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Amy Hennig: People ask for linear Story-Based Games but aren’t necessarily buying them

Oct 25, 2017
43
#1
https://wccftech.com/hennig-people-ask-story-based-games/

Amy Hennig (former creative director of Naughty Dog) talks about the current state of the video game industry
I think we’re in an inflection point right now. Obviously what happened with our Star Wars project didn’t come out of the blue. A lot of too-dramatic articles were written about it — the death of linear story games and all that kind of stuff — but look, there is a real problem: this line we’ve been running up to for a lot of years, which is the rising cost of development, and the desires, or the demands even, of players in terms of hours of gameplay, fidelity, production values, additional modes, all these things. Those pressures end up very real internally. If it costs you, say, $100 million or more to make a game, how are you making that money back, and making a profit?

And the $60 price point can’t change, right? There’s a lot of negative press around monetization, loot boxes, games as a service, etc., but these things are trending now in the industry, especially for larger publishers, as an answer to the problem of rising development costs. Budgets keep going up, the bar keeps getting raised, and it starts making less and less sense to make these games.

There is also this trend now that, as much as people protest and say, “Why are you canceling a linear, story-based game? This is the kind of game we want,” people aren’t necessarily buying them. They’re watching somebody else play them online.
 
Oct 26, 2017
957
#2
Pretty much this, I see many people on social media saying I want to support X game with Day one or whatever, but they never ever do.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,810
East Lansing, MI
#5
Yup.

Price of games have been exceptionally devalued by steam sales, PS+/XBL, etc despite people asking for more and more cinematic elements like voice acting, film writing, and incredible graphics while just watching Let's Plays on Youtube instead of buying them.

Why bother?

Edit: Yes Hennig is a huge influence on our industry, but stop being dicks because they didn't put her name in the title. It wasn't meant to devalue her importance. Sometimes this group gets too hung up in trivial shit like this.
 
Oct 26, 2017
8,219
#6
Thread title offends me.

She's not completely wrong but not completely right either. People do buy story-based games and last year we had quite a few that were both critical and commercial successes.
 
Oct 26, 2017
1,042
#9
Sadly, that's what happened with Deus Ex Mankind Divided :(
We 9n era love linear games, those with an story, but the industry, and the game buyers, are going on a different direction.
It's true you can have success with those types of games, but it's much more difficult now, I think.
 
Oct 29, 2017
246
#10
Amy Hennig may be onto something. Watching stuff like MOBAs and PUBG take off, can you really blame the big publishers for ditching linear single player experiences?
 

DynamiteCop!

Banned
Member
Dec 23, 2017
129
#11
This essentially echoes what Phil Spencer has said about GaaS, as much as people don't like it they are largely going to be the way forward unless the price of games dramatically rise with inflation. We've been paying roughly the same price for games for over 20 years. The reality is through inflation games should be $90 right now yet they're still stuck in the $50-$60 range.

To avoid a service based future they have to increase cost, and people need to not bitch about it and actually pay it. The cost of everything else around us has increased, why not games?
 
Oct 25, 2017
5,660
#12
Well, there's also the extent to which they're buying them when they're on notable sale, but the issue is that a game sold for $20-$30 at a retail store in only fetching $3-$10 for the publisher due to the static licensing fee and the retailer margin.

Like Dishonored 2 has actually moved 1 million copies on Steam, but around 600-700K of that was around $20 or less, and the first 300-400K certainly was well below $60 on average.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,161
Belarus
#13
Already a thread, but that's no excuse. Look at Hellblade for an example how to not burn through millions of unnecessary dollars and make money. And the game isn't even $60.
 
Oct 28, 2017
2,467
#15
I guess this is a complicated topic as this will turn out "players against devs". If it is true that $100 million projects are a fact (even if it less), then you have to do something to get that money back, obviously.
GaaS is here to say and we will see a lot of "creative ways" this gen and many more next gen, for sure. And yes, not every game has to be that expensive, look at Switch and its games which clearly don't see such a budget but then again you can ask why we are hungry for new, more powerful tech at all.
 
Oct 26, 2017
4,685
#17
Amy Hennig is very popular and known. Put her in the title.

People will buy story driven games games if the quality is there(with strong marketing and good release time of course)

GoW will probably sell like hotcakes.
 
Oct 25, 2017
725
#18
There's truth to this. My watch to play ratio is skewered towards watch. Also I don't understand why the standard price in NA must remain $60 when the price increased everywhere else this gen.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,185
#19
https://wccftech.com/hennig-people-ask-story-based-games/

Amy Hennig (former creative director of Naughty Dog) talks about the current state of the video game industry

"There is also this trend now that, as much as people protest and say, “Why are you canceling a linear, story-based game? This is the kind of game we want,” people aren’t necessarily buying them. They’re watching somebody else play them online."
People are also watching multiplayer games like PUBG and Overwatch online. To say that nobody's buying linear games b/c they're watching them online is an oversimplification. I think they pull different types of customers. Certainly there is some segment that will watch a game online, but how can you translate that 1:1 to lost sales? It's like piracy. A viewer may never have bought the game anyway. But you might also get some people that see it and say "hey! I want to play that myself!". I know that's happened with Giant Bomb Endurance Runs.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,810
East Lansing, MI
#21
People are also watching multiplayer games like PUBG and Overwatch online. To say that nobody's buying linear games b/c they're watching them online is an oversimplification. I think they pull different types of customers. Certainly there is some segment that will watch a game online, but how can you translate that 1:1 to lost sales? It's like piracy. A viewer may never have bought the game anyway. But you might also get some people that see it and say "hey! I want to play that myself!". I know that's happened with Giant Bomb Endurance Runs.
To be fair, if you watch a linear story driven game there's not much incentive to buy the game and play it yourself. Multiplayer games will always have unlimited replayability because of their nonlinear nature.

I must be out of touch, but are there really that many people who prefer watching somebody play through a whole game on Twitch/YouTube, rather than actually play the game and experience it their self?
Not gonna lie this is how I got through the Assassins Creed games I didn't care for but wanted to understand the story.
 
Nov 5, 2017
1,986
#22
I must be out of touch, but are there really that many people who prefer watching somebody play through a whole game on Twitch/YouTube, rather than actually play the game and experience it their self?
 
Oct 27, 2017
878
#23
Probably that's why most of Sony's single player games are open world. Even God of War is somewhat open-level and much longer than previous games, because it's hard to sell SP only 8 hour game for 60$ these days.
 
Oct 27, 2017
153
Netherlands
#25
Funny that they blame people streaming games while they were already selling season passes and multiplayer focused games (fifa, cod etc) before streaming was a thing.
 
Oct 27, 2017
342
#26
Man, we're on ResetEra. Anyone knows who Amy Hennig is, you don't need to label her as a random ex-ND employee. Especially why she's talking about her SW project here, not something she did at ND.

I must be out of touch, but are there really that many people who prefer watching somebody play through a whole game on Twitch/YouTube, rather than actually play the game and experience it their self?
Absolutely. It's entertainment, like watching football/basketball instead of going out and play yourself. Obviously, video games are less physically demanding than sports, but people like to watch others do these things. My 11yo kid plays a lot of Minecraft and R6 Siege, and also loves watching at YouTubers playing those same games. Hell, we even did it 30 years ago when we went to the arcades and stopped watching others play games we liked.
 
Oct 26, 2017
6,117
#28
Unfortunately seems only really Naughty Dog have consistent success with their big budget linear games nowadays and even they are sightly moving away from strictly linear stuff. Seems it's a big gamble for everyone else.
 
Oct 30, 2017
578
#29
Already a thread, but that's no excuse. Look at Hellblade for an example how to not burn through millions of unnecessary dollars and make money. And the game isn't even $60.
The game have just now turned profitable iirc, not something that would be acceptable for any major publisher.
 
Oct 27, 2017
161
#30
I don't understand why we can't increase the price of games? Some budget games can be cheaper, normal games $60 and your big budget games say $80-90.

I'd take that over losing single player games with high production costs.

Or, you know.... don't devalue your game so much. Nintendo knows what is up by barley ever discounting stuff.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,185
#34
To be fair, if you watch a linear story driven game there's not much incentive to buy the game and play it yourself. Multiplayer games will always have unlimited replayability because of their nonlinear nature.

Not gonna lie this is how I got through the Assassins Creed games I didn't care for but wanted to understand the story.
Anecdotal evidence: Giant Bomb Endurance Runs. Many people have testified to buying P4 so they could play it for themselves (and in fairness many have said they didn't play it because they watched it, but many of them in turn bought P5 because they got into the series via GBER of P4.)

There is often something different to the experience when watching someone play a game vs playing it yourself.
 
Oct 27, 2017
2,440
#35
I must be out of touch, but are there really that many people who prefer watching somebody play through a whole game on Twitch/YouTube, rather than actually play the game and experience it their self?
Sure, watching one of the personalities you like playing through a game, while you interact with said personality and other followers creates a mood you don't get playing through a game on your own. I've watched some games being played on Twitch, most recently the Literature Club thing. Aimbotcalvin got a couple of his friends to voice each character and played through it in one sitting, it was wonderful.

On-topic: I can see linear, story-driven games being in a rough patch. Can't make the games too long, can't shorten them and it's mostly a one runthrough kinda thing. I don't think you can blame people watching the games online for not buying them though, that only seems like a small segment.
 
Oct 25, 2017
8,798
#36
I mean, I guess I'm part of the problem? Given how quick games devalue, no way in hell I'm spending 60-70EUR for a 6-8 hours single player game anymore, knowing that in a month I can buy it for half of that or even less if I wait longer. On the other hand, an open world game will likely give me dozens of hours of fun, so I can justify the investment easier. Even better with multiplayer games where I'm 100% sure I'll be engaged for dozens/hundreds of hours, thus making the initial investment seem like peanuts compared to the amount of fun I've got. I loved games like Alan Wake and Remember Me last-gen, paid the full price for them and I don't regret it per se, but to me the days of paying 70EUR for a 6 hours game are gone.
 

BigTaffy

Banned
Member
Oct 27, 2017
203
San Francisco
#37
Pretty much this, I see many people on social media saying I want to support X game with Day one or whatever, but they never ever do.
I'd be more inclined to if they didn't all release at the same time.

Last spring I wanted to support Yakuza, Persona, Horizon, Nier, and Resident Evil 7. Problem was that they all released within 3 months of each other. There's just not enough time in my life to play them all.

This isn't just a problem aimed at single player games though. I'd have the same problem with multiplayer games.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,665
#38
Odd. From my experience, games that are streamed by popular streamers or played by popular youtubers almost instantly jump up on the sales charts. (At least on Steam this seems to be the case)
 
Oct 26, 2017
6,117
#39
I don't understand why we can't increase the price of games? Some budget games can be cheaper, normal games $60 and your big budget games say $80-90.

I'd take that over losing single player games with high production costs.

Or, you know.... don't devalue your game so much. Nintendo knows what is up by barley ever discounting stuff.
They pretty much have increased the price with all the editions most games have. Increasing the base price will just turn more people to wait for a sale and pretty much everyone (but Nintendo) have shown they'll quickly put their game on sale.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,224
#40
It’s true.

People will say that they want linear SP games but at the same time will look for every reason to not buy the game.

“It’s too long”
“It’s too short”
“It’s too buggy”
“It’s not pretty enough”
“It isn’t worth $60 to me”
“It’s too formulaic”
“It’s too linear”
“There’s too much bloat”

When at the same time people are willing to overlook plenty of those details for multiplayer games.

For a publisher right now, when looking at what you can work on, there’s basically no encitive to make a single player games.

It’s high risk, low reward.
 
Oct 27, 2017
2,440
#41
I don't understand why we can't increase the price of games? Some budget games can be cheaper, normal games $60 and your big budget games say $80-90.

I'd take that over losing single player games with high production costs.
In a world where we have 4 steam sales a year, new year sales, winter sales, summer sales etc. on all platforms, further increasing the price of your games seems like shooting yourselves in the foot. The industry already causes most people to frown upon a $60 price point, 80-90 for a non-special edition will not sale I feel.
 
Oct 25, 2017
986
#42
Is what Ninja Theory was able to do with Hellblade a counter-point to this that isn't just talk? I mean, a 30-dollar price-point for a SP only, linear but AA quality experience for a budget of half the low-end AAA cost. It was well-received critically and (I think) commercially has earned everything back and is now bringing in reasonable profit for NT.

It's just a data point, but I feel like it's a pretty big one. The AAA SP game may be in danger, but is the AA and A market getting underexposed by big companies?
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,933
#43
I gotta say, thank God for Nintendo and Sony first party titles. I hope they will never stop making single player focused games without greedy monetization techniques.

Especially Nintendo is in a good place because of their gameplay first approach. They don't necessarily need to spend a huge amount of money on graphical fidelity etc.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,367
#45
Wolfenstein 2 launched at the end of October. Base game is €60 on Steam (around €50 on retail) and the season pass is €25.

One month later I got the Digital Deluxe version for €30 which has the game and the season pass. No DLC was even released yet at that time.

Publishers are actively making it not worth buying their games at launch, so there will be more people waiting for sales.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,224
#47
Is what Ninja Theory was able to do with Hellblade a counter-point to this that isn't just talk? I mean, a 30-dollar price-point for a SP only, linear but AA quality experience for a budget of half the low-end AAA cost. It was well-received critically and (I think) commercially has earned everything back and is now bringing in reasonable profit for NT.

It's just a data point, but I feel like it's a pretty big one. The AAA SP game may be in danger, but is the AA and A market getting underexposed by big companies?
Look at how much time Ninja Theory needed to just break even and look at their experiences and the actual quality of the game.

Why would a studio want to risk that? I personally only play SP games (except sports games and Nintendo games) but if I’m running a business, I would choose the option most likely to ensure the viability of the studio. Right now SP games aren’t cutting it.
 

Bhonar

Banned
Member
Oct 31, 2017
4,014
#48
Already a thread, but that's no excuse. Look at Hellblade for an example how to not burn through millions of unnecessary dollars and make money. And the game isn't even $60.
and how much net profit did Hellblade make?

anywhere close to PUBG, Overwatch, MOBAs, games like that?

it's not enough to just make any amount of money. the total amount matters in comparison to other games
 
Oct 25, 2017
4,295
#50
There is an obsession with the blockbuster game on PS4 (and I assume Xbox), but to some extent it’s reinforced by the platform. Even going to the PSN store you can see that downloadable titles are given their own little ‘digital games’ section as if it’s a second class purchase. Everything is directing people towards the biggest and longest and shiniest games. Yes that’s what people want, but it’s partly fuelled by what they’re presented with.

On Switch everything is treated equally on the store front, and directs give as much attention to the indies as the AAA games (mostly). Devs are selling more on Switch than many other platforms, and the console is being described as an opportunity for AA. Why are the Switch fans finding different games appealing than PS4 fans. They’re mostly the same people.

(I’m not just fanboying the Switch, I still play my PS4 way more. It’s just a problem I’ve noticed).