[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]ove it or hate it, episodic games are here to stay. Especially with regards to crowdfunding games. We’ve seen a fair number recently have to split their game into two or more parts for one reason or another and there’s been a decent amount of backlash against cutting a game up into bite-sized chunks. With the recent announcement of Celestial Tear: Demon’s Revenge getting an episodic release I thought now would be a good time to go over the pros and cons for doing this.
Let’s get the big pink elephant in the room out of the way first. Anyone who’s been following adventure gaming (or just gaming in general) has heard of Telltale Games. While there have been other companies that have split their games into episodes they’ve busted out with the release schedule of giving out a part a month or so for each of their titles. From Sam and Max to Tales From the Borderlands they’ve done this with all of their games. And it comes as no surprise that others have followed suit.
The biggest pro for having a game go episodic is that they can release it piecemeal and have each succeeding episode be pushed out relatively quickly. The flip side is that sometimes the next part can take what seems like forever to be released. It depends on the development cycle and scheduling. For instance, it took quite some time for Broken Age to get its second half out to the public.
The closer between parts the better, though. As mentioned, Telltale usually has about a month between episodic releases, which is long enough to get the next part out but still keep the previous chapter fresh in players minds. If you have to wait months, or even a year, then you’ll forget what happened before. It’s a fine balancing act and sometimes you’ll end up angering players if the wait is too long. Case in point, the drama surrounding Broken Age‘s announcement of being cut in half.
Which brings me to probably the biggest reason for having to go episodic. Money. Double Fine created quite a stir when they had to reveal that the main reason to split Broken Age in half was because they needed extra funding and they were planning on using the money from sales to fund the second half. And this is probably a lot more common than you’d think.
Here’s the thing. Episodic gaming is on the rise. A fair number of companies are doing it for one reason or another and Kickstarter has seen its own fair share going this route. Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller released in four episodes, and both Broken Age and Broken Sword 5 were cut in half with the second part released sometime later. Dreamfall Chapters is releasing in five “books”, with the third one just pushed out. And the latest one to go piecemeal was the aforementioned Celestial Tear: Demon’s Revenge.
Which is weird to me as the vast majority to get cut up into bite-sized chunks are adventures. Celestial Tear is an RPG and how it manages to pull off the chapter releases remains to be seen. Still, most people are willing to wait between sections as long as it’s not too long of a wait. I know I have no problems with it.