Experienced Points: Square Enix and the Hitman Ripoff

By Shamus
on Aug 18, 2015
Filed under:
Column

My column is about how Square Enix is selling the next Hitman game as “Not episodic, but still released in many pieces” and why this is a ripoff.

Also, it’s worth comparing Square Enix with CD Projekt RED and Paradox. Square asks for full price up front, and in return they offer part of a game and a pinky promise that they will finish the rest of it later. CD Projekt asks for full price, and in return they offer a massive game, a complete experience. And then they release free updates and content for months afterward. And if that’s not enough content for you, they also release DLC. Paradox does the same thing.

This is on top of the fact that a Hitman game probably offers far fewer hours of content than either Witcher or (say) Cities Skylines. (Although I’m sure Campster would chastise me for boiling a game down to its playtime, and I concede it’s a terrible metric for measuring value.)

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  1. Kerethos says:

    From what little I’ve seen of the game it looks like they’re going to be doing some sort of sandbox-type levels with multiple ways to finish contracts… so basically a Hitman game… maybe? One can at least hope.

    Then I would guess they’ll add some manner of extra levels or new objective types, and have some online component similar to that of Absolution – where players make missions. I guess players can tag an NPC in any of the sandboxes, who then becomes the target of a contract you can play. That’s the impression I got from the trailers at least.

    I’m guessing this “other players sorta make missions” is what they’re banking on, and will be what the “additional content” will be all about. Obviously this is all just speculation on my part, mostly based of the trailers, but it seems to fit with the “cutting costs” vibe I’m getting from the game.

    I basically expect a threadbare story where you kill a bunch of people because money. In repeating sandboxes with the targets varying.

  2. Hal says:

    This seems like the inevitable outcome. If credit cards weren’t a thing, these people would sell computers with arcade-style coin slots built into them.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Or pachinko machines.

      • Abnaxis says:

        I don’t understand why people get upset at pachinko machines. Back when arcades were a thing, I never blinked an eye when I saw a pinball machine that used a licensed property I was a fan of. I thought they were all in good fun.

        • MichaelGC says:

          Aye – from what I can gather, they’re the target of ire at the moment because they’ve just announced a Silent Hill pachinko machine, almost simultaneously with plans for the next Silent Hills videogame going aglay. So I guess SH fans are understandably a bit touchy at the moment! It’s not as if one replaced the other as a practical matter, of course, but I imagine it’s difficult not to link them mentally – well, that being the whole point of the branding, for one.

  3. A game may not simply be its playtime, but it can provide a useful bound. If a game only provides 2 hours of quality gameplay, well, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but it had better be something very, very special if you expect me to fork over $60 for that. Not necessarily because that’s intrinsically wrong, either, but for $60 I can buy a lot of movie or music. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game that special. I’m not even sure what a game could do to be that special in that period of time that wouldn’t be better as a movie.

    Being able to successfully boil a game down to a playtime also tends to imply that it’s a content muncher by design. For instance, the fact that I can finish a Metroid game in 25 minutes doesn’t mean that it has “25 minutes of content”, because it will of course take longer than that to build up the requisite skill. Boiling those games down to “playtimes” isn’t really possible in a meaningful way. But content-munchers can be so boiled down, and, well, let’s be honest, a lot of content-munchers aren’t that much more “interactive” than a movie. At $60/two hours, why not watch a movie?

    (And I’m not sure I’ve seen a “2 hour” $60 game yet, but I’ve seen some reviews of 4-hour-long content munchers sold at full price.)

    • James says:

      I don’t recall how much MGSV:GZ launched at but the “main” mission could be completed in about 30 minuets if you have some experience with MGS/ Stealth Action games.

      But it also had side missions you could do and collectibles to expand on the plot and universe.

      I got it for like $5 on a steam sale so it was well worth it.

  4. Rack says:

    It’s not all that different from how Telltale work. For all the episodic titles are cheaper than AAA games they’re also substantially slighter even when fully complete. Buy them upfront and you pay twice as much as you would by waiting for all the episodes to complete.

    • Primogenitor says:

      Episodic games take so long to finish that you can pick them up in a sale for less than the initial discount – even in a “we’ve finished” sale.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Shamoose specifically mentions in the article why it is different.

      • Rack says:

        But the reasoning he gave wasn’t really accurate. If I buy Walking Dead S3 in advance for £17.50 and it folds after 2 episodes I’m not getting half a game at half price, I’m getting half a small game for a full small game’s price.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Its not a full small game price,because they are always cheaper when buying them full instead of an episode at a time.

          • Rack says:

            But that price doesn’t increase when the whole thing is out, it’s not a sweetener for buying the game early and on trust in the way Kickstarter rewards often work out, it’s a bulk discount or an individual premium, however you look at it.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Not the same.Lets say that a small game is $25,and walking dead season one is sold for $5 per episode,or $20 for the whole thing.Now you can choose to buy just the first episode to test it,or buy one episode at a time,or buy the first episode and then the bulk thing,or buy the whole thing from the start.Whatever,its your choice.So if the game stops in the middle,it is possible that youve paid full price,but its also possible that youve paid only the discount price,or that youve bought only the few episodes that came out(half price).

              With hitman model,youd have to buy the game for $25 from the start(disregarding the sales,because we disregarded them previously).No just one episode to try,no bulk discount,nothing.So if the updates stop(or they suddenly decide to charge for them,which is more than likely)you will lose the whole thing,no other options are available to you.

  5. Abnaxis says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–the “publishers own the IP” model of software development is a load of crap.

    The only way publishers should get IP rights is through bankruptcy proceedings when a developer tanks it, like any other debtor in business. And at that point, they should only get rights to revenues from games that have already been made and only until they recoup the debt. For any new game to be made, the publisher should be required to transfer full future rights to the prospective developer before a single line of code is written.

    If publishers want to make money off of risk, they need to charge developers interest like every other bank. They shouldn’t be inserting themselves between customers and developers.

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      That’s just going to further reduce the risks publishers are willing to take by reducing the potential reward. It’s also going to ensure that franchises from dead developers stay dead forever, because no publisher is going to spend money to buy an IP if they’re going to immediately lose the rights to it as soon as they make a game with it.

      Publishers would basically only work with studios they own outright at that point.

      Banks only charge interest, but they also require a lot of collateral before they make a loan. That model isn’t going to work when the publisher needs to put up a lot of cash with no way to recoup it if the game flops. Publishers live by making a lot of money off of big hits to offset frequent losses on less successful ventures.

      • AileTheAlien says:

        Actually, if big publishers aren’t willing to buy IP, wouldn’t that open the doors up to other publishers and/or developers themselves? I wouldn’t mind having a new developer take a crack at a game, if the original creators messed it up bad enough to go banckrupt.

        • bloodsquirrel says:

          Publishers of any kind wouldn’t touch it. They lose it as soon as they use it. Developers are far less likely to have the cash ready to go to auction whenever someone goes bankrupt and the assets go up for sale. They’ll only buy an IP when they’re ready to commit to making it their next project, and most developers don’t juggle a whole lot of projects at once.

          Without publishers in the bidding, demand for most IPs will be very low, and accordingly they’ll be very cheap. This means you’ll have very little quality control in who buys them. Probably a lot of fly-by-night shovel-ware studios.

          Of course, the entire idea is unworkable in the first place, since there’s a super-easy way around it: buy the developer. Which has become the standard way to make AAA games, since independent developers have trouble dealing with the risk involved.

          • Abnaxis says:

            Anyone can be in the bidding for the IP rights. However, the only entity that can ever actually exercise the IP rights is a creator, and as soon as they exercise those rights any future rights are transferred in full to the new creator, in perpetuity, until that creator is dead/dissolved.

            That means if a publisher wants to buy a development house, they certainly can. However, that doesn’t get them the IP. The only way to own the IP is to be legally indistinguishable from the creator–in other words, developer and publisher must consolidate into a single entity that would give the developer power over the publisher’s assets just as it gives the publisher power over the developer’s assets.

            Obviously, it would be extremely rare for any publisher to do this. Which is good–publishers should have no more business deciding what to do with IP than investment banks should have in running the businesses they finance. And if publisher’s don’t merge with the developer this way, the developer–as a separate, legal entity–can enter into a relationship with another publisher if they offer a better deal.

            The way I see it, the way the system should work is: the publisher provides financing to the developer, they should compete to be the best financiers on the market. The developer serves the end-user, they should compete to make the best software on the market. This creates the right incentives for an efficient system.

            The way it actually works is, the publishers have all the power and are virtually beholden to no one. If I, as an end-user, am unhappy with what a publisher does with my favorite IP, then too damn bad–they hold legal monopoly rights. If a publisher treats a developer like shit, too damn bad–the developer is just one cog in the machine which can be replaced. It might hurt the end product but what does it matter when you hold the monopoly?

            This model made sense when art required printing presses and large industrial equipment to distribute it to users, but that is no longer true. Today, it makes more sense for publishers to act like the investors they are so the incentives can point in the right direction.

            This requires a reform at the legal, intellectual-property law level. Given that the entire problem boils down to “publishers have more power than they should have,” I think it’s pretty obvious that publishers are going to be against any sort of remediation it will require to fix the problem.

            • Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

              But what about what EA has done to DICE and Bioware? Everybody seems to forget that now they are EA DICE and EA Bioware so in effect the publisher and the developer are merged in some regard.

              • Abnaxis says:

                EA DICE and EA Bioware are both subsidiary companies. In other words they are both owned and controlled by a parent company–EA. EA has full power to dictate the development schedules and business plans of EA DICE and EA Bioware; the developers must bow to the whims of the holding company.

                EA bought both DICE and Bioware, acquired all of their respective IP, and installed them as subordinates within their corporate structure. Make no mistake–if DICE or Bioware ever go too far out of line or under-perform, EA will dissolve them and pass the IP on to someone else (or let it languish). They’ve done it before.

                That means that rather than having games designed by the developers first–experts in game design as evidenced by their successful track record–we now get games designed by corporate executives first, because EA calls the shots from the top. This is precisely the relationship between developers and publishers I’m speaking out against.

                Don’t let the names of the subsidaries fool you: EA didn’t merge with DICE or Bioware, EA acquired them.

          • Richard says:

            Why should games be any different to books – or even films?

            The rights to Harry Potter are owned by J K Rowling, not Bloomsbury or even her agent.

            Only original games seem to hand the crown jewels to the publisher – this doesn’t happen with games based on books or films.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Um,movie studios are publishers,and they are the ones who own the rights.Then there are comics,where the developers dont own their creations,but rather the publishers do.So the only odd ones are books,not games.

              • Kylroy says:

                And this is because printing a book is far cheaper than making a movie or a game. When your options are to make something with a publisher or not make anything (or make something far smaller and cheaper), you can be sure the publisher will retain the rights.

                • Abnaxis says:

                  First, I think you’re conflating development costs with distribution costs, and I think it’s an important distinction. Games and movies are more expensive, but they’re more expensive to develop relative to books, while I would guess books probably cost more to distribute these days.

                  I think this is important because historically, the opposite used to be true–print media used to cost a lot less to distribute than physical media. That’s how studios and software publishers got so much power compared to print publishers–nobody else could afford the recording equipment so we needed the studios. That’s nowhere near true anymore, but we still have throwback laws that continue to give publishers and studios too much power.

                  Which bring me to the question: why is it just accepted, in the case of copyrighted works, that the entity that financed it should automatically own it?

                  I know lots of people, who have borrowed AAA-level money to start a small business. Hell, if you count “accounts payable” (i.e., purchasing something with the intention of paying the vendor once you are paid for completed work) I have personally overseen projects that were “financed” by millions of dollars worth of material on the promise of paying off the tab after we install the equipment.

                  And yet, if any of those entrepreneurs are successful, or if I do a really good job at up-selling, the creditors don’t get to keep all the profit. They don’t own my work. As long as the invoices get paid, they don’t get to boss me around. Why should publishers get that special privilege?

                  • Kylroy says:

                    “…why is it just accepted, in the case of copyrighted works, that the entity that financed it should automatically own it?”

                    Because without the financier, there is no completed work. They can dictate terms because there is no other option to make works of the intended scale.

                    And I am conflating distribution and development costs, because money is money. Developers do not have the money on their own to develop games, and that is what drove them to get bought out by publishers.

                    Publishers get that special privilege because…they can. There is nobody else offering this money to these groups on better terms. No investors capable of giving eight digits of cash are willing to risk it on something as financially erratic as video game sales without the promise of owning the result. If you could convince the same folks that funded the businesses you speak of to do the same thing for game developers, that could change.

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      And they can have special privilege because it’s given to them–not just by developers, but also through the legal framework that has been built by and for publishers. The reason why nobody else is willing to take that risk, is because any developer who might want to turn somewhere else for funds has to start from scratch, in hostile circumstances–the publishers owns everything the developer ever made previously, and you can bet your ass they’ll sue the balls off of anyone else who works with their developer.

                      An established property is minuscule in risk compared to start-up enterprises that get funded every day, especially in software. The reason why there are no other sources for game development capital is because developers are legally forbidden to shop around by over-powerful publishers, so why would those funding sources exist?

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      And I am conflating distribution and development costs, because money is money. Developers do not have the money on their own to develop games, and that is what drove them to get bought out by publishers.

                      Just because the check has the same number of zeroes on it, doesn’t mean that money has the same value. It matters how it is spent.

                      Developers aren’t the only ones who give the publishers power. Society at large has also given them considerable leeway, in the interest of creating a broader infrastructure for distributing works. Accessibility is important to us, and we paid a hefty price to get it, by making sure the parties that historically made works accessible–publishers–have broad legal powers to make sure they are paid for their service to society.

                      Dollar for dollar, all the money spent on development is not delivering returns on accessibility, because accessibility is a given now that we have the internet. Hell, publishers probably spend more money trying to restrict accessibility through draconian DRM than they do on creating more efficient delivery platforms. Why give them the power if they aren’t delivering the value?

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Borrowing money to do something means the one giving you the money does only that:Gives you the money.Having a publisher means that they are(usually)doing much more than that:Deciding what features are too expensive,when the optimal release that should be,checking if prearranged steps are done on time,etc,etc.They arent just giving the devs lump sum of moneys and giving them free reign,they are controlling their spending,and doing all the financial stuff and planning(again,usually).This not only gives devs more time to deal with actual development,but also reigns them in from trying to do too much.

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      Publishers do indeed do all the work you described, and we’re all worse off for it. The publisher approach is to take a property, set a budget for it, and design a game based on business targets. I would argue that the host of “failed” titles that didn’t meet expectations despite selling millions of copies, as well as the bland state of AAA titles today, are all evidence of why publishers aren’t the right people to be making unilateral decisions about production.

                      Rather, developers–the people who actually know something about software development and gameplay design–should plan their own schedules, and if they are too ambitious they will be limited in funding.. It’s the difference between allocating funds to an idea according to its merit, and allocating an idea to funds according to expected return. To me, it seems the former is pretty obliviously a better way to operate from a consumer and a developer perspective.

                      One does not simply walk into M̶o̶r̶d̶o̶r̶/a bank and ask for a business loan. You need cost projections, revenue projections, market analysis, plans for if you fail, plans for if you succeed…

                      No bank just gives lump sums of money without due diligence. They aren’t interested in funding failed enterprises, and I would expect a publisher to be no different. If a developer cannot convince a publisher that their idea is a good one, they won’t be able to secure favorable terms on financing.

                      By the same token, if a publisher is too conservative about who they finance, a better publisher can step in instead and profit from their lack of vision. That can only happen if developers have the power to shop around, however.

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      “To me, it seems the former is pretty obliviously a better way to operate from a consumer and a developer perspective.”

                      God DAMN, auto-correct…

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      And you think that things like fable,curiosity and godus are better solution than asscreed?

                      What you have described is how some publishers operate,most notably ubisoft,but thats definitely not the case for all.We also have publishers like take two,paradox and stardock.

                      Sure,the developers(most of the time)know software development,but often have no clue about proper schedules,which has been the case loads of times.Heck,that has proven to be the case long before video games became a thing,back in movies and comics.

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      Again, Ubisoft Montreal is a subsidiary. If UM wanted to go to EA and have THEM fund them instead of Ubisoft, too bad–Ubisoft owns Assassin’s Creed.

                      Ubisoft, Take Two, etc., still aren’t examples of publisher/creator relationships where the ones doing the actual creating own intellectual property rights. Creators cannot leverage their rights by threatening to look for alternative funding. That is the crux of what I want–checks and balances on developer and publisher power.

                      Furthermore, just because some developers have failed to keep schedules at times, doesn’t mean they are wholly incompetent at it. Hell, if you want to use that as a counterargument, let it cut both ways–how many times have publishers set unreasonable time-tables? Arkham Knight anyone?

                      Occasionally fucking up development cycle estimation is part of software development. I would still argue developers are far better qualified than publishers to know how to set a development schedule, even if there’s no shortage of examples where both of them have screwed it up.

                      Not only that, but BOTH of them get a say if creators get some power–again, if publishers don’t believe the schedule submitted by a developer makes good financial sense, the developer will not be able to get good financing. Both artists and accountants will have to compromise, versus only giving the accountants a say.

      • Abnaxis says:

        First of all, I’m fine with reducing the financial risks publishers are willing to take. I think “Hitman sold 3.6 million copies but still didn’t meet sales goals” is evidence that we have long since passed the point where the risk of AAA game development could justify the returns.

        Second, the entire point of my idea, is that to be able to own IP, you must be legally indistinguishable from the developer. Intellectual property rights should be inextricably bound to the creator, except in cases where the creator is going out business.

        That means owning a developer doesn’t automatically give the publisher rights to the IP. In order to own the IP, they would have to merge with the developer, and even then they would only be able to utilize the IP if they develop the game themselves.

        Finally, what is it about developers, that makes it impossible for them to pledge collateral as a requirement for financing, especially if they already have a successful title? For that matter, how is “successful ventures cover the losses of less successful ventures” model any different than every other investment bank out there? Businesses fail all the time, but you don’t see anyone arguing that the bank that gave a local entrepreneur a loan should own their business.

        • Kylroy says:

          So the result would be that publishers “merge” with developers in a way that they retain complete control over the resulting company. There’s not some magic test to make sure the good and pure developers are calling the shots instead of those nasty evil publishers.

          • Abnaxis says:

            These are publicly traded companies. The majority shareholders, chief officers, board members, etc are all publicly known, are they not?

            • Kylroy says:

              Yes. So the publisher finds sympathetic people within the developer and asks that they be promoted as a condition of the deal.

              If you’re going to require a publisher (i.e. a company with more money, pull, and people) cede control of their company to a developer (a company with less of all of those things), you’re basically ensuring that no publisher will ever partner with a developer. I mean, if that’s your goal, this is one way to do it. But asking the publisher to hand over not just their money but their *company* as a prerequisite to doing business will ensure no business is done.

              • Abnaxis says:

                It’s not a pre-requisite of doing business, it’s a pre-requisite of controlling everything

                You want absolute, undisputed ownership of the IP? Fine, you just have to share it with the developer you’re subsuming. If you just want to fund the next Big Idea, you charge interest like every other venture capitalist

                • Kylroy says:

                  So, you want the publishers to go from a model with a, I’m going to pull a number out of thin air, 50% failure rate, to a model with the 90% failure rate of venture capitalism? I maintain that this is a great way to make sure no publisher does business with a developer ever again.

                  • Abnaxis says:

                    Why would the failure rate increase just because the financing model changes?

                    I’m saying that despite a 90% failure rate, beneficiaries of venture capital still get to own the fruits of their labor. Financiers can make up for the failures through the successes and still make a profit, without requiring 100% equity as a prerequisite for their investments.

                    I would be very surprised if the failure rate (depending on what you define as “failure”) is more then 50% for a AAA game, and the cost of developing a new game is in the same order as the cost of investing start-up capital in a new business.

                    Despite this, games are just accepted as “too risky” for publishers to settle for anything less than full control. Why?

                    • Kylroy says:

                      Because they don’t have to settle for anything less than full control. They don’t have to offer better terms to developers (because there are no better alternatives), so they don’t.

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      Hence why I want reform on IP law. Publishers would be stupid to give up their monopoly powers willingly.

                      Exclusive IP ownership powers are the reason why there’s no alternative. Even if a developer could find the money, they couldn’t legally do anything with it.

                      I want the law to change so publishers have to compete at financing developers instead of cornering intellectual property.

                      My above point is that such a reform wouldn’t suddenly make it impossible to invest in game development. There are plenty of people who make just as much (or more) money on riskier ventures without the broad powers we afford publishers.

                    • Kylroy says:

                      “There are plenty of people who make just as much (or more) money on riskier ventures without the broad powers we afford publishers.”

                      So why aren’t these people swooping in to take advantage of the existing market? You’re stating that they can make more money with less risk, why don’t they agree with you?

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      So why aren’t these people swooping in to take advantage of the existing market? You’re stating that they can make more money with less risk, why don’t they agree with you?

                      Because the current legal framework is not constructed to allow people to “swoop in”. Nobody can make money off of an IP that a publisher owns other than the publisher without fines and possible jail time. Developers are legally forbidden from seeking out alternative financing because they do not own their own work.

                      In the current framework, publishers get monopoly power handed to them for free. Why would any financier settle for less than monopoly powers when publishers are legally entitled to them? And as long as publishers have exclusivity powers handed to them, it’s literally impossible for anyone else to offer an alternative.

                      Publisher RoI might be lower under the reform, it just won’t be impossible to make a healthy profit. Overall, however, the market would be better off if publishers had to compete to be be better financiers instead of cornering markets. If nothing else, it might take some air out of the stupid game budget bubble that’s been expanding since the late 90s.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      Well, what a publisher should do for the benefit of humankind (or at least the part of humankind which is working directly or indirectly for them or interested in that publisher’s games), and what they actually do and what their obligations end up being is very much down to their bargaining power.

      I have the strong impression that this bargaining power, similar for major music labels, is very very strong. I guess that if a developer wanted to keep the rights for some game IP, they’d have to either be an independent company (very rare for AAA developers) or they’d have to be able to firmly convince the publisher that nobody else is to be trusted with the material, in order to even start bargaining on the basis of “we get to keep the rights or there won’t be a game” — a very very courageous argument, it would appear.

      Agreed, this should not be as it is.

      • Abnaxis says:

        I agree that imbalance of power in favor of publishers is at the heart of the issue. However, I think a lot of that bargaining power draws from the legal system we’ve put in place for intellectual property.

        Our system was designed to give publishers legal and financial power over the finished product. That made sense when the laws were put in place, because it takes a metric arse-ton of money to both buy and run printing presses/media printers and to legally clobber sub-standard counterfeiters. Publishers were responsible for the final link in any artistic supply chain, and they were grudgingly granted property rights to do their job effectively.

        If piracy has taught anything, it’s that we don’t need publishers for that final link any more. Hell, I don’t remember the last time I got a PC game on a piece of physical media, let alone one that actually worked out of the box, and consoles are moving in the same direction…

        If they aren’t delivering the last link in the chain, publishers don’t need copyrights. They shouldn’t have copyrights. The easies, simplest way I know to make that happen is to unconditionally give creators copyrights, and art will be better for it. Customers should not be directly paying glorified investors for products and services.

  6. Henson says:

    Your article refers to the recent mobile Hitman games as “cash-ins”, yet from what I’ve seen, Hitman: GO has been very well reviewed, even being nominated for a BAFTA or two.

    Sadly, although I own it from the Square Enix bundle a while back, I have no mobile device on which to play it.

    • Syal says:

      It’s only really worth playing if you have the Hitman: STOP expansion pack.

    • Hitman Go is a cute little puzzle game. As cash-ins go, it’s high quality. But it is just the Hitman franchise slapped on a cute little puzzle game rather than a “Hitman” game. “Cash in” might not give the exact right impression, but it’s not entirely unfair.

      It’s definitely one of those cases where I feel like somebody was ordered to do a cash in, and by sheer force of will, managed to produce a good game despite executive direction.

  7. Volvagia says:

    Generally? Though it depends on the type of game, this is (generally) what I’d view as the minimums relative to price:

    $15 game? 2-3 hours.
    $30 game? 4-6 hours.
    $60 game? 8-12 hours.

    Yes, you can go above or below a little (5-6 hour but eminently replayable $60 game, for example), depending on the genre or amount of content or kind of content you think you can make, but you also shouldn’t be able to actively slag a game at those price points for having those lengths.

    • AileTheAlien says:

      Seems about right to me – basically the same ballpark price/hour as TV shows, and movies. Of course, that’s for games that have story first, and not for games that are meant to offer quantity over quality. A $15 indie game like FTL usually has a shallow plot, but makes up for it with dozens of hours (or higher) of gameplay.

    • Bubble181 says:

      Really depends on the type of game. “Finishing” Civilization V once through is maybe a few hours, but you can easily spend hundreds of hours immersed in it, replaying from other basics, on other worlds, etc etc. A multiplayer FPS may have a single player mode campaign that lasts 4 hours, but some people will play it on line for hundreds of hours. “Finishing” Diablo III on one difficulty with one character is maybe a 5 hour deal but, again, people play through it with other characters and on line.
      Of course, which of those *interests* you is something else. If you’re only going to play it single player for the story, that FPS is a bad, bad deal.

    • GTB says:

      I base my purchases entirely on theater prices, which are currently about $10 where I live. So a two hour game can be priced at $10. A four hour game rates $20, and an eight hour game is $40. For a game to be 60 dollars, It had better deliver a minimum of twelve hours of quality content. And no, I don’t count loading screens. Even returning to a previous area with reused assets is questionable.

      I agree that it isn’t a great plan to judge a game based on length-to-completion, there are really too many variables to quantify how “good” a game is. But after paying full price for Homefront, which I really liked, and only getting four hours of actual game from it, I decided that if we don’t start at least getting a minimum standard going, then we can expect game publishers to continue to push it, until we’re all happily paying 60 bucks for a piece of a game.

      Oh wait.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Edit: Whoops, this was supposed to go one level higher, below my previous post..

        Oh, one more problem with measuring the “length” of a game:

        How long was Counterstrike? It didn’t even have a campaign mode, and the multiplayer games took maybe 5-10 minutes each. Yet I played it more than most other games.

        My perspective is that the “value” of a game is always a very subjective thing: It depends on who you are, how much money you have available, how much time, and how much you like spending your time with a given game.

        … actually the “pay what you want”* model is probably best-suited to determine the value of a game. And the result is not one number but a distribution. Well, at least this would be a good indicator if you could assume that every customer knew exactly what they were getting before they bought it.

        Then again, if you compare two similar games where you do similar things, and both are focused on a campaign or story of sorts, length does become more meaningful.

        *either Humble Bundle style (pick your price directly) or Steam style (price the game, wait, reduce price, wait …)

    • Zak McKracken says:

      I’d agree that paying 60$ for 4 hours of gameplay would feel like cheating in most cases but the inverse argument is much more difficult.

      Just because something takes a lot of time it isn’t necessarily “better”. Sitting on the sofa and looking at the wall costs me nothing, and it’s still something I do sometimes, and then there are some (though not as many as I’d like) activities I do and enjoy which I am even being paid for!

      => Its fairly easy to make a game that takes a lot of time but that doesn’t make it better (possibly worse, actually).

      Actually, I guess there may be cases where even a 2-hour game could be worth 60$. It would just need to be really really good, to the point where I want to play through a larger number of times.

      • GTB says:

        Well sure. Whenever anyone points at length-as-value I always bring up minecraft.

        At the same time though, I feel like there has to be some kind of limit on it. If you have an awesome two or four hour game, great, but no, you don’t get to charge 60 bucks. I don’t care how awesome it is. There should be a bare minimum of time required for full price. I don’t know what that minimum is, but it just seems like the industry is getting goofy at this point.

  8. Jokerman says:

    If they make a true hitman game, i would say for a lot of Hitman fans the full game will offer far more hours than The Witcher 3.

    Less content… but more hours.

    • Absolutely. I remember people saying 10 Second Ninja was “too short” because each level is hypothetically only 10 seconds long, but that ignores the crucial context that you’re supposed to play each level a hundred times because the game is for platformer speedrunners. It’s a similar scenario here.

  9. Retsam says:

    It seems that a big problem with Kickstarter is that the people using it don’t view it as “a way of sharing risk with the customers” but as “I get to pay less for a game that I want”. Ditto with early access. (Except it’s “I get the game I want sooner!”)

    I think the “risk sharing with the public” model is a really good idea… but it seems there needs to be a perspective shift in the general public.

    • Ilseroth says:

      You can say that, and it is technically true. But the issue here is that when developing a finance strategy you have to take that as it is. People aren’t going to change their way of thinking simply because it is right and/or logical. While it may say, dozens of times, on the kickstarter site that it is not a pre-order/pre-purchase and is practically a donation (Only thing you are legally required to provide is the backer rewards; the state of the game is irrelevant unless specified strictly in the backer rewards) it doesn’t change the fact that customers are never going to read that fine print and if they do, they won’t care about it until it directly affects them.

      I worked in a pet store, we put up a sign that said “Free Crate with purchase of a Dog.” In the span of a month that we had that sign up, I couldn’t count on my digits how many people asked about free dogs.

      • Heck, many people don’t even bother to read the large print. I worked info desk at DragonCon a few years ago at the Sheraton (Dragon’s in 5 hotels, and the Sheraton’s where you get your badge) and for every 2 people who paused in front of the 7 foot tall sign clearly stating where the various badges could be picked up and/or purchased (which was smack dab in the middle of the hall maybe 8 feet from the entry doors), we’d get 3 who’d walk right past it and ask us (we were about 20 feet away from it in a booth).
        It’s amazing how oblivious humans can be.

    • AileTheAlien says:

      I think the mental shift will happen over time. Sure, lots of people won’t actually read the EULA/terms of use/whatever, but they’ll start hearing about it from friends who have taken the time to read “the fine print”, so to speak. Assuming of course, that these funding models stay relatively stable for a while.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

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

    Thats not quite true.People are complaining about the way marvel does busyness,even when they like the product coming from the studio.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      And personally, I feel their recent products have been milquetoast, especially when the focus is on being light hearted. I hate to say that because I want more lighthearted superhero movies but Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy had such bland humor most of the time. They were ok to sit through but the laughs were so obvious and predictable most of the time (the literal minded Drax and that one scene near the end with Groot were funny.)

      But for reference, I don’t think Mel Brooks was ever all that funny either. I think his timing is slow. I’m kind of picky about comedy.

      I’m really hoping Deadpool comes along and shakes it up, maybe shows Marvel that they can take more chances with their humor.

      • lucky7 says:

        I’m the opposite: the more comedic Marvel Movies have been my favorite superhero movies since The Dark Knight. Different tastes, but I too hope for Deadpool to be as awesome as it should be.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          The people agree:No matter your taste in comedy,deadpool is awesome.And the movie better live up to that.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          I get it. Everyone is on about how we need to lighten the mood since the success of the Dark Knight and the subsequent misapplication of a darker mood to Man of Steel. I want lighter funner movies, I just think Marvel has fallen short a bit with Guardians and Ant Man. I was able to enjoy sitting through both once but when I watched Guardians a second time, I couldn’t finish it. Granted I was tire but a better movie would have kept me awake.

          For reference, I’d like to see Marvel pull off a comedy of the calibre of Galaxy Quest. Its safe family friendly comedy thats character driven and has a comedic premise that’s not simply a farce or a spoof (I’m not asking for Hot Shots here) that is of the kind I think Marvel is shooting for and not quite hitting. I know I said Deadpool before, but I don’t need the humor to be that violent or dark, thats not what I meant. I just want them to be more clever and try harder as opposed to going for the first obvious joke that works every time.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            I could.To me,the most important thing about the joke is the delivery,not how predictable it is.Thats why I laugh out loud no matter how many times I hear some of the George Carlins or Jimmy Carrs jokes.

            And yes,I know how weird it is to like both the pg marvel jokes and extremely racy Carlin and Carr jokes.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              Not weird at all. A good joke is a good joke.

              But delivery is only part of it. A good joke is about delivery, context, how the joke connects with the audience, how the audience perceives the presenter and/or presentation (even beyond the delivery) and the way the absurdity connects, or the absurdity of the connection itself. Making a connection in some way you haven’t thought of before.

              The best jokes make such connections that the humor unpacks itself in the audience’s head as they suddenly make still more humorous connections. Even better when the set up and punchline leave you set up for a chain of punchlines.

        • I’m with you, I really enjoyed the lighter stuff, especially Guardians. I grew up with Get Smart and F Troop and Monty Python (in reruns), and I still love ’em all.
          I thought the leaked footage was hysterical, and I’m hopeful that even if we don’t get a grand slam, we’ll at least get to third base.
          I’m selective about my humor, but what I can’t stand is stuff like Mr. Bean or Borat. Unless it’s very gentle friendly teasing and it’s obvious neither person’s uncomfortable, it pushes some childhood trauma buttons. Give me silly any day of the week.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            See I liked Monty Python and Get Smart as well (never saw F Troop). I’d think if Monty Python is your taste then Guardians would be a bit of a disappointment.

            Maybe I’m a victim of marketing. The trailers made it look like Guardians was going to be a full on comedy and it wasn’t. I definitely enjoyed some of the jokes though.

            I had a conversation with a friend last night and am starting to think maybe its really just me. Maybe I’m just not open to laughing right now unless the joke are so good I can’t help myself.

            • JAB says:

              In this day and age, you’re not going to get a big budget AAA movie based entirely on comedy. Comedy just doesn’t translate well into different areas of the world, and these days the worldwide boxoffice receipts are what matter.

      • AileTheAlien says:

        I too, have high hopes for Deadpool. I also have low expectations. Hollywood doesn’t have a great track record, I htink. :S

        • Christopher says:

          I don’t know how I’d judge the Deadpool movie. People have different senses of humor obviously, and if Deadpool is anything like say, his Cable & Deadpool writing, then I’m not gonna be able to stand it. He’s exactly like Sera in Inquisition to me.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So why all this dumping on squenix when this is basically the same thing destiny has already done?

    • Thomas says:

      Ah but Destiny has evolved the model even further, now you can buy an incomplete game and pay expansion money to have the developers finish it!

    • Robyrt says:

      Yeah, Destiny charges full price for half an AAA game and chops up the rest into DLC, but they’re not holding the rest of the game for ransom until you buy the expansion packs. You know the full game will be available to play… next year, in the Complete Edition pack, for like $40.

  12. MichaelGC says:

    This is on top of the fact

    This is the key point, though, really – duration is a factor to consider amongst others, so as long as it’s not being talked about to the exclusion of everything else, there’s nothing wrong with discussing it. Just as one might talk about the graphics – if that was all one talked about, yadda yadda.

    It’s a highly personal thing to the point where whether a given game is ‘too long’ or ‘too short’ will differ even for the same person over the course of their life, as they themselves encounter varying time-pressures, or whatnot. But that just means it’s a bit tricky to come up with hard & fast rules. Or even soft & gooey ones! – but that’s true of most things, really.

  13. Lazlo says:

    And just to make things worse, if I think I’m going to like the whole game, but don’t want to take the risk of only getting half the game, I can just wait until the whole thing is out to buy it… but if enough people follow that logic, sales will be poor, meaning that they have less incentive to finish making the game.

    Maybe the solution is to set up a complementary organization that allows people to bet on whether or not the game will be finished. So you bet $30 (or however much, depending on how the odds go) that it will be, and if it is finished, the house buys you the game for full retail price, if it isn’t, you lose your bet. Then you have another option, where you can bet that it won’t be finished by a certain date, and if you’re right, you get all your cash + some of the cash from some fool who thought it would be finished. Publish the odds, and the size of the overall pot, so that Square Enix knows how much it’s giving up in lost sales to betters alone if it doesn’t finish the game. It’s not a perfect system, and I’m sure it could be improved, but on the other hand, its very existence might get Square Enix to realize that, with the help of a third party, they’ve managed to turn a AAA publishing house with a beloved IP into something *almost* as good as a kickstarter campaign.

    • AileTheAlien says:

      This actually seems like a reasonable idea to me. I wonder if I could make a living off of the bets…

    • djw says:

      I really like the idea of betting markets in general for predicting the future, whether it be for video game sales or politics or just about anything else. The problem (I think) is that the deciders (CEO, et cetera) gain status from appearing* to know what they are talking about, and when they rely on betting markets instead they lose that status.

      The betting market actually takes money to run, since you have transaction costs, and you have to pay somebody trustworthy to hold the money. I don’t see how a third party could actually afford that, so it would have to be the company itself, and they have (perverse) incentives not to.

      *Note that actually knowing what they are talking about is not required, they just need to appear that way in front of their yes men.

      • Lazlo says:

        I envision something similar to parimutuel betting, but with some slight differences. Specifically, the amount that you would need to bet that the game *will* be published would float with the current odds, but would have a fixed payout (you get a copy of the game), while the bets against publishing could be for any amount, but the payout would vary based on the odds. Either way, there’s got to be a house cut built in, such that, for example, if there’s 100% certainty of publishing the $50 game, you could “bet” $55 that it would be published (but hopefully no one would do that because it would be stupid) The decision-makers don’t have to admit that they look at the betting house numbers, so long as they secretly do.

        The difficulty comes with the publishing house deciding to cancel the game, and then betting that they’re going to cancel the game. You’d have to have some strong authentication and analytics to detect and prosecute this sort of ‘insider trading’

  14. RCN says:

    Goddamnit! Whenever I read one of your Experienced Points I end up hovering my mouse over the images to see your commentary then remember I’m actually on The Escapist when the comment is something like “hitman2.jpg”.

  15. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I know this is a bit mercenary but another way a company could absorb some of their loss is to sell assets on one of the asset stores. No use in letting that work go to waste. I know you’d prefer to have the assets released. That could be a stretch goal.

  16. Chefsbrian says:

    I’m a bit curious about a related matter. Why have your Articles been going up early Monday morning for the past few weeks, even if everything still shows its supposed to be a Tuesday afternoon piece? I’m not rightly complaining, but it makes it a bit confusing to have your article, read it, come on here on Tuesday and think “Oh hey an article-oh wait I’ve already read this”.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      The Escapist switched his article to Monday morning, but Shamus posts it on Twenty Sided on Tuesday to spread out the content on his site(Monday already has the Diecast).

    • Shamus says:

      The Escapist moved the article to Monday because Tuesday was already crowded. But here I put up the Diecast on Mondays, and I don’t want double content on Monday and no content on Tuesday. So the Escapist discussion gets delayed until Tuesday.

      • MrGuy says:

        Can we just sticky this post on Tuesdays or something?

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          You may have a point. This is the third time he’s had to answer this question in the comments that I’ve seen.

          • Supahewok says:

            What I want to know is why he doesn’t just put the Diecast up Tuesday and the Escapist article up on Monday. Any other site might want to intersperse the text articles between the videos and podcast, but I think this one would do fine with two text articles in a row.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Because why would he sit on it for half a week?

              • Supahewok says:

                Why would he sit on an article that brings him revenue from an outside website? The same reasoning applies to both.

                So far as I know, there is no reason not to change, and a somewhat good reason to do so; Shamus has said in the past that one reason he keeps the Escapist column going is to draw in new readers, and having a discussion about the article that drew those readers in at the top of the page here would give them familiar ground, and a greater chance of retaining them than an unrelated subject being the first thing they see. Plus it would stem the admittedly minor confusion that’s cropped up every week since the change.

                This is assuming that Shamus has no reason to
                not switch things other than that it would change the routine around here. Plenty of reasoning goes on in the background that he doesn’t tell us about.

                And although its irrelevant to the point at hand, where do you get half a week from? Last I heard they record Saturday night and Shamus (now Rachel) edits on Sunday, leaving Monday the earliest reasonable day that the podcast can be published. So, that’s one extra day? Hardly sitting on it, I would think. Might give extra time to jazz it up a bit if they so wished.

      • Chefsbrian says:

        Ah. Its a bit confusing because ever since this started, the Escapist Site itself lists you in the wrong timeslot.

  17. Jonathan says:

    The post title is missing the letter “c” from “Experienced.”

    c. it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.

  18. Tulgey Logger says:

    The assertion that greed isn’t the problem because no one’s complaining about Marvel is wrong on multiple fronts. For one thing, people are complaining on the grounds that, say, so few women characters are getting movies. Greed is part of that problem. Even if greed wasn’t part of the problem, centering greed in critiques is misguided, though, as it personalizes the processes of capitalism too much. Amazon is successful because it exploits its warehouse and office workers, and greed is part of that problem, but there are deeper systems that allow that to be successful.

  19. MrGuy says:

    (Although I’m sure Campster would chastise me for boiling a game down to its playtime, and I concede it’s a terrible metric for measuring value.)

    Bullshit. PLAYTIME (i.e. the amount of time I’m willing to spend playing a game) is a GREAT metric. If I enjoy a game, I’ll play it multiple times. I’ll hunt for the secret collectables. I’ll come back to it months or years later and play it again. I’ve played The Walking Dead multiple times because I was curious “what happened” if I did something different. I 100%’ed the Arkham games. Looking at my “most played” games on Steam is a pretty darn accurate measure of which games I enjoyed.

    Games are diversion and fun. How much time it took before I got bored with the game and decided to do something else is a good measure of fun (if you want to go on an hourly basis, divide by the cost of the game…)

    It’s only problematic when you confuse PLAYtime (how long I spent playing a game) with CONTENT time (how many hours worth of unique content there is in a game). And this is the problem most studios make. They assume that if they shoehorn in more content (say, two mutually exclusive paths through the game, so to see all of it you have to play it twice), then you’ve doubled the “play time.” Sure, having additional content biting the hook of a game I’m already into will get me to play it more. But if your game sucks (because the mechanics are bad, the plot is stupid, the difficulty curve is broken, etc.), then you can add all the content you want – I still stopped playing at the end of act 1.

    The problem is that the studios assume “if you built it they will come,” and these two measures (content time and play time) are the same. So shoehorning in additional content padding is more important than making the game, y’know, fun to play.

    • Thomas says:

      Even then I don’t necessarily agree. How do you compare a game that you play for thirty minutes but think about weeks after to a game you played for a couple of hours and then forgot?

      And there are plenty of games with low content but high playtimes because they’ve got some fuzzy compulsive mechanics that you keep coming back to but are more like background noise than real entertainment.

      I’ve only played The Walking Dead Season 1 once (and I’ll probably won’t play it again), but I value it higher than say, Dragon Age Inquisition which I’ve already played twice.

      ——————-
      ——————-
      On the other hand, I do agree playtime is a good guide, but some people have problems with valuing guides which are kind of good but not absolutely perfect :p (see people who don’t believe in consumer reviews at all)

      • Thomas says:

        Ooh here’s a simpler argument:

        Judging by playtime, I’d have to play a 2 hour game I super enjoyed _40_ times for it to be worth the same as a 80 hour game I played to completion but only kind of liked.

        • Daimbert says:

          In terms of value, yes. But that makes sense, because you really are getting more entertainment hours out of the game. When we talk about using value as the calculation, though, I think we need to calculate on the basis of “worth”, meaning is it WORTH it for you to put in those entertainment hours. I’m willing to spend more per hour of entertainment for more entertaining things, but there’s a limit to that. A game that just keeps me from being bored for a while isn’t worth as much as a game that keeps me enthralled for as long as I play it, so I ought to be willing to pay more per hour of entertainment for the latter. But there’s still a limit on how much I’m willing to pay for that extra entertainment value. If the game, however, adds a lot of busywork — Conception II, for me, is the ur-example of this — then I hit points where I’m not actually being entertained by its hours of content, and am just doing it to get to the fun parts, then I can’t count those portions as part of my entertainment hours, and so its value isn’t actually as good as the content hours make it seem.

          In summary, we need to consider worth as well as value when calculating what to buy, and as the OP said content hours and entertainment hours aren’t the same thing, and we’re talking about entertainment hours when we calculate value, not content hours.

    • bloodsquirrel says:

      No, it’s still a terrible metric, because all playtime is not equal. A skinnerbox mobile game that I dump 100 hours into while waiting in lines and watching TV is not better than an 8 hour game with a lot of cool, unique mechanics and an interesting story. Some games are just time sinks- they’re there for when you have time to dump into them and no energy to do something more productive. Some games make their point very quickly.

      • Daimbert says:

        I think you confuse “value” with “quality” here. If you paid $10 for that mobile game, and $80 for that 8 hour game, presuming that you never want to replay the 8 hour game your value — ie what you spent per actual hour of entertainment — is 10 cents for the mobile game and $10 for the other game. Clearly, by that measure, the mobile game had a higher value (presuming that you’re actually entertained by all of those 100 hours), and it is a pretty good measure to use to decide how much money you should be willing to invest into each of them. But that doesn’t mean that the mobile game is a better game, or even that you enjoyed it more. In terms of straight up value, the mobile game wins, but what you’d have to decide is if the experience and entertainment you get from the 8 hour game is worth the price you have to pay for it.

        But comparing that game to a mobile game is a bad comparison from the start, because they actually fill far different niches. For example, you CAN play those mobile games while standing in line, when you just want something to keep you from being totally bored, but you probably wouldn’t even play that mobile game at the times when you can play the 8 hour game. So a better comparison would be two games that you play, say, on your sofa at home, both of which take 8 hours per playthrough, but one of which you want to replay at least once to see something different and the other that you won’t. So, for example, the difference between Knights of the Old Republic — play it once light and dark side — and Mass Effect (where you can pretty much see everything the first time around). KotOR has more value even if they have the exact same playtime or content time per game, because you’ll play it more than once, and given that if given a choice of which to buy you should buy it first, just on value.

        As another example, I’ve bought something like 4 copies of Persona 3 (original, FES, a backup, and PSP). I’ve played the game, across all of those versions, for over 500 hours. Given that, the cost of the game per hour is ridiculously low. It justifies buying an entire console to play it because it would STILL be under $2 an hour. If Persona 5 works out to be anything like that, I could easily justify buying a PS4 just to play it, without worrying overmuch about the risk, as long as it is, indeed, a good enough game.

        So when it comes to calculating the risk a consumer has to take on, value is indeed a wonderful metric: you balance the expected cost per hour of the game given the expected probability that you WILL enjoy it for that long, and then decide if it’s worth putting your money down against that. Episodic approaches give you the ability to bail out if it isn’t working for less cost, and so give you less risk, and if it pays off you hit your numbers. Lowering prices can do that as well; there are a number of things that I’d buy cheaper because it means that if I enjoy it I massively win and if I don’t I lose little.

        For the most part, I calculate all of my entertainment spending with that metric, from DVDs to games to movies to books. Which means that movie theaters always fail the test [grin].

    • Kdansky says:

      No, not good enough. I’d rather spend 2 hours on a brilliant game, than 20 on a mediocre game. Sure, the mediocre title might be just good enough so I don’t put it down mid-way, but in no way have I gotten 10 times more enjoyment out of the longer one.

      If anything, I gained more happiness from the 2 hours title, and I had 18 hours left over to do other things with. Wasting my time is the worst thing a game can do.

  20. Neko says:

    I’m surprised no-one has mentioned Life is Strange yet. I think maybe Squeenix looked at people gushing over it and thought “Aha! Next Fad is episodic content!”, but didn’t really think it through w.r.t. the pricing.

    It’ll probably be terrible. However – best case scenario? They could do Hitman like TF2. Hear me out. Pay normal game price for a Hitman game with most of the base mechanics sorted and a couple of nice sandboxy maps to play on. Have different contracts so it doesn’t get too boring. Maybe multiplayer I dunno. Then episodes 2 through n are essentially “map packs”, adding new exotic locations for Hitman to travel to and murder dudes in. There doesn’t even have to be an overarching story, I think at this point all anyone wants is Blood Money style missions set at some unspecified time in the Hitman canon.

    • Bubble181 says:

      This is what I expect – say, 15 missions over 5 maps as the “base” game, with some multiplayer mechanic to “keep it fun”. Then release more maps/missions over the coming months/weeks.
      IF successful, a great way of keeping the game alive for a long time – they can keep on churning out new maps and missions for years, easily.
      IF less than successful, they can “just” release those already in the works (say, another 5 maps and another 10 missions) and call it a day. Problem being, in both cases, early adopters will have paid the same amount. No view as to how much extra content they’re going to release, what quality, how often, etc is a huge risk for the consumer.

  21. byter says:

    I would imagine that a likely reason for Square taking this decision, is that they want to release their game in time for Christmas. They probably feel that’s it’s best to release the game this way (before the hectic Christmas rush) rather than in a more complete form later, during a less lucrative time.

    There’s always been plenty of games rushed out the door by publishers in time for Christmas.. just at least this time they can possibly finish the game afterwards… :/

    • Robyrt says:

      That’s probably one of the reasons. It’s weird, though, because the Christmas rush has never been the best time to release a new AAA video game, unless it’s something that can compete against Call of Duty, Halo, etc. Why compete for shooter dollars when you can release a more complete game in March and make the front page of Steam?

      • byter says:

        I don’t know exactly what their reasons are… One way or another they are releasing December, they are going to compete with CoD and the like.. it seems pretty unlikely for them to have not contemplated the consequences/risks of an early release during the Christmas month…

  22. Vect says:

    On Hitman ripoffs… You ever heard of Yandere Simulator? Currently the game is nowhere finished and what is currently out is just some debug sandbox mode but the developer releases frequent updates on new features (mostly involving new murder tactics).

  23. Zaxares says:

    *sigh* Well, guess there goes another beloved series that I won’t be playing anymore. On the bright side, I guess it does free up more gaming time for me to devote to other games.

  24. Izicata says:

    “I hate to see bad the things happen to a series as unique as Hitman”
    “bad the things”
    Shamus pls

  25. Draklaw says:

    I am not really sure that developers release episodic games as a way to manage risks. I didn’t ear that much stories about episodic games that are cancelled before all episodes are out. It would be a bad idea anyway, because people will remember the studio for this and I am not sure a little studio can afford a bad reputation. It is even worst considering that most episodic games are strongly story-driven (Telltales, Life is Strange…), and releasing only 3 episodes out of 5 is a sure way to attract haters attention. (And we all know how internet like shitstorms…)

    I know some developers start to release the game early in order to have money to finish the development. An other reason might be that some people might buy the first episode just “to see” because it is cheap and then the rest of the episodes if they liked the first one, but would not have paid the full price upfront. Maybe other developers might do it because they believe they can make more money this way, thinking that buying 5 episode 10$ each might seems less a problem than paying 50$ at once.

    In the end, I think that episodic games generally a way to fund the end of the development or a marketing tool, but not really a way to do risk-reward tradeoff. In the case of the next Hitman, however, I have no clue.

  26. Darren says:

    Although what is “appropriate” varies from title to title, I think time is a perfectly valid metric for audience satisfaction, if not quality, per se. I like to use comics as an example. While one can read comics on an issue-by-issue basis, I find that I read far too fast to find that satisfying. Just as I’m getting interested the story stops and I have to wait a month for the continuation (assuming it’s serialized; if it’s a one-off, then I probably just want more and might be satisfied to return to older issues). I vastly prefer waiting for trade collections, and it’s interesting that once a trade is out very little is said of the issues as individual chapters, Sandman and its story arcs being a good example.

  27. Duoae says:

    This really is a terrible scheme on Square Enix’s part… I love the few comments on the article though.

    Basically they boil down to:

    1) I agree.
    2) Square are reputable, they’d never abandon or renege on a promise! You’re silly for being paranoid.
    3) This is a possibility, I’ll wait this out until it’s all released.

    Personally, although the company might not ever admit to themselves that they’d renege on a release promise, business decision-making would require them to stop supporting a product that was not viable.

    One of the reasons that episodic content has really not taken off in every genre is that it’s really hard to pull off successfully. I mean Telltale is the big name in the space that I’m aware of but I don’t remember any other recognisable company names even if there are a lot more.

    What I do remember, though, is playing through Sin Episodes (Ep 1) and having the company fold on that and having no resolution for the story and, even more famously, Half Life Episode 3 (or Half Life 3) as a closure of that whole storyline being a no-show as well…

    I don’t trust episodic releases outside of Telltale now and even their franchises are hit and miss with regards to their quality!

  28. Dreadjaws says:

    I feel like Hitman is the kind of game that would definitely benefit from an episodic release. Instead of doing a major plot arc like the last game did, just make a bunch of seemingly unrelated missions for each episode and then tie them in with an unexpected plot arc at the last episode, or leave the big arc visible but don’t call much the attention to it (basically, like Telltale games do).

    Of course, the way Squeenix is doing it is bonkers, to the point I’m not fully conviced it’s not some crazy “Springtime for Hitler” kind of scheme.

  29. Groboclown says:

    Public companies are about profit. Making half a game and promising to give the other half away for free later only makes sense from a business perspective if:

    1. They bundle it with stuff you can buy. Giving it away as a teaser for even more content you can purchase is a great thing to offer. They give a little bit that shows you a new feature or wiz-bang goodie, but you can buy lots of stuff in which to use that goodie. Kind of a “loss leader”.

    2. They see low sales and want to boost sales by showing that it’s a better deal now that you get more content.

    Just making more stuff available for free by itself just doesn’t make sense to me. Unless there’s also the marketing good customer relations angle, which I don’t see Square needing.

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