The VGU crew discuss their feelings on the episodic game release format.
If you gander over the site, you’ll notice a common theme pop up. The writers here love a certain genre of games. Maybe you’ll realize it from a certain list ranking Telltale Games. Or where one game ranked on our 2020 Game of the Year list. Maybe it’ll be the roundtable of games we wish they made. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m talking about episodic games.
However, after the reveal of Life is Strange: True Colors, the staff started talking. Specifically, whether we liked Life Is Strange: True Colors releasing all at once, or if we prefer the episodic game approach. So we thought, why not just make a topic about it? So here it is. A few of us here at VGU decide to discuss our thoughts on the episodic game release structure and whether we love it or hate it.
Josh Miller – Hypertime Host
I HATE IT!
There are a few points I want to touch on as to why I hate the episodic game release schedules. First, and probably most criticized, are the delays. Too often has an episodic game planned monthly release gone sour. What should be a five-month span with one episode releasing a month inevitably extends beyond that. Tell Me Why is an outlier in that it released weekly in August and September of last year. Tales From the Borderlands though? Ten months. Same with The Wolf Among Us and Life is Strange. Guardians of the Galaxy was eight months. Consistency was always rough.
To pair up with the release schedule was the cost. Especially with Telltale. Season passes to get all episodes would release for $29.99 when the first episode dropped. By the time the last episode released, the season pass would be on sale. Sometimes before then. When this happened repeatedly, I asked myself why would I bother spending full price to experience a game over a span of 10 months? I could wait until the last episode drop, pay half the amount, and experience the full game in the same week the final episode released. It seemed absurd.
The last reason I’ll mention is the fear of being invested in other games between episodes. Let me give you an example. The Walking Dead: A New Frontier released throughout 2016 and 2017. Episode 3 dropped at the very end of March with episode 4 hitting a month later. Do you know what else came out at that time? Persona 5. Not a game you can finish over the weekend, and one that sinks its teeth into you hard. Nothing could pull me away from that game. That’s ultimately another problem with episodic releases. They hope that you will be there for each episode, and depending on what else releases, that may not be the case.
There are more reasons, but those are what I will leave here. Ultimately there are so many factors that, for my playstyle, lessen or ruin my enjoyment of an episodic game. Games like Until Dawn or Asura’s Wrath have shown you can have breaks in a game similar to episodes that give the urgency of experience to the player, not the publisher/developer. That way I can experience a chunk of a game daily, weekly, monthly, whatever; but it will be at my pace. I will take that any day over episodic releases.