Square Enix and the Hitman Ripoff

Square Enix and the Hitman Ripoff

Let's talk about risk. I'm sure you've heard that there's a lot of it in AAA game development these days. Video games are growing in popularity while becoming less profitable.

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"Sure, you only got half a game, but you only paid for half a game"

this is the most stupid thing ever!

What would you say if you were thrown out of a movie midtime?

Half a game with no conclusion is all money and time lost.

And episodic game never worked worked well for indie devs.

TTG does NOT produce games in episodes - they release it that way!
They secured the money BEFOREHAND, damnit.
And this is why it does not work for anybody else, who does think it works otherwise.

BloodRed Pixel:
"Sure, you only got half a game, but you only paid for half a game"

this is the most stupid thing ever!

What would you say if you were thrown out of a movie midtime?

Half a game with no conclusion is all money and time lost.

And episodic game never worked worked well for indie devs.

TTG does NOT produce games in episodes - they release it that way!
They secured the money BEFOREHAND, damnit.
And this is why it does not work for anybody else, who does think it works otherwise.

OH MY GOODNESS WE ARE SO ANGRY TODAY!

If you read carefully, you'll see that I was saying, "Getting half a game for half price is better than half a game for FULL price." I was showing that Square's new system is WORSE than the current one, not that getting half a game is wonderful. The new system is even MORE risky for the consumer.

I never mentioned TellTale, so I don't even know why you're angry about that. Or at all. Are you okay?

Meanwhile, Activision embarks on the bold strategy of charging more money for their games. I've paid them $130 for Destiny, released on a rolling schedule over the course of a year, and with a similar total amount of content to a standard AAA game. I get my lavish graphics and new IP, they get my consumer dollars without having to sell eight million copies, everyone's happy.

It's only a ripoff if you buy into this stupid idea. And if you do it knowing full well that you won't get the full game for $60 you only got yourself to blame. I will get it when it's $10 and when the full game is released. This kind of practice needs to be punished.

Wow.
So you aren't even getting you what you paid for; just part up front with a completely nebulous IOU attached.
That's a model that's destined to end in disaster. No question in my mind. Like, E.T. Atari 2600 disaster.

This is the end result of a cycle of growing mistrust between supply and demand.
It started with DLC practices in 2006, where companies started lopping off content to resale at a premium.
Customers responded by taking a more cautious approach; waiting for sales and GOTY bundles to avoid getting reamed on day 1.

Publishers responded in turn by increasing the proportion of premium content, cutting corners in development, and throwing even more money into the furnace engine that is mass-marketing. (also attempted an Always-Online Coup on the market; most of which failed, with only Blizzard making any real headway. *spits*)

All the while costs for raw development rise due to the fidelity wars.

By the time the 360/PS3/Wii generation is done with, major publishers have shrunk the diversity of their projects to bulletpoints: Mega-huge "blockbuster event games" and dirt cheap (worthless) exploitation titles on mobile devices.

Moderation is just gone from AAA now. It seems every year we're all waiting to hear which developers were axed from the publisher's roster or reassigned to crank out mediocre tripe (looking at you, Bioware).

Every year, the offerings get buggier, more bombastic, self-derivative, and less-for-more.
Small wonder the average customer has dug their heels in and refuses to pay more than 60 bucks up front.

It's like watching an enormous whirlpool swallow a ship. It starts out as rough water at the edges, but intensifies as it approaches the void in the middle.

Playing Absolution and loving every minute of it. IP can only benefit from more games like that.

Well I didn't know this was squeenix's plan. I was even looking forward to this hitman game. Not anymore. They need the christmas release that badly? Can we find a way of physically backhanding the stupid cheek right out of them?
The best I can do is not buy the game and warn anyone I know who wants to buy the game what they are really paying for.
Let me guess, they're still taking pre-orders, right?

Thanks for the heads up, Shaman Shamus!

Hopefully they crash and burn using this strategy. That's not good at all for the customer. If it does, any bets on them blaming it at all on the sales strategy, and not it being a bad game?

I find this slightly odd, given that Square Enix has been publishing Life is Strange, and that was the typical "half price for the risk" season pass model. Apparently they've also been generally hands-off with the development. I guess (unsurprisingly) internal communication is not a strong point. That or they figure Hitman is such a big property that they can exploit it for all it is worth.

Shadowfury333:
I find this slightly odd, given that Square Enix has been publishing Life is Strange, and that was the typical "half price for the risk" season pass model. Apparently they've also been generally hands-off with the development. I guess (unsurprisingly) internal communication is not a strong point. That or they figure Hitman is such a big property that they can exploit it for all it is worth.

Or the idiots have simply decided to take another step forward. Maybe they think that if gamers are likely to buy into episodic games like Life is Strange, they can do the same with a AAA game only charging full price in advance.

The saddest thing is that people have predicted this. I've predicted it years ago. And people told me what they say every time the publishers starts doing something awful. They say "that's slippery slope". There's no end to these quasi-intellectual wannabe logicians on the internet that are just waiting behind the bushes to say something "logical", using the most basic and shallow "logic" based on some bits and pieces of information available to them while completely ignoring critical thinking. Fuck I hate those people. This wasn't hard to predict. You just have to take into account the very nature and goals of a corporation and combine that with a bit of greed and stupidity.

Square Enix has turned into an abysmal publisher in the last decade or so. They have also moved towards a strategy that entails very little risk by constantly re-releasing old game multiple times over again. A huge portion of the development is already done because there is very little planning involved in those.

I don't play the Hitman series. Don't really care for it. But this does sound pretty shady. I honestly believe that Square will release the whole game, but if this method does catch on--which I would like to believe it won't because hopefully people are smarter than this--I can totally see the future that Shamus is worried about.

UbiSoft has been doing this for 4 years now, they're always saying that if "X sells well enough, maybe we'll consider doing Beyond Good & Evil 2". Fuck Squeenix for doing such a sleazy move, I hope they don't pull on this bullshit with the new Deus Ex.

Not really seeing the problem, and theres even one major problem with percieving it as a scam.

Primarily, if there was no commitment to finish the game then it defies all conventional reason to announce the game as an episodic thing when they could have just released what was done then add the rest later as DLC.

And not only that, while there is a risk that Squeenix might scrap the rest of the game and call it a day, but that would end up being a black mark on both thiers and IOs record like Aliens: Colonial Marines is for Gearbox.

Yes, SE plainly arent the brightest folk around, but i doubt theyre stupid enough to pull something that could up tanking thier prospects for more episodic releases in the future and having a negative impact on the sales of future releases like FF15, the FF7 remake, RotTR on PC/PS4 and whatever else is crawling through development hell over there.

But in all seriousness, at the most it just means ill defer on buying it until either they do release the rest of it or theres an inevitable Steam sale. Not as if there isnt already a couple dozen titles im looking at releasing in the next 6 months. Not counting books or movies, which would push that number close to 40.

The mobile Hitman games were actually good though, Absolution on the other hand only had the rampage gameplay well made, the stealth was terrible.

I also doubt that if the game doesnt sell that well it means that they cancel the rest of the game. At most they drop down the budget. This is basicly a season pass without the base game where yeah, its shady but its not that new with episodic games (I never liked episodic content for games, it forces a terrible pacing).

BloodRed Pixel:
"Sure, you only got half a game, but you only paid for half a game"

this is the most stupid thing ever!

What would you say if you were thrown out of a movie midtime?

Half a game with no conclusion is all money and time lost.

Your analogy actually adds to his argument as movie theaters don't tend to proportionately reimburse when kicking someone out - which is the stance Squenix are taking, and the article is claiming to be bad for the consumer.

However going along with his quite, the interesting thing I've found with most games, and quite a few movies too, is that even when I pay full price I usually don't even reach the half way point before putting it down and moving on.
So while paying half price for half a story with no ending may bite me the handful of times I actually care about the plot, it would mostly just save me a considerable amount of money in the long run as I wouldn't have finished the games anyway.

Sorry Shamus but the whole Marvel thing actually was about their greed. Their greed lead to the collapse of the comic book industry, their greed single handedly destroyed everything leaving the industry in such a bad state that not only did few comic book publishers survive not to mention almost none of the comic book stores, but they do so because of a corporate monopoly, one that is only legally left in place because if that monopoly goes away the industry is gone. Marvel got absurdly lucky with its movies after it had declared bankruptcy as that actually got them the rights to Spider Man back, and allowed them to give him to Sony for a far better contract that may well have saved the company, it was a hail mary pass that came in just before Marvel was going to have to close its doors for good.

Setch Dreskar:
Sorry Shamus but the whole Marvel thing actually was about their greed. Their greed lead to the collapse of the comic book industry, their greed single handedly destroyed everything leaving the industry in such a bad state that not only did few comic book publishers survive not to mention almost none of the comic book stores, but they do so because of a corporate monopoly, one that is only legally left in place because if that monopoly goes away the industry is gone. Marvel got absurdly lucky with its movies after it had declared bankruptcy as that actually got them the rights to Spider Man back, and allowed them to give him to Sony for a far better contract that may well have saved the company, it was a hail mary pass that came in just before Marvel was going to have to close its doors for good.

And they aren't equally greedy now whilst they're raking in the cash with the MCU?

It's greed + shortsightedness or greed + ignorance or greed + contempt for consumers that causes these sorts of issues.

Remember that managing risk is the publishers job. ... Why should we give you all this power and money if you don't have anything to offer in return?

Seems to me they will slowly make themselves obsolete. The only cards they now hold is they own the IP, if developers go straight to kickstarter without the publisher they can make their own IP and sidestep the publishers completely. Or maybe the publishers will form an IP licensing system.

Not that this new arrangement is a "good" thing. The risk will all be on the customer. I've been complaining about this since the double fine kickstarters.

'Course, the other problem with all this publisher-risk-aversion business is that if Hitman fails to sell, it may well kill the franchise. The big-money people often don't seem to have a lot of sense of nuance; it isn't that a wildly inappropriate mechanic was shoehorned into the most recent offering of the game, or that its initial release was buggy and full of holes, or that it was saddled with network functionality that was unnecessary to how most of the people wanted to play the game and hindered them from playing it, or even that the game itself just wasn't that good- no, the failure of a game on the market must mean that the franchise itself has lost its luster.

And the other half of the picture is that independents have become so dense on the ground that it's difficult for many of the smaller games to make enough of a splash to get noticed; PR/advertising may be a big money pit, but it's increasingly one of the biggest factors differentiating a AAA game from a really polished independent developer's offering.

BloodRed Pixel:
"Sure, you only got half a game, but you only paid for half a game"

this is the most stupid thing ever!

What would you say if you were thrown out of a movie midtime?

Half a game with no conclusion is all money and time lost.

And episodic game never worked worked well for indie devs.

TTG does NOT produce games in episodes - they release it that way!
They secured the money BEFOREHAND, damnit.
And this is why it does not work for anybody else, who does think it works otherwise.

The movie thing doesn't make sense in terms of us following the same movie ticket payment module.

I pay 8 dollars, I get to see the movie.

If it was the same as Mr. Young is saying, it would be I paid 2 dollars for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, there would be an intermission and those who were done would leave, and those who would want to stay in their seat would have to slip in 2 more dollars.

Getting kicked out after paying full price would be equivlient to hacking or pirating or doing something to violate the EULA anyway. You don't get kicked out because you happened to sit in the kick out lottery seat. You get kicked out for doing something wrong.

Also, I might be giving the designers credit (Sweet Zombie Jesus only knows why...) but I feel like it would be more along the Walking Dead by Telltale. You wouldn't just start walking down a hallway and then you hit a game wall that says "We're not done yet. See ya". There would probably be somewhat of a closure for that incident. Like how some tv shows didn't know if they were going to be picked up for the next season (A la Leverage on TNT) so every season ender could be a good place to call the show.

Speaking about the Walking Dead... Yeah, this thing has sort of already been done. The only (yet giant) difference was you had the option of playing all at once before or by episode. I don't know the particulars, but is that happening for Hitman? Do you HAVE to pay all at once with no option? Because if so, that makes me uneasy.

Callate:
'Course, the other problem with all this publisher-risk-aversion business is that if Hitman fails to sell, it may well kill the franchise. The big-money people often don't seem to have a lot of sense of nuance; it isn't that a wildly inappropriate mechanic was shoehorned into the most recent offering of the game, or that its initial release was buggy and full of holes, or that it was saddled with network functionality that was unnecessary to how most of the people wanted to play the game and hindered them from playing it, or even that the game itself just wasn't that good- no, the failure of a game on the market must mean that the franchise itself has lost its luster.

Sadly, that view is pretty rational. In the media business, your best-selling album, novel or film is usually the one right after your creative peak, and falling sales are a sign that you need to reboot, rejuvenate or cancel. The game business is so expensive that you can only greenlight a handful of AAA games at once, so if your franchise runs into trouble for any reason, pulling the plug can save you a ton of money. If you recognize Daredevil is taking you nowhere, you don't have to spend millions of dollars making Elektra.

We can only hope it's a miserable failure and they get enough bad press.

It seems the day has come
image

It's the Early Access model.

Charge upfront, lose interest in project before all the promised features are implemented, quietly take the money and run.

Wonder if they'll still release to Steam.

Shamus Young:
Marvel Studios is churning out movies and making billions doing it, and nobody is complaining about it.

Not trying to derail this, but I'm complaining >_>. What? I get miffed when a company blatantly offers inoffensive, generic tripe that doesn't have the creativity to actually be about superheroes and then everyone pats it on the back for being "bold" and "revolutionary". Don't judge me!

*ahem* Now that I got that out of my system, this was actually really interesting, especially the way you broke down consumer/developer/publisher responsibilities and how this throws it all out the window. Thanks, Shamus.

gigastar:
Not really seeing the problem, and theres even one major problem with percieving it as a scam.

Primarily, if there was no commitment to finish the game then it defies all conventional reason to announce the game as an episodic thing when they could have just released what was done then add the rest later as DLC.

And not only that, while there is a risk that Squeenix might scrap the rest of the game and call it a day, but that would end up being a black mark on both thiers and IOs record like Aliens: Colonial Marines is for Gearbox.

Yes, SE plainly arent the brightest folk around, but i doubt theyre stupid enough to pull something that could up tanking thier prospects for more episodic releases in the future and having a negative impact on the sales of future releases like FF15, the FF7 remake, RotTR on PC/PS4 and whatever else is crawling through development hell over there.

But in all seriousness, at the most it just means ill defer on buying it until either they do release the rest of it or theres an inevitable Steam sale. Not as if there isnt already a couple dozen titles im looking at releasing in the next 6 months. Not counting books or movies, which would push that number close to 40.

The problem is, yet again, AAA publishers are crying poverty and resorting to what amount to crowdfunding style tactics, asking for money in the promise of future content, except here they're also being deliberately opaque about what that content will be, and aren't interested in calling it episodic, or actually finishing it. And the upshot of this is that the consumer potentially loses out, after paying full AAA price for the title.

And not buying it like that was exactly Shamus' recommendation. Waiting for a discount, or the game to actually be done, rather than helping them meet their Christmas shopping season and getting less than half a game, is holding them to standards, and not buying into their practice.

ObsidianJones:

Speaking about the Walking Dead... Yeah, this thing has sort of already been done. The only (yet giant) difference was you had the option of playing all at once before or by episode. I don't know the particulars, but is that happening for Hitman? Do you HAVE to pay all at once with no option? Because if so, that makes me uneasy.

All at once. Hence why Shamus, and more than a few other folk, are quite worried. You're paying full price for it, and I think that's $60 American, and god knows how much it'd be Australian. I really like what they've said about the game after Absolution (Which I loathed, and makes me wary as hell of their games), but they've paired it with this half-assed e-begging business model.

If they want me to buy a portion of a game, they should ask a portion of the price. Desperately begging for money to fund development? Not so much from a AAA dev, and not at a mandatory AAA pricepoint.

Robyrt:
Sadly, that view is pretty rational. In the media business, your best-selling album, novel or film is usually the one right after your creative peak, and falling sales are a sign that you need to reboot, rejuvenate or cancel. The game business is so expensive that you can only greenlight a handful of AAA games at once, so if your franchise runs into trouble for any reason, pulling the plug can save you a ton of money. If you recognize Daredevil is taking you nowhere, you don't have to spend millions of dollars making Elektra.

It would be easier for me to buy it as a rational move if it seemed like there was a learning process in place. Instead, it seems like the franchise often gets to be the scapegoat rather than the fact that the same misguided approach has been used multiple times. For example: The premise that the higher graphic fidelity of (Title X) will cause people to overlook that features long-time players were used to in (Title X-1 and X-2) have been removed or are being sold as future installments. Or (hot new feature of the moment) is shoehorned into the latest version of the game, despite being out-of-place or downright antithetical to the original game's tone, mechanics, or genre.

Certainly there's a time and a place to simply give up on a long-running franchise. But in video games, it seems as often that the final surrender comes after said franchise is abruptly handed off to a new developer or changed from a real-time-strategy game into a first-person shooter, rather than that a creative plateau can reasonably said to have been reached.

(At least, that's what it looks like from the outside; certainly, stories of internal conflicts regarding popular IP can be a lot more complicated and hairy than it first appears.)

Simple solution, don't buy the half made or part sold rubbish. Nothing else will stop it happening again.

As for Marvel's rubbish films, those who don't like them, like me. rarely complain, We just don't watch or take any notice of them.
I'm a huge Science Fiction fan, but never liked this Super Hero/Villian type stuff. Just to American centric, Pure Good v Pure Evil for my tastes.

Personally I hate the entire concept of episodic games, I've liked none of them and now won't even buy them until complete, if at all.
Even with Dreamfall Chapters, a game I really want to play and crowdfunded, so can get each episode. I don't, I refuse to play it until it's a fully finished game.

The thing I object to most in these sort of reports is, referring to Kickstarter, when you mean crowdfunding.
They are not the same thing.
Kickstarter is a specific companies crowdfunding system. One with a lot of flaws, like the all or nothing month to raise funding model.
A model that instills a false sense of urgency to raising an arbitary amount, one that can have no relation to the real costs involved.
Also it allows Publishers to be secret backers of the games, I crowdfund games to keep them publisher free.
Kickstarter take their cut when the Target is reached, out of funds raised.

Steam take there cut from each payment of an "Early Access" game, this isn't actually crowdfunding at all and even worse than Kickstarter.

I prefer the independant model pioneered by Star Citizen, yes I know they used Kickstarter as well, that was after already raising $2 Million themselves. Kickstarter hype was at fever pitch, when they launched one, at the urging of the existing backers.
During the Kickstarter, with their own site still active, they raised another $4 Million.
Currently at $87+ Million, it's clear Kickstarter wasn't required at all.
Now, most games won't require Star Citizen's budget, however they can still use the same open develepment/continued funding model, pioneered by Star Citizen.

Core features of such a model should be.
Startup Target required, without time limit to reach said target.
Limited Strech goals allowed, with backer feedback and choice, desirable.
Funds raised after limit reached, become comtingency funds for inevitable unplanned costs.
Any surplus goes towards free DLC after release of main game.
Fully open developement with Alpha/Beta Testing for all backers.

All are elements of the Star Citizen model, though as the first, they are making many mistakesT.
The model will be refined over time as we learn from those mistake.

These figures may not be exact, but they are ballpark and come from those involved on the game side of the deals.
Of money paid by public
Publisher takes 90%+, Game Devs gets 10% or less of each sale and lose the game rights.
Steam takes 30%, Game gets 70% of each sale, whether publisher involved or not.
Kickstarter takes 10%, Game Devs gets 90% of the funds raised and keep the game rights.
Open fundraising, Game Devs gets 100% of the funds raised and keep the game rights.

I crowdfund to back the game and keep the publishers away. Open fundraising does that best.
In all cases of crowdfunding, you are investing in a product (the game).
The return on successful completion is an awsome game, if that's what you want, crowdfund.
The risk, if it fails, is losing all the money you invested. If you are not willing to lose. don't crowdfund.

So please don't say Kickstarter instead of crowdfunding.
Kickstarter is a company taking profit from all the crowdfunding money of "Successful Kickstarters".
To them the success is meeting the target, not the games completion.

In the case of Hitman... I can see where Square are coming from.

Remember that Hitman's best games are the ones where the contracts are separated from each other entirely- meaning that nothing's stopping IO from adding more missions like that in the future. As well, the usual DLC practice of "Here's what the fans thought worked, we'll do more of that and stop doing what they didn't like."

What I'm trying to say is I'm cool with it, since it works for a game without an over-arching narrative like Hitman. If it was half the story, I'd be pissed, but simply getting more assassinations to mess around with post-release? I'm OK with it, at least as long as the game itself at launch has enough content- give me ten assassinations in the base game, add a dozen more with DLC? I'm down with it.

 

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