Monday, August 25, 2008

Adding content to already-launched single player games

I've previously made the comment that the ideal time to try out a new MMORPG may be six to nine months later, due to the time MMORPG devs need after crunch time ends to finish all the promised features, fix the major bugs, and let the population disperse beyond the newbie areas. By contrast, single player games do have a tendency to drop in price after they've been on the shelves but they don't tend to get major chunks of new content or polish months down the line. The developers have already gotten all the money they're going to get, so there's often limited incentive to spend more dev time improving the game.

Well, The Witcher may be the exception to the rule. According to Kotaku's GC report, the game is now massively better, with 80% decreased load times, more variety in NPC conversation animations and random outfits, and streamlined crafting. And all of this will be available as a free download for existing owners of the game, or in an "enhanced edition" box that will replace the regular box on store shelves. (Interesting side note: The enhanced edition launches on Sept 16, the same day that Warhammer boxes hit stores, so this could possibly affect the battle of the War-MMORPG's.)

Of course, it could just be that the devs have put together a convention demo that does a really good job of hyping a relatively small amount of changes. However, this also could be a win/win for everyone involved. People who have already played the game get the updates for free (getting more milage out of an existing purchase), people who have never played the game (I'm in this group) get a crack at a game that has improved since its launch, and the devs get extra money for having a new edition out on shelves (typically stores won't give prominent shelf space to old titles, but will try to sell sexy new releases) without all of the work involved in putting together a new title from scratch. This could also help build CD Projekt a reputation as a dev that cares about quality (patch support for previous Blizzard games helped build the rep that got them the budget they needed to make World of Warcraft).

It's just slightly strange to see this unfortunate quirk of MMORPG's making its way out into the broader gaming world.

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