Joined: 14 Oct 2002 Posts: 4121 Location: Sheffield, UK
Posted: Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:00 am Post subject: Infinity Blade - the power of microtransactions
Not having an iphone I can't comment too much on this hack and slash RPG made by Epic. It's primarily a way to showcase Unreal support for ios devices, so you'd expect a potentially throw away game that just looks pretty. However, it's by the smallish tema (12people) who made Shadow Complex on X360 - which was very nice.
As expected Apple are falling over themselves to push the game, so good or bad it sells very well (apple keep splatting it all over the front page). However, in an interview recently these comments were made:
'We released Infinity Blade on December 9th. It had no in-app purchases or whatever; just a straight-up game. Interestingly enough, right when we put out the game, we were getting thousands of emails...'Why can't we buy gold? Why can't I buy gold to buy more swords and more shields and more stuff? Because I don't want to have to just play the game.'
So we put in the ability to purchase gold; that came two weeks after launch. We're like, 'No one's gonna buy this,' Because we didn't balance the game that way. And, I mean, we didn't change the balancing when we put in the ability to buy gold. Just play the game for a few hours and you'll have more gold than you can spend.
As soon as we put that out, we started selling thousands and thousands of bags of gold a day! That was really kind of eye-opening to us as to the kind of mentality that's developing and how people want to consume their games on these devices. That was pretty shocking to us.'
'We put out this huge update yesterday, and we're right back up at the top of the charts, meaning we're selling a lot of copies to new people.'
'Yeah, this is an eye-opener for me, having not had this kind of experience before. Now, kind of living through it and working through it and seeing a lot of the advantages of it, I think that the things that are happening in the social space and the handheld space are going to completely change the way we look at console games moving forward. I think in five years the console games will look very, very different than they do now, and it will be because of the work that's happening in these spaces and the agile -- I think 'agile' is probably the right word -- just the agile way that the market's developing. And it's going very fast. Last generation was the first game generation where you could even patch console games on the Xbox. Before that, once it was in the box, it was done. It's just changing very rapidly. I think that the market will demand it, and that's inevitable at this point.'
Interesting points. People paid real money even after buying the game, just to skip past bits they considered boring (levelling up to buy new gear) in a game that is single player! I find that really amazing. I knew this phenomenon was big in MMOs where people want to keep up with their friends and/or pose about. Never heard of it happening in single player games though. It's interesting that they think this will be the inevitable next step for console games too. I suppose it's possible considering consoles are now bought by a more mainstream/casual audience. Hardcore gamers are inflexible, I've played games a certain way for years, I expect to pay my money and then just play. A casual player has less pre-conceptions, if offered the option to pay 50c here and there to skip bits that are tough or gain special equipment to help them I'm sure they'd do it, especially with the ease of one-click in game purchasing, etc. It sort of implies a rapid move to smaller digitally delivered games, cheap to buy with most of the income from microtransactions, in fact I'm surprised Xbox isn't pushing this harder considering how big it is on iphone.
Obviously the scope for abuse of the player is HUGE, I can feel facebook games creeping up behind me even now I know some people will say, it's great because it brings down the initial purchase price, probably to free eventually, and it means gamers with time to spare can just enjoy it all, while the project is paid for by those who want to skip bits or go faster, plus it means the game can live on past release and the money keeps coming in to pay for it to be developer further.
I'm not sure I quite believe it. It just feels like a game design failure. You're making money on the assumption some reasonably large percentage of players are not happy to just play the game as intended. That can't be right surely? Then again, Nintendo said only 10% of players finish the average game, but surely, that again speaks of some game design failure. Is it really inevitable that most people aren't going to play the game as intended regardless of how good it is? Is it inevitable that nobody will ever make a game the majority of players want to play all the way through??
Put another way - 'we've made this game where the eye candy and rough idea are so great loads of people want to check it out. The price is so cheap they all bought in. However, the majority soon realised it takes ~10 hours to finish it and a lot of that ~10 hours is repetitive and a bit grindy. But these people are so nice, instead of kicking our doors in and demanding a refund, they asked if they could pay US to skip the bits they didn't like.'
My head hurts
I suppose it makes sense. If the initial purchase is very cheap $6 (expensive for iphone no?) maybe you won't mind that it isn't fun after a while - 30mins? And then just when you're going to move on to something else, you spot you can buy 1000 gold for 99c. With that you can play on for another hour and just fight new baddies and see new areas. In a way that makes financial sense. You thought you were paying $6 for ~10hours of fun and secretly you knew that was too good to be true. So in the end you paid $10 for ~4hours of fun, which is OK.
Joined: 19 May 2003 Posts: 363 Location: London, UK
Posted: Tue Apr 19, 2011 10:41 am Post subject:
You can also play these on iPod touches - which I'd thoroughly recommend as an mp3 player, expensive though they are, really nice UI. But I have caved in and got an iPhone now.
At the moment I'm playing another one sold like this: Solomon's Boneyard. It's completely free but you can buy 20,000 in-game gold for $1. You don't earn gold very fast in game so if you want to buy the power-ups then you probably do have to pay. At first I thought I'd buy one or two - the cost of a game after all - but I think I'm up to my fourth or fifth dollar now. So I guess it works - it's single player too.
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