Going (for) Broke

Going (for) Broke

The game industry is shifting away from million-dollar budgets and huge development teams to a more sustainable model.

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Oh, you better raise the flameshield here, the article points out a lot of stuff the "gamer community" doesn't like.

And i don't really feel like arguing for one way or another, as i don't think DLC is the END OF ALL THE GAMINGS!...yet i for one am rather picky when it comes to it.

But one thing that might've deserved mention is the DLC Games market, as in PSN and XBLA Titles as well as smaller titles for the PC through Steam or something like it.
It's the best thing the current generation has brought us, and as far as i see it, for the industry it's also a bit more than a "oh, i found $10 in my pocket"-market. And with these games slowly turning from "Retro-Style-Arcade-Games" to "Almost AAA Games, just less and cheaper", i think it's the middle ground where everyone wins.
Without knowing, i strongly believe that, for example, I Am Alive would've been...or is a typical Development-Hell Desaster, but with the condensed version of the original vision being released as something that is still pretty special in the DLC Game Market, Ubisoft is sure to ease the possible financial blow they suffered.
All the while Gamers get to get a new game, and maybe games that are bolder and more innovative (read: riskier) for a price that doesn't need to take much convincing about getting thier money's worth.

Unfortunately i don't know just how profitable these games are, but for me, they currently are a sign for the brightest future i can imagine in the games industry so yeah, i like to believe in them ^^.

I prefer the AAA big-budget games, so I don't want to see too much movement in that direction. (But obviously, there are lesser-budgeted games that I love, too).

DLC (when done properly) seems as good as away as any to continue to generate money from a game once it has been bought, and it avoids front-loading the development costs. Borderlands is a good example of this (the sandbox genre being a convenient one to plug new stories into), and Dragon Age 2's Legacy and Mark of the Assassin DLC were much better than the dross of the first game's DLC (and the Bioware's other weapons/outfit bundles).

Maybe the answer lies in better middleware, to cut dev costs? A lot of devs still seem to build their own game-series-specific engines, which is perhaps part of the problem.

gaming industry isn't the only one growing, but i agree that there were many stagnant industries.

if a best selling game cant pay their wages it doesn't mean that the model is unprofitable, it means someone upstairs had a really deep pockets (aka someone leaked money for personal use).
making big money with big money works - look at COD, BF3, Skyrim, ME3.....

As for DLC.... anyone remember that once what we call "DLC" and pay 10 bucks for now once used to be either a) already in with the original game or b) added in a form of free game patches.
yeah, financially selling half the game and then selling the other half separately it makes sense. morally - not at all.

many companies that layed off workers actually did so form a divisions that made horrible games. nothing new in "you work bad you get layed off".
And i agree that social platforms do take away their share of gamers. cant comment much there, i know they reak huge profits, but since personally i think phone is for calling, mp3 player is for music and computer os for gaming (yet somehow some people do all 3 with phone) i haven been testing those.

jezcentral:
Maybe the answer lies in better middleware, to cut dev costs? A lot of devs still seem to build their own game-series-specific engines, which is perhaps part of the problem.

I agree that developing your own engine is a costly business. but i want them to do that. its a core part of the game. i dont want every game to look the same just because they all bought one successful engine. sure you sometimes get such awful things like gta 4, which had so bad optimization it can probably go hand in had with SH5, but sometimes you get great engines like cryengine.

P.S. a new journalist? welcome :)

In the IPTV world there has been a lot of talk about 2nd, 3rd, 4th (yaddadda) screens that people have access to - I guess that for "traditional" gamers it feels strange to talk about this as the growth/boom area, when there are still titles like Call of Duty that can become the best selling entertainment product ever.

I think the big problem for established game developers is that now most standard console/pc releases have become a huge multi-disciplinary endeavour just to deliver something that gamers will accept (from Coders, writers, to artists and a whole host in between). Those skills and people aren't cheap they cost and the larger the team the larger to overheads become. If your game doesn't make back the right profit in the right time-frame you can be in trouble financially very quickly.

I'm reminded of Mark Kermode (UK film critic) book where he talks about the financing for movies and why big blockbusters from the studios will nearly without fail always make a profit just by sheer scale, yet small to medium sized budgeted films run a very serious risk of failing to make a profit and are a far bigger gamble. (Short version - still have the same costs as the big budget film for production/distribution, but enter a market that is far more fickle, and has less value but more competition).

I'm not sure how much you can cut costs in game development when it comes to AAA titles really, it already seems that many share and use common engines it just seems that the industry has a cap on how much each market can earn.

Although the financial logic is there, the implications that gamers will now have to pay even more for the game because at some point they paid for some add-on or whatever -and that the attitude is justifable- is well...ludicrous. Justifying an ever more expensive purchase with "well, you asked for it" is pure greed and unethical. Something is trully very wrong within a company if despite massive sales it is still in the red. The answer can't be to squeeze more out of your customers. If the economy is not growing, less people get jobs and therefore less income, and one raises the cost of you products, I cannot see how that's a successful recipe. Maybe in the short term you'll see more profits as your customers slowly stop buying but still purchase enough to make profit. In the long run it would just spell shrinking customer base and bankrupcy.

I remember the Extra Creditz guys making an episode on how big publishers spend too much on development because of rushing over pre-production. I'm quite sure that is very true. Although the company will have to cut some staff, the remaining staff should not be pushed into the same inefficent and hemorraghic cycle. That's a topic I haven't seen addressed too frequently and is probably one of the most important reasons development costs keep skyrocketing, even for modest releases.

We're also seeing were DLC will head with the whole Mass Effect 3 confetti show going on. Bits and pieces of the game all over the place, and you have pay to acquire each piece. I for one find that practice despicable considering the already pretty high entry cost to the party. Little mobile games with lower cost may make more sense to adopt this model, but middle to big productions should not be allowed to do this.

It may all make the company more profitable, but that doesn't make them less of a jerk, and I personally don't deal with jerks. Yet I am well aware that the materialistic way of thinking and very good marketing will make a lot of people buy stuff they used to get for free. The saying is true: a fool and his money are soon parted.

EDIT: Food analogy-> mobile gaming is, as the whole, something like fast food restaurants, with super-size me packages and all. If gives you a quick fix and satisfies the right buttons in your pleasure zones, but it's not good for you in the long run and usually far more expensive that it should be. Big productions have the feel of gourmet banquets, or very sophisticated bistros or whatever. I can't believe we want to do away with fine food and turn every feeding option into fast food. I don't mind a company making profit from Fries-R-Us to take risks in some Frech cuisine café. I do however, don't want fries in my Duck L'Orange.

DLC is kind of like communism. Good in theory, bad in practice because people in power abuse it.

DLC as frivolous stuff like hats and weapon skins is fine. It's like upgrading to the chrome package on a truck. DLC as content additions is trickier, though. Adding new maps/quests/levels or whatever is a pretty good practice if priced well. Full on expansions are good too.

But things like day 1 DLC (that adds content), particularly if it's already "on disk" is just sleazy. I'd say Fallout 3 is a good way to do DLC, as each one (Broken Steel, The Pits, Mothership Zeta, etc) all added completely new content.

Unfortunately a lot of idiots think they can "protest" bad practices like Day 1 DLC by pirating the game. This isn't too much of an issue on consoles, but for PC gaming it's seriously detrimental. There's more PCs out there with graphics cards than there are consoles, yet the sales are 1/5th as high while torrent downloads are 10x higher compared to console torrents. I think there's an obvious problem and it'd driving developers away en masse.

Sorry DLC is like communism - really?

Looking at the facts it would seem DLC has been very successful as part of the bigger picture of micro-transactions as a business model. If it wasn't financially viable it wouldn't happen. It is happening and developers/publishers are making money - so currently it's successful.

Honestly how much of the hate for DLC is a fear that the industry is changing into something you don't recognize, the old models aren't dead and buried yet, but as gamers/consumers it seems we are happy to change our habits in a meaningful way towards micro transactions.

Something to consider even if Micro-transactions/DLC was banned tomorrow all the money being poured into those games that currently use it would NOT automatically make it into the older business model games. It's being invested in this new model because it generates such a return, a return the older models cannot match it seems. If that goes so does a large chunk of the newer money that is pouring in.

You know, other than the commentary on Origin, this article seems post-dated by about five years. Anyhow, it's fairly simple. I liked New Vegas and I ended up spending about 95 dollars on it in total and I didn't like Origin's service and I still haven't bought ME3.

grigjd3:
You know, other than the commentary on Origin, this article seems post-dated by about five years. Anyhow, it's fairly simple. I liked New Vegas and I ended up spending about 95 dollars on it in total and I didn't like Origin's service and I still haven't bought ME3.

More or less this. Vote with your dollar people.

Another article that defends DLC as a necessity and ignores the successful developers and games that don't seem to need DLC.

It also ignores the basic fact that the best-selling games have budgets in the 10s of millions, and revenues in the 100s of millions. They don't need DLC to make a profit.

The article cherry picks the data points to make a false point. The false point is anti-consumer and pro-corporation. Garbage.

I suppose DLC can work okay on a console, but as more of a PC gamer now I fell it's a negative trend that we're getting pigeon holed with because of all the cross-platforming that goes on nowadays.

The article states this:

The best part for developers is that DLC makes perfect sense financially. Take-Two Interactive's CEO Strauss Zelnick perhaps explains it best, as he stated to the ThinkEquity 8th Annual Growth Conference, "Once we do the core development, which takes a long time and is pretty hard, doing the development related to the DLC in a high-quality way is a lot easier and a lot quicker." Having more content made available quickly is an ideal situation for gamers, who are often left wanting more of a game and forced to wait for sequels to go through the development process. No longer is the case with DLC, which involves just building atop an already established world on existing hardware and engine. There's less cost associated with creating the content, and most fans of a product are willing to drop an extra $10 for a few more hours of game play. However, there is another area that gaming companies are beginning to focus on.

But we've always had this in PC gaming, they were called expansion packs. Where a DLC is usually a small addition to the game, expansion packs were usually as big as the original game. Further more with, what you get from your average $5-10 DLC is in PC gaming comparable to something the modding community would make for free. I don't know if it would actually happen but with the push for DLC will the publishers at some point begin viewing free user mods as competition and try to cut them out? Just imagine Bobby Kotick getting his grimy little hands on Bethesda, and cutting the world building kit out of TES: VI so that all the mods will be replaced by paid for DLC.

"Hey look, everyone's spending money on social games!"
reality: 5% of social gamers spend any money, and as an average across all players you can expect to see $1.70 per player, per game.

"I guess we'd all better start making social games!"
reality: the market is already well saturated. Anyone bored in their lunch break doesn't have to buy a $2 game, they can likely just hit up any one of dozens of flash portals like Kongregate or Newgrounds and actually play for free. Compulsive, addicting 'social' games have a limited shelf life and will rapidly out-stay their welcome as people periodically come to realise just how pointless they really are.

Given a few years the tides will shift again and you'll have an industry geared to producing cheap, plastic, throw-away games wondering where all their money's gone. Social games are the industry's second childhood and they won't last.

At least, I bloody hope they don't. Perhaps I'm giving humanity too much credit.

Personally, I'm disappointed that MW:Online and MW:Tactics are being released free to play, because you just know that that means they've had to come up with dozens of ways to inconvenience a player to encourage them to spend little bits of money. "Buy an extra garage slot!", "buy an xp boost!", "buy a random booster pack!", "buy more attacks to use today!", "want to change your mech's name? No problem - just fill in your credit card details!".

I want to go back to buying games - whole games, not day one DLC with 4GB of patches the next day to get the broken mess to turn over - and the FTP revolution's only just beginning :(

RandV80:
...

But we've always had this in PC gaming, they were called expansion packs. Where a DLC is usually a small addition to the game, expansion packs were usually as big as the original game. Further more with, what you get from your average $5-10 DLC is in PC gaming comparable to something the modding community would make for free. I don't know if it would actually happen but with the push for DLC will the publishers at some point begin viewing free user mods as competition and try to cut them out? Just imagine Bobby Kotick getting his grimy little hands on Bethesda, and cutting the world building kit out of TES: VI so that all the mods will be replaced by paid for DLC.

Dude, it's already happened. There were a wealth of mods for BF 1942 - it was open, accessible, and people loved it. BF2 had a strong following and mods and custom maps as well. BF3, however? Completely walled garden. Just one little example, but there's plenty out there - very few games these days support player-made content, because the stuff fans produce for the love of it competes with what publishers want to push you. Just another reason people rag on DLC, especially day 1 DLC.

How do you manage to argue that DLC is a good thing because players are willing to pay more than $60 and that iOS games are also a good thing because players are no longer willing to pay $60?

The AAA game industry is oversaturated and underpriced. Too many devs trying to replicate CoD-level success, and no one is charging nearly enough for their efforts.

There won't be an industry-wide crash so much as this "restructuring", which is fine by me. I'd like to see the "hardcore" games become niche once again. That's when you're treated to gems like Planescape: Torment instead of [insert 3rd or 4th sequel in linear narrative with minimal gameplay elements game series].

Wicky_42:

RandV80:
...

But we've always had this in PC gaming, they were called expansion packs. Where a DLC is usually a small addition to the game, expansion packs were usually as big as the original game. Further more with, what you get from your average $5-10 DLC is in PC gaming comparable to something the modding community would make for free. I don't know if it would actually happen but with the push for DLC will the publishers at some point begin viewing free user mods as competition and try to cut them out? Just imagine Bobby Kotick getting his grimy little hands on Bethesda, and cutting the world building kit out of TES: VI so that all the mods will be replaced by paid for DLC.

Dude, it's already happened. There were a wealth of mods for BF 1942 - it was open, accessible, and people loved it. BF2 had a strong following and mods and custom maps as well. BF3, however? Completely walled garden. Just one little example, but there's plenty out there - very few games these days support player-made content, because the stuff fans produce for the love of it competes with what publishers want to push you. Just another reason people rag on DLC, especially day 1 DLC.

Stuff like this is why I make it a point to reward companies like Valve and Bethesda. Not only do they allow for Mods, they give out the tools to make them and offer support. Most games, I'll wait until they're $20 or so to get; Skyrim I pre-ordered, because I knew that not only was I going to be getting a huge game with a lot of playtime, but there'd also be Mods down the road to make the cost even more worthwhile.

I will sound like a luddite, but the problem is that the bar has been raised unreasonably high; games now MUST have stunning graphics, full voice acting, and a variety of content that do not necessarily make them more enjoyable, and sometimes even harm or constrain them.

Examples?

I recall a Square guy saying it would be impossible to make a new Final Fantasy as vast and open as the classics, because each environment would need an absurd amount of detail. So have fun with Final Fantasy 13, corridor simulation.

Voice acting can be immersive, but used wrongly... well, no one used to think of Samus Aran as helpless, submissive, traumatized, and broken, but that's how Other M fleshed her out. It simply flies in the face of all we knew about her.

Gran Turismo 5 was delayed repeatedly as the devs added tons of details to over a thousand cars. Will any single gamer ever play all of them? Then again, much of it is repeated filler with minor variations: 50 Skylines, 30 NSXs, 31 RX7s, 27 Lancers, 27 S2000s, 27 Imprezas, 22 MX5s, 15 Fairladies, 12 3000GTs, 11 Miatas, 10 Impalas, 9 Camaros, 15 Corvettes, 16 Civics... how much could they have saved if they had instead chosen just a few truly good cars?

Wolfram23:
DLC is kind of like communism. Good in theory, bad in practice because people in power abuse it.

DLC as frivolous stuff like hats and weapon skins is fine. It's like upgrading to the chrome package on a truck. DLC as content additions is trickier, though. Adding new maps/quests/levels or whatever is a pretty good practice if priced well. Full on expansions are good too.

But things like day 1 DLC (that adds content), particularly if it's already "on disk" is just sleazy. I'd say Fallout 3 is a good way to do DLC, as each one (Broken Steel, The Pits, Mothership Zeta, etc) all added completely new content.

Unfortunately a lot of idiots think they can "protest" bad practices like Day 1 DLC by pirating the game. This isn't too much of an issue on consoles, but for PC gaming it's seriously detrimental. There's more PCs out there with graphics cards than there are consoles, yet the sales are 1/5th as high while torrent downloads are 10x higher compared to console torrents. I think there's an obvious problem and it'd driving developers away en masse.

If you are going to throw out specific numbers like that you should probably cite your sources.

Mygaffer:

Wolfram23:
DLC is kind of like communism. Good in theory, bad in practice because people in power abuse it.

DLC as frivolous stuff like hats and weapon skins is fine. It's like upgrading to the chrome package on a truck. DLC as content additions is trickier, though. Adding new maps/quests/levels or whatever is a pretty good practice if priced well. Full on expansions are good too.

But things like day 1 DLC (that adds content), particularly if it's already "on disk" is just sleazy. I'd say Fallout 3 is a good way to do DLC, as each one (Broken Steel, The Pits, Mothership Zeta, etc) all added completely new content.

Unfortunately a lot of idiots think they can "protest" bad practices like Day 1 DLC by pirating the game. This isn't too much of an issue on consoles, but for PC gaming it's seriously detrimental. There's more PCs out there with graphics cards than there are consoles, yet the sales are 1/5th as high while torrent downloads are 10x higher compared to console torrents. I think there's an obvious problem and it'd driving developers away en masse.

If you are going to throw out specific numbers like that you should probably cite your sources.

From http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_5.html

In summary, looking at the data we wind up with what appear to be roughly equal proportions of machines capable of gaming in the console market vs. the PC gaming market: there are approximately 76 million or more 'next-gen' consoles currently in use around the world; and of the 1 billion PCs globally, we can state with a reasonable degree of confidence that at least 80 million, possibly as many as almost 200 million of them are capable of gaming with the latest titles. If we want to refine the figures down to which machines are capable of 'hardcore' gaming, then we can exclude the Wii from the console stats, bringing us down to 40 million consoles (XBox 360 and PS3); and even if we halve the number of PCs with add-in graphics cards to 40-100 million to account only for medium and high-end graphics cards, we still wind up with at least a 1:1 ratio in terms of the number of gaming consoles vs. the number of gaming PCs. What we can say with a high degree of certainty is that at no point does it look like gaming PCs are being outgunned in terms of sheer volume of console hardware by a 4:1, 5:1 or higher ratio as game sales ratios would suggest.

For 2010, the most pirated PC game as reported in this article was Call of Duty: Black Ops, at 4,270,000 downloads via torrents, compared with 930,000 downloads for the XBox 360 version of the same game. It's not surprising then to see that the PC version of Black Ops is estimated to have only made up only 6% of the total sales for the game in the UK for example, while the XBox 360 version accounted for 54% of sales, and the PS3 at 40%. It's also interesting to note the remainder of that list of top 5 downloaded PC games includes the most popular games of 2010: Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Mafia 2, Mass Effect 2 and StarCraft 2, each one racking up more than 3 million downloads - that's around three times the highest downloaded XBox 360 game, or equivalent to the total number of people playing a PC game on Steam at any one time.

I can accept the argument about DLC, it can be a good thing if it is reasonably priced for what it offers.

Take a look through the news feed on any social network site and odds are good that a friend will be playing some sort of game. There are millions upon millions of people actively playing games every month, so the likelihood of not being friends with any of them are extremely slim. The likelihood of not being made aware of friend's gaming habits is even slimmer, as social games have a knack for talking for the player. An immeasurable amount of posts from social games are made every day, but what can be tracked is how much gamers are plugging into the games. Zynga pulled in $850 million in revenue in 2010 from people who paid to maintain virtual farms and cities. Social games keep gamers talking and spending, as interaction drives more to play (and pay).

The biggest change that this is bringing about, it would seem, is the introduction of these games to an entirely new audience. People who spend time on social networks, but don't game, see posts from their friends' latest game and click to join in. Apple happily promotes games that are top sellers in the App Store and on commercials, giving them exposure to those who are looking for new ways to entertain themselves through their boring business meetings. These are people that were otherwise untapped in the gaming market that are now spending a few extra dollars each month to get into new games.

Paying real money to buy a virtual tractor is hardly gaming. Most social networking games are incredibly shallow and highly monetarised. They might be a good cash cow for unscrupulous developers, but to more discerning, quality-oriented gamers they are junk.

Yes, there is a market there, but the appeal is altogether different. People who want an intense gaming experience are not going to touch FarmVille with a bargepole.

Wolfram23:
DLC is kind of like communism. Good in theory, bad in practice because people in power abuse it.

Haha, no. It's exactly the opposite of communism.

Someone already mentioned this, but people who think "social games" are the future are fucking deluded. Those "social" people aren't going to pay jack shit, and the ones that do, it won't be much. The gamers before and now are the ones keeping the lights on, and if you start to develop crap that only "social" gamers will play, don't be surprised when you find yourself bankrupt.

 

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