Seriously, it's starting to make me wonder.
Game Publishers and Developers cry all the time about how expensive it is to develop AAA titles (Even if they give F results
) but.. why?
Many of the changes we've seen over the last decade to the video game industry has been geared towards removing a finished product from gamers hands at Launch Day. But we're still paying full price for it, and in fact the actual price has gone up. I use to expect new games to be 49.99 to 59.99. Lately I've been seeing quite a few 69.99 for anything that's been advertised.
All the changes have been geared towards increasing the price, getting the game out faster, and getting paid sooner, and more often.
Kick Starter - This funding mechanism, which isn't exactly new in and of itself, has certainly gotten more popular lately. It lets the developers get paid, potentially before they even start working on the game
. This comes complete with all the risks of failure and outright betrayal
by the developers failing to either finish the project or decided they didn't need to actually honor promises made to backers. But it's the first payday for the Developers. The only people that lose out are the gamers that support them if the project goes south, or as indicated, when the game delivered isn't what was promised.
In short, Devs can now get paid (without taking "loans" from publishers) before they even start their actual job.
Early Access - This new fad, started probably by Minecraft, essentially lets the developer get paid during development. Basically with the buggy, feature-incomplete state of the game, gamers are allowed to pay for the privilege to play the game early. In some cases that early access can cost several times the cost of the actual final game. When Mojang did this, they did this the right way. At first it was free to play the game. Then when it started getting features, the alpha version had a small 10 dollar charge. Then later the beta version had a slightly higher cost of 15-20 dollars. Then the final game is as it is now. (20-30 depending on what platform you're buying it on.)
Somehow developers saw Mojang's success story and thought the system would work equally well if they just inverted the early access costs, with the cost slowly decreasing towards the cost of the final product instead of increasing up to it. Either way, this means that devs nowadays get paid during the development of the game - despite that they likely have the game fully financed if they did a proper Kickstarter campaign. Furthermore, this is basically them removing one big cost of development, having to hire people to actively betatest the game to find and report bugs, and turning that cost into a revenue stream. Gamers are now -paying- the developer for the chance to do the beta testing for free! Not that the developer often listens to all the feedback they get.
So next we're reaching the actual Launch Day. When the game is suppose to be finished and released in all it's glory! With bug patches and DLC options available to devs, they can now ship their product earlier and earlier than they use to. They also don't have to worry about the shoddy work done by their paying volunteer betatesters, as the game can be released as a roach hotel and completely unplayable with relatively little in the way of risk. As is often the case the company turns around, offers some sort of misguided apology then distracts the masses with a free game or two. At this point the company doesn't really care as they already have your money from the Day 1 sales. (And these are the largest sales the game generally receives, particularly if it was highly anticipated due to the marketing hype.)
This could be avoided of course by not buying on Day 1. But to counter that, developers have started using DLC as a means to secure pre-orders. Essentially by axing out content that would have otherwise been in the game, sometimes important parts of said game in the eyes of the fans
of the game. Project Diva F 2nd also did this by axing off a couple of songs from the Live Stage mode unless you've pre-ordered. To my knowledge those songs aren't even available as DLC currently for those of us who didn't pre-order.
They do this to help force people rush to buy the game without knowing if it's even payable.
So now we have devs are paid in advance before starting work. Getting paid again all throughout the development process, as often as they desire - they just have to sell new rounds of beta. Selling their game months to probably a year earlier than they would have been able to in the past thanks to the ability to patch out crappy workmanship, and ensuring that they still make a lot of sales on day 1 with the use of hacking out parts of the game that actually get done as incentives to buy it at all.
That's not enough however!
Now they can sell the game with fewer and fewer features at launch because they can ALWAYS add content later on via paid (or free) DLC. Isn't that great that after spending 50-70 dollars on your brand new game, you're given the option to spend an extra sum of money that can easily reach HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS
if you want the actual full experience. Yes, Train Simulator is an extreme example with literally thousands of dollars of addon content. But a LOT of games released by NIS America often have up to 100-200 dollars of DLC content. And for game franchises that they've had prior to the introduction to DLC, you quickly notice the kinds of things that they're charging extra for are things that use to just be included in the game as hidden unlockables for gamers to find. Why find it when you can be charged for it eh?
But wait wait wait! Why wait until the DLC is completed to charge for it? That's way too much to expect when the devs can be paid before they even lift a finger on THAT as well. Enter the Season Passes and "Clubs". Basically paying for access to DLC that won't be released right away, but rolled out over a length of time. For instance the "Costume Club" of Project Diva F 2nd. For a mere 69.99, you can get over 40 new modules for Miku and her friends! But wait, they're not all done yet, and they'll be rolled out over the next 6 months. We'll also forget the base game cost 49.99. Their Song Club is almost as bad, giving only 10 or so new songs to play, for a cost of 29.99. They're not all done yet either.
So in summary: Devs get paid before they start working. Get paid while they're working. Can release the game much sooner in a buggy state which they aren't required to fix unless they care about selling a second game. Can ensure people won't wait to see what the game's like when it's released since they EXPECT bugs nowadays by axing out further content to prompt pre-orders. And they can get paid for finishing the game (DLC) before even starting in on the actual DLC.
Where the fuck is the "risk" they keep bitching about. The money is handed over to them before a product is ever delivered.