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A Case for a New Business Model

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Old 06-05-2009, 12:53 PM   #1
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A Case for a New Business Model

Ever since Electronic Arts began releasing yearly iterations of its sports franchises back in the 16-bit era, the business model for sports game publishers has been pretty much set in stone: you develop an engine for your game early on in a console's life cycle, hope it catches on and, if it does, proceed to tweak and modify the core game for the next three to five years.

This is established practice, and it's easy to understand why. The initial development costs associated with sports games are very high, particularly when you factor in licensing fees. By merely iterating on the same game for several years, publishers can recoup that initial investment and actually make a profit on their game. And in spite of the contention from many gamers that these yearly releases are nothing more than roster updates, this business model seems to have suited publishers and consumers reasonably well.

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Old 06-05-2009, 01:05 PM   #2
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I agree, again, 100%. It is time and I think something along these lines can work, big time. Peter Moore even spoke on EA looking into digital viability on GT TV or sumthin a couple months ago and I even expanded on my thoughts on some website saying that I believe that EA is getting the core gameplay of Madden, at least, to something that is mostly as accurate to football as possible so that in the future, they can do DLCs or subscriptions or what have u and not have to worry about major overhauls like they had to do for this Madden coming up, every year. Plus, they can also focus on patches that are needed to fix little things that are broke after the new yearly iteration or yearly update is out. Madden 09 is the first patched Madden ever so and they only did one patch that didn't cover everything that was broken in that game so I think if they create their own business model for going digital, they would be able to do several patches as they go a long before the next complete digital update for the new sports year.
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Old 06-05-2009, 01:38 PM   #3
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Nice article. very good read. As I understand it doesn't xboxlive put restrictions on the size and content of downloads ? Like with live last year they had a certain gb limit to what thy could add. Also what does this do for gamestores ? I'm sure they won't be happy getting cut out of the deal. Is there something they could do to block devs from going this route ?

I think your idea and others like it are the future. I mean my great aunt is downloading stuff now adays and my parents both have I phones and are taking and sending pictures and buying apps so I think the public in general is ready for a move like this.
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Old 06-05-2009, 01:50 PM   #4
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Moving into a subscription and DLC type model will not benefit the consumer in the long haul. I am a firm believer that sports games should be released every two years, with a simple $10.00 roster and ratings update offered during the respective games off year. This would allow developers a longer development cycle on their respective game, and give us consumers high quality products.

There is no point in splitting up the game modes as DLC and charging online subscription fees because casual gamers are not the demographic that purchases sports titles on a yearly basis to begin with. Think about it, casual sports gamers don't care about roster updates, or new features, so they most likely will be sticking with the previous year's, bargain priced title to begin with. The fans who buy the game yearly for $60 will are going to buy all the piece meal DLC for $60 as well- it's a wash for us consumers. The only way I can see your proposal being a somewhat feasible is if EA decides to sell a game like NHL for $40, and then charges $20 for the standalone EASHL mode.

Sports games are not MMO's so it is very difficult to liken their financial strategies to one another. If you think about it, MMO's don't really update their in game worlds yearly with the "200 new improvements" that EA likes to tout around this time of year. The framework of an MMO on day 1 is what you can expect to be playing years down the road- even retail and DLC expansion packs do not change animations, locomotion, gameplay fundamentals, etc, like we see in our yearly sports releases.

I think the major issue that causes these types of discussions is the complete decline in quality we have seen in sports games from last generation to our current gen. As much as we all used to complain about our PS2/XBOX offerings back in the early 2000's, we were blessed with some of the finest sports games to date- all for $49.99.

Great article that is sure to stir up some great conversation.

Last edited by Bumble14; 06-05-2009 at 02:05 PM.
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Old 06-05-2009, 01:56 PM   #5
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Sounds like pure horse**** to me, EA wasted all their resources buying up crappy companies and now want to charge for what should be assumed part of the game
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Old 06-05-2009, 03:12 PM   #6
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All great points Jim, however, when you have these money hungry driven companies such as EA, the 'best way' for them anyway, is to soak up every red cent they can -- regardless, of the method being good, bad or indifferent by way of the consumer. Realistically, the consumers 'best way' would never benefit the manufacturer.

Sad, but true.
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Old 06-05-2009, 04:05 PM   #7
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seems similar to what I was talking about in a previous news post here

http://www.operationsports.com/MMChrisS/blog/1587-why-a-two-year-cycle-doesnt-work-for-companies/
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Old 06-05-2009, 04:11 PM   #8
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Hey guys, thanks for all of the comments on the article. I'd hoped it would start a bit of a discussion. A few points...

Da_Czar: At one time Microsoft had a cap on the size of downloads to ensure, as I recall, that gamers with the Arcade SKU could fit them on a memory card. But they've moved away from that recently. The March Madness edition of NCAA Basketball 09, for example, took about 1.6GB on my hard drive.

As for game stores, I'm sure they wouldn't be happy about it, but this isn't new. You can already buy full retail games like NFL Head Coach 09, Burnout Paradise, WarHawk, WipEout HD and many others off the PlayStation Network. Once Microsoft introduces retail games on demand in August, game stores will really start to see the writing on the wall.

Bumble14: You raise some excellent points, but I would contend that there are some casual gamers who would buy roster updates or certain stand-alone modes, whereas they would never buy the full retail disc.

Also, I would argue that sports games are moving closer and closer to MMO territory. The EASHL is one example. Online franchises in Madden are another. A lot of people aren't going to want to scrap everything to start fresh every 12 months. If I got in a really solid online franchise, I think I'd want that to continue for as long as possible. But I'd still like access to gameplay tweaks along the way.

Madmastermind: I hear what you're saying about EA, but I was just using them as an example. Perhaps it will take a competitor adopting this model to force them to consider it. For example, what if 2K had done this two and a half years ago with NBA 2K7? Maybe now you're sitting there with a really nice online league going and a bunch of time and money invested in DLC for the game. At that point do you consider making the switch to NBA Live and starting from scratch? Maybe, but you're probably less inclined to do that than if you simply have to choose between starting from scratch with either NBA 2K10 or NBA Live 10.
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