September 11th, 2009
I bought Guitar Hero 1 and loved it. I got GH2 and liked it. I haven’t gotten anything since then, including Rock Band, nor have I much interest in the latest Beatles expansion. The reasons for this are numerous, but include the following:
- The songs are so mixed it can be hard to understand a game’s value. Guitar Hero 1 had, I thought, a pretty good mixture of songs, but since that point I have had a hard time finding a setlist that I thought was truly great. Rock Band has tried to fix this somewhat through DLC, but frankly, you pay so much up front that I don’t consider it worth it.
- The games are extremely uneven in terms of difficulty. Guitar Hero 1 was pretty accessible, but GH2 was shockingly difficult by the first game’s standards, and sequels in the genre fall all over the board (Rock Band has some very easy portions and some very difficult ones).
- The target audience for the games varies as well. Rock Band is best played with others, but since I don’t know a ton of people who have an interest in the genre, it doesn’t make much sense to pick it up.
- They’re expensive. Shelling out $60 - $200 for a new game - which is essentially the same game as before - is just hard to justify on a regular basis.
Rhythm game fanatics have probably enjoyed most of the entrants into the series, but I suspect more casual players have lost a lot of interest. What can be done to make these games more interesting? Lately, all the innovation has focused on changing inputs: adding devices or upgrading them to attempt to make them a closer simulation of real music. I’d suggest that we should focus a bit more on the mechanics of the game and how it’s sold. (I’m actually pretty interested in DJ Hero, mostly because it’s so different than what we’ve seen so far, both in terms of gameplay and musical style.
One idea I’d like to see: what about an iTunes-esque “build your own game” format? Games would come blank, but players could select a series of, say, 15 tracks to download that would become the standard tracklist for their game. This would ensure that players would only pay for tracks that they really liked, in a style they desired; since DLC right now seems reasonably successful, I don’t see this as being a licensing cost issue. I’d definitely pay for that.
Posted in DLC, Gear, Geoff | 2 Comments »
August 24th, 2009
OK, one more brief thought on Shadow Complex while I’m on the subject: one of the most common recurring themes in game reviews for the title is that SC represents a “great value” because it includes a full-sized game in an Xbox Live release. The thought occurs to me, however, that this might not be a good thing for developers.
The basic problem, as I see it, is that if Xbox Live simply becomes an arena for discounted AAA titles, it hurts everybody. Developers will be forced into an arms race to produce cheaper but high-quality games, essentially lowering the starting price point for new games and squeezing their profitability. Gamers who, like Michael Abbott, are drawn to “bursts of [streamlined] fun,” will have a harder time finding the more casual titles they treasure, because they’ll be sandwiched in between more premium titles. And hardware manufacturers, who responded to this issue first with the Wii and Live/PSN, will find themselves in much the same predicament as they did before the current generation.
I’m hardly one to bemoan getting more for less. But I do become concerned that the more we blur the lines between the delivery of AAA or hardcore games and casual titles, the more we actually end up hurting ourselves. Definitely think of this more as a thought experiment if this trend were carried to an extreme, rather than a complaint about Shadow Complex, which I like quite a bit: is it possible that segregating our games by type and channel is actually beneficial?
Posted in Business, DLC, Geoff, Microsoft, Mobile, PSN, Wii, Xbox Live | 3 Comments »
March 31st, 2009
And I’m back again.
An interesting post from Maw developers Twisted Pixel regarding the feeling that DLC may not even be worth developing due to the perception from gamers that they are being “ripped off.” My suspicion is that there’s an inherent conflict in DLC between the need to develop additional value-added content and the feeling from gamers that content is effectively stripped out of games prior to release to provide something to sell to them later. If you lean too far to either direction, you have problems - the horse armor was generally perceived as pointless within Oblivion, whereas the addition of substantial levels to a game adds fuel to the concerns of other gamers.
Part of the problem, I suspect, is the idea that games need DLC plans prior to the game’s release. Games that are true successes, like Fallout 3, can afford to invest a bit more to develop clearly new expansions like Project Anchorage. Since the expansions are related but involve entirely new content, it’s much easier for gamers to treat them well. On the other hand, a game that is less successful (or at least, riskier) can’t support that kind of DLC strategy and so needs to opt for a more dangerous strategy - potentially adding less useful content or that which should have been in the game originally.
Perhaps the solution, then, is to stop requiring full DLC strategies for games, but to use them as kickers for additional compensation for developers post-launch.
Posted in DLC, Geoff | 2 Comments »
March 13th, 2009
Resident Evil 5 has now been released, but as we’ve found out over the past few days there is already DLC in the works that will enable a “Versus Mode”, which gives non-cooperative ways to play the game multiplayer. Unfortunately, unlike the free updates for Left 4 Dead and other Valve games, this DLC will cost $5.
While $5 is not the end of the world, this strikes me as a really poor idea, not just because it seems like a blatant attempt to quickly squeeze a bit more money out of customers for features that should’ve potentially been included with the game, but also because it strikes me as the kind of thing that will substantially reduce the number of people that can play it in this mode, thus possibly making the experience even worse for all of those who actually do purchase it (or at least reducing its longevity and therefore it’s long-term potential).
Separating out an entire multiplayer feature for DLC is much different than just selling new maps for a game. At least if the game ships with the feature I’ll know that I’ll always be able to play with anyone else who bought the game, whether or not they bought the new maps. What Capcom seems to be doing with RE5 seems more akin to if Bungie had decided to charge separately just to play Halo 3 multiplayer, and I think that probably would’ve been a pretty quick way to kill the Halo 3 community. Granted, the demand for competitive RE5 modes is probably less than Halo 3’s, but that shouldn’t really matter.
Capcom may want to think clearly about their DLC strategy going forward. There are certainly some people, many who have no problems paying for all kinds of DLC content, that are unhappy with the way they are treating their fans with their latest games.
Posted in Business, Commentary, DLC, Jeff | 1 Comment »