Daily Think: It’s Okay To Make Stuff I’ll Never See, You Know

Sup, Game Devs.

Skyrim is upon us and it’s got me thinking: I remember reading a while back about how developers (It might have been about Bioware specifically, but I can’t be sure) were worried people wouldn’t get to see everything in just one playthrough, so they weren’t making as many secrets or allowing as many choices and so on and so forth.

I get that. You spend time on something, you want people to see it. It’s natural.

But might I suggest that doing the opposite might make you more money?

You’re trying to combat used sales, right? Sounds like you hate it as much as piracy, and I don’t blame you. People are basically spending their gaming dollars on things without you profiting, and that kinda sucks. Barring the obvious way to combatting this (psst: look at PC gaming, specifically discs that ship with Steamworks!), it seems that the most obvious solution would be capitalizing on something else. DLC is nice and all, but some people don’t love your game enough to want to spend more money on it. The guys who are looking to save money are the same ones who are the least likely to buy DRM and the most likely to buy used games, after all.

I’m talking about replay value.

Surely you remember it? It’s a metric that a lot of people still mention in reviews, talking about whether or not people will want to keep playing a game or not. If you want to keep people from trading games in, then provide them with enough content to keep them from trading in the game the second they’re done! I’m not talking about useless flags or feathers either (I’m looking at YOU, Assassin’s Creed!). Nah, I’m talking about new areas and quests depending on the choices players make in a game (after all, there is no such thing as a “meaningful choice,” only “meaningful consequence,” and if players make different choices that lead to different consequences, that’s a good reason to want to replay). If that doesn’t suit you, what about NewGame+ (Mass Effect’s awesome NewGame+ mode is one of the reasons I loved replaying it and bought a second copy when it became available on Steam)? Remember unlockables? Those were pretty awesome, you know. Letting people beat the game and then replay it with a new skin was a pretty enjoyable thing once upon a time. I get that you might want to make people spend $7 on the game, but just how much money are you losing with every copy of your game that gets traded back in, huh?

You know what else works?

Lots of content.

The more time I spend playing your game, the less likely I am to want to trade it back in, especially if I feel like there’s more to discover. Ever wonder why Bethesda’s games sell so well? Exploration is a HUGE element of that. If you go “well, we’ll cut exploration since only 15% of our players will see that,” you run the risk of making an inferior game. Look at Dragon Age 2. They made a game without of the content and variety that Dragon Age Origins offered, and as a result, released a game that reviewed and sold worse. When Bioware forced players through one specific story path, limiting a portion of their player base to playing just a few ways, the customers reacted and sales of the game dropped like a stone. Freedom and variety are vital to a good game experience (unless, of course, you’re making a linear shooter or something, where you can do variety a lot of other ways).

You don’t need to be afraid, devs. If I don’t see your stuff the first time through, that’s okay. It means I’ve got an incentive to play through again, and that means I’ve got an incentive not to trade in my game. If you get over yourselves and spend more time on games I’ll spend time on, you’ll make more money.

…assuming your game’s any good, of course.

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