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Rampant Games - Selling Incomplete Games

by Couchpotato, 2013-10-22 00:40:34

The Rampant Coyote has a new post on his site about a topic that has been in the spotlight many times. The topic of course is selling incomplete games.

Games released in what customers consider an unfinished state is nothing new. Some more picky customers are quick to declare any game with flaws (and that would be… hmmm… all of them) “unfinished” out of some view that imperfection means it wasn’t cooked long enough. However, there are many games that a more reasonable majority of gamers can agree (and, if you catch them later in a truthful mood, the devs and publishers will acknowledge) were released in a less-than-adequately–finished state. Usually, this takes the form of a game that just hadn’t reached an adequate level of bug-free polish. For some reason, the dev or publisher felt compelled to toss it out the door so that it could start making money instead of consuming money.

It’s the way of things. Again, nothing really new here.

With indie games, it’s been another matter. For one thing, they have traditionally not even attempted the level of polish of modern mainstream games, because those high production values cost a boatload of money. Indies usually don’t have access to that. However, as the world has become saturated with indie games, a lot of them are finding that the more expensive production values are what makes a game stand out – which is critical if you want a prayer of actually making money.

And with those same pressures come the same results.

On one hand, you’ve got the emergence of “alpha-funding.” People pay for a game as it is still in development, in exchange for early access, a lower price, and maybe the chance to bend the developer’s ear while it is still getting created. On the surface, I have zero problems with this. It’s a victory of the indie model. There’s no doubt it has enjoyed substantial success. Minecraft, of course, has been the poster child for this model, making millions while it was still in alpha and beta before reaching a stable release (and then continuing to have updates from that point forward).  I’ve enjoyed a few games this way, and felt like I helped participate in making the games’ eventual “final” release a success. Yes, we may “pay for the privilege of beta testing” a product, but sometimes that’s actually pretty awesome.

But it’s not all successful.  Just as some successfully funded Kickstarter projects never hit completion (or go back to the well for a second dip), some of these alpha-funded projects never do get completed. The devs never (as far as I’ve seen) admit that they’ve dropped the game, of course. Maybe they’re even still deluded into thinking they’ll still finish it one day. But the updates just become fewer and futher between, and then… that’s it. It’s like they hit the point of the long tail for their game, realize they’ve made most the money they’ll ever make on it, and give up. This is frustrating.

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