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Could episodic gaming return?
| Posted by jonchappell on Aug 24th 05 04:41 PM
The idea behind episodic gaming is that instead of selling the game at a bulk price of $50 or so, developers sell the game in sections or "episodes" with a small price for each one. The advantages to developers are that they do not have to have the whole game complete before they start earning money from it, and that they can easily extend the game further than they originally planned without the costs of marketing an expansion pack. Consumers can "try as you buy" and if they don't like the game, they don't have to buy more episodes.

Episodic gaming has been tried in the past with successes such as Siege of Avalon in 2000 and failures such as Wing Commander: Secret Ops in 1998. The latter failed because the 120 MB download of the first episode was too large, as broadband had not yet hit the mainstream.

Indeed, Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in the US), due for release in September 2005, was originally planned to be released in this form but a decision was later made to release the game in the "usual" way via retail distribution.

RSS feeds are taking the Internet by storm. They were initially used for notifying users of new news articles or displaying news feeds on websites but have since been expanded to cater for Podcasting. Podcasting uses RSS feeds to download audio files (episodes) to a PC whenever new ones are available.

With the proliferation of broadband users today, this could easily be expanded to include video episodes (such as TV soaps) or game episodes. This is likely to be more successful than previous ventures because of the flexibility of the RSS system and the number of people with broadband access today.

The big question is: does it make business sense? If consumers do not like a retail game, they've lost $50. If they do not like an episodic game, they've lost much less which means that the developers do not earn as much revenue from rubbish games. I think it could potentially earn developers even more if the game is good and they truly believe that.

 
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