Financial Models For FPS Games

24th September 2006

The introduction of Steam and episodic content has changed the way we buy games and I thought I’d take a quick look at some financial models within the gaming industry and see whether they would work for FPS games.

Standard Retail Box

Out of all the options available this is my favourite. I like having a box and a manual to touch and smell (you know what I mean!) This is an option that whilst is slowly disappearing will eventually make a comeback in the form of Limited/Collectors Edition. Lots of publishers still use this method because not everybody has or needs an Internet connection.

Standard DVD Box

Convenient but ultimately unsatisfying. Nowadays they seem to come without a printed manual. Looks nice all lined up on my shelves but that’s all. I accept that if you but it retails it needs some form of packaging but I still don’t like it. However one good thing is that these types of boxes are easy to send in the post!

Collectors/Limited Edition

There should definitely be more of these but the quality has to be very high. Better to pay a little more and get something worthwhile. I wanted to buy the Half-Life 2 Collectors edition but in reality it didn’t seem worth it. I’ll probably still buy one but only because I want a complete collection. Publishers really need to do worth with these things.

Download

Can’t argue with the concept although I feel the price difference should be much greater. Sure they have to pay for bandwidth but a file sharing system could easily be introduced, meaning we are all content servers. The least we should get is high-quality PDF files for the manual that we can print if we wanted to, same goes for disk and DVD covers.

Actually Models

Enough about the delivery system let’s look at how they generate income:

Full Game / Full Price

I prefer to pay $60-70 dollars up front and receive a full game. I understand all the arguments for episodic content but feel it’s like buying a book or magazine. Magazines are nice to read but I prefer to get into a really good book that lasts for a while. OK, the developers go long periods without income But perhaps there’s a compromise? Release a high quality demo and allow players to pre-purchase at a discount. The developer/publisher would need to be dependable and well known but it’s an option.

Episodic Release / Episodic Price

Initially I thought $20 for Half-Life 2: Episode 1 was expensive but then I went to a fast food restaurant and ordered a burger meal that cost nearly $8 and was gone in ten minutes. I then though $20 for 4 hours probably wasn’t that bad. I still get shack the feeling that we are being somehow cheated. I mean, How much new content is available in Episodic content? Not much, maybe a few new textures, an enemy or two plus maybe a weapon. Most of it will be level design.

Very Cheap Framework / Buy Extra Content

1Up are reporting on news that Gran Turismo will be available in two versions. Standard version with everything included and a Micro Transaction version. In the MT version you get a few cars and tracks but have to buy new items. Sounds very interesting. Would it work in FPS games? Unlikely unless the developer was continually making new things (Levels, enemies, weapons etc) available. Not being an online MP player I could be wrong but don’t Sony do this with PlanetSide? Why not with SP? Would you buy new weapons etc? I might if they were high enough quality etc. I, and I think most people are, are interested in new levels and storylines.

First-Person Advertiser

This is one of the topics I discussed on my now dead forum. The idea that in game advertising actually pays for the game. Gamasutra has a piece describing it. (You may need a username and password to access this article. Don’t worry it’s free and the site is excellent for game enthusiasts). I’m doubtful if this would work for SP games. The advertising would have to be quite prominent and I think this would detract from the story line. There could be ways this might work but it seems perfect for MP type levels, rather than story driven stuff. Got any thoughts on how to incorporate advertise into SP THAT would reduce the price?

Subscription

Now that Steam games require regular connection to the Internet one possible way of charging would be per hours played. Can’t see this working myself, too many players spend hours playing and they would be penalized.

Resale Value

I understand developers and publishers complaining about the second-hand market and trying to stop/control. I believe it’s unrealistic and maybe unfair. I bet 90% of Valve staff (And all other companies!) share books, magazine and stuff. We all do. Why not accept it and create a resale fee? The developer gets to control the transaction and take a cut of the money. Limits of sales etc can be introduced and players will feel good they have a chance to buy at a reduced price.

Free Or Very Cheap Media

I’m working on another post that relates to this but why not give away the DVDs and boxes (Or at incredibly reduced price) and just allow the customer to but a license code? That way you can easily give presents etc and once people have the disk and tried it. (Oh, I forgot to say that the purchasers can play the game free 30 minutes free.) they may want to purchase it. The disk could contain other related items to cover the costs. Perhaps even the 30 minutes free are on levels subsidized by advertising?!

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7 Comments

  1. Luke L

    Personally, I like buying the actual game (because you can always re-install, sell it on etc) and I also like getting a whole game. That’s why I’m going to wait until, HL Ep3 before buying all the episodes.

  2. Me too, I prefer the full game and I did consdier waiting for all three episodes of Half-life 2 but I knew I couldn’t avoid the screenshots and movies etc.

    Are you saying they will be releasing all three episodes as a complete game? I must have missed that news. OF course you will still have the trouble of selling it on due to Valve restrictive resale policy.

  3. I’ve read that HL2 episodes 1 & 2 will sell together on the consoles, so maybe a 3 episode bundle will be inevitable at some stage?

    One big advantage, I think, of episodic releases is that we are getting new stuff quicker. I’d hate to wait another three years for HL3 — which is effectively what we are playing now according to Valve.

    Also, I’m positively drooling over Portal, bundled “free” with HL2:ep2, and I’m sure online gamers are excited about Team Fortress 2.

    And with all the maps and mods coming out all the time, who’d want to sell on their copy of HL2 anyway? Not me, that’s for sure! I’m happy with virtual purchasing so long as the price reflects the finished product. Purely as an example, I thought Sin: Emergence was only just above average, but at £12 it was still reasonable value for money. I’d have been annoyed if I had paid £30 for it from a shop, however.

  4. Cubedude89

    I like the last idea “Free Or Very Cheap Media”

  5. Old Scratch

    When I first installed HL2, I got VERY, VERY angry with Valve/Steam/etc, because at the time I got the game, it was a gift, and the giver wasn’t away that an Internet connection was required, and my connection at the time was a very slow dialup connection. I couldn’t get the necessary stuff to download at all because VAlve’s servers would reset the connection thinking it was dead, when in fact it was just very slow. And before y’all say “take the machine to a friend’s house with a fast connection”: I did that, and got the nastiest virus/malware I’ve ever gotten from his network, which I never really was able to recover from, and ended up putting a new HD into my system and imaging it.

    Either way, Valve’s attempt to DRM their product caused me a great deal of grief. In all honesty, I’m glad I put up with it long enough to get to play the game; but the system isn’t foolproof (given that the game’s available on the warez sites and torrents as we speak), and it really just penalizes the legitimate users more than the crooks.

    As for content delivery: I think the EP1 setup was quite good, but $20 for what amounts to a fairly large mod is a tad steep, I’d say $10 was more appropriate. I also think most games on the shelves are overpriced to start with; and if you’re familiar with Wal-Mart, you’ll note that HL2 dropped to $30 for a CD copy, and $40 for the super-special DVD version, so Valve’s cut really doesn’t justify $50-$60 prices.

    Paying for a download isn’t too bad, but a better discount is needed. I realize Valve need to pay for thier bandwidth; but so do we, so there’s no point in charging us for the privelege–besides, there are places outside the US/UK/EU where Internet access IS on a per-minute basis, so charging a user on a time-basis is silly as well.

    As for resale: I see software the same way I see books: if I buy a book, I may not own the particualr way the words and letters are arranged into ideas; but I do own the physical medium the book is printed upon, and if I choose to wipe my butt with the pages, they are MY PAGES to do with as I wish. Software is the same: that CD is MINE to do with as I wish, irrelevant of the fact I do not own the particular arrangement of the nits on that CD. And if I choose to give or sell said CD or DVD to whoever I choose, the publisher has no choice in the matter–again, I could wipe my nose with it instead, and they can’t do squat.

    Of course, the previous goes into a major discussion of “Fair Use”, which isn’t appropriate here. Suffice it to say, I do NOT like that publishers are villianizing their customers, and that said customers are letting them get away with it (Microsoft, anyone?).

    Of course, given today’s diatribe, one can tell I’d like to use Linux over Windows: not only because I’m a cheap bastard, but also because I’d like a truly RELIABLE and SAFE operating system. Besides, I like to have a measure of control in the media I consume, and using Windows/DRM’d media puts that control in the hands of the publishers who’d rather make me the villian, instead of the REAL pirates.

    Okay, off the soapbox I go… please, don’t throw the rotten vegetables too hard, I have a headache.

  6. I agree with your comments about the short-comings of Steam and was also quite upset with the roll-out. I am genuinely curious whether they actually tested Steam with a geographically distributed Sp game.

    The idea about charging for playing time doesn’t necessarily link to having to be online all the time. Perhaps you can pay for a certain number of minutes in advance. Anyway, it was just an idea.

    You point about the books is well taken but I was under the impression that most books stipulated that they cannot be resold. I know it’s down but I’m just making the point.

    I too would like to run Linux and the moment some creates a reliable top-notch emulator for Windows games I’ll be downloading it. In fact I have recently taken the decision to remove ALL paid software from my machine, except Windows of course. Everything else is freeware.

    How do boiled cabbages sound? Soft enough? ANd of course with the added benefit of being really smelly too.

  7. I agree with your comments about the short-comings of Steam and was also quite upset with the roll-out. I am genuinely curious whether they actually tested Steam with a geographically distributed Sp game.

    The idea about charging for playing time doesn’t necessarily link to having to be online all the time. Perhaps you can pay for a certain number of minutes in advance. Anyway, it was just an idea.

    You point about the books is well taken but I was under the impression that most books stipulated that they cannot be resold. I know it’s down but I’m just making the point.

    I too would like to run Linux and the moment some creates a reliable top-notch emulator for Windows games I’ll be downloading it. In fact I have recently taken the decision to remove ALL paid software from my machine, except Windows of course. Everything else is freeware.

    How do boiled cabbages sound? Soft enough? ANd of course with the added benefit of being really smelly too.

    OOh… you *are* cruel… :-O

    I don’t know about over tehre, but here in the US we can resell a book all day long, unless said book comes shrinkwrapped with a EULA (yes, there have been some books marketed in new book stores with shrinkwrap and EULAs–they didn’t sell very well, either).

    The problem with a time-based license is that not everyone plays the game quickly. IF you’re going to do that, might as well go to an arcade and drop a couple of quarters; and Valve might as well ditch selling the game and make it into a coin-console-only game.

    And, yes, Linux has excellent emulators, tho I don’t think there is any that can run HL2 effectively without hardware that is far and above what’s available now. Email me, and I’ll put you in contact with a Linusti friend of mine, who can help you with that.

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