Dark Light

Of all the gripes gamers have towards new games, two of them: Extensive micro-transactions and lack of innovation clearly stands out. Now this isn’t any new revelation when trying to establish the relation between rising budget of making games and increased dependence on micro-transaction. We know by now that these market practices are here to stay, and the reasoning isn’t entirely wrong either, but they could be better.

  • The 1st Gear was made for 12 mil, the 4th one…around 100 mil

Recently EPIC Games (Company behind the Gears Of War(1,2,3) and the Unreal Engine) boss Tim Sweeney threw some light on their decision to move away from the Gears franchise. He said that the first Gears of War was developed under 12M$ (that’s 12 Million U.S. Dollars) and generated more than 100M$ in revenue, a huge success. But rising expectations and costs caught up to them and despite having such a successful franchise, their profit margins decreased in subsequent sequels (Note Profits decreased and not sales). In his own words,

The profit was shrinking and shrinking. We calculated that, if we built Gears of War 4, the budget would have been well over $100 million, and if it was a huge success, we could break even. Anything less could put us out of business.

After Gears of War Judgement received mixed reception, EPIC and Microsoft realized that it was better to just stay friends. As AAA games production time has increased, the costs have ballooned, while the expectations from gamers have skyrocketed. Many publishers are now looking for a new model to balancing these factors. One of these new model is “Games as a Service”.

No wonder EPIC moved to make Paragon (3rd person moba).

Gaming is not dying. It is true that 270M consoles were sold last generation, 200M before that. What is also true however, is that the fact during the same time frame the number of consoles sold this gen is not nearly enough compared to 7th Gen cycle in its 3rd year (keeping inflation and population in mind).

Lifetime Sales of PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii and Wii U

Most of the casuals that were attracted from Nintendo Wii have been sucked into Mobile Gaming. WiiU has been a failure. Gaming giants like THQ have gone bankrupt. Lovable gaming sites are out of business. The uncertainty of this business I think has paved way for the idea of Games as a service against the previous ‘buy and forget’ status quo.

The first step towards Game As a Service: UPDATES
The first step towards Game As a Service: UPDATES
  • The first step towards Game As a Service: UPDATES

Now I am using games as a service term in a very loose way. For me, it basically boils down to, making people stay with the game as long as possible with equal opportunity for delivering new experiences on that same release/build/game.

Where do we see that model doing work? PC? In terms of sheer numbers, PC crowd has always been larger than Console numbers, yet 90% of multi-platform releases gains more profit on consoles than on PC (maybe it is hard to calculate the true effective number). Witcher 3, a franchise that originated from a PC only game sold 6M copies world-wide and yet only 30% of them were on the PC.

Yet sizeable revenue for the “games as Service” model come from F2P (Free 2 Play) titles most of which are on PC (Team Fortress 2, DOTA 2, LOL). Even some non-F2P games rose to success just because they had the platform which served them as a service with constant additions/DLC (WOW). On the other end of the spectrum games like Just Cause 2 would never had reached 6M Sales if wasn’t for modders, and the immense success of Minecraft, Fallout and Skyrim etc prove that opening your game to modders and the community adds years to your game’s life.

The idea is that if the game survives that initial time after the front loaded hype, it will show strong legs on sale charts.

That notion isn’t entirely focused around modding per se; it can also be delivered by creating a constant persistent world that lasts much longer than a single play-through. Both Division and Destiny, had the largest opening any new IP has ever seen which directly follow this idea of providing a constant flow of content, after the game is released (some free, some not) in a persistent online only world. Countering piracy this way is only an added bonus for these companies. As a result we’re seeing many only multiplayer titles than we like.

GTAV, which released in 2013 still refuses to drop down from Top10 sold games of each month, simply because it is a serviceable game with ability to add new stuff any time. GTA-Online has much in common with Division and Destiny. A reduction of excitement over Single Player games which has poor cost-to-hour gameplay value and preferring Open World always online games who deceptively might give you better cost-to-hour gameplay.

Don’t be surprised if GTA6 has much more focus on GTA-Online.

Another recent example is HITMAN, where the missions are literally divided into episodes. Increasing the cost-to-hour value while still having you engage in further experiences without trading in your copy long after you have bought it. You are still holding on to your original copy of the game, because there is a possibility that new content maybe dropped any day. Consequently, any time some new content is dropped, it entices new gamers to buy the earlier episodes too, thus increasing its sales way after it was initially released.

  • Single Players?

I would hate to see the day where Single Player games becomes an afterthought and everything needs to be online.  Even though Open World Single Player games are doing well, Linear Single player games are finding it hard to sell themselves. The games are getting costly to make, and gamers expectations are also high, but mixed with an increased competition and less gamers to sell those games to (comparatively), we will get more and more low quality titles touting big game-play hour numbers to make up their costs.

I fully expect AAA games of the future to be needlessly time-consuming just to give you the illusion of your purchase being worth it. Now all publishers are not evil for trying to make up for those high budget with risky ventures, but that doesn’t give them right to held content back and charge 50$ for season pass and then forget to support a platform claiming “they can’t fix it”. Exceptions are there, where we have gone so accustomed to skin/weapon DLCs that a game not charging money for them makes us take notice.

CDPR’s Witcher 3 sold more than 6M copies using the old formula of ‘Let’s make a great game’ and they truly deserved it.

There needs to be a balance between coping with increased production costs and blatantly ripping gamers off. Maybe a change in gaming model needs to be there where every type of game could survive. After seeing these numbers, it’s not far-fetched why Microsoft thought of modular upgradable consoles and Sony is coming up with rumored new console with 4K media capabilities, and Nintendo’s new interest towards mobile gaming. They are now bringing the “Games as a service” model to the consoles themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts