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Introversion Speak Out: Play Our Bloody Demo

I haven't played Multiwinia against RPS yet, but I will now predict John will be the worst of it.

Chris Delay writes at length on the Introversion forum about Multiwinia’s release:

Multiwinia has the highest conversion rate we’ve ever seen. What this means is that every time somebody plays the demo version, there is a percentage chance that they will go on to buy the game, and that percentage is higher than any of our other games. This is excellent news, and generally lines up with our belief that Multiwinia is the most accessible of all our collection, the most immediately satisfying, and the most visceral and intense of our games. We can infer from his high conversion rate that people enjoy our game immediately, and that makes us very happy. By comparison, Darwinia had a very low conversion rate, at least initially, because we royally messed up the launch demo. The kinds of conversion rates we are seeing with Multiwinia are in fact excellent by any standards, and we should be very happy about this.

Unfortunately, a high percentage of zero is still zero. Nobody is playing the demo of Multiwinia.

More quotes and additional notes follow…

The obvious question is “Why?”. Chris aims it mainly in no-one having heard of it, as there’s been no reviews…

It’s been three weeks since we launched Multiwinia, and today Metacritic shows four reviews (the minimum required for a metacritic average) for the first time since game launch. By comparison, Defcon had nearly thirty metacritic reviews within a week of launch. Of the reviews we have arranged with websites and magazines, less than 20% of them have been published at this time. One british games magazine has declined to review Multiwinia at all – ever.

Which is pretty serious, as far as it goes, and clearly worrying. To be a little harder, I can certainly theorise why the latter ended up happening. Firstly, I know that review code for Multiwinia was relatively late going out – as in, around the week of release (Chris admits this was probably a mistake). This means for a print magazine, the review isn’t going to appear until a clear month and a bit after its available. This is something magazines do worry about, and at least bear in mind. Secondly, is the time of year. While Multiwinia is hitting just before the major rush of games, we’re in the point where all the major Christmas games are hitting. There’s only so much space in a Magazine. I dare say the one who’s decided not to review Multiwinia is a multiformat magazine. When they have to squeeze in all the Gears of War 2 and Fable 2 and Fallout 3 and whatever, actually including a smaller game is tricky. Especially when it’s a smaller game that’s been out for a while, thus no longer contemporary.

This doesn’t actually explain why there’s relatively few reviews from the online world on metacritic. Chris has an idea…

We’ve heard disturbing rumours from more than one source that major games websites are now cutting back on the number of games they review – and it’s games like Multiwinia that are getting dropped because there will always be hundreds of bigger games. If this is true and is widespread (as we are starting to believe), it has grave repercussions for all indie developers who rely on press reviews as their primary form of publicity.

I was actually the source for this – I was mentioning that I’m finding it harder to pitch Indie (or just smaller PC game) reviews to game sites. Admittedly, the site whose editor who actually explained why – in short “They get far less hits” – is one of the ones which has actually reviewed Multiwinia, which kind of undercuts the paranoia. But as a general rule, Chris is completely right. People talk about whether reviews matter – of course Halo 4’s going to sell a trillion, even if we all slag it off. Point being, reviews matter enormously when a game is smaller. If a gamer isn’t even aware of a game, there’s no chance of a purchase. For the importance of a review, look at Vic Davis’ of Armageddon Empire fame over at Newsweek. Specifically, look at the direct effect the mention in Games for Window and my own Eurogamer Armageddon Empires review had on it. Later, look at Penny Arcade – which is a different thing, of course, but still a clear example of the effect of commentary.

In other words, with only five reviews out there, it’s not surprising that Multiwinia isn’t being picked up enough. I’m not doing a formal review for anywhere – no-one commissioned me, mores the pity – but we plan to do a Verdict next week, after we’ve all had a chance to play it.

Chris ends his piece with two sets of pleas. The first aimed at journalists, and the second at fans. I’ll quote the second…

You guys are the other major reason Introversion is here. The word of mouth that went with Uplink was incredible. Across the Internet, everybody was talking about it. It was the underground hit of 2001. Many of you probably heard about Uplink for the first time on Internet forums, and this wasn’t an accident. At the time we asked our community to help us with this directly, encouraging you to talk about our game to spread the word further. The combination of growing numbers of reviews on bigger and bigger sites and our fanbase aggressively spreading the word on internet forums pushed Uplink to a wider audience than we could ever have reached ourselves.

Now we need you to do the same. You all hang around on different internet forums all over the Internet as well as the Introversion community – go to those forums and strike up conversations about the game. Include screenshots, link to the videos on youtube, link to the demo on our website (www.multiwinia.com). Tell people why you love the game, get them excited about it. Most importantly of all, you are bringing Multiwinia to their attention – they may have heard of it or not, but at no point have they felt compelled to investigate further and try the demo. You have to encourage them past this point. This is a game they have missed, it’s fallen through the cracks, but they should give it a try because its really good fun.

To help you with this, we’re working on modifying the current Multiwinia demo so that demo users can join a LAN game, so long as the host owns the full game. The purpose behind this is to make it very easy for you to play against your friends who don’t yet own the game, without having to buy more copies. LAN parties in particular are great events for trying new games – take Multiwinia along and show it to people, fire up a game and invite other players to join as demo users. They’ll have a great experience, and they’ll thank you for showing them this game that they’ve either not heard of or ignored.

The opening up of LAN play is particularly welcome, I think you’d agree. I actually think a future true Multiplayer demo would also help the game down the line, but that’s clearly speculation. I kinda think it’d be an idea to push that MP demo later, after the Christmas chaos has calmed down a little, but I’m just theorise.

I think Multiwinia is well worth playing, even if you don’t ultimately like it – though I also think you will. Like most Indies, Introversion go from game to game with the money for one paying for the next. In a hard way, Multiwinia not selling more than it is could be the end for the company. I think that’d be tragic.

Man, that’s a guilt trip, innit? Just play the thing, yeah? It’s fun.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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