The Flare Path: Indecent Proposal

By Tim Stone on April 19th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

In the summer of 2001 I bought a copy of This Blessed Plot at a village fête for 20p, never suspecting that the hefty tome was destined to sit unfinished on my bookshelf for the next twelve years. My failure to get any further than chapter 3 – ‘Russell Bretherton’ – I’ve always blamed on Hugo Young, Russell Bretherton, or Tim Stone (Perhaps I’m not as interested in Britain’s troubled relationship with Europe as I thought I was). A recent forum comment from the boss of the World’s busiest computer wargame publisher suggests another possible cause. Perhaps the book was simply too cheap.

Over on the Matrix messageboards Iain McNeil, the man indirectly responsible for more than 50% of the wargames released on PC last year, has been attempting to justify Slitherine Group’s (Slitherine Group = Slitherine + Matrix Games) plump prices, slim sale reductions, and unusual approach to back-catalogue. His logic is eye-catching.

You can read the full six-page thread here - a thread sparked by Slitherine’s decision to relaunch the less-than-fresh Pride of Nations at a £21.59 price point. The Slitherine position seems to boils down to…

Our games cost a pretty penny because…

  • They’re ‘niche’.
  • If we don’t charge what we charge, devs go hungry/bust and the games don’t get made.
  • “When you sell something for a low price people don’t value it. If the price is higher they value it more and tend to get more enjoyment from it… ”

We don’t engage in periodic Steam-style price-slashing because…

  • “The sales you have been trained to expect only benefit the store selling them as they vie for market share. They do not benefit the publisher or developer and the industry press is finally realising that and there is the start of a move away from these sales. We never believed in them and are being proved right.”

And we don’t usually do demos because…

  • “One of the things we have found is that demos for these huge games don’t work well. ”

As Slitherine are in possession of 13 years of stance-confirming sales data they “can’t share” and appear to be doing fairly well with their current business model, I’m not sure there’s much point in me grumbling about the fact that pickled prices, no demos and a faintly hypocritical approach to outlets like Steam might be bad for wargaming in the long run. Rather than spray paint day-glo circles around possible flaws in Iain’s arguments, I’m going to do something far more constructive with the remainder of this column.

Slitherine, in my pocket I’ve got a wad of £100 notes thicker than Tiger tank armour (front, lower hull), a gaggle of eager new customers, and a fistful of inestimable goodwill (plus a penknife, catapult, compass, box of matches, banger (firework not pork), vole’s skull, lump of putty, cable tie, and a Minic model of HMS Daring, natch). In return for a laughably small investment of time and money on your part, all can be yours (except the penknife, catapult, compass, box of matches, banger (firework not pork), vole’s skull, lump of putty, cable tie, and the Minic model of HMS Daring).

All you have to do to secure this no-strings windfall is put the following £10 Battle Bundles in the window of your pricey online boutique.

Simple. The work of a day or two. Worried about damage to future sales? Don’t be. The days when the military fossils marshalled below leapt off shelves are long gone. Concerned that folk won’t get to hear about this admirable initiative? Fear not, myself and, hopefully, many of my wargaming-loving peers will be publicising these bundles tirelessly over the next few weeks. Wondering how you can possibly repay this act of Jennings-style helpfulness? Cease your wondering. Knowing that 15 crusty-but-reasonably-trusty conflict curios are back in circulation is reward enough. Heritage wargames should be played not hoarded.

Battle Bundle #1 – The ‘Tin Win’ Pack

Included titles:

Spartan (2005)

Tin Soldiers: Alexander The Great (2004)

Tin Soldiers Julius Caesar (2005)

Current Matrix price: £67.16

Really: Yes

Any good: I don’t think I’ve ever played the Tin Soldiers series but I do like the look of those miniatures-style pieces and remember Flash of Steel’s Troy Goodfellow talking fondly of them. Spartan is quirky and slightly Civ-ish – Slitherine at their most uninhibited.

Battle Bundle #2 – The ‘Fulda Bursting’ Pack

Included titles:

Flashpoint Germany (2005)

Norm Koger’s The Operational Art of War III (1998-2006)

Close Combat Modern Tactics (2007)

Current Matrix price: £88.76

You’re pulling my Leclerc MBT: I’m not

Is the title pun absolutely necessary: No

Any good: CCMT lacks the strat map campaign layer of Matrix’s later Close Combat projects but has Atomic’s blood in its vein so shouldn’t disappoint. Norm Koger’s Art of War and Flashpoint Germany are as old-fashioned as smallpox but that doesn’t mean you won’t warm to their Cold War charms eventually.

Battle Bundle #3 – The ‘Operation Overawed’ Pack

Included titles:

Battles In Normandy (2004)

Carriers At War (2007)

John Tiller’s Campaign Series (1999-2007)

Current Matrix price: £113.96

That’s preposterous: You’re not wrong

Any good: There’s nothing ‘niche’ about this likeable trio except their current prices. An essential purchase.

Battle Bundle #4 – The ‘Scars & Stripes’ Pack

Included titles:

Gary Grigsby’s War Between The States (2008)

Birth of America 2 (2008)

John Tiller’s Battleground Civil War (1995-2007)

Current Matrix price: £83.96

Blimey: Exactly

Any good: I can’t think of a better way of wallowing in 18th and 19th Century US history. Except Scourge of War and Sid Meier’s Gettysburg! obviously.

Battle Pack #5 – The ‘Waterloodicrously Good Deal’ Pack

Included titles:

Napoleon In Italy (2007)

John Tiller’s Battleground Napoleonic Wars (1996-2007)

Napoleon’s Campaigns (2007)

Current Matrix price: £74.83

That title stinks: Affirmative

You realise you may have just forfeited your RPS pun licence: In a way it’s a relief

Any good: As with many of the games in these bundles, the interfaces and graphics aren’t brilliant. However, there’s enough strategic solidity beyond, to make the fust and frustration endurable.

 

The Flare Path Foxer

This bucolic Norman acre isn’t nearly as bucolic as it first appears. Nestling under 24 of those daisy-dotted hexes are German anti-personnel mines. FP has managed to wring some information out of an SS Sturmscharführer who was in the area when it was sown. Can you use the clues to work out the location of the devices?

According to the Sturmscharführer…

  • All 24 mines were sown in ‘open’ hexes (none were sown in road, river, woods, rocks, bridge or house hexes)
  • None of the mines share a hex.

The 24 mines are of three types: Bouncing Betties, Schu-mines and Glasmines

Of the 8 Bouncing Betties…

  • 2 are next to rocky hexes.
  • 3 are next to road hexes.
  • 4 are next to no mined hexes.

Of the 8 Schu-mines…

  • 2 are next to wooded hexes.
  • 2 are next to no terrain features (road, river, woods, rocks, bridge or house)
  • All are 3 or more hexes from other Schu-mines.
  • None share a hex column. (Hex columns are A, B, C etc)

Of the 8 Glasmines…

  • 1 is next to a wooded hex.
  • 1 is on an edge.
  • All are next to other Glasmines.
  • None are next to rocky hexes.
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98 Comments »

  1. Soulstrider says:

    The price of Matrix games is what makes me avoid their games, it’s not that they don’t seem interesting, but as they say, it’s niche games and therefore I am not going to risk paying so much money for something I may end up hating it.

    I fear that AGEOD will go the same way now that it joined matrix, thankfully I got most of their game that interested me while they were with Paradox

    • Llewyn says:

      Which is all the more reason that it’s baffling that ‘niche’ publishers and developers resist providing demos*. If your niche is small, and you’re not prepared to broaden it by reducing prices, then there’s all the more reason to attract as many people as possible into your niche…

      *OMSI people, this goes especially for you!

      • Baines says:

        I guess they figure that because they are targeting a niche audience, it will cost more to create a demo than the demo will return in sales.

        More cynically, a demo can cost them sales. Even within a dedicated niche audience, there will be fence sitters. For better or worse, a demo can sway such a person away from a title that they would otherwise buy.

      • Shuck says:

        If you’re selling a niche product, reducing the price doesn’t broaden the potential audience. It only increases how many people in that audience might buy the game. If you’re already selling to a good percentage of that audience, a price cut can be counter-productive. (Though if you never try it, you can’t really know for certain.) Demos are quite expensive – I could easily see that being a cost that can’t be supported by the audience size in this case.
        Most games are made for the broadest possible audience in the hopes of getting the largest number of sales possible for one’s marketing expenditure or word of mouth. Most games don’t make money, but the industry largely relies on blockbuster dynamics to turn a profit by having a few very successful games that make up for it. Wargames don’t work according to those rules. I suspect the company is (just barely) sustainable, and they don’t want to do anything different because they see the chance that it will make them unsustainable greater than the chance of it generating more revenue, given the size of their audience. I don’t know that that’s true, but they’d know better than I would.

        • Baines says:

          They won’t necessarily know better, they will just have more certainty that they are right.

          The linked thread has some counterpoints on its last page. Complex wargames and simulations might not be as niche as Matrix/Slitherine believes, and it may instead be Matrix/Slitherine’s approach that makes their games so niche.

          They can sustain themselves selling PC wargames as luxury games to a dedicated niche audience, one willing to pay high prices for their products. Since they can sustain themselves that way, and have sustained themselves for over a decade that way, their data shows that their way is the right way. When they pick up an ailing developer from Paradox, it only acts as a reinforcement that their way is the right way and Paradox’ way is the wrong way. (Of course a non-ailing developer would have less reason to leave Paradox.)

          But then you have Paradox. You have a company that does have success selling complex simulations with discounts and price drops.

          And in the last page of the thread, you have things like:

          “Victoria 2 is arguably as detailed as Pride of Nations, but had better interface & better performance. This gave it better reviews, and sales numbers at about 20 times what PoN has had.”

          “I’m 100% convinced that Pride of Nations, with a good interface design, and running on an engine that does not stall for 2 minutes at the end of a turn, would sell far far better than it did.”

          “All our old strategygames that people play still sell very good for us. As a comparison, HoI3, the most detailed game we ever published, which was released almost 4 years ago, gave us more revenue (on the basegame at 9.99$) in the last month than the total amount of money we ever got on Rise of Prussia.”

          As well as Paradox’s different view of why Pride of Nations had a troubled history. That is was enormously costly (AGEOD’s prior costs combined with 18 months of additional development after being acquired by Paradox), the game had really bad reviews, and received bad word of mouth due to interface issues and very slow game turns. Which relates to the first two quotes above, the belief that PON could and would have sold better if it had a better interface and better performance. Slitherine looks at the situation and instead comes to the conclusion that PON itself was fine, and instead only needed to be sold at a consistently high price instead of being discounted, and that discounts are counter-productive because there is no larger market for such a game than the market Matrix/Slitherine already sells to.

          • Shuck says:

            If the core, target audience doesn’t perceive Paradox games as being the same (reality aside), it’s not a fair comparison of situations, though. And what people are essentially asking here is for the company to risk its future by doing thing differently. Easy to say when you have nothing invested in it, hard to do when it’s your company.

          • killias2 says:

            It doesn’t matter if Matrix’s core consumer base likes Paradox’s games or sees them as similar. What matters is this – can what worked for Paradox also work for other wargames? Personally, I don’t know how the answer isn’t “well, yes, obviously.” Make your games more accessible (that does -not- mean simple, or stupid, or console-ized, or streamlined, see Crusader Kings II), get your games onto a distribution platform people pay attention to, get some good press, set a decent price, and occasionally have awesome sales – and your game will succeed.

            I think the amazing part about this for me is.. well.. their whole argument depends on this weird “us vs. them” dynamic. Hell, just listen to some of the language used. “These detailed games are never going to sell to a mass market.” Not only is that -incredibly- dismissive of Paradox’s own games and lots of other games that do just fine on the mass market, but it’s part of their “us vs. them” framing. Again: “Paradox has slowly drifted out of the strategy games market and is now targeting the mainstream with games like Magicka which has been a great success for you guys. The business model that suits this move just doesn’t fit these detailed strategy games very well.”
            Paradox Interactive as a whole, sure, but Paradox Development Studios, which Johan heads up, hasn’t budged their approach to games design an inch, other than somewhat more focus on accessibility. Again with the “detailed strategy game” vs. “the mainstream.”

            Matrix is just using divisive rhetoric to get people on their side. Detailed strategy games can do just fine on the mass market if you take an approach that.. well.. you know.. tries to embrace the mass market rather than treating them all like a bunch of mouth breathers. Are Matrix games going to sell millions and millions? No. But I think they’re myopically cutting off a huge chunk of their potential market and justifying it with bullshit rhetoric.

        • Lanfranc says:

          It’s similar to the Train Simulator people and their various addons, I guess. Paying €14 or more for a new train plus a couple of extra missions seems pretty steep to me (although I realise there’s probably a lot of work involved), but apparently lots of people are buying them, so…

    • killias2 says:

      Yeah, it’s sad that AGEOD got eaten up by Matrix. I have all of their games, but I won’t be buying further games at Matrix prices.

    • Kuuppa says:

      Same here. I have practically stopped buying games from Matrix Games because their pricing is just ridiculous. Panzer Corps was the last one for me.

      I don’t expect Steam-like sales. I don’t expect new games to be sold with 10 or 20 dollar price tags. I’m perfectly happy to pay 40 or 50 or even 60 dollars for a good and NEW(ish) strategy game. But I do expect that prices drop over time. I’m willing to wait for several years for that to happen. But with Matrix Games that simply doesn’t happen at all. Even if the games in question no longer work with modern systems I still have to pay a ridiculous sums of money for them.

      I used to be an armchair general. I used to spend massive amounts of time tinkering with complex turn based strategy games. And I used to spend lots of money buying these games. But nowadays that genre is almost dead to me. Has been for several years now. Matrix Games and others of its kind are slowly but surely killing TBS games with their archaic policies.

      Developers and publishers (and perhaps even gamers) of TBS games are living in the past. Rest of the indie gaming world have long ago left that desert in search of greener pastures (which they found), but people involved in TBS games have refused to see that world around them has changed. Instead of trying to benefit from this change, they have build themselves a fortress, Fort Niche, where they worship their niche status from sunrise to sunrise, believing it to be the supreme god that will save them all. But it is not going to save anyone. These people are just slowly killing themselves by trying to hold on to something that is long gone.

      Wake up! We now live in a world where Fort Niche no longer protects you but isolates you instead. Fifteen years ago it would have been nearly impossible to breach the walls of your niche and reach out for new gamers, but that was then, fifteen years ago. This is now. There are hundreds of millions of gamers that might potentially be interested in buying your games, but by just hiding behind the walls of your fortress you rob them of the chance to become interest enough to actually buy anything.

  2. Dezztroy says:

    Steam sales don’t benefit the publisher or developer? Bullshit.

    • killias2 says:

      http://hitboxteam.com/dustforce-sales-figures – Pretty interesting discussion from an indie developer on their experience with Steam and HumbleBundle sales. It might not hold entirely true for hardcore wargames, but I’m not convinced this is true. I always thought Paradox games were relatively niche, but now they’re blowing up all over the place.

      • Soulstrider says:

        From what I read in those “hardcore strategy games” forums, they actually seem to treat the paradox games as the COD’s of their genre.

        • killias2 says:

          Other than HoI, most of the Paradox games are really about creating stories. If you want a highly realistic hardcore wargame, you don’t really go with Paradox. If you want a Euro-boardgame-style, mechanically fine-tuned strategy title, you don’t really go with Paradox. That said, I absolutely love their games, and comparisons to CoD are more than *eyeroll* worthy. CK2, for example, is about as far removed from Victoria 2 and EU 3 as it can be within the confines of the engine and UI.

          • Soulstrider says:

            I guess my point was that from what I’ve seen from other communities they seem to tend to look down at Paradox games.

          • killias2 says:

            Yeah, that was my initial reading of your comment. Like I said, it’s not necessarily for those inclined towards Euro-style pureness or wargamey simulation-ness. They’re sort of story telling games in a way. Still, I absolutely love PI and their games.

  3. Damn You Socrates says:

    100 people will buy your game at $20. 1000 people will buy your game at $5. You sell the game for $20, and 100 people buy it = $2000. You then don’t put it on sale. The 1000 people who would give you $5000, more than doubling your money, don’t give you that money. You only sell 100 copies, not 1100 copies. If I’m a dev with Matrix, that sounds wonderful, please DON’T GIVE ME MORE MONEY.

  4. Didden says:

    Sounds like this chap needs to be in enterprise software sales. Or selling Quark with a dongle or something. I suddenly feel like SWTOR collectors edition was cheap…

  5. killias2 says:

    Haha, these guys can fuck -right- off. Steam is bad for developers and publishers? Is that why Paradox Interactive and Bohemia Interactive, both hardcore PC publishers/developers, are basically moving to Steam only? To hear from PI, they’ve never had anything like the money they’re now getting through Steam sales. It’s called Econ 101, with lower price you get more demand. It ain’t rocket science.

    But whatever. I’m just a hardcore strategy gamer who games almost entirely on PC. Why would Matrix want to appeal to me?

  6. NotInventedHere says:

    Foxer:
    Bouncing Betties A7, C1, D2, D6, E4, G4, I1, I3
    Schu-mines A5, B1, C7, D4, E1, F6, G3, I7
    Glasmines A2, A3, F2, F3, G6, H5, H6, I6

    • Skabooga says:

      My attempt:

      Betties: A2, A7, D2, D6, E7, H5, I1, I3
      Schu-mines: A5, B1, C7, D4, E1, F6, G3, I7
      Glasmines: A3, B3, E4, F2, F3, G4, H2, H3

      • Fleps says:

        foxer:
        S – A5 B1 C7 D4 E1 F6 G3 I7
        B – A2 A7 D2 D6 E7 H5 I1 I3
        G – A3 B3 E4 F2 F3 G4 H2 H3

        edit: I suppose I should have actually read your post rather than frantically typing mine in…

        • Skabooga says:

          Well, considering how closely spaced our answers were, if we end up having the correct locations, I’d be more than happy to split the Flare Point fashioned out of old C-ration tins with you.

    • FhnuZoag says:

      Schul: A5, B1, D4, E1, F6, G3, I7
      Glas: A3, B3, E4, F2, F3, G4, H2, H3
      Betties: A2, A7, D2, D6, E7, H5, I1, I3

    • Bob_Bobson says:

      BBs: A2 A7 D2 D6 G6 H5 I1 I3
      Glas: A3 B3 E4 F2 F3 G4 H2 H3
      Schu: A5 B1 C7 D4 E1 F6 G3 I7

      Good to see we all agree on the Schu-mines at least

    • killbilly says:

      Aw, dang. I misread one of the sentences about the Glasminen to mean they had to be contiguous, which happens to conveniently lend itself to one solution that unfortunately precludes the others.

    • mouserecoil says:

      SCHU a5 b1 c7 d4 e1 f6 g3 i7
      GLAS a3 b3 e4 f2 f3 g4 h2 h3
      BETT a7 d2 h5 i1 + 4 of below

      d6 rock road mine

      b2 c3 d1 c1 g2 h1 b6 rock mine

      g6 i3 road mine

      h6 i6 e7 a2 mine

      need 1 rock 2 road 4 mine

      so 2 mine + 1 rock road mine + 1 road mine
      (eg h6 i6 d6 g6)

      or 1 mine + 2 road mine + 1 rock mine
      (eg h6 g6 i3 b2)

      but there are many solutions (38 I think)

      • phlebas says:

        You’ve placed the Betties that are next to no other mines – if you place any other Betties next to them that will break. Eliminate those and you’re left with (I think) a unique solution.

  7. Jake says:

    I’m going to side with Matrix/Slitherine. They seem to be making money and prospering as a publisher/developer. I’m guessing they have a budget set for a game and they stick hard to it. And it’s working for them…everyone has different business strategies. Some work, some fail. Theirs seems to be working.

    I agree they could probably make some money publishing the above bundles. And we can all hope that they may take those steps in the future. But I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    • killias2 says:

      I mean, yeah, they exist. So there’s that. But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to pay absurd prices for their games, or that I don’t think they’d be more successful embracing modern prices and distribution platforms.

    • Zeewolf says:

      The problem is, how can they ever hope to grow their niche, which they absolutely need to in the long run, if they scare all newcomers away with their prices?

      • killias2 says:

        Not to mention lack of demos….

        • tigerfort says:

          Lack of demos boggles me. Please, give me a demo, even if it’s one mission out of 20. I love wargames, but if I have no idea how it plays, I won’t buy it.

      • Surlywombat says:

        The point I got from this is that they don’t think they need to expand beyond their niche. There is an argument to be made for having a steady business is a specific market, rather than attempting to expand out of that market and into new ones. It almost always puts your original market position at risk in some way.

    • Bhazor says:

      That’s like saying you agree with always online DRM because EA didn’t go bankrupt.

      No demos, crazy prices and almost zero advertising. They don’t even release trailers for some games. These are just terrible practices that are harming their company. The only reason they’re still afloat is that their budgets are so low and many of the developers have to work side jobs because the payoffs are so low.

      • Jake says:

        @Bhazor I disagree with always on DRM because it hurts my ability to play a game that I have LEGALLY purchased. If I choose to pay for a game I want to play it…whatever the price. So your point is irrelevant to this conversation. Matrix/Slitherine have made a business decision on pricing and they’ve been in business a long time and seem to be profitable. I can only take them at their word on that without seeing their interior numbers. As I said very clearly, “everyone has different business strategies. Some work, some fail.” They seem to be succeeding with theirs. Whether you agree with the concept is immaterial. People thought Steve Jobs was an idiot for keeping his pricing high and a closed platform…how’d that work out for Apple?

        @killas2 So don’t buy them. It’s your choice as they reiterated time and time again. They have a business strategy that seems to work for them. And what do you call “modern pricing?” XCOM was $49.99 at release, Bioshock Infinite was $59.99, Dishonored was $59.99. Were they ripping you off and having a terrible business model while being out of touch with their customers?

        • Bhazor says:

          And Ubisoft, Actiblizzard and EA are all still in business despite using alway on DRM. So that means its a sensible business venture and anyone who criticises it just doesn’t understand the industry.

          • Jake says:

            Thanks for sticking words in my mouth…I appreciate you helping me speak as I seem unable to at the moment. And btw, neither of us understand the industry since we don’t work in it.

            Anyway I think always on RM will fail for them and ultimately cost them a ton of money and they’ll stop doing it. As I said, and I’ll repeat this for the THIRD TIME, “Everyone has different business strategies. Some work, some fail.” We haven’t seen the end game on either Always On DRM or Matrix’s pricing structure so we don’t really know if they will fail or succeed. Since Matrix has been following this policy for much longer than Always On DRM has been around, I think they may have a good handle on their market and consumer tolerance.

            This probably a time to agree to disagree. But I’m sure you’ll keep trolling for a reaction which I will undoubtedly respond to! :)

        • killias2 says:

          I just saw that you responded to me as well. A few things:

          1. XCOM is a great example of what I mean. Sure, it was 50 at release, but I got it for 25 a month later. The problem isn’t initial pricing. It’s that there’s no attempt to go after customers beyond those willing to pay the initial price.

          2. I care because I love strategy games, and I think better policies from Matrix would lead to a healthier strategy game industry overall. Sure, I can just boycott, but I think it’d be more effective if I combined a lack of purchasing with a vocalization of my reasoning. Otherwise, they could just assume, “low sales? Well, it’s niche” and move on like it doesn’t matter. Whether Matrix believes it or not, there is a huge swath of strategy gamers who are interested in their titles but priced out of the market. I see comments to this effect almost every time I see Matrix mentioned.

          3. My own history with AGEOD bears this out. Before Paradox bought them, I had only the smallest sense of who they were. During their tenure with Paradox, I bought -all- of their games. Sure, they were discounted, but I never would’ve bought any of them at the Matrix price. After enjoying their games some and getting along with Phil Thibault, I even preordered AJE to support them. However, now that they’re chained to Matrix, I almost regret doing so. Simply put, I wanted to give money to support AGEOD, not outdated pricing practices. Unless Matrix changes, I probably will do as you said: stop buying their games.

  8. Zephro says:

    Pride of Nations wasn’t even released in a playable state, even with patches the sodding thing crashes every third turn. Without demos and the high price point I just have to give it a wide berth.

    I can’t justify any of the Combat Mission expansions currently or even the Scourge of War ones no matter how much I love them. They just need to get the hell on steam and use a normal price point.

    • Soulstrider says:

      I have to say the Pride of Nations as improved a lot, I haven’t had a crash in ages, though now mostly I only play multiplayer nowadays.

      19th century politics with 15+ players is incredibly fun

  9. Duke of Chutney says:

    ” the price is higher they value it more and tend to get more enjoyment from it”

    wait what!!??

    do you mean to tell me that all your customers are masochists?

    I own a few matrix games, the only one i bought direct from Matrix was Distant worlds (i payed £25 i think) which was reasonable. Ive enjoyed it, but i havent bought the two expansions due to their price (£17 each!). Do they really each contain almost as much new material as the original game?

    I have copies of both War in the Pacific AE and Korsun pocket that I downloaded illegitimately to see if i’d like them about 3 years ago (no demo for £70 purchase etc). I haven’t really yet got round to giving Korsun a fair shot, but WintP AE i’ve spent a couple of hours playing/reading the manual and decided it isn’t really my bag, i’ll buy empire of the sun in stead; http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/11825/empire-of-the-sun. Korun, if i do get into it (i.e. play it for more than 3 hours / enjoy that time) i’ll buy it. If i don’t it’l get deleted. I quite like the boardgame Hell’s Gate even if its a light offering and i think Red Turn covers the battle as well but i haven’t got that far yet.
    I also own Conquest of the Aegean. I got this off ebay though for £10. I haven’t played it all that much yet, but it is a decent game.

    I play a Battlefronts combat mission series far more than any of these games. Its just much more accessible, and also cost a fraction of the price.

    The problem with Matrixs pricing policy is they risk becoming irrelevant to the new war gamer (i.e. me, im in my 20s). If the board game market and other Pc game publishers out price them / deliver far better interfaces than them. There are two costs you pay with matrix; time and money.

    edit; oh i do have pride of nations. got it cheap on steam, have been defeated by its interface. And i play dwarf fortress!?

    • killias2 says:

      Distant Worlds is pretty much the only Matrix exclusive I want. Honestly, with how the 4x community responds to it, it could -definitely- go gangbusters on a platform like Steam. But, dammit man, I can’t afford spending nearly 100 bucks on a full game (i.e. – with two expansions).

      • Soulstrider says:

        Distant Worlds is also the game of their catalogue that I want more, closely followed by the the seemingly epic War in the East

        • cptgone says:

          same here. not gonna buy it though.

          i’ve helped kickstart every new 4x in space game i know. i own every one out there. and i love me some WWII strategy, too. but i’d hate myself for giving my hard earned money to those slithering mad tricksters. i feel sorry for the games held hostage in their ghetto.

      • Harlander says:

        Three expansions, soon…

      • JiminyJickers says:

        Yeah, this is one I caved in and bought even though complaining about the price and lack of demo earlier. I got the expansions at a 20% discount.

        I really like the game but it was way too expensive.

    • cptgone says:

      “do you mean to tell me that all your customers are masochists?”
      hey, they’re called S.M. (Slitherine/Matrix) for a reason ;)

  10. Alchenar says:

    The last page of the thread now has Johan from Paradox Interactive weighing in on their experience trying to sell PoN.

    If you want to understand the state of the wargames market right now, note that Iain McNeil is literally unaware of the games Paradox have produced since Magicka, despite them being the closest competitor Matrix/Slitherine has.

    He’s also totally flummoxed by the idea that Steam lets you track how much users play their games.

    • killias2 says:

      Wow, super interesting. For my part, I bought PoN on super sale, but I never played it.. because of questionable reviews. Birth of America 2 seems to be the most loved AGEOD game, though I’ve enjoyed the time I spent with AJE. The interface and turn speed issues were big ones for me to avoid.

      I think Johan is right, but I also think he could find a better way to frame it. He comes off as a bit combative and assholeish. McNeil, on the other hand, seems more respectful in tone, but, WOW, does he just dismiss Paradox without having any idea WTF he’s talking about! “Paradox has slowly drifted out of the strategy games market and is now targeting the mainstream with games like Magicka which has been a great success for you guys. The business model that suits this move just doesn’t fit these detailed strategy games very well.” – Pshhh, seriously? I mean, if Wester was up in this thread, that would be one thing. But all Johan does is develop “detailed strategy games.”

      • wodin says:

        Remember though further back in the thread Ian says the old pricing policy was illegal or should be considered so..so I think Johan was quiet restrained.

      • Bhazor says:

        Johan and Ian seem perfectly civil. Everyone else in that thread? Christ, it’s got more assholes packed in there than a sausage roll from Greggs.

        • killias2 says:

          I read through the whole thread later and, yeah, I take back what I said. I think Johan had every reason to be upset. Matrix was going out of its way to blame Paradox for all that’s wrong in the world. The main thing I don’t get… if Paradox ruined AGEOD so badly.. why did AGEOD sell itself to Paradox to begin with? Mayhap.. financial difficulties?

        • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          That phrase is as powerful and descriptive and amusing as it is existentially horrifying.

  11. wodin says:

    I agree with Tim.

    The other side of he coin is those developers of the older games are probably getting nothing in their pocket as I can’t see many sales going out the door for say some of the older SSG titles.

    I’m sure the developers of said games would much rather see them have the priced slashed and I bet you they start to get at least some money in their pocket.

    Lots of these older games I’m sure people would buy purely on impulse or out of curiosity, which they certainly wouldn’t do otherwise at the current pricing levels.

    I’m not expecting recent games price to drop or anything like that but surely selling games that are three or more years old at the prices they sell them for isn’t making the developer any more whatsoever.

    I will say no names but I have been told by one developer they aren’t keen on their pricing policy for older games and Slitherine these days want exclusivity thereby restricting you from selling them anywhere else to at least bring something in.

    I also thought it strange that Slitherine seemed to think it benefited the customers and take pleasure their search to make sure we couldn’t get any AGEOD titles anywhere else. Though I did buy WW1Gold for a small fee from Amazon (I had already bought it once but sold it on (well the base game anyway) to my regret so bought it from Amazon again. So you can still get the boxed games from retailers that sell them. They also stated it was illegal practice or should be considered illegal to sell the games cheap.

    They underestimate the amount of people who will buy these game son impulse or just take a gamble if the price was worth it. Finally they say they have a system that works better than any other proposed, however they’ve never actually tried out the other ways to compare.

    They say with regards to Battle Academy on the Ipad, they where told no way to sell it at $20 (Slitherines reasoning being that I suppose it’s a niche wargame and the high price will make up for low sales)..yet in the next breath say it was up there in the top 10 or whatever..which shoots down the niche argument and low sales. Yes I get $20 maybe abit expensive for an Ipad game but it certainly isn’t along the lines of $39.99 for a five year old game.

    One last thing. I am funny enough a big supporter of Slitherine and enjoy a few of their games and looking forward to their future releases. However I don’t agree with them on their pricing policy with regards to the older games.

  12. MachineCode says:

    Mr McNeil can continue with his business philosophy, but as long as he does I will continue being interested in many games in the Matrix catalog and I will continue buying none of them. He feels he is being “proved right”?. Well none of his developers have seen a cent of my money, with better pricing, some decent sales or better demo support they almost certainly would have by now. I think his attitude is self defeating. I can’t be the only one who feels this is the case. He seems out of touch.

    Give me a demo of one of your games and I might try it, if I try it and like it I might buy the full game if the price is good. Then I might get excited about an upcoming game in that series, or a new one by the same developer, or a similar game by someone else. Then I might buy that game on release at full price. The way it is now I can’t break in because I will not drop large amounts of money on large, dense, time-consuming games I might not like.

    ” the price is higher they value it more and tend to get more enjoyment from it” Perhaps for others this is the case but for me this is complete nonsense. Paying more simply means there is a higher chance I will be disappointed with the purchase, because the game will have to be damn good indeed for me to justify buying it at a high price and I will be thinking of all the other games I could have bought with that money. That idea feels like inappropriate marketing 101 nonsense. It might work with wine on the supermarket shelf but I don’t think it applies to games (and certainly doesn’t for me anyway).

  13. wodin says:

    double post sorry.

  14. wodin says:

    Oh quickly. Flashpoint Germany 2 and Command Modern Air\Naval operations look superb. Def ones to watch.

    I’ve linked this article on their forums.

  15. wodin says:

    Another point is when you think about the board wargaming hobby and the mini’s wargaming hobby.

    The boardgames must have HUGE production costs compared to a PC game..printing and materials alone. Yet you can get some great wargames with a box full of goodies for around the same price (maybe a touch more) a five year old PC wargame costs from them. These games are just as niche..yet new boardgames come out all the time and publishers like GMT seem to be doing fine aswell. SO it strikes me that the market is alot bigger than Slitherine realise. Thats why I think they where so surprised at the amount of sales Panzer Corps made..there is a big market. Those who bought that game would also buy other maybe more indepth or obscure titles if the price was worth the gamble. Most likely they’d enjoy them and viola more PC wargamers and and a bigger target audience. Juts look at the resurgence of tactical turn based games..they are the stepping stone to more indepth wargames.

  16. BooleanBob says:

    “Really: yes” got me pretty hard. Stellar work as ever, Tim.

    Oh, and last night I finished the Ken Tout you touted back in the Flare Path Reading Room. TANK!s for the recommendation (clearly I’d never be trusted with an RPS pun license of my own).

    Engrossing isn’t the word. I found this part particularly affecting:

    The wireless waves continue chattering away. Messages from our own Regiment loud and clear. Distant messages identifiable only as human, but lost in the ether, their language, nationality or service arm indistinguishable. Nearer voices, mainly Canadian, messages largely comprehensible but audible only when our own stations are silent. Occasionally swift bursts of crackling Morse. And then, in the silences, almost the whisper of atmospherics, alive, varying, almost having a meaning – like the incessant traffic of the dead in battle trying feverishly to maintain contact as they drift farther and farther into the empty wastes of eternity.

    ‘Will the lack of Stans, Harveys, and Bookies in WW2 tank sims ever be addressed?’, you asked. With the exception of Duffy and his ciga-fucking-rette (Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts, Bookish to the core, at least by reputation, although infantry), it saddens me to think it hasn’t, and ever mightn’t.

  17. Bhazor says:

    Interesting comment from Ian, he says he’ll be removing the AGEOD (Pride of Nations, Unity of Command) games from sale. Problem is he later says he’s still finding new places that are licensed to sell.

    This suggests he did not know about these stores. This would mean he really has no idea what the revenue of the company he just bought actually is.

  18. Soulstrider says:

    “They do not benefit the publisher or developer and the industry press is finally realising that and there is the start of a move away from these sales. We never believed in them and are being proved right.”

    What is proving them right though? Did he provide any example? Because I don’t see any evidence of the industry realizing anything.

  19. Mud says:

    Every game has a demo, it’s called youtube.

    • JiminyJickers says:

      This isn’t that valid. I took months for anyone to put a video for Commander: The Great War on Youtube. By the time the video was put up, I lost interest, if they had a demo at release. It was very very likely that I would have bought it.

    • phlebas says:

      You do understand that traditionally a demo would involve actually getting to play the game a bit, right?

  20. phuzz says:

    I certainly have games in my Steam library that I’ve picked up cheap in a sale, and never played, and if I pay full price for a game, I’ll damn well play it and try and get as much enjoyment out of it as possible.
    However, the amount of enjoyment I get from a game is not related to price I paid for it:
    Dishonored – £25 – not even bothered finishing
    FTL – £5 – still playing it today
    Skyrim – £20 – hours and hours of play, but bored now
    Just Cause 2 – £20 – Played it through at least three times, endless numbers of hours

    There’s no trend there, but I know that if some of the games in the article popped up somewhere where I could easily buy them with a few clicks (ie, probably Steam) for about £5 then I’d probably buy one or two.
    I might not get round to playing them for ages (or ever), but they’d have a fiver off of me that they’re not going to get at those prices.

    • Baines says:

      If Slitherine/Matrix’s games were available at competitive sale prices, and potentially with demos, I’d have already have bought some due to Flare Path’s coverage and praise.

      When I hear praise of one of their older games and then visit their store, I lose my interest.

      Honestly, after hearing more of their side and thoughts in that thread, I may just write them off permanently. I don’t believe that I want to give them any support. (Which, if I go through with that idea, means that I won’t be buying their Warhammer 40K game.)

      Edit: Going back over the thread, I might just suggest to friends that they also consider not supporting Slitherine/Matrix.

  21. Thurgret says:

    I picked up Scourge of War: Gettysburg, because it looked pretty cool, and I did indeed enjoy it– and should really see about playing some multiplayer of that sometime (it has multiplayer, right?). I can’t justify the cost of getting any of the other SoW games, though. Perhaps if they were cheaper.

    I also purchased Close Combat: Panthers in the Fog, from sheer nostalgia; I remembered playing A Bridge Too Far and Invasion Normandy as a kid, and loving them (and finding them brutally difficult). Having shelled out €40, I discovered a game which had apparently declined any opportunity to innovate, was possessed of an often downright dense AI, and with an almost meaningless strategic map tacked on. And if there was a way to merge or otherwise reinforce understrength platoons, I couldn’t find it — in fact, the mechanic preventing the deployment of more than maybe two platoons and a support group even when the strategic map dictated that I vastly outnumbered my foe was often frustrating.

    … and after that, I won’t be purchasing any more titles from Matrix Games. Not with their current prices. There’s no way at all, that I can see, that they can justify Close Combat being essentially unchanged in well over a decade, and still costing what I expect to pay at release for many AAA titles. And I think I’ll stick to Achtung Panzer for my WW2 wargaming.

  22. Stardog says:

    There’s another company that make war games for the iPad and charge £15 or something. They sell plenty to justify it. The numbers don’t lie, and if they made more money selling it cheaper I’m sure they would…

    • Stardog says:

      Here it is – https://itunes.apple.com/app/id499901136?mt=8

      Edit: I just noticed the company that make this is Slitherine. Maybe they are the only ones charging these amounts.

      • Bhazor says:

        It also has better graphics than most of Matrix’s PC games, it has a far better interface and is selling at a lower price than what Slitherine sell their 5 year old games for. Heck, it’s one third the price of their new games.

        More importantly it’s available on a huge mainstream store. The exact kind of thing Matrix is so insistent to avoid that they are now removing Unity of Command from Gamersgate and Steam.

        • MachineCode says:

          They are removing unity of command from steam? That sucks. That’s one specific example of a game I have been very interested in for a while now. It gained positive reviews here and elsewhere but I’ve been completely turned off by the price and lack of a demo. I saw it was on steam (which was surprising enough) and was hoping it would go on sale at some point. It did but the timing was wrong for me. Now it seems I missed my chance (or dodged a bullet?) and they have lost a sale. Its like they don’t even want my money or something.

          • MachineCode says:

            It does!? I was sure last time I was looking it didn’t. Ill have to check it out.

        • cptgone says:

          “they are now removing Unity of Command from Gamersgate and Steam”
          and here i was, hoping for a sequel.
          farewell, Unity of Command, it was good knowing you
          :sobs:

          • Spooner says:

            Don’t worry, Matrix are just one of many distributors for Unity of Command, not the publisher, so they have no control over it outside their own store.

            I think someone just got confused between Battle Academy and Unity of Command…

          • Bhazor says:

            From Ian in the forum

            “We know there are other sites who sell the [AGEOD] games and they may have them at lower prices but we’re removing them one by one.

            If you feel you can get a better deal elsewhere then that’s fine. All I’m saying is that that revenue will unlikely ever make it to Ageod as we have no connection to those companies Paradox licensed the games to and have to force them to remove them from sale and likely will never get them to report the sales. It’s wrong, illegal or whatever you want to call it, but it’s the way the world works.

      • JiminyJickers says:

        Haha yeah, Slitherine and Matrix is in a partnership.

  23. JiminyJickers says:

    Yeah Matrix Games games are definitely very expensive. I have bought a bunch though since it is the only place you can get some of these games and they are DRM free.

    I do generally like them but some of their games are poorly supported. I tend to buy their older games that I know are working fine after many patches. I wish they would drop their prices for some of the older games or release demos. It would definitely encourage me to spend much more money on their games.

  24. Hematite says:

    Oh crumbs! I read through the whole article assuming that this doesn’t affect me because I’ve no idea who Matrix or Slitherine are, but if Matrix are the parent company of Unity of Command this is terrible news! Everyone should play Unity of Command! It’s wonderfully approachable but also rock hard.

    You can bumble your way through a few missions by sending your tanks against infantry but you’ll quickly be shown how dreadfully mediocre a commander you are. You’ll start paying attention to the little details like weather and specialist steps, each time making a tiny but noticeable improvement in your performance without slamming into a brick wall of complexity. Soon you’ll be throwing your infantry into the meatgrinder just to tilt the odds in the favour of your prized panzers when they smash through the enemy lines for the chance at taking the objective a turn earlier.

    I’m super sad if Unity of Command is going to be locked up in the back catalogue of a premium price war games retailer – on its own it has the potential to bring war games back to the mainstream games audience.

  25. cptgone says:

    “If the price is higher they value it more and tend to get more enjoyment from it”
    “sorry, my love, i don’t enjoy making love to you, cause you don’t charge me for it”

    far cry from “can’t buy me love”, eh?

    • GT5Canuck says:

      I’ve no idea who Matrix or Slitherine are, but if Matrix are the parent company of Unity of Command this is terrible news!

      Matrix/Slitherine are one distributor for UoC. I bought it on sale from Matrix, but ended up buying it from Steam as well after I e-mailed the developers, asking if their Red Turn DLC would work with my Matrix copy, since the DLC wasn’t available on the Matrix site. Nope, it wouldn’t, and I quote…in principle yes, but: Matrix Games has not yet upgraded its version of UoC to 1.04. Once Matrix catches up, you can use Red Turn with either version (ours or Matrix), they are 100% compatible.

      Steam, of course, already had the upgrade, the DLC (and the base game on sale for 50% off, $9.99) so I picked it up. About the same time I bought Rise of Prussia from Steam for $3.99 ($25 on AGEOD right now, but when Matrix starts selling it again I’m sure it will be priced higher).

  26. GT5Canuck says:

    Tim, I created an account here just so I could comment. First off, the Matrix boys speak at length about pricing on this podcast http://flashofsteel.com/index.php/2011/01/13/three-moves-ahead-episode-99-war-in-the-east/. More than a touch of arrogance in their stance. Secondly, I absolutely agree with a bundle or discounted approach. My 200+ games on Steam work out to about 3 sale priced for every regular priced purchase. So about 50 of them were purchased at $20-60 each. My Matrix collection numbers nine, all purchased during their Christmas sales at about 40% off. That’s 9:0 sale to regular price. And I’m an old school wargamer in his mid 40s whose first computer wargame was Avalon Hill’s Midway. And Matrix can continue to miss out on hundreds if not thousands of my dollars because of their marketing/pricing approach. I’m quite fine with my Euro Truck Simulator 2, purchased at half price on Steam…

  27. belgand says:

    This is equally a problem with traditional, board-based wargames. Most of them have much lower production quality being a bit of a cottage industry and labor of love, but will often sell for $100-200. True, there’s a lot of game in there, but when your art consists of NATO symbols on a fairly generic map that, due to not being boarded, requires a sheet of plexiglass to stay flat I have it certainly keeps down the number of games that I’m going to buy. It also makes the genre stay niche by keeping interested parties from taking the plunge.

    For example if I want to get started with Advanced Squad Leader I’m looking at putting down $80 for the rules and then another $115 for Beyond Valor just so I can actually use those rules. Yes, there’s a ton of game there, but it’s a lot of cash to be laying out. Thankfully, Multiman Publishing realized some of these problems and decided to release the series of Starter Sets. For only $25 I can get my feet wet with a box that literally contains everything I need to try out the system. They even included dice.

    Or I could always play the excellent Conflict of Heroes. It’s not as detailed as ASL, but the basics of the system are rather similar, the art and production value is excellent, and the game has been a massive success. Something Matrix should know as they actually publish an adaptation of it. Price? $80 list, but as of this moment I can get it at Amazon for $58. A quite reasonable price for a board game.

    One could say that pen-and-paper role-playing games are also rather niche, but they give a comparable amount of gaming value for far less cash and are also often produced by small companies just barely making even.

    • vyshka says:

      A majority of the cost for the boardgames though are related to the physical production of the game, especially with producing them in such small quantities. They aren’t pricing the games that way because they believe Slitherine’s theory of pricing.

  28. farrier says:

    I can see it both ways, being in support of their pricing and against it, but when it comes to considering me as a potential customer, they’re losing. Take “War in the Pacific: Admiral’s Edition” for example, priced at $80. If I look at just the game, I’m interested enough to buy it. Then I look at the price, and they lose my sale.

    Where I can see Matrix’s point is that, I suppose, if I were really a hardcore, niche wargamer, I know I would pay $80 for WitP:AE. In that sense, for me anyway, they are right in that many hardcore grognards would pay a steep price to play a complex, deep wargame.

    The problem is, I *am* a wargamer, just not to that degree. I’d pay $50, maybe $60, but Matrix wants $80 from me or nothing. So, they’ve indirectly “chosen” to lose $80 in sales over $20-30.

    So, if I were a niche wargamer, I’d pay the higher price, and Matrix is justified. But if their price were lower, they’d already have my money, albeit less of it.

    But here’s the other thing — if their prices were lower, I’d have bought far more games from them than I have. For instance, two games costing $50 each — I choose one. But, two games costing $30 each — I choose both. I would pay Matrix more money. Of course, that means different things for the individual developers of those two games, since they’d lose $20 per game.

    So, that does make it difficult and, in a way, somewhat admirable I guess for Matrix. I know the numbers of what Matrix earns vs. what developers earn are *far* more complicated than this, but in return for passing up an extra $10 in overall sales from me, Matrix is making $20 more on an individual game for a developer — I’m just not giving my business to as many developers.

    Meh. Bottom line, I’d buy more games from Matrix if they were cheaper. But they’re not, so I don’t.

    • GT5Canuck says:

      Where I can see Matrix’s point is that, I suppose, if I were really a hardcore, niche wargamer, I know I would pay $80 for WitP:AE. In that sense, for me anyway, they are right in that many hardcore grognards would pay a steep price to play a complex, deep wargame.

      The problem is, I *am* a wargamer, just not to that degree. I’d pay $50, maybe $60, but Matrix wants $80 from me or nothing. So, they’ve indirectly “chosen” to lose $80 in sales over $20-30.

      Heck, I’m a diehard wargamer and I’ve purchased WitPAE from Matrix…but only when it was 35% off. I had the reaction you did…drool until my eyes hit the $100 (physical copy with manual, a must for this complex a game) price tag. And even then the game…no tutorial (even though documentation says there is), the index in the manual is irritatingly inadequate, and it seems the game does everything to convince you not to play it. Only fan support saves it from being a complete disaster.

  29. GT5Canuck says:

    Puppet demands conversation about pricing be stopped on Matrix forum. Matrix, growing increasingly irked by how many customers are saying $50 for a 10 year old game is unacceptable, complies.

    http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=3312181&mpage=10&key=

  30. belgand says:

    If your cousin is earning extra money in his spare time while working from his labtop I’d be rather worried. What particular branch of the sciences is he engaged in? This could be quite a problem for all of us.

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