By John Walker on April 11th, 2013 at 8:00 pm.
You wait thirty years for a indie game project to be barraged by fans after saying they were going to charge for DLC and then changing their minds as a consequence, and then you forget how this sentence even began. In the case of Squad, who make the ship-building-and-flying space sim Kerbal Space Program, this occurred after fan misinterpretation of the promise that all “updates” would be free. For 3 Sprockets’ Cubeman 2, it was the use of in-game purchases in promotional material for the main game that caught players’ ire. Both have had diplomatic changes of heart.
3 Sprocket’s situation was perhaps the more egregious. After a very successful launch on Steam for the strategy shooter, a lot of their community began to realise that items used to promote the game in their advertising turned out not to be included in the initial purchase. The consumer legality of such a thing is a little wobbly – really the bigger issue here is just letting down customers. So the developers have acted quickly, and declared that all the IAPs (in-app purchases) used in their promotional materials will now be free. Indeed, you can get the whole lot for free if you bought or buy the game this week, witha “GET FREE GIFT” button appearing in the Customisation menu, that’ll unlock all the skins and themes. And indeed, anyone who purchased any DLC this week will get a refund.
The game’s only a fiver in the first place, which 3 Sprocket hope to support with in-game purchases, so there will of course be non-free ones to come soon.
The situation with Kerbal seems a little bit more to do with miscommunication. In the game’s FAQ, it states that if you buy the game now while it’s still in alpha, “you won’t have to pay for further updates”. By which developers Squad meant all patches and fixes. But of course the buyers of the game interpreted to mean all future DLC. Things kicked off yesterday when lead designer Felipe Falanghe said they had decided to delay some features for an expansion pack, which they’d charge for. Community explodes.
Again, rather than trying to win the argument, Squad have opted for a change of mind, and now say that those who’ve bought the alpha, and those who buy it before the end of April, will receive all future expansions and content for free. Which is a fairly big change, but they told Eurogamer, “A promise is a promise.”
The lesson here, indies? Word things carefully! Both teams will obviously take a financial hit as a result of their honouring their community’s understandable expectations, which could obviously have been avoided if there had been a better emphasis on clarity in the first place. Making games is hard, but selling them might be even harder.