…gutsy and innovative, to say the least.
So I’m sure everyone has read the news on Lionhead/Microsoft dividing their epic RPG Fable II into chunks. The idea has been circulating for awhile now and today it’s been realized to its full extent via Xbox Live. I’m here to offer some perspective on the matter.
Lionhead aren’t the first to execute this idea. Sony tried it out with Siren: Blood Curse for the PSN, and the latest Alone in the Dark had a similar idea except for the fact that all the “episodes” were packed in the retail disk. Also, we can’t leave out Telltale Games’ episodic adventure games and Penny Arcade Adventures, which sort of started the trend in the first place. The biggest difference between these works and Fable II is obvious; the latter has already been on retail for a year while the rest are “fresh off the development tray” releases.
This move is obviously for people who have not bought Fable II yet. People like me for instance. It also negates my reason for not buying the retail game in the first place: no time to play an overwhelmingly epic RPG such as this, especially since it was released during the crowded holiday season (although the widespread talk of glitches and game-breakers scared me off even more). In Lionhead’s own words, these episodes are for people who want to play in their own pace. You feel less regret by downloading a chunk of the game and holding it off compared to having your full retail game collecting dust. There, problem solved. The best thing of all is that the first episode is free and serves as a taste of the full game, a demo of sorts. So if you don’t like it, just don’t download the following episode.
From a business standpoint, it’s an excellent strategy to bring in different crowds who aren’t essentially RPG fanatics. Furthermore, this type of release extends the game’s shelf life in a huge way. You see, another point that Lionhead got right is compatibility; let’s say you download the first episode and enjoy it…you can simply buy the retail version and all your work will carry over to the disc, achievements included.
…and to be honest, most people will opt for that option if they’re interested, because here comes the bad news. Each of the remaining four episodes cost around 1000 points (10$), give or take a few hundred points. In essence, you’re paying around 40$ for a year-old game that has no additional content other than the fact it’s in episodic form. The retail version is 10$ cheaper right now and there are talks of the “Game of the Year” Edition which includes the DLC packs, presumably 10$ cheaper too. Not every gamer has a spare 10$ to spend, but those who’re comfortable in taking the download route will surely be pleased in the end. Pace and convenience are worth 10$ in my opinion. Speaking of which, be aware that these episodes are sort of “big” in the download department, ranging from 2-4 GB a piece. So make sure you have a stable internet connection and enough disc space or else the download route will work against you.
I’m going to try out the first episode in a bit and fill you in with light impressions on the whole thing eventually. My only worries right now are the seamless experience and possible glitches. There are no reports on the latter at the moment (phew) but the former has to be well-developed in order for this experiment to work. I mean, do multiple episodes merge together as you download and play through them or do you have to pick a specific episode to access specific areas and content? Judging from the increasing sizes of each episode, I’m assuming that Lionhead developed this while keeping the “seamless experience” in mind.
I can honestly see this as the future for the RPG genre. Imagine getting to play a game such as Final Fantasy XIII or Star Ocean 4 in episodic form. Lionhead has stumbled into something interesting here. Let’s just hope it catches on with other developers.