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I wonder if this would be a viable business model.


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What do you all think of this idea?

​We had PoE1, and then WM1&2.  I don't know how well WM did commercially, but seems like it got less press than the base game did.  My gut feel is that it didn't sell as well.  Now there's a PoE2 in the works, possibly sometime in 2018, as a "bigger bang" release.  Presumably it'll garner PoE1-level press when it launches.  OTOH, that kind of thing means 3-4 years between installments, with the risk that if PoE(n) doesn't sell well, there won't be a PoE(n+1).  That in turn might mean another decade before another high-calibre game in this niche genre appears.

OTOH, smaller, more frequent chunks have a commercial viability problem: how do they do well enough to pay for their own development?  The genre isn't big to start with, even under ideal circumstances.

​If memory serves, WM1&2 were each developed in 6 or 8 months.  That included considerable new art, new spells and graphical effects, new music, new companion NPCs, new voice acting, and probably other stuff I forgot.  Consider a series of standalone (L1+) mini-games based on the PoE engine as it stands today, without any new spells, companions, and so on.  Modest levels of new art so places feel new, but considerable art asset re-use.  The focus would be on telling a new and interesting story, but more in the 20-hour class than the 100+ hour class.  I'm thinking something that feels like NWN-modules did, but made by professionals.  I remember some excellent fan-made NWN modules that were great fun to play even with no new art whatsoever.

​Normally that would appear to be a difficult commercial proposition.  After the first one, the press would ignore you, sales would fall off, and it would collapse after 1 or 2.  But imagine a subscription model for such smaller, inexpensive-to-produce yet professionally made content.  Maybe one every 6 months made with a modest team.  Seems possible, if they forgo UI changes and new spells and whatnot.  If enough people wanted ongoing PoE content and subscribed, that provides a more stable revenue stream than standalone WM-style sales would.  They'd be more accessible than WM was due to being standalone, and anyone could start playing with any given one.

​Of course, one danger lies with phone-it-in pulp.  "Yeah, yeah, here's another one with Generic RPG Story #894."  But with good writers on board, that wouldn't have to be a problem for a long time.  I feel there are a large number of poignant stories to be told in the world of Eora, and the game clearly has a talented team behind it.  If done well, it'd feel like seeing different events and different people, but nonetheless forming a part of the fabric of its world.

Can't speak for anybody else, but I'd be all about that kinda thing.  Call it $25-every-6-or-8-months subscription, min 1 year, discounts if you buy 2+ years at once, so there's an incentive to subscribe for a long time.  If you are subscribed on day N, you get the next one that comes out on day N+182.  None of this precludes bigger-bang PoE2 style releases.  Just means Ob would have a revenue stream to make more content with the same engine.

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Can't speak for everyone, of course, but I don't do subscription gaming. Pretty sure there are a lot of others that feel the same way as well.

 

Fair enough.  Oddly, I typically don't either, but then, it usually implies something like the phone-style "freemium" thing, which are annoying.  Edit: or MMPORGs, where you pay for continued access to the game, which I don't like either.

 

Curious about your objections if it's more oriented towards "delivery of future standalone games".  It feels to me more like buying a bundle of games, rather than the traditional meaning of "subscription gaming".  Perhaps I could have picked a less loaded word, too :).

Edited by demeisen
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Sure, it's a variant of the turn towards episodic / spinoff releases in the last ten years. But it's more likely to be a question of producing multiple expansion packs (e.g. NWN1/2) or milking the model with 3-4 standalones (the new King's Bounty) rather than, say, 5+ modules stretched out over three years.

 

The barrier there is one of consumer expectations. Only 10-20% of players ever finish an RPG, and quality should matter over quantity, yet you always have people crying that a game isn't worth $40 or not a real RPG if it's not 8000 hours long, and because game journalism is filled with braindead monkeys they like to talk about game length as a significant variable. And in any case, whether it's TW3 expansions or WM1+2, a lot of gamers, for one reason or another, don't tend to come back to a game they've dropped 6 months down the line. 

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Good comments, Tigranes.  I totally agree about the problems you raise around 10-20% finishing, whiners about not being 8000 hours long with every single object shiny-new compared to the last one, etc.

​In my mind though, it's a way to build a business model that doesn't actually depend on those folks.  I'll make some numbers up from naught but my own imagination to demonstrate :biggrin:.  I think the original PoE was dozens of developers (not hundreds) for a couple years (inc all the engine work, etc).  Let's say that ten developers could pull off an expansion game in 6 months, if they don't have to please the 8000-hour crowd and the gotta-have-new-pine-tree-models crowd.

​Just really rough numbers, let's say a developer costs $200K/yr total (salary + office space + medical + whatever).  Ten folks over 6 months is a 1 million dollar budget, break even.  Call it $1.25 mil with a healthy profit %.  Let's say they clear 60% of the revenue after game-store cut, engine licensing, etc.  That requires 83K sales @ $25.

​That's what, maybe 12-14% of the total PoE customers?  So, relatively speaking, not huge, due to forgoing the expensive parts of developing a big-bang.  The "gotta be 8000 hours" folks can buy big-bang releases every 3-4 years and be happy.  The relatively smaller, hardcore-RPG crowd who'd be happy with more content on the same engine might still be enough to sustain it.

​Could it get 80+K customers?  No idea.  Doesn't seem inconceivable though.

Edited by demeisen
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