Games, Sustainability, And Expectations

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Lately, I got into the game “Portal Knights,” a charming Minecraft-meets-Action RPG video game. It takes a lot of lessons from various games and combines then for a solo or with-friends adventure in a broken world. There are a few polish issues, but for $20 there’s a lot of value.

The game also has optional downloadable content, from a fancy one with new stuff to simple ones with extra hats or buildable items. It all seems quite reasonable, but then I found online complaints about the game having a “money grab.”

Note that for $20 you get a pretty complete game people are supporing, even though it’s been out in Early Access and complete for over two years. It didn’t seem that way to me, but . . .

This made me think about the challenges that game publishing faces – and how much it costs.

  • First, people expect a supported game. But if you make your money on sales, then you need ways to keep paying for it unless you make a lot of money.
  • Second, many people expect games to be around for a long time – that requires some kind of support model.
  • Third, subscription fees of some kind seem to have long ago faded away.
  • Fourth, DLC and extras are reasonably accepted ways to keep the money coming. Heck, it goes back to Team Fortress 2 and hats.

We have expectations of long-term support and endurance of games in the video game community. But how do we reconcile that with the simple financial need to pay developers? Even when we do that, do we have a way to declare a game just simply “done” and move on?

I thought about this and simply realized . . . I don’t have an answer.

We want a way to get good games. We want a way to support them and have them grow. But the methods we have are piecemeal, or limited, controversial, or misused (loot boxes). There has to be something else out there we haven’t invented yet.

I’d like to see a lot more discussion on media production, monetization, and patronage. It’d be great for games, yes, but it might be something we can extend to other media. Right now, we’re probably too confined by current models, past ideas, and recent failures.

Steven Savage

Game Direction and Blown Minds with Gabe Newell

As I try and analyze where the game industry is going and what it means for your career, Gabe Newell of Valve came down from Asgard to give us his insights on gaming at the DICE summit.  He certainly had a ton of insights to share, and I thought I’d take time to deconstruct what he said.

Fortunately arstechnica has their usual roundup here, so let’s look at the highlights.

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Dead Space In Your Face: Gaming and Rent-Seeking

Well, that was quick.

Last week I was discussing how monetization was going to be an issue in your gaming career – since there were many options that would obviously affect how you get paid.  Or if you get paid.  Or if you have any hope in hell of success.  Well, now I’m still talking about it – along with my current obsession of analyzing game careers, of course.

One of my inspirations for that post, by the way, was the weird news in Dead Space 3 about how one could purchase quicker collection of crafting materials.  Yes, a big console game that just happens to let you act like you’re in a typical free-to-play game, in a way that seemed kinda obvious.

EA was appropriately and mercilessly skewered by Penny Arcade, as was appropriate.  However they were also skewered by resource collecting bugs that made the micro transaction thing a null issue.

I’m wondering if they’ll patch it or not.

Here we see another risk to gaming – and a factor to take into any gaming career you may want to have.

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