Halo 5’s Free DLC More Profitable Than It’s Paid DLC

Welcome to episode 91 of the Gamers of the Lost Spark podcast. Another delve into the underbelly of the gaming underworld’s news metaverse examining the stories, rumours and games of the last 7 days.

This week an interesting argument put forward by Michael Pachter (Pachter Factor) makes the point that there is a shift in the DLC model and that instead of DLC being slices of paid for additional goodness for the games we love, that in fact free DLC, apart from being most welcome by the gaming community – who doesn’t love free stuff? – can actually prove to be more profitable than paid DLC.

How can that work? is the resounding retort. Well, Mr Pachter goes on to explain this using 343 Industries Halo 5 as an example of where this model has been a success.

Halo 5 took a different approach to the more standard paid DLC model that we are used to these days. What the guys over at 343 Industries did was to make the first 6 months of DLC for the game free. That’s right, free and many people will know this having played one of the bigger hits over on Xbox One. So that’s fantastic, 6 months free DLC for the Halo 5 community, great move guys, much appreciated. Hold on though, is this just an incredible gesture of goodwill from developer / publisher to the gaming masses? I mean, what’s in it for them? Apart from the love and gratitude of the gamers of course – a commodity more precious than any currency. Oh hold on, yes, of course, back to the real world.

So the game is out there and the first 6 months DLC content is free to all players, yet Halo 5 made more money than any previous Halo game and this was due to the in game microtransactions. What happened in this case was, due to the DLC being free for all, Halo 5 kept more players playing the game than it had ever done before and in doing so, kept a bigger pool of customers enjoying the game who were then potential purchasers of in game microtransactions. The results from 343’s experience with this model indicate that more profit can be made by keeping more players involved in the game and so increasing the pool of potential (and real) microtransaction purchases than charging for separate iterations of DLC content.

Mr Pachter cites an approximate model of DLC purchase trends explaining that with each paid DLC drop there is also a drop in player take up, with the first DLC being the most popular at say 80% take up, the second being picked up with maybe 50% of those guys and the third DLC drop having the lowest purchase rate. It was this trend that paved the way for the ‘Season Pass’ that we have today, as the publishers looked for ways to stop that drop in take up of DLC over time by offering the lot at a discounted price.

This model only works for games that include DLC and have potential for communities to grow and thrive on their platforms. The type of games that are sure to be the focus of Microsoft’s recently announced ‘Games as a Service’ strategy, the most obvious being competitive FPS games like the Halo’s and the Titanfall’s, it would be more difficult to apply to other genres so we will probably not be getting single player campaign DLC for free anytime soon.

All said and done though, it’s an interesting idea that has already been used and turned a greater profit than the more traditional approach. Keeping all those players in there obviously reaps rewards while at the same time keeping those servers nice and busy with more players, in turn making the experience for the gamer more enjoyable for a longer period, potentially creating more fans who will be pre-ordering the next game.

Sound good? Or would you prefer the more traditional model? As always let us know what you think.

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Does the Zelda Season Pass Make You Tingle?

This week the man himself (@BigSheep) joins the guys to discuss the gaming news of the moment in episode 90.

It’s a bit of a Nintendo-fest this week as the often visited Nintendo corner grows into the Nintendo-Annex in light of the sheer volume of stories over the last 7 days, in no small part owing to the phenomenal success of the Switch console which is showing no signs of slowing down in it’s meteoric mission from store shelf to gamers pocket.

The guys have been gushing about Breath of the Wild since release and with good reason and it looks like the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is shaping up to be just as much fun and just as successful with a 45% attach rate topping both the UK’s Individual and All Formats charts this week.

After some discussion about if we will see an up to now unrevealed big game on Switch between Arms and Mario Odyssey the conversation turns to ward the reveal of the Zelda Season Pass and the content therein (full details below). With the advent of a full fangled Tingle costume being a genius standout for the Sparks.

The question is, in a game world so big, will people want more, are the revealed features welcome and most importantly, does the lure of this extra content get you tingling enough to part with your rupees?

To hear what the guys think, listen in and enjoy the latest installment of the Lost Spark Podcast.

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There’s More To Gaming Than Just ‘Triple A’

In this weeks podcast we have all the usual fun frolics and frivolity as the guys discuss the week in gaming, what’s hot to play and everything in between. Hold on to your control pads gamers, it’s Episode 89 of the Lost Spark Podcast.

An interesting point in the news (courtesy of wccftech) this week was made by Cliff Bleszinski (Cliffy B) of Unreal Tournament and Gears of War fame and more recently the co-founder of Boss Key Productions.

During industry conference Reboot Develop 2017, Cliff took to the stage and put forward his view that ‘AAA games’ cost too much to make and the development of such games are a ‘nearly unsustainable’ model, his reasoning behind this is based on a number of points including the fact that:

  • Customers can only afford a few $60 dollar games a year and this price is a high point for most consumers
  • Consumers have been burned with DLC / Bugs in their games
  • Player expectations are very high in terms of Graphics. feature sets and polish and quality

Citing Horizon Zero Dawn as an example, Cliff went on to posit that the seven year development cycle for a project like this can be undertaken and afforded by Sony with the reason that they can get so heavily invested in something like this is that they will be the ones profiting from the sale of their consoles, which a game like Horizon Zero Dawn is very likely to have a positive effect on.  So Sony – whom Horizon Zero Dawn’s Developer Guerrilla Games belong to – has two branches here, both the software and their hardware, with which they can recoup their investment and further to this make a profit.

In contrast to this he then made a comparison to the financial commitment that was made by Take-Two with regard to Bioshock Infinite where the outcome of overstretching to fulfill a AAA vision resulted in a number of lay offs over at Irrational Games.

A remedy for this, he suggested, would be the advent of the ‘AA game’. These games would be games that despite a restricted budget focused on what matters most, giving examples of his type of game being the likes of Rocket League by Psyonix and Digital Extreme’s Warframe adding also that digital only would also be a consideration for success.

So, have our expectations got out of hand, or is the amazing high standard and polish of the games we see nowadays simply a result of the evolution of technology and the desire of creators to improve, innovate and deliver that next big thing? Is it all simply about the bottom line (obviously to a great degree, it’s business), or is there something to be said for the ambition of developers and creators to express themselves and push the limits of the gaming medium via the technologically impressive consoles we use today?

Whether it’s gamer expectation, businesses pushing for profit or creators with the passion and determination to bring their ambitious gaming visions to the gaming community, it does look like there is a point here. No one likes to hear about studios closing, job cuts, or devs not getting paid for their hard work and if this can be avoided by simply scaling back ambition on a project and being more realistic in financial terms of what can be achieved then that’s great. Though conversely, it would definitely be a shame if the spectacle of the ‘AAA game’ was only within the reach of the hardware manufacturers.

Ultimately, if the costs of the AAA’s continue to get out of hand and cause businesses problems the amount made will dwindle as the lessons are learned.

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Star Wars Battlefront II: The Campaign Awakens

There’s a tremor in the Force. What’s this, a feeling of excitement and wonder? Of course, it’s episode 88 of the Gamers of the Lost Spark podcast, lovingly crafted for your listening delight.

This week Antony and Darren are at fever pitch with all the Star Wars news of the last week and try and keep themselves calm enough to objectively discuss the full reveal of the new game and of course, the trailer for The Last Jedi.

Announced at the Star Wars Celebration we can look forward to – Star Wars™ Battlefront II being released on November 17, 2017 worldwide.

With the press release stating that we will finally see that long yearned for campaign mode that we have all been waiting for it’s an exciting prospect:

‘Building upon the foundation of groundbreaking visuals and authenticity of EA’s Star Wars Battlefront, DICE, Motive and Criterion are teaming up to deliver one of the most expansive Star Wars games to date. Star Wars Battlefront II will allow players to experience the untold story of an Imperial elite special forces soldier in an all-new single player campaign. In epic multiplayer battles, players will be able to pilot a First Order TIE fighter through intense dogfights in space, and play as ground troopers or iconic heroes and villains, such as Yoda and Darth Maul, across all three Star Wars eras.’

Featuring new characters created by Motive in close partnership with the story group at Lucasfilm, the Star Wars Battlefront II single player campaign will deliver a new exciting story to the Star Wars universe. Taking place in the 30 years between the destruction of Death Star II and through the rise of the First Order, the single player story introduces Iden Versio, the leader of Inferno Squad, an elite special forces unit of the Galactic Empire, who are equally lethal on the ground and in space. In addition to Iden, players will also encounter and play as other iconic Star Wars heroes and villains like Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren during the campaign.

In addition to the all-new single player campaign, the team at DICE is evolving the game’s multiplayer to become the ultimate Star Wars battleground. With modes supporting up to 40 players, Star Wars Battlefront II takes fans through a wide range of iconic locations from all three eras: prequel, classic and new trilogy, including new in-game locations such as Yavin 4’s jungle canopies, the spaceport town of Mos Eisley, and Starkiller Base. Players can choose from an array of land and air vehicles and master their own hero’s journey, with customisable character progression across heroes, villains, troopers and starfighters.
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Could Ties To Xbox One Prevent Us Seeing Scorpio’s True Power?

Welcome to the podcast, and Episode 87 of our weekly show of gaming goodness. Among the rest of the comings and goings in the world of gaming on this week’s pod, there is of course the small matter of Microsoft’s hardware spec reveal of their long awaited and eagerly anticipated Project Scorpio system.

With no games to speak of, this unveiling has concentrated purely on the specifications of the new system. In an unorthodox move by Team Xbox, the reveal was made via games media outlet Digital Foundry rather than Microsoft themselves. A fantastic scoop for the good guys over at Eurogamer and Digital Foundry and a move that indicates, surely, just how confident Microsoft is in their new shiny technology.

That confidence does not seem to have been misplaced as the reports that Richard Leadbetter and his team over at Digital Foundry are optimistic to say the least and seem to vindicate Xbox’s claims that this new machine will hit that dream of not only 4K resolutions but also giving us that beauty at 60fps.

Digging deeper it looks like the guys at Redmond have also baked in improvements to the 1080p community into the Scorpio with what looks like automatic improvements to many legacy games due to the architecture in this new console.

Obviously, the Xbox guys don’t want to alienate all their loyal Xbox One owners and so there has been much use of the word ‘premium’ (read expensive) around this new console and also there has been much made of assuring Xbox One owners that the Scorpio will not be a break off point that leaves them behind. There is a commitment to existing Xbox owners that there will be no Scorpio exclusives – ‘No One Get’s Left Behind’.

This is reassuring and sounds great, it helps soothe the players who feel that it’s too early for a new console in light of previous generations lasting 7 years or so who may otherwise feel rather short changed at this mid-gen update. But could a commitment to keeping those ties to Xbox One, to ensuring that all games will work on the soon to be legacy machine, be counterproductive? Perhaps not now at launch but in the future and will the Xbox One eventually become an albatross holding the new monster that is Scorpio back, keeping it from its true destiny of Scorpio only exclusives?

Obviously, there’s a concern there and a knee jerk reaction would indicate exactly this scenario lurking in Scorpio’s future. An alternative view though would be that we live in a gaming age where the consoles we have already allow for such amazing games that there would be no reason that a game could not run on one of the current consoles. Take Grand Theft Auto V for instance, an absolute behemoth of a title encompassing a wide breadth of gaming systems across a vast open world and using several different gameplay mechanics and all this on the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Since then the game has been refined and improved as it has hit the PC and the next generation of consoles but the game itself is fantastic on the older consoles too. This seems a reasonable argument that any game that comes to the Scorpio will be able to be ported over to the Xbox One, it will just not have those extra bells and whistles in comparison to its new big brother. A move even closer to the world of the PC where, for example you can gain entry to a title using the minimum spec graphics card but you are aware that this will be the same game but a pared back experience in comparison to the Titan X owner.

So, rather than holding Scorpio back, we could see more titles for Xbox One and more innovation on the legacy platform as developers move forward and focus on the Scorpio. In a recent Q&A with Gamasutra, Phil Spencer mentions that it is actually an easier task to tweak a game downward rather than upward – this being the reason that the Scorpio dev-kits have double the memory in them than the consumer Scorpio.  This idea could then not only leave the Scorpio unfettered in future games aimed at it, but also benefit Xbox One players with a gaming experience that may perhaps have not been considered for their system in this new dawn of the Scorpio.

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Scorpio Revealed Before E3 – Genius or Folly?

The predictions had it.

Microsoft is about to unveil its Xbox Project Scorpio specifications. The event will be in conjunction with Eurogamer’s tech wizards, Digital Foundry.  Eurogamer has confirmed it will run an “exclusive Xbox Scorpio reveal” on Thursday 6th April at 2pm GMT/9AM ET, following speculation. Microsoft reportedly invited Digital Foundry to its campus recently to observe the internals of Project Scorpio and witness Forza Motorsport 7 running at 4K resolution.

A surprising move for many but most definitely not an unwelcome one. It’s big news and of course the Sparks – joined this week by James (@BigSheep) – chew over the prospect of what will be in store when the news drops.

There are a few questions to ask here, such as why have Microsoft decided to make their big reveal ahead of E3, why make the reveal through an external outlet such as Digital Foundry and just how much detail can we expect Team Xbox to reveal?

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2017 and the Gaming Super 7 – Best First Quarter Ever?

This week in episode 85 Antony and Darren take a moment to pay tribute to this stellar first quarter for gaming that we have had in 2017, admire the amazing selection of top quality games available for us all and reflect upon whether the standard set could possibly be held up by the rest of the year. That rest of the year sure has its work cut out if it wants to hold a candle to this stunning start that we have had.

The Sparks 2017 ‘Super 7’ goes like this:

  • Yakuza 0
  • Resident Evil VII
  • NiOh
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild
  • Nier Automata
  • Persona 5

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Mass Effect Andromeda – Unpolished, Unfinished and Uninstalled – Do We Expect Too Much?

Episode 84 bursts forth into gaming circles everywhere causing more lens flare than a Zero Dawn sunrise and this week, among the what if’s and the this and that’s of the last weeks gaming news the Sparks spend some time discussing the big story of the moment – Mass Effect Andromeda – and the impact (or lack of) that this hotly anticipated game has caused.

Reflecting on his time with EA Access’ 10 hour trial, Antony (@ChessmanUK) discusses how he feels about Bioware’s latest iteration in this well loved franchise, tempering hope with unfortunate disappointment in his dissection of his time with the game. The Sparks discuss the merits of this latest incarnation, where it shines, where it loses its footing and ultimately, where its place is in the midst of the cavalcade of stellar titles spoiling gamers for choice currently in this magnificent first quarter of 2017. Continue reading

Can Mass Effect Tear Us From Horizon and Zelda?

It’s a time when Gamers worldwide are suffering from the most delightful of troubling problems, a severe bout of too many games. The stars don’t align this way often, but rarely, when the moon shines in the 16th quarter and the stars fall upon each other blurring the celestial axis, a time of plenty is triggered for the hallowed gaming ones. A time of constant quality games pouring forth from all directions. A time of joy and delight as we decide what fantastic diversion we want to get swept away with next. A time of working out how we are going to manage to play all these games before the next one comes hurtling along. A time to manage those gaming finances. A time of, yeah actually, too many games.The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild

Of course, we shouldn’t cry out in dismay at being troubled by so many delightful distractions and of course, we can wait. Every game doesn’t absolutely have to be consumed on release day does it? Of course not, but for some gamers out there an influx of fantastic games, whilst being a wonderful thing, can also be fraught with pondering, calculating and decision. Which game to get? Is only one open world required or do others provide enough distinctive difference to justify a purchase at the same time and what about the time? Being hit with many a 40 / 50 / 60 hour (and in many cases beyond) game can back a dedicated gamer to the wall with the important (and nice) decision of just what is the best use of their time and money. Which game is the one to go for or can they all be squeezed in at once and if such an undertaking is undertaken, is there a risk of rushing them and perhaps not enjoying them as much as if they were all treated individually? Continue reading

Does Zelda Make The Nintendo Switch A Must Buy?

It’s here! Yes, Nintendo’s console/portable hybrid was released last week and it looks like the launch has been quite the success if early sales figures are anything to go by.

Sleek, shiny and tactile, listen in to episode 82 of your ever faithful podcast to hear James (BIGsheep) and Antony give their hands-on verdict on this latest innovation that lies waiting to transform your gaming experience, cutting the shackles of an experience that up to now was only for the seated gamer, within the confines of their private abode. Having both bought one at launch, James and Antony are in prime position to gush about all the positives the hardware has to offer, positively ooze love and kisses over the game the console has been bought for – good old Zelda (mild spoilers from 1hr 03min to 1hr 30min), and also, of course in the interests of fairness, point out any negative points that have marred their experience of getting down and dirty with the Switch.
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