The Value of a Dollar

I have discussed the dilemmas of downloadable content frequently in the past, and each new piece of news gives us more to chew on. Soon we will be seeing the very first DLC for Tomb Raider: Underworld. You know, the content that was meant for the original game, but eventually wasn’t. We may never know if someone put a gun to Eric Lindstrom’s head in order to change his story, but we’re here to discuss value.

This joystiq newscontains a quote from Crystal Dynamics claiming each piece of DLC will take between three to six hours to complete. Scroll down further and you will see that a few commenters simply won’t fork over the 800 MS points for it. Since then, joystiq’s more recent review of the level clocks in at around an hour and a half. →  You had me at read more.

Counting the Game Industry’s Gold

Like most industries, the gaming industry is bound by the conventional economic wisdom that you must spend money to make money. Historically, that’s meant taking a loss on every game system sold (with the notable exception being most Nintendo consoles) in order to tap into selling game after game to console owners. This measure of success is known as the “attachment rate” or “tie ratio.” A somewhat (November 2008) dated Gamasutra chart shows that the Xbox was in the lead, with 6.6 games/system sold, followed by the Wii at 5.5 and the PS3 at 5.3.

This statistic has historically been a powerful metric for measuring market penetration and overall success for a console. After all, what’s the point of selling a console if you can’t sell game after game? But as with many things in today’s integrated media world, the lines have blurred and traditional metrics don’t necessarily tell the whole story. →  And so it games…

Digital Distribution in a Not so Ideal World

I don’t like getting into personal anecdotes, so I’ll make this part quick. I was a strong supporter of digital distribution when it started popping up as a legitimate method of buying games. I was a Steam apologist when it was new and buggy, and I used Sam and Max as staunch proof that episodic content could work.

Digital Distribution has so many strengths that seems hard to argue against it. Quick access to games as soon as you want them, with no trips to the store and less physical hardware to strain. Plus, its digital nature should theoretically reduce prices and put more money into the right pockets. This last part is not happening, as theory is not becoming reality.

As easy as it is to make digital games cheaper, the technology can also be used to nickel and dime us. →  The happiest post on Earth.

It’s the DLC, stupid!

Recently details came out about Guitar Hero: World Tour. It will have a fancy drum kit with faux cymbals. It will allow for music composition (sweet on paper). It may or may not be backwards compatible with DLC to date (depends on what article you read). It will feature approximately 85 master track songs, and will have a stronger downloadable content stream. It will also feature improved peripherals. Pricing will be “competitive” with Rock Band.

Rock Band 2 was just announced. It will feature improved peripherals, as well as support for third party peripherals. This is a great idea, because the equipment business sucks, and if Harmonix can find someone else to make better equipment, they can focus on their core competency: the music (we’ll get into that later). DLC songs will not only be forwards compatible, they will be backwards compatible: even if you choose not to upgrade to Rock Band 2, you will be able to continue to purchase new DLC and use it. →  All happy games are alike; each unhappy game is unhappy in its own way.