The game that has been sucking up nearly all my train time, break time, and my wife’s TV time, is the Carcassonne App. This little baby is one of the most polished apps I have seen. The developers really considered the limitations of playing the award-winning board game on a miniature screen, and came through big time. The AI is pretty good, there is a solitaire game, and even online play against random players. Real quick I have a gripe and a suggestion for the game itself: (gripe) the AI, not just evil, is way too heavy on piggy-backing when both my wife and I felt it would have been much better to start a new city or road, and (suggestion) it can be really hard to find distinct owned farms on the small screen where a colored toggle would be nice to show temporarily who owns the farms. Other than that both my wife and I have logged in well over 50 games each. It is definitely my App Game of the Year so far.
That being said, the developers, TheCodingMonkeys (TCM) stumbled big time. They stumbled in a way that opened my eyes to the current 0-day DLC phenomenon. For you see, with the nearly dozen or so expansions for Carcassonne and promises by TCM that expansions will be forthcoming to buy in-game, there was none. Fans don’t know which expansion will be first, or which ones are even planned. All we know is the iPad version of Carcassonne comes first. In terms of community management, they have created the worst foul. They are not managing expectations on whether they are merely providing a product or a service as well.
Okay, let’s rewind. The App Store is still frontier. Angry Birds updates magically appear on my 99 cents app because people keep buying it. Other apps that cost a buck or two suddenly go free for a day. People will flock to apps that make vuvezela sounds. I bet it’s crazy for developers trying to figure out how to hit the next collective node. So TCM came through with such a polished, beautiful game for $5. For me, this game is easily worth $20. Easily. For buying a mere product, Carcassonne App is a true gem. Yet, all Carcassonne fans are aware of the many, many expansions that can be plugged in to the base game. My wife and I rarely if ever play without one because it can enliven Carcassonne so much.
On the other hand, we have 0-day buyable DLC from games like Dragon Age. While in the past games like Diablo 2 were able to ship off an expansion to the stores months and months later, the new modicum is to bypass that nonsense (and middle-men) with instant content upgrades immediately available for consumer purchase. A lot of people wondered if this went too far, and perhaps BioWare did cross the line. Yet, the message was loud and clear: “Dragon Age would provide a service.” They managed expectations with pricing, content amount, and then started working on how fast the DLC would flow.
With TCM, on the other hand, fans are clamoring for a service. They are practically begging to be able to throw money at TCM in exchange for simple expansions like The River. Instead, TCM would rather work on the iPad version of the Carcassonne App leaving every one of their current customers wondering and floundering. The thing is, and BioWare knew this, that our attention spans are getting shorter. New apps drop every day. New hits of content appear all over the internet. When I get iOS4, I am going to stuff a folder full of games that I hope to play again. In other words, TCM’s cheese ain’t getting any fresher.
As I mature (lololo) I find myself caring a lot less about distinct products. I watch ongoing TV shows magnitudes more than single-bite movies. I play MMOs and Kongregate-esque games magnitudes more than single-bite games. Heck, I even “subscribe” to a CSA for my vegetables. If ArenaNet promised to answer three questions for Guild Wars 2, you can bet one of them would be on what their future content will entail (release date and Bahltek would be the others). I hope this is just a misstep for TCM, and with the first free update already in the pipeline, I hope that they start to manage expectations on the service they can provide for the Carcassonne App.
cat food to the aliens