The phrase “selling out” can be interchanged with the term expanding, because they basically mean the same thing. People compromise to make money. People who want to make a little more money compromise a little more. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but it all depends on where you’re sitting.
Regardless of it’s creators motives, any IP on the market is there solely to make money, otherwise it simply wouldn’t be there.
As an example, a lot of people define Metallica’s release of the Black Album as the turning point in their career; when they officially sold out. But the fact is that they “sold out” when they first signed the contracts that brought them to the release of Kill Em All. The only reason people see the Black Album as the “sell out point” is because it was so different from their other releases and it left a lot of fans scratching their heads in dissapointment, therefore the only way they could deal with it was by insulting the band through said mantra. Of course they changed their style to expand their audience (ie, make more cash), but they did it for the same reason that anyone found out about them in the first place. So like I said, selling out is a term that’s used mostly by people who don’t get what they want/expect from something that’s been consistent. People apply the term to music a lot more because it’s so human, but if a game developement studio changes the look of their characters to make them more accessible, or upgrades the gameplay so a gamer can derive more fun, nobody really holds it against them (although I expect the former will change as games become more and more mainstream), and when the same studio releases a crappy iteration of the IP, people say it sucks, not that they sold out.
In my opinion being truly successful is creating something that you like and that everyone else likes as well…PIXAR does it all the time :p.
Tool puts it best:
“All you read and wear or see and hear on TV is a product begging for your fatass dirty dollar so shut up and buy my new record.”