How Do You Add Value to A Game?

While big game publishers continue to push forward with strategies based on paid DLC that anger some gamers, over the course of this summer I’ve seen a surprising number of effective alternative approaches. Those approaches are all going towards the objective of adding value and appeal to an already-released game.

The most recent and maybe even most notable example has come from Witcher 2 developer CDProjekt RED – a company known for going against the Hollywood flow. In a recent interview with Gamasutra they mentioned their policy of free DLC and they way they’ve treated post-release content for TW2.

As they noted, no other game publisher probably would have offered all the new content in TW2’s Enhanced Edition – new quests and a new mode, for free for people who already own the base game, a year after its original launch. They would’ve charged $15 or $20 for all that or something just three months after launch in order to get more revenue out of existing customers. I’m not saying that’s inherently wrong, but CDP’s philosophy might make sense:

According to them, adding new free content to TW2 and essentially re-launching the game would entice new customers to buy the full game, thus theoretically bringing in more revenue. They reason that getting a totally new customer to pay $40 a year after a game comes out is better than convincing an existing customer to pay $15 just a couple months after release. I say it indicates long-term thinking in terms of profits, but you could see it either way I guess.

CDP can probably do that on the PC because they don’t have to worry about people selling the game back to GameStop whereas console publishers do. Then again, letting people know that new free content has been or will be added to a game could be another way to add value to the product, thus convincing buyers to hold on to their copies.

Right now the most popular way to do that is to tack on multiplayer. The theory behind this is sound: too many people don’t finish singleplayer modes because they’re just not interested in the static linear experience. Statistics show that a lot of Call of Duty buyers won’t even finish the six-hours singleplayer, but will spend 65 hours on the multiplayer. Is multiplayer the only thing that provides that kind of dynamic, valuable experience though?

I’ve posted in the past about how other alternative modes can do this, the prime trend right now being horde mode. Another great example though is New Game+, which almost always convinces me to keep playing a game longer, and even keep rental copies of mediocre games a little bit longer. Actually, multiplayer just might be the best way if developers would just treat it right. Just like with singleplayer, alternative treatments to multiplayer exist opposed to what most big publishers are doing.

A good multiplayer game can become a platform – an eSport even, which probably prologs how long that game brings in revenue for the publisher. I can only imagine how many people bought Team Fortress 2 on Steam in the four years between its 2007 launch and when the game went free-to-play last year due to all the free updates Valve released for it in that time. Each new major class update was an event which brought the game new word-of-mouth.

Another example has been ArmA II. Three years after the game’s original release the DayZ mod comes out and causes something like a 400 percent increase in sales. ArmA II stayed at the top Steam sales charts right up until the current summer sale where it’s still firmly in the top 10.

A more minor example is King of Fighters XIII. The game came out last year but seems to have gotten a new wave of attention and maybe even sales after the end of the Evolution 2012 fighting game tournament. This year was the franchise’s debut at the tourney, and KOFXIII ended up being the second-most watched game there due to particularly intense matches in its finals. Even I’m thinking about picking the game up now, which is currently on sale at a few places.

Now I don’t actually know if this way is ultimately more profitable or cost effective as opposed to releasing a big game, releasing some DLC, and then expecting everyone to drop it for the new game a year later. I’m just highlighting the different approach that some people seem to be taking.

Publishers are all talking about “games as a service” now and I think both approaches are in pursuit of that goal but through their own different paths.

What most publishers seem to do is treat an intellectual property as a product or service – constantly putting out new full iterations. What CDProjekt describes and what a few other companies seem to be doing is treating individual games like ongoing products or services.

BULLETS:

  • I caved and bought Unreal Gold and Unreal 2 on the Steam sale. How good are they compared to other first person shooters of their time?
  • Also waiting on some kind of deal for Quantum Conumdrum after having downloaded the demo.
  • So DirectX 11 can now make diamonds that look like real diamonds: http://t.co/wpm6MbES
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