At the Develop Conference in England Mark Rein (from Epic) questioned the business model for episodic content and game releases. Some of the developers and publishers in the audience didn’t take too kindly to his comments and heckled him. Apparently a few called him a dinosaur…
After reading a few of Mark’s comments posted on gamasutra.com about the episodic issue, and an interview with him posted on gamesindustry.biz where he claims that next-generation development costs have been overstated by larger publishers, I am inclined to agree with Mark.
Episodic Content: How many of you downloaded and played the new HL2 episode that was released recently? Was it worth the $20? What if the full HL2 game was segmented into smaller bits that were released every six months for $19.95…would you have bought them all? What if they were only $9.95?
I think episodic content is great as a *supplement* to a full game, or maybe as a method of delivering new content for an ongoing title like an MMORPG (but free episodes…people already pay for MOGs with monthly subs or item malls).
Mark commented that it is much more difficult to brand, market, and distribute a game based on episodic release, and I think he is right. Can you take a normal game’s marketing budget and split it into ten pieces to market ten different episodes? Will your marketing be as effective and have the right market penetration? Doubtful.
I think there is a time and a place for episodic content, but not as a replacement for our current distribution models (including Valve’s steam which is nicely suited for episode distribution).
Rising Costs: I totally agree with Mark here. Costs should be expected to rise by some amount every year to cover the rising cost of living, standard salary increases for long term employees, workstation and software upkeep/updates, etc. etc. But the larger publishers are saying that next generation development is increasing by massive amounts…
There are a number of ways to keep costs down and it seems that the “big boys” aren’t bothering at all. I think that people are getting greedy and trying to milk the industry for as much as possible. It wouldnt surprise me at all to discover publishers or developers padding the costs for new projects for different reasons.
Well anyway. Thank you Mark. It is refreshing when someone that has a name and some weight in the industry calls everyone else to the mat and challenges some of the idiocy going on.
PS, those guys that called you a dinosaur are total morons. I’d be willing to bet money that their companies are losing money, or will put out some episodic games that will fail miserably. Evolution in action baby. Frag ’em.