As everyone on planet earth knows Star Wars Episode VII is coming. With it brings a slew of games, books and toys for me to obsess over. One such game is Star Wars Battlefront. Very possibly the most beautiful Star Wars game ever to be created. The Beta came out this week, along with it the DLC/ Season Pass information.
So in this DLC we are going to get a few maps and modes. This may be a problem because if history has taught us anything it’s that this will fracture the community. Which can be a pretty big deal in games because it becomes considerably harder to find a game to play. Thus frustrating players, thus they walk away from the game.
Let me explain what happens when Publishers charge for new maps and game modes. A certain % of players will buy it. Let’s say 70% of players purchase the first DLC. That’s not too terrible. I mean it sucks for the players left behind with the old content (Which the new players are no longer playing because they have new content). But 70% of the player base is retained and continue to play the game for a little longer. Now let’s say another DLC pack is released. Only 50% of players who bought the initial DLC pack buy the second pack. Now you have (Of the original 100% who bought the game, if they are even still playing) 30% playing the vanilla version of the game, 35% playing DLC pack 1 and 35% playing DLC pack 2. Now it has become more difficult to find games. This reduction of players continues because A. people get sick of the old content so they stop playing. And B. The community is spread thin across content packs. There are walls which keep them from playing with one another.
But Scott wouldn’t people who want to play together pressure each other into buying the new DLC so they can continue to play?
Yes, this is true. But at the same time you are already competing with other games. And at some point you will lose players to other games. Faster if they have to spend $15 to get 3 new maps or game types. When my brother says to his friends “Hey guys let’s buy this game and this new thing so we have new stuff.” A lot of them go “Ehhhhh I need to save money.” Or “Why don’t we just play something else.” (This could be a result of the economy right now but I’m not going to get into that right now) So one could argue that it’s up to the game’s marketing to keep the players buying their products. But even then sometimes it’s not enough.
We’ve seen this with Titanfall, Call of Duty, Halo, etc. (Call of Duty doesn’t have as big of a problem because they have so many players buying their game every year. But most games will not do anywhere near CoD numbers.)
So what do we do? We adopt the TF2, Evolve, Destiny 2.0 (Taken King) and League of Legends style of shopping. In these successful games players are never gated to content. Instead they sell aesthetic items. TF2 has hats, Destiny has Emotes, League has skins.
I call bullshit in League and Evolve you have to buy new characters you want to use.
Ah! True but the community isn’t fractured. The player needs to buy the new characters if the player themselves wants to use it. For example, in League the character Volibear can be used by anyone who purchased him. Thus the player’s allies or enemies can use him in a game with the player. But the player cannot use Volibear until he is purchased by the player. Evolve is the exact same way. This keeps the community playing together because everyone has access to all the game types and maps. And when new ones come out they are free for the players.
Games that do this make it much easier to find games and keep their community alive rather than split the players up into groups who can’t won’t play together. But there is one more thing that happens when you take up this monetization model. The community doesn’t shit on the Publisher as much for being money hungry. It gives the community a positive feeling towards the studio/publisher involved which makes them more likely to give them their money. (Additionally the price of goods seems to lower with this style because the items are smaller. This also make it easier to spend money as has been proven time and time again through the Free to Play model on mobile.)
All in all. I love Star Wars. As much as this Battlefront isn’t the same as the Battlefront I grew up with I want it to do well. But this style of splitting up the player base to monetize on them seems dated. It worries me that the community will be fractured and the game will be dead in only a few months. But then again it is Star Wars. Maybe the brand name could be enough. That and the juggernaut marketing machine that is Disney. (I am well aware that EA is doing Battlefront but I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney did cross promotions of some kind) So we’ll see.
P.S. A similar (Though less deadly to a game) issue of splitting the community could come from having simply too many game types. If we look at Splatoon they started with only 1 game type and rolled out free updates regularly increasing the number of game types as the player base grew. Only when they knew they could handle the split do they add new types in. For more on Splatoon take a look at my 3 part series on it here: Splatoon Part 1. Why this is less deadly is because players will gravitate towards game types they like. This means certain game types (Like Elimination in Destiny) are regularly dead and unplayable in multiplayer focused games. This wont kill the game because players still have choice. (And I don’t have to spend money to access the games types everyone is playing) But it sucks when I can’t get a game in of a game type I particularly like over the others.
P.P.S. Because Star Wars is amazing and hillarious at the same time a moment of Zen: Don't Say Anything Just Share