Setting aside Sony’s hugely generous donation of the majority of Starhawk’s DLC to PlayStation Plus subscribers recently, the recent case of the publisher breaking the game into two chunks and selling them separately (or, indeed, together) hints at a pricing and content model that could point the way to what the platform holders are planning for next generation.
Games are becoming expensive – very much so – with the advent of online passes, day one DLC and, the latest, season passes. The latter I have a particular problem with, but it seems like that’s the way things are going – something I’ve mentioned at least once before – and if we wish to continue with this hobby, that’s just something we’ll have to either accept or forcefully avoid.[drop2]But Sony did something this week that I actually quite like: they offered Starhawk’s single player and multiplayer portions individually for download. Yes, you can still buy the complete game (for £30) but you can also grab just the multiplayer, for example, for a pound over half that price, and never have to worry about playing offline if you don’t plan to. Starhawk’s possibly not the best example because despite a bolstered single player, it’s still not really an offline game – once you’re done with the campaign the rest of your time will be purely online, the solo mode little more than an extended tutorial.
This isn’t the first time this has happened either – and you have to remember that this wasn’t available at launch – it’s taken Sony a good few months to offer this alternative model, presumably in an attempt to boost sales and get people playing. But it’s an important decision, not least because it splits the cost by 50%, but also because it points to a future where games are much more component-based and modular.
As free-to-play becomes more prevalent, and the notion of DLC becomes (if it’s not already) a given, gamers will start to pay less for their game and start to bolt-on what they need and want down the line. A few publishers have tried this before (one notable quad-bike racing game being a timely but perhaps misjudged example) but it’ll only take the likes of Sony, EA or Activision to pull this off once and everyone will copy, as they always do.[boxout]In spite of my disgust at the way certain publishers seem happy to flog us content that should be on the disk and make us think that paying up front for things we might not need or want is a good thing, I’m all for this breaking up of content.
I don’t want the multiplayer portion of Call of Duty – I’ve zero interest in being shouted at by kids with nothing better to do all day – so if I can buy just the single player, beat it and forget about it for a year until the next game rolls around and I can do the same all over again, I’ll be happy.
I truly think this will happen more this generation, and then become the norm for the PS4 and beyond. It’s relatively small risk for the publisher if communicated properly (and much easier to do online than via the retail shelves where people still expect the full game, as silly as that notion sounds now) and assuming it’s then easy to ‘upgrade’ or migrate to other areas of the game in the future, surely it’s a win-win for everyone?
It reminds me of shareware, in a sense: play the first episode of Doom, then if you like it and want to play more, just pay. Splash out £15 on Starhawk’s single player and if you like the concept and fancy jumping online, get spending. It could be hugely effective, especially if the player could be offered a taster of the other half of the game in there too – say an hour’s multiplayer play with the single player, or the first level of single player bundled with the online.
If this is next gen, I’m in.