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DavidRM

Product Life-Cycle

19 posts in this topic

You must have been reading the same editorial I did in CGW. The editor was complaining that it is virtually impossible for a person to get ahold of a game that has made it into the CGW Hall of Fame. This is a symptom of the problem you mentioned here. There is no such thing as retreads of games in this industry. I doubt that you could get much for a packaging of Wolfenstein 3D. I recently saw Super Mario Bros. used cartridges announced at Target Retail stores for 10 cents. Yes you read that right 10 cents.(not sure why they wasted the ad space on it but that is a different topic)

I think that making some sort of distribution network through which to sell old games and republish them is essential to the survival of this industry. Aside from everyone creating Online Games with subscription revenue streams, only advertising revenue streams are left. Without an abundance of revenue streams in the industry we will have serious problems in the future.

Maybe an answer is to republish games in collections much like the music industry does. Maybe one day you will know you are old when your favorite video games come out in a collection of hits labeled by decade.

I am bantering on without direction so I will leave this up to someone else with more cohesive thoughts to finish.


Kressilac

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Derek Licciardi

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Editorial? Is it in the current CGW? I'll have to grab a copy and see what's up.

This is actually an issue I've been thinking about for the last 6 months or so. I just felt like using this forum to talk about it and see if I was on track or out of line...

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DavidRM
Samu Games

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Seems like you're pretty much on target. I have thought about the same and the best answer I could come up with is that you keep releasing expansion packs and upgrades to the game. This ensures the game lives on but also incurs additional development costs associated with the effort.

*shrug*
Kressilac

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I'll have a go at this one.

I don't think it's fair to compare the relatively young computer games industry to the more established industries you mentioned (publishing, movie, and board game). I believe that we have barely scratched the surface of what can be delivered in a computer game. We have much to learn about providing interesting and fun games software on existing hardware, and as our hardware gets better, the possibilities for what we can do in our software increases as well. This is true not only in games, but any kind of software development. This includes not only game content, but interface, mood, visuals, transitions, storylines, everything.

This is not to say that they will not be able to find better ways to entertain us with movies, board games, and books. It's just that they are more mature industries, where a lot of the niggling issues have been worked out already. Changes WILL come to these industries, albeit slower. A good example is the rampant use of CGI in movies today. Here is a technology that is available to film-makers that makes movies that were once thought impossible to make possible.

Cya,
Dave

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My own silly opinion...

I think that this problem can be broken down into two factors (there are more, but these are two that come to my mind).

1) Our industry is so technology-oriented, and ever-changing. If someone picks Game X, which is horrible but new, and they pick up Game Y which is great but 5 years old, they're going to go with X because it looks so much better.

2) The gaming industry is such a small one that already so many games are fighting for a very limited amount of shelf-space. Once a game loses its appeal of the "hot new thing" then, boom, it's off the shelf at your local CompUSA.

I'm not sure if any publishers already do this but, instead of re-packaging games with new add-ons and new editions, why don't they just release the same game about a year later, but at a much cheaper price (50%). Sort of a paperback edition.

These are just my rambling thoughts. Comment on whatever you like.

Justin Martenstein

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A quick comment...

You can still buy Quake2. I think a big reason for this is the MOD's out there (don't get me wrong, the reputation does plenty for it). I think if you make your game expandable enough that other people can expand it, you get a game which creates a cult like following.

Let's be honest, Quake2 is not the most fun single player game in the world. Throw in some Action Quake or Superheroes Quake, and other MODS, you've got a game that's fun as hell to play on the internet.

Quake 1 is an even better example. The single player game is not really fun, but when Team Fortress came out for it, I had a SERIOUS addiction. I'd be willing to bet you can still buy Quake 1.

I think making a game expandable goes a long way...

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-Kentamanos

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I think there are several things out there currently that are already proving that games can have more legs.

Specifically these are expansion packs and ports to consoles (for PC only first games).

If a game is successful, it can have add-on packs which require no more programming, and usually very limited new model creation beyond levels. The units are basically the same, but there are more levels and probably a new story-slice.

Then a successful PC game can (sometimes) be ported to a console (or a number of consoles) and get more of a boost there.

For staying on the shelves as-is, you are pretty much out of luck. With the 4000+ commercial PC titles being developed every year, you are lucky to get on the shelves in the first place (well, you have to pay for it), but staying there beyond the time when your copies are flying off the shelves is impossible.

Retailers want to put games that WILL fly off the shelves up after yours.

One way of retaining a longer stay I think is to make a game with a theme that is unique (ie. not FPS). For instance, a Rodeo game may stay in stores a lot longer cause there is only 1 rodeo game. No one is coming along to replace it, which all the other games have to compete with.

-Geoff

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I think when you make a version 1 of a game and it has succes, then most likely you'll be making a version 2 and 3 and so on... The lifecycle of this game is then spread over much more that 3-6 months... that's the best way to stay in the business I think.

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Singa
Lead Artist @ Team Sigma

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Definitely true. Getting a successful franchise is the best, and for most, the only way to stay in the business. Actually hitting one of those is pretty tough though. There is a limited supply of famous'ness going around, the more pushed franchises, the less any of them really own in mind share.

-Geoff

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I would have to agree on the expandability point. The more flexible you make your game, the longer it's likely to last. You may not be able to make money off of it during the whole time, but if it's kept fresh in everyone's mind the sequel will be that much easier to advertise. The only game I can really use as a case-in-point is Jedi Knight (one of my favorites). I expected it to be short-lived, but it was still up there for a while. Having most of the files being just simple text really helped; and now that they've got another one coming out based on Jedi Knight, they just mention "Jedi Knight" and everybody knows what they're talking about. I'm not an industry expert, but I know what keeps games interesting around my house. At least, that's my mostly-humble opinion.
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You can always give your game a boost for each new version coming out. Tomb Raider does that. Each new version has higher requirements then the last. Although I'd personaly have the option to use an older graphics engine if your computer can't handle the newer effects.
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The current, prevalent computer game product life-cycle rather sucks, I think.

Books typically have 1-2 years development time by a very small team (usually 1-5 authors), followed by a publisher taking the work, editing it and publishing it. But that's not the end of it. After a hard-cover release, there is a paperback release. And then there are reprints. Not all books are bestsellers, obviously, but it doesn't have to be a bestseller to make money.

Movies have 1-3 years of development (initial shooting as well as pre- and post-production work), then it hits theaters. Then video. Then PPV. Then premium movie channels. Even movies with disappointing theater runs can recover quite a bit in video sales and rentals.

Board games usually take 1-2 years to develop and playtest, then another 2-3 years of slow growth to become the next "Trivial Pursuit" and be picked up by a company like Milton Bradley or Hasbro, which is when the real sales begin...and then last for several more years.

All of these show *years* of earnings potential. Which only seems fitting because of the amount of time required to produce the end product.

Now we have computer games...1-3 years development time with a team from 5-50 to create a product with a viable earnings lifespan of about 3-6 months. If you don't have a hit right away...oops. Bad investment.

Anyone else care to comment? Or am I the only one who thinks this "business model" has problems?

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DavidRM
Samu Games

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I'd like to see revamps of old games such as the Bard's Tale series and the Ultima series. For instance, Bards Tale 1-3 compiled into one game with today's technology. There are advantages to these series being so old and legendary. Many of us older gamers (20's +) played them and loved them as kids. We would love to play them again in a updated form.
Younger gamers probably never played them, so the game would be totally new to them.

I probably would not buy a remake of a game that I had purchaced only 5 years ago because I would still remember most of the answers to the game's challenges. But, for games that were release 10-20 years ago? I probably just remember the characters, the atmosphere, the basic plot, and that I had fun.

Advantages: Franchise recognition. Reuse of plot.

Disadvantages: Some people might have a "been there done that" attitude. Ancient code would not be salvageable. Having to study the series to insure continuity might outweight other advantages.

If these games had been programmed in a purely modular fashion, we could just plug in the new engine and be ready to play. Nice dream. Please, feel free to rip this idea apart. Honestly, I'd like to hear opinions.

Thanks for reading,

Rowindor

Edited by - Rowindor on 1/12/00 12:03:17 PM

Edited by - Rowindor on 1/12/00 12:04:50 PM
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This isn''t really the case in Europe. There is a very strong budget/re-release market in Europe. Some of the games I worked on 5 years ago are still on sale through budget labels like Sold Out.

Generally they spend up to a year on full price then go to budget and compilation.



Dan Marchant
www.obscure.co.uk
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One thing DavidRM mentioned in his first post is not quite true, and it has to do with books.

There are something like 50,000 books published in the US alone every year. Most people don''t even see all of the books in one genre, let alone all the books published. It''s been a long time since I looked at the figures, but I think that only about 20% of all the books published make money.

In the popular genre''s, books that are published as first run paperbacks (and that''s alot) have about two months to actually show that they are making any money. If they don''t, they''re gone. It''s really not that much different than the game shelf life (at least on the short side).

The longevity of a good book is admittedly much longer that a game, but that''s more because books are a stable technology. Really popular games actually have a fairly long shelf life compared to length of time that the technology sweet spot is around.

Look at Half-Life as an example, or as mentioned above, Quake II. You can still find Diablo and Warcraft II (published five years ago) on the shelves.

Until the technology race slows down on the hardware side (thirty years from now?), if it ever does, this will be a problem for the games industry.

Mark Fassett
Laughing Dragon Entertainment
http:\\www.laughing-dragon.com
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You know, this is a great thread going. Anyways, my oppinion is that its not us developers, its the publishers and the retailers. It seems as though they''ve got three rules:

Rule 1: Get Money.
Rule 2: Get More Money.
Rule 3: See Rule 1.

Mabey I''m wrong, but from what I see, thats the way it seems, which is right for business I suppose. But if you look at the other businesses mentioned in the other threads its tottally different, yet they make money still. Today I bought a copy of Scarface.. that was made in what? 1980. What I''m getting at is we need publishers and retailers with a different point of view, publishers and retailers that see through pretty pictures. We need something fun enough for them to keep on the shelves. Honestly, I can''t really put blame on anyone in particular, but somehow 20 year old movies are still being sold at regular prices and 2 year old games are being sold at less than 20% of thier original prices, thats if they''re lucky enough to still be on the shelves 3 months from release.

Karbon
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If you look at the analogy even further:

Books and Films have a story, in general I believe it is the story that makes people want to see the film (although in recent years I have started to wonder...). With board games I believe its the multiplayer aspect that sells, I mean hungry hippos isn't exactly taxing, but you get to play with your mates.

If you look at long running franchises mentioned above they seem to, in general, take the story very seriously, for instance, adventure games such as monkey island from lucasarts or [insert any name here] quest from sierra, or the big rpgs like final fantasy. Or more recently they concentrate on multiplayer. I personally love adventure games and as such I am sad that the genere seems to be on the slide, but if we can take the stories from adventure games and use them in other generes I think it could help the longevity a games sales in general.

So, how about putting more emphasis on the story then?

Edited by - STG on 2/14/00 9:28:06 AM
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Old thread, but I''ll add my 2 cents anyway...
Books today are barely different from books 50 years ago. Nicer cover art, but still just thousands of words. A book that appealed in 1950 may still appeal today because they
are not going out of date, they are not being superceded.
Movies follow this pattern to a lesser extent. A 5 year-old
movie is new, 10 years is still popular. But how many of you
regularly watch black and white movies now? In movies,
technology has moved on, and we came to expect colour, and
now computer generated special effects, in many of our
movies.
Computer games take this to the extreme. They are heavily technology-based, and that technology happens to be moving
very quickly. Sure, the Bards Tale II is still a fun game (I played it only the other month), but I can get just as much story and plot in a modern game with a full 3d dynamically rendered environment too.
It''s not so much that people don''t design games to ''last long'' on the shelves. People like you and me want to make fun, new games, so we do. We incorporate the new technology to make it run faster/look better/save coding time (all valid reasons). While that technology is new, the games are selling. Soon, that technology gets old, and that tips the scales in favour of the newer games. I don''t blame the developers, or the publishers. It''s just the way the computer industry is right now. I wouldn''t want the speed of technological advancement to slow down just so that games are on the shelves longer.
So what''s the solution for developers who actually want to be profitable? I don''t think expansion packs or add-ons are the answer, unless they can be produced quickly and cheaply. After all, it''s trying to prolong the life of a rapidly-aging engine, when you could be spending that time developing something new.
One answer is to allow user modifications. That way, the community keeps your game alive. The danger here (which is also a danger with rereleasing games at lower prices) is that players may be more inclined to stick with your older games due to all the addons and modifications available.
Another answer is to develop technology, rather than individual games. Write an engine, encapsulate it, and re-use. If it''s good, you can license it out and keep making money off it with minimal effort. If your engines are good, you can wrap new games around them, devoting more time to gameplay because you only have to update your game engine, instead of writing something new for every game. I think this is the way forward, and although several people wouldn''t want to be locked into producing the same sort of game for the next 5/6 years, it may be worth considering if you don''t have extremely benevolent financial backers
Any comments?
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The above message is from me, sorry for the anonymous bit (should anyone care).
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