Kojima’s Sort of Right: Episodic Games are the Future
Episodic games have been popping up more frequently ever since Telltale Games popularized the movement for video games. Even Square Enix has begun to experiment with episodic titles like Life is Strange and the new Hitman. Not too many other publishers have taken the plunge, but now Hideo Kojima says episodic games will be the future and he’s right, sort of.
In a recent interview with GameSpot, Kojima was talking about his new title Death Stranding when asked about the appeal of episodic games.
“For [Death Stranding] I can’t tell. I’m not sure,” he said. “But in the future, I think this is a change that will definitely take place and I’d be interested. I don’t think movies in the future will last two hours, especially when people are already demanding more speedy experiences and delivery. So taking shorter time spans to develop, putting it out, integrating user feedback quickly, and having that freedom in game-making, I think it will apply to movies and TV too.”
This is a man who’s worked on games for decades, so he should know a thing or two about where the industry is headed and what the people want. Then again, he also introduced Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2, so maybe he’s not exactly on the same frequency as the average gamer.
Episodic games won’t get more popular because they’re shorter. They’ll become more frequent because of the lower price point. A cheaper experience means a lower barrier of entry for customers, so they’re more likely indulge. At that point, all an episodic game has to do is hook its audience, so they come back for more when the next episode is released.
Sure, it’s undeniable there are gamers who don’t have as much time as they used to, but compared to the price point, time will be a mostly negligible factor. Just look at your Steam library as evidence. Chances are you have a plethora of cheap games despite not having the time to complete them.
The main difference between games and TV is the price. It’s usually $60 vs free with ads (yes, movies are like $10, but that’s still significantly cheaper). Perhaps this is why a knowledgeable man like Kojima can be so wrong on some of these questionable claims.
“That’s where I think things are headed, having five or 15-minute episodes,” he said. “For games, having massive, long games will become a thing of the past.”
Unless this prediction is in some distant future after President Trump has finished serving his seventh term because of the preservatives in his spray tan (Gary Johnson 2016), massive, long games aren’t going anywhere. While we’re on the topic of post-apocalyptic alternative timelines, Fallout 4 made more than $750 million in its first day. If that game’s too old to remember, Dark Souls 3 just recently broke sales records for Bandai-Namco. There’s clearly a dedicated market for lengthy games that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
However, just because massive games are here to stay, doesn’t mean episodic games will vanish. Episodic games will increase in numbers and exist alongside the Fallouts and Dark Souls of the world. There’s nothing wrong with diversity, especially if they’re in demand, which both are. There is even a chance episodic games will surpass longer games because of their cheaper prices, but saying one will become a thing of the past is like saying horror games aren’t popular.
There’s bound to be some bumps along the way for episodic titles when major publishers start dabbling in them more often. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is a perfect example. What happens if a game’s unpopular and just stops being released. Could you imagine being heavily invested in the middle of a story and the creator won’t/can’t release a new episode, season or game? It’s happened to me more times than I’d like to admit with TV shows, anime and the Half-Life series. (Seriously, you could’ve beaten Half-Life 2 Episode 2 the day it came out, committed a felony, gotten out of prison and you wouldn’t have missed a thing.)
There are bound to be issues, but as long as game publishers don’t start gouging their customers, episodic games should start becoming more numerous in the near future.