Bloke Behind That Matrix Game Predicts Future

2Moons, but 0 functional websites

(Too mean? Yes, too mean. Sorry.) David ‘Earthworm Jim/Sacrifice/That Matrix Game’ Perry reckons he knows the shape of things to come – “the next big thing will be free games”, he told the BBC, whilst visiting Belfast to pick up an honorary doctorate for Doing Lots Of Stuff With Videogames.

He claims it’s the natural response to piracy, and reckons the ohgodithurtstosaytheword micropayment path is the one to tread. It’s worked out well with Asia, Maple Story being one of the leading lights, so he’s positive it’s the global gaming future. “It’s going to turn our industry on its head and I want to see the same thing happening in the USA and Europe.”

While his own experiment with the concept, free MMO 2Moons, seems a little troubled (always reassuring when a game’s official website doesn’t work), he’s hardly alone in thinking the West is ripe to give it a go. Battlefield Heroes and Mythos are the most interesting upcoming attempts to pull it off, and I suspect much hinges on their success. And on just how long collectormania can really sustain itself- if we do end up with a metric crapton of games using this model, will forever buying new funny hats lose its appeal after a while?

Meanwhile, another upcoming Perry project is The Fan Awards, another portal for homemade/indie games. It was due to launch back in May, but now offers a ‘coming with 30 days’ message. It’s a crowded market place, but the fact it’ll hand out prizes to the best games could mean it encourages some excellent entries. Which we get to play for free. Woo!

24 Comments

  1. andy says:

    battlefield heroes and mythos… definitely two games that i will play that i normally wouldn’t have ever bought, thanks to them being free to play.

    THAT, at the least, means that i MIGHT be a customer down the line, whereas before, i wasn’t going to be at all.

    A step in the right direction, for those selling stuff.

  2. EyeMessiah says:

    Hey dave perry make sacrifice free! It was great and the 30 people who were going to buy it probably have by now!

  3. Noc says:

    I think the micropaymenty thing is just a side effect, actually, of a different trend: the transition of games from being products to being services. The payment model isn’t a huge issue: EVE runs itself this way with a subscription model. TF2 does it with the one-time purchase.

    Between piracy, the constantly escalating rate of technological advance, and the modern gamer’s unquenchable thirst for new content, games-as-services seem to be clearly the way to go. Since the alternative is a one-time product that a) can be pirated, b) will age pretty quickly and end up looking both ugly and stunted as the next generation rolls in, and c) will be played for a little bit and then tossed aside, necessitating the development process starting all over from scratch.

    The free plus optional itty bitty payments thing, I think, is just a facet of this whole “service” model. Granted, it’s the facet that determines how money comes in, so is understandably pretty important to people . . . but I still think it’s secondary to having a game as something you continually feed people instead of kicking out onto the market and forgetting about.

  4. rektide says:

    Sacrifice is #1.

  5. GeorgeR says:

    Micropayments are a weird path to tread, but it is definitely an incredibly viable option. I know I’d much rather try something for free for a while then spend 50 bucks on what could be garbage. In fact I don’t. There’s a lot of games I know I’ve missed out on simply cause I’m too cheap to take the risk.

  6. MasterBoo says:

    Sacrifice is indeed #1. Best PC game ever made. Too bad Shiny took the wrong path with those bad Matrix games.

  7. thesombrerokid says:

    @andy
    good point dito, but i still doubt they’ll get a penny out of me, except in advertising, which you can do in a paid for game too.

  8. Noc says:

    Mr. Sombrero Kid: On the other hand, an high-profile free game presumably has a much larger playerbase than a paid one, which means that they can justify charging more for advertisments and can consequentially use that as a more substantial portion of their revenue.

  9. Geoff says:

    A big part of the genius behind micropayments is that, in the psyche of many, many humans, there’s a threshold (whether it’s 25 cents, a dollar, 5 dollars, even 20 dollars) beneath which “that’s not really spending money.”

    If someone charged me a quarter for something, I’ll basically forget having spent any money at all. So it can then charge me another quarter a couple days later, then again a couple days later, and psychologically I won’t feel that I’m really spending money on it. So given the right presentation, a service could leech $100 a year out of me easier than it could get me to sign off on a single $70 purchase.

    BUT, for this all to happen, said hypothetical money parasite needs to attach itself quickly and painlessly. If I have to enter all my credit card info to some new website or system for it to charge me a quarter… Forget that. Just the hassle of taking my wallet out and typing it in and wondering about the security and legitimacy of the site already exceeds the value of the transaction.

    But if we’re all financially hooked into Google or Amazon or Paypal or something in this visionary future, and I can dispatch one of my quarters with no more than a single click, then we’re back to that “it’s so small I’ll probably forget about it” territory.

    So I think whether or not the future goes that way has nothing to do with the games themselves, and everything to do with the dominance of some universal and easy-to-use money-shuffling platform.

  10. Erlam says:

    Wow, what a psychic. He figured out what’s been happening for years.

    I love his games (except Matrix Online, which I never played) but how on earth anyone would think it amazing he’s ‘discovered this’ is beyond me.

  11. cliffski says:

    Geoff, he speaketh the truth. Games need to be able to effortlessly charge you a few cents with no grief involved. I’d pay $0.05 to play an online skirmish of an RTS if I had to, no worries. If there was an easy to use system for integrating that kind of payment stuff, I’d leap right onto it. The minimum card processing fees scupper it right now :(

  12. Al3xand3r says:

    You’d pay 5 cents for every time you connect to a potentially horrible (perhaps too much for you, or too little, or an exploiter, or griefer, or just bored fucker who does everything he can to ruin the match…) player? It would be like gambling, worse than a standard monthly fee… Either way, that’s not the way micro transcations are going, and the way they’re going is even worse with making it so basically the more you spend, the superior you get compared to other players who spend less… Not fun either.

  13. Noc says:

    Actually, Alexander, the trend with microtransactions is heading the other way, towards either cosmetic additions or sharable items which help more than just the purchasing player. Because if the free people are being constantly outclassed, then they’re more likely to stop playing than to spend money, and that shrinks the playerbase and does no one any good.

    I agree with Cliffski in theory, but don’t like that specific idea. The idea of charging you invisibly when you do things is good for generating income, but tends to spark ire when you get the bill at the end of the month because you didn’t realize how much you were playing. Still, I like the idea of nanotransactions – payments of a couple of cents for things. Like in a standard MMO, for instance, being able to buy potions on the spot while out in the field, if you discover you’ve run out and a run back to town would be both time-wasting and dangerous. Making the payments small and offhand, for the little things that you go “Crap! I need one of these,” instead of the more cautious “Should I pay for an item that gives me more experience, or would it be more efficient just to do it myself?”

  14. Al3xand3r says:

    Cosmetic only will not last. It will get old and people will stop paying if it doesn’t affect the fun they get out of the game anymore, as the original article ponders. As for those pots, that’s once again giving an advantage to those who pay more. I can already imagine it, parties kicking people who don’t micro-transc enough out because apparently they’re less efficient as they have less pots available etc… It just wouldn’t really work for most people and the community would be divided with one getting the shaft a la Hellgate: London (yes it’s not micro-transc but it’s similar in this way) as developers would certainly want to keep the transc interest high and thus give more options and benefits to doing so.

    I could be wrong…

    I wanted to add this to my previous reply about the RTS stuff but I can’t edit that anymore:
    Not to mention there should be no reason to charge for RTS matches as the players connect to each other without much involvement from the company’s servers. I guess they could charge for the ability to use the server browser and online stats otherwise force you to manual TCP IP connection with no stats. I’m sure people wouldn’t put up with that either considering how many games come with free features like those though. I guess they COULD make it so it’s the company that hosts the server, but really there’s no reason to and it will just be seen as a greed driven move, an excuse to charge people for simple features, with potential for a very minimal gameplay benefit (having both players get potentially equal ping based on their location rather than who hosts and who connects).

    Can you imagine all the money Starcraft fans would have paid to play their favorite game if it used such a feature? Assuming of course their interest was kept on the same level after they realised how much they spend themselves. No matter how small the fee, they’d have paid for the game many many many times over in all the years of the game’s lifetime…

  15. Noc says:

    Alexander: X-Box Live disagrees.

    Edit: And you also can’t say that “This is the way things are going,” then when told that they’re NOT, in fact, going that way, respond with “Well that won’t last.” Are you talking about, and extrapolating upon, current trends, or conjecturing about trends that will emerge in the future? It’s advisable to pick one before you start talking.

  16. EyeMessiah says:

    @Alex: I’m not convinced people will lose interest in in-game personal cosmetics. I’d guess that as stuff becomes more accessible and takes in a broader audience games will increasingly focus on these kind of elements. The level of cosmetic “optimization” going on in online games already boggles the mind – precisely because to sane games like you and I it doesn’t seem to relate to what is fun about the game at all.

  17. Geoff says:

    Yes, X-box Live and Wii’s Virtual Channel stuff show you where things are heading on consoles – you pay a big chunk via credit card to buy points in the system, then the individual transactions take points, not credit card charges. This reduces the credit card processing cost that cliffski mentions, and almost meets my vision of the necessary payment system.

    I say almost, because it still bugs me to have to go re-enter my credit card and refill that thing $20 at a time, and doubly-so when I find I have to pay $20 *right now* to buy the $4 game I want *right now*. Sure, tomorrow I’ll have $16 sitting in there that I can freely spend without worrying about it, but today it’s the opposite of a microtransaction.

    Also this system works better on console, because the console company can force everyone onto the same platform: you have to use X-box live for your X-box download content, not Steam. On PC there’s choices, which is great in a way, but also prevents the sort of universally accepted and seamless system that you would need to really get people buying into microtransactions.

  18. DSX says:

    I spend about 30+ hours a week on a free game (“perfect world”) and have to agree with Noc that the game becomes a service if managed correctly, and micropayments become simply a shortcut to a shortcut. Some players can choose to employ it while others can ignore completely.

    PW is flouring on a system of monthly updates in terms of in-world content and bug fixes, as well as new cash-shop content that can be easily resold to all players using the in-game currency/economy. About Half the items are purely cosmetic, and the rest are items that make playing easier in some aspect. People who pay cash can get a good turn-around on their cosmetic goods, and use the funds to buy new stuff, and people who “game the system” without spending can still have access to cash store perks.

    It survives because the system allows users to use both real world cash and in game currency to acquire the items.

    Providing the game itself is interesting enough to keep people playing and looking forward to continuously evolving content, I can see that sort of model replicating easily across genres. The gap between those who pay and those who don’t isn’t as wide when a large portion of the community can be allowed to use in-world strategies to avoid paying for the shiny toys in real cash.

    What you get are different groups closer together, Those who pay $ a lot, pay $ a little, pay $ maybe once, and then those who pay none at all but have worked in-game to be “rich” enough that it doesn’t matter.

  19. Radiant says:

    A lot of them [micropayments] are not exactly micro [5 quid is not micro that’s two mastertronic games]
    As for the payment process… Credit cards.
    A large proportion of people playing a FREE game don’t have them.
    And the other payment systems used by games are absolutely bullshit and behave like they were thought up by gorillas and night club bouncers.

  20. Kanakotka says:

    Even though with little thought it may seem as if a logical conclusion, with more tought seeded into the matter, it is untrue. Anyone who buys games enjoys them moreso than receiving them free. Crazy, but true.

  21. Al3xand3r says:

    Well, Noc, I did chose one, I still stand by what I said about how it’s not the trend because the more vocal examples of micropayments do give players an advantage or offer chunks of content that are not mere decorations.

    I can mention things like Oblivion’s modules, the Battlefield series’ booster packs, the extra features in Hellgate: London and countless other free to play online games (Dungeon Runners etc), the additional maps for games on Instant Action (which incidentally makes the whole place a demo center & forces you to pay for the full in small chunks instead of just buy the thing and be done with it).

    They’re the kind of thing which has seemed to work out okay in the West, unlike the purely cosmetic content which has worked out okay in the East (if it has, I can only take people’s word for that, but I’ll mention that even for big in micro payment games of Eastern origin like Gunbound, the items you buy can offer much more than cosmetics). Of course, by saying work out okay I basically mean it divided the given communities into payning and non paying customers and made the free portions almost a demo of the full thing. Which is not something I stand by and I don’t see myself getting into these games for that reason (on top of them being average games at best).

    Unless I somehow missed many (just one or two wouldn’t be a trend compared to the amount of games that do otherwise) succesful games in the West which got revenue from selling purely cosmetic content in which case you can enlighten me so I can be a less ignorant person. I can’t say this is a field I’ve looked that much into just yet.

    Heck, if anything I’d love it to be like that, it’s a much better concept than dividing the players like Hellgate: London or Dungeon Runners does, I just think it would be hard to have people keep paying for cosmetic content only so they’d eventually do provide such advantages or content which is not just cosmetic.

    I also just don’t see any of it happening yet, at least nowhere near enough to call it a trend in these parts of the world.

  22. cullnean says:

    good lord will you 2 stop flirting

    oh yes where was i ….GIef EARTH WORM JIM PLIX

  23. itsallcrap says:

    However good an idea micropayments are from the games industry’s perspective, as a customer I hate the idea of being milked of my money on a long-term basis.

    The traditional system of paying for a game upfront and using it payment-free from then on is clearly much less of a swindle.

  24. Anthony Damiani says:

    *sigh*
    How many years have companies been trying to push micropayments?
    Someday, somebody will pull it off successfully in the west, and they’ll make a lot of money. Someday after that, they may or may not become a widespread or even dominant form of funding for certain games. Before that point, the ground is going to continue to be littered with the corpses of games that thought they had discovered a magic funding model.