stars, which was discontinued at the end of March, ranked above Balan Wonderworld.

Complicating matters was the fact that Square Enix didn't send advance review codes of Balan Wonderworld to game reviewers. IGN's Tom Marks tweeted that he did not receive a code before the game released, and that the game did not live up to his expectations. Some fans have speculated that Square Enix mismanaged Balan Wonderworld, releasing it before it was truly ready. 

Fans may never know exactly what made Balan Wonderworld flop, but it may remain a cautionary tale for future adventurous platformers.