Reaction to Bonus Round: Episode 502

Over the last few weeks GameTrailers have been posting up another of their fantastic Bonus Round episodes, a series of panel discussions featuring some heavyweight publishers. I thought the debate brought up some really interesting points concerning the marketing of so called ‘triple A’ franchises and the use of multiple development teams.

We all love a good video game blockbuster, but I hate the way in which industry pressure is forcing some franchises to make unnecessary evolutions. Players want value for money, but if the content isn’t relevant people simply won’t want to play it. Take Dead Space 2 and Bioshock 2. Both games have phenomenal single player campaigns that deserve respect and recognition. Both were also pressured into tacking on a multiplayer mode that no-one really wanted to play. It might have extended the experience, but I would have preferred it had that part of the development budget gone back into improving the single player story.

It was awkward for Geoff Keighley to suggest that growth in the video games industry won’t come from ‘core’ titles – especially when the owners of Epic and Ubisoft were part of the panel. Although most of the hype last year surrounded Kinect and Move, I think that it’s wrong to argue that new gamers will only be attracted by casual titles. For example, when youths get bored with the lacklustre Kinect Joy Ride, they quickly look to the next step up; Mario Kart, Burnout, etc. Providing quality in those spaces will ensure that new gamers grow into the mature range of content.

Likewise, I know many students that only play a single franchise such as Halo, Call of Duty or WoW. There’s plenty of room to move these players onto a wider range of core experiences on their preferred platform. John Hight, Director of Product Development / SCEA made a great comment when he said that new core titles are conveyed like summer blockbusters in the film industry. It’s driven by the passionate fans and if marketed correctly, can quickly become an anticipated event for more casual players as well.

(Aside: Did anyone else notice Mike Capps say that Epic was already playing with the hardware for ‘Playstation Next’?!)

Digital distribution is already revolutionising the way in which we purchase games. However, the way in which industry analysts are predicting online ‘services’ in the future is truly terrifying. Paid DLC has become universally accepted, but a subscription method would be awful for industry expansion. I already feel a little bit miffed paying for Xbox Live – would I be prepared to pay a premium subscription for a title like Halo Reach – which I only play every now and then? Of course not. Only a minority of gamers would be prepared to pay for a service that they rarely use. In all likelihood, players would simply opt for a single service which they use the most; Call of Duty, WoW or similar. All of the others would be discarded, making it almost impossible for a new IP to enter the market.

The used market has taken a considerable chunk of revenue away from publishers. They’re all worried about the impact of rentals – experienced players who know that they can blitz through a 12 hour campaign in a single night and give it back to the store in the morning. I know that this happens because I do it with a LoveFilm subscription – saving me an incredible amount of money in the process. Multiplayer modes, DLC and community content will go some way to encouraging players to keep their disc. I just think that a subscription will put them off purchasing the game all together.

Watch Episode 502 of the Bonus Round here.

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