Does it make sense to release video games episode by episode and force players to wait for another chapter? We gathered all the pros and cons of such an approach.
Sometimes designers decide to make their games similar to TV shows. For instance, Alan Wake has the history so far summary before and credits after each chapter. Some developers, however, go even further. They split their games into several parts and sell them separately. What are the advantages of this method?
Let’s ride the hype train
First of all, episodes can work for video games just like they do for TV shows. If the episode ends with a cliffhanger or leaves us with some unanswered questions, people will make theories and create memes, thus building the hype. As a result, the game can gain some significant boost in popularity.
Many players complain that today’s releases don’t have demo versions that allow you to try the game out before the purchase. The first part in an episodic game may play such a role, especially since the opening chapter is usually free to play or sold cheaply.
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A chance for smaller studios
Some developers have great ideas but don’t have enough money to make them come true. Episodic games can be a wise choice for them because the studios can finance the production of the later chapters by using the profit from the previous ones’ sales. Moreover, in the following parts of the game, the studio may implement some features suggested by players.
Stop whenever you want
If you realize that you don’t like the game after finishing 2nd out of five episodes, you just won’t buy the future chapters. Usually, you buy the entire game, so you can’t pay for only the first half of its campaign.
Unfortunately, splitting your game into multiple parts can be risky and inconvenient. Let’s take a closer look at what can go wrong.
It’s easy to lose track
While a short break between episodes can boost the hype, a longer one may be disastrous. For instance, there were three to five months long gaps separating Life Is Strange 2 episodes. As a result, it was easy to lose track of who’s who and what had happened.
Players may lose interest
Even if you love the story, the gap between episodes can kill all the anticipation. You may start playing another release, so your interest in the previous one will inevitably fade away. Consequently, you most likely won’t buy future episodes and never finish the game.
Games may remain unfinished
We may never be sure if the future episodes will ever be released. A studio may face financial issues or just abandon the project to focus on a different one. For example, Lego: The Hobbit has never got the promised DLC covering The Battle of the Five Armies events. As a result, its story remains unfinished.
Episodic games cost is usually high
Even though every single episode is cheap, the total cost of the game can be surprisingly high. Of course, this applies if you buy each chapter separately without any discounts.