Elite’s Braben on self-publishing and the perils of virtual reality

    
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Frontier CEO David Braben is interviewed at VideoGamer.com, and he has some interesting nuggets both for fans of Elite: Dangerous and for industry watchers in general. While Braben enjoys virtual reality, he also sounds less than optimistic about its mass market appeal. “Seeing your kids on the sofa, even more disconnected than they are now, with headphones and headsets on, I think from a parental point of view is going to be a negative,” he says.

Braben goes on to praise self-publishing and selling directly to consumers. He credits the Elite: Dangerous community with inspiring plenty of positive change in the sci-fi space sim, which he says wouldn’t have been possible under the old publisher-driven development model where game production was entirely dictated by whether or not you could sell a title at retail.

 

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PhoenixDfire
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PhoenixDfire

Dookii PhoenixDfire Styopa Have you heard about some authors go on about second hand books?  Have you heard some of the studio heads complain about these second hand Dvd/blue ray sales? Some music acts complain about that too (but to be honest are more concerned about piracy and streaming royalties). They’re just as vocal as Braben (if not more so).

The point is you don’t normally have thousands of the latest model of ford car in the second hand dealerships within two weeks. The shelf-life of cars is too different to compared as they’re not used for entertainment (unless you count my horrendous driving).

It’s a market reality that creative artists and organisations have to take into account and if the second hand market eats into your revenue stream too quickly, then there isn’t going to be sequels or expansion packs.

Dookii
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Dookii

houyi1661 jackinthegreen Those rounds tried to launch with 640×480 ressolution, a 60 FOV and a $2000 pricetag.

Dookii
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Dookii

houyi1661 Saerain You dont go out much do you?

Dookii
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Dookii

PhoenixDfire Styopa Yeah so? You see second hand bookstores everywhere too, i dont see anyone crying about that.

blackcatcrosses
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blackcatcrosses

houyi1661 Of course it will take off. All it needs is the interative p0rn app and it’s off like a rocket.

Styopa
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Styopa

PhoenixDfire Styopa Yep, after about a week of farting around IIRC, their service dept allowed me to give them the email addresses for the two people that I wanted to give copies to.  It was sorted eventually, and again IIRC, still before xmas.  So no harm (except I was surprised at how bad their ecommerce site was for a self-distributed game…seems like that would have been a priority?).

Again, I’ll reiterate: Car builders only get to sell their products once.  Home builders only sell their product once.  Painters/sculptors only sell their product once.  Authors of books only get to sell their product once (although they’re trying belatedly to fix that).  I absolutely, categorically deny that ‘software’ (or movies, or music) are entitled to be treated differently.  If they have a problem with illegal copying, that’s a SEPARATE question, and I’m perfectly fine with ‘check-in-online’ strong DRM (nobody with the wherewithal to own an electronic media device can complain today that they ‘can’t get to the internet somehow’).  
If devs have a problem with resales, then the answer is that they aren’t delivering enough content to hold users for the price they charge, and it’s a market-approach issue, not the consumer’s ‘fault’.  Frankly, I believe MMOs are a solution: how many “used” copies of WoW have you seen?  GW2?  Almost none (compared to the number sold) because the content is ongoing.  But console games (as an example) have started this ridiculous trend that consumers are supposed to pay $50 for 30 hours of content.  Some will, that’s fine; but to then LOCK OUT subsequent consumers (who’ve paid virtually in time, waiting for the resale used versions to come out) is simply dickish.  It’s one reason I don’t play consoles, their approach to their systems and content is tyrannical and frankly drives me away as a customer.

PhoenixDfire
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PhoenixDfire

Styopa I think his point is perfectly valid about the retail space and rebuy. When you buy a second hand game, then no money goes to the developers for next game. It’s only the store that makes money off that resell. So you could have a massive hit on your hands but you don’t see a penny from any of the rebuys.

You bough three versions? Wow! Did you contact the support department about having those copies ‘gifted’ to someone else? The support department was horrendous when the game was released but they have improved lately.

The original reasons (and even after this time I still believe FD)  was down to their realising how easy it was to reverse engineer the client at launch and how people could use that information to hack the main game. I was hacked off about the offline thing but only because if the game was ‘sunset’ then we’d loose the game completely. Braben reassured us that if E:D was ever closed down, they’d release the galaxy and simulation to the community so people could still play without the servers.

Styopa
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Styopa

I enjoyed the interview until:
“…To me, the last nail in the coffin of retail was pre-owned, which just took the legs out of the long tail. Which is where you make back your money: to have to make it back in the first two weeks is lethal….”
I bought your game, Mr Braben.  In fact I bought THREE pre-release despite your crappy, crappy esale website that had no function whatsoever to allow gift-purchases.  I moderately enjoy it in small doses (ok, I thought that first month was utterly dull; I haven’t been back but I’m looking forward to winter when I spend more time indoors to get re-acquainted with it, and believe it’ll be fun by then).
However – with the above statement?  F you and the horse you rode in on.
EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY IN THE WORLD (aside from those niches lobbied by the RIAA/MPAA who are also piratical bastards) WORKS ON THAT PRINCIPLE.  If I buy a stapler, use it for a while, and then don’t need it, I can re-sell it.  If I buy a book, enjoy it, then I can resell it at a garage sale.  I’m honestly surprised that he would utter such a thing, because the used-game resale model was murder to shitty games that charged you $50 for 30 hours of content; yes, I get that resales would whack such a product (and rightly so; “entertainment” value is commonly judged by the ‘movie’ yardstick: if I can rent a new movie for $2 for 2 hours of entertainment, then $50 for 30 hours is “not worth it”)  Elite, on the other hand, is veritably HUNDREDS of hours of entertainment.  As long as you have strong DRM (developers are entitled to prevent piracy) then I don’t see that a lot of people are going to ‘return’ Elite after they’ve “finished” it.
In fact, that sort of a statement makes me even more suspicious of Elite’s last-minute “oh sorry, we won’t be allowing offline play” nonsense.  I was willing to extend him/them the benefit of the doubt on that as plans simply change, but his stance suggests that his intent was in fact specifically to prevent resale.

houyi1661
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houyi1661

Telos_ houyi1661 streamers help raise profile, and for new hardware you need to reach a critical level at which people start making enough programs that use it to make it worth buying for people beyond the niche audience.
Getting exposure from streamers helps, but i cant see it happening much with VR as you need the hardware already to experience content created by it!

It could be the best thing since sliced bread…..but if it does not attract enough people, no one will make games that really use it, and so it will never take off. Many other hardware projects have failed because they fail to attract enough interest, no matter how good an idea it sounds.

I will wish it all the best, but remain skeptical.

houyi1661
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houyi1661

jackinthegreen houyi1661 mate, I’ve seen at least 3 rounds of VR being “the next big thing”…its not that I dont want it to work, I have no objections to it, I just fail to see it really working on a practical level.