Stay Tuned for the Next Exciting Episode!

It may be a new year, but it seems that AAA publishers are just as determined as ever to show the depth of their contempt for their paying customers. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh but after everything we’ve seen from the likes of Konami, Activision, and Square Enix last year, one might have cause to feel like there’s a little bit more going on here than companies simply trying to stay profitable. This time however, my focus is entirely on Square Enix (hereafter referred to as “Square”) and their distressing interest in making their games into “truly episodic AAA [gaming] experience[s]”.

Recently, Square made the announcement that the next entry in the Hitman series, “Hitman”, is now going to be a fully episodic experience. The details they’ve released so far state that the initial “episode” will launch on March, and will include the prologue chapter and a single mission location: Paris. The price for this initial installment will be $15. Additional locations, Italy and Morocco, will be released in April and May respectively for a price of $10 each. As for the rest of the year, Square and the game’s developer, Io Interactive, promise to deliver monthly content updates along with weekly live events and “additional planned content”. Players will finally have the option to purchase a disc-based version of the full game at the end of 2016 for $60. Their stated reasoning for this is supposedly to give developers more time to fine-tune each location and to deliver a “a living game that will expand and evolve over time and establish a foundation for the future.”

I’ll just say it: everything about this worries me. If Hitman were the only game on the horizon that was going to be following this model, I’d probably take Square’s statement at face value and move on. The thing is, Hitman isn’t the only game that Square is planning to release in this fashion. They’ve already announced that the Final Fantasy VII remake is going to be released episodically, and there’s rumblings that they’ve even cut back on the scale of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in order to sell it as a trilogy instead of a single game. All it’s going to take to convince Square that this episodic model was a good decision is for Hitman to be a hit. That’s it. If Hitman sells well starting with its prologue pack, or sells enough season passes, then we can expect to see a lot more of this sort of thing from Square. Oh, and every other AAA publisher as well.

At the end of the day, or even the beginning and middle, AAA publishers care about one thing and one thing only: sales. If they see that we’re just as willing to accept our games piece-meal as we are full and complete experiences, is it really that much of a stretch to think that they won’t exploit that? Selling games piece-by-piece means making as much or even more money than selling games as single releases, and they could make that money sooner and on a more regular basis. It’s a slam-dunk situation for both them and their developers, but I’m not at all convinced that this could be a good thing for those of us who enjoy playing video games.

Really, I see maybe one positive here among a whole host of negatives. The positive of this is that we will potentially get a taste of the new games we’re looking forward much sooner than we would have in the past. That’s great and all, but I doubt I’m the only one who likes the idea of shelling out 15 bucks for what amounts to a demo. Those that buy each episode will likely end up paying more in the long run too. Hitman is already at $35 for a prologue and thee locations, how much more will the remainder of the game cost for those who buy it episode by episode? Then there’s the potential of what this will do to the overall experience. Hitman fans are already going to have to wait until the end of the year if they want to enjoy the game and its story like they have for every other entry in the franchise. Imagine if the new Tomb Raider had followed a similar model. A month between chapters is a long time to wait. Such a wait would spoil any kind of investment we’d have as players, not to mention what it would do to the game’s sense of pacing. In short, it would be a more expensive, but less interesting experience for just about everyone who isn’t able to wait until the eventual compilation release.

This method of episodically releasing games is not good for us players. It’s potentially more expensive and could water-down the whole experience quite easily. All it’s going to take to make this the next ‘bold-step-forward’ in game delivery is for us to support it. All it’s going to take is for Hitman to be a hit. I’m admittedly not a fan of Hitman, but I don’t want to see the likes of Deus Ex and Tomb Raider following this model in the future. I won’t tell you to boycott the game or anything, but rather to just consider waiting for a little while before you buy it. Let Square sweat a little bit before enjoying your next outing as Agent 47. Perhaps that will be enough to show them that not all of us want our games broken up and sold to us piece-by-piece.

What’s your take on episodically released games? Do you feel like it’s something to be shunned, embraced, or perhaps received in some other way? What do you propose we do about it?


Featured image by Flickr User: JBLivin (cc)

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Appraxsis says:

    Why does Square Enix think video games should be like TV? Do they think, “Hey, The Walking Dead is popular and that’s in episodic form. So let’s make a game like that! Herp a derpadi woops, my brain fell out again!” Huh 0_0

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      It seems to be about making money on the game before it’s even finished. They say that they want to be able to polish each section before release, and maybe they do, but if you need all this extra time, either delay the game or scale back its scope.

      We all know that costs for AAA game development have gotten insane over the past couple of years. Instead of finding ways to nickel and dime us, they should be scaling back on marketing and production values.

      (And we shouldn’t be demanding 1080p 60fps for everything. It’s not necessary.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Appraxsis says:

        Delaying is almost an ineffective tactic. Think of your time as a player as currency. Every game is fighting each other for your time. Think about content in Fallout vs. in say COD. If your playing Fallout, you may skip out on playing COD because you’re really into Fallout. It’s a battle royal between all the games, if one isn’t released at a certain time, it could miss out on huge profits. Best example of this theory is Battlefield 4. :l

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hatm0nster says:

        I suppose. But they’re still releasing a disc version at the end of the year anyway. December is a big month for game sales, so how would doing the full release then hurt them?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Appraxsis says:

        Battlefield 3 and 4 both released one week before COD did. Battlefield’s strategy was to peel away at the COD audience. Hence the term, “Above and beyond the call.” (Of duty) It was very effective given how popular BF is now. Is stealing CODs fan base good for BF? I don’t think so, but my point is release dates do make a big difference. The MCC had to be released before Christmas so they could have max profits. The game was a buggy pile of elephant dung as a result, but that shows that publishers are that conserned about it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. duckofindeed says:

    I don’t like the idea of games being sold in episodes, either. Not one bit. The problem is, I have a feeling people are still going to pay for these games just the same as any other, leading Square to believe this practice has the approval of gamers in general. But it certainly doesn’t, and I refuse to buy any games like this (you’re right, these games are also going to be way more expensive; I don’t think I can afford it to begin with). I just hope more people will share our sentiments, but we’ll see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Yeah, we’ll see. I’m kinda hoping that they’ll see that this doesn’t work, and finally consider scaling back marketing and production budgets rather than continue to let development costs skyrocket like they have for every other AAA publisher/developer.

      Like

  3. Dina Farmer says:

    I am also in agreement with this being bad for gamers. While, I can certainly see why Square is motivated to sell games in this manner, I don’t see the benefit for us gamers. I’ve never been the type where I would purchase a game as soon as it released. I love BioWare games and I didn’t purchase Dragon Age: Inquisition until their first DLC came out.

    I also am not in favor of this episodic release dates. Even when I play Telltale games there is no way in hell I’ll pay for episodes. The entire season should be available or I’ll continue to wait until it is. And this is not because I’m being stingy or frugal. I don’t want to want on an experience with a game. They are typically complete packages and do not operate like TV shows. So, if Square sells Hitman in this fashion, even if it does well initially they may be hard pressed to continue to see strong sales. Due to either people forgetting about the game or deciding it’s not worth it based off of the expense of such a short amount of gameplay. But I’m not a fan of the Hitman series, so I won’t even be line to pick up a copy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      You raise a good point Dina. Who says Hitman players won’t forget the additional episodes or decide that they don’t like the new game after playing the first chapter? I’m guessing that Square is banking on people buying the so-called “season pass” rather than buying individual episodes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dina Farmer says:

        Well, they might get the same lukewarm reaction that EA did when they annouced the $50 season pass for Star Wars Battlefront. It was mind blowing to me that the season pass was so expensive and only included 4 additional maps plus some weapons. Get out of here with that. You might be right but it is a new Hitman game, so some fans might tread with caution before committing to a season pass. We only did it with CD Projekt Red because we believe in them and they have actually given us a massive vanilla game and then to keep us hooked because the game is so long to provide us with almost 35 more hours of game play for a $25 season pass. Maybe other developers should see what these guys are doing…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh man, if they decide to break up Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, I’ll be so disappointed. I love this franchise, so to not have the complete experience on day one (especially after such a long delay), would completely shatter my trust with that company. Very anti-consumer move.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. duckofindeed says:

      I’d hate to start seeing my favorite games broken down into pieces, too, especially since we have to wait so long for games anymore. Some of my favorite series take 7 years or more for a sequel, and then to only get a fraction of the game after all that waiting… Hopefully this practice won’t be successful, but I suppose only time will tell…

      Like

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