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The internet debate over TW: Warhammer's DLC and pre-order bonus content has ranged from troubling to horrific. In the studio it's sparked off a huge "wtf do we do about it" debate. A good portion of us have been arguing that whatever we say in response will just fan the flames - that there is no possible response we can actually make that would make it better.
I don't think this is true. I think the nature of our games means our players are intelligent and rational thinkers, and if we share with them the problems that we face, maybe they can help guide us to the solution that brings maximum happiness to the most players. That solution may be exactly what we are planning, but if it's something better we wouldn't hesitate to execute it.
So, the first thing we need to agree on is what we're trying to achieve - I've stated it as the maximum happiness for the most players. Even if you're uber-cynical about our motives and think that we're only interested in money, we should still agree on this because maximum happiness for the most players equals good business for us. In the long run having lots of happy customers enjoying what we make is really the only thing that's important.
As it happens, for us money isn't our main objective, but just like income in a TW campaign, it's important because more money lets us do more stuff. We can invest more in supporting products in the past, make more varied and higher quality games in the present, and invest in technology for the future.
Also, just like a TW campaign, we have to figure out the best strategy for maximising the number of happy players. Our general approach is to make the games we want to play and hope players agree with us, rather than trying to second guess what players might want and doing that. In the case of Warhammer, we want it all. All the races. All the units . All the magic. As authentically as we can possibly make it. With the best possible TW gameplay in there too.
When we were first planning the project, it was immediately obvious that this was a bit of a problem. All that lot was going to cost four times as much to build as the contents of the treasury. We were going to need more resources. Lots more resources.
To get that investment from SEGA (who are always supportive in backing us), we demonstrate that we can release a great game that results in a lot of happy players. But in order to do that with Warhammer content, it has to be split up into reasonable pieces in order to do all of it at a reasonable resource cost.
The only way we can have all the races, all the units, all the magic, all authentic and super high quality is by building it up in multiple products; and for each of them we have to give a plausible prediction of how many people will be happy to buy it, so we can justify the cost of making it.
Now I'm going to massively oversimplify this, but here's the problem…
A full game’s-worth of development resources (time, money, people) can only support a certain amount of content. In this case it works out as four playable races. There’s so much depth, breadth and variety in them, these races really are a huge investment to make above the factions of previous games.
DLCs also support a certain amount of content, less than a main game of course but big enough to add more playable races, or add extra stuff to existing races in the case of smaller DLCs.
Additionally, DLC's that come out in the first 6 months get even more resources (as they will sell a lot more), and a good value pre-order incentive increases sales of the main game, allowing yet more content to be added into the main game.
And we try and over-deliver; because we’re making the game we want to play.
To release DLC within that 6 months after release, we have to start on it well before the game is finished. It’s outside the scope and budget of the main game, but it’s developed in parallel. We hired a whole extra team to do this because in total it's almost as much work as the original game.
If we were to add this extra content to the main game, we’d be operating at a loss, which we wouldn’t do.
So in TW: Warhammer’s case, we had our four main playable races sorted, and we’ve planned for Chaos to have a big role to play later in the trilogy. But we really wanted Chaos Warriors in the main game, even without DLC – to give a big, bad end of game "boss" enemy Race for all players. But we couldn’t do that within the resources for the main game. So we added it as the pre-order incentive that also gets sold on day one – making Chaos Warriors fully playable but also giving us the extra resources to add them as an Ai race for everyone.
So is adding chaos as a pre-order incentive "cut content"? I think the opposite is true. If we didn't add it to the pre-order, it would have been DLC later on and not in the game at release.
We thought we'd done well. Maybe there is a better solution - we're listening to all suggestions for the future. Maybe pre-orders are becoming so toxic they will stop working altogether. You'd hope not though, as it quite simply means those incentives will end up just being paid DLC after launch.
Pre-orders create buzz, improve sales and give the whole studio confidence in what we’re doing. They genuinely let us give you something for nothing, and you can't lose – if you aren’t happy with the final game, you should explore your refund rights. Even if you don’t pre-order, you get Chaos as an Ai opponent.
Without wanting to repeat too much of what Mike’s said, here’s a bit more on the nature of the pre-order, what we’re going to do about showing you more of the game, and independent press and community reviews.
Chaos Warriors in the Main Game
Just to make it totally clear, as we saw some confusion, Chaos Warriors do make an appearance in the main game; you don’t need the DLC to see them, just to play as them.
***Light Spoilers Start***
It might not be a big spoiler, especially if you’re a fan of the lore, but suffice to say that the endgame in TW: Warhammer revolves around massive armies of Chaos Warriors, led by Archaon the Everchosen, descending on your race from the Chaos Wastes.
As the machinations of a certain character are revealed, Archaon will arrive – just when you think your immediate worries are under control (in uniting the empire, righting your grudges or otherwise banging some ‘eads together). Your Legendary Lord will then have something epically serious to contend with.
So while not intended to be a fully-fleshed out playable faction, Chaos Warriors are in the main game as an important ‘big opposition’ to give you a hard challenge towards the end of your campaign game. They appear even if you don’t have the Chaos Warriors Race Pack DLC.
The Race Pack enables you start a Grand Campaign as the Chaos Warriors, with a much-expanded roster and extra Legendary Lords to choose from. The Ai will then also take advantage of this expanded roster if you play another race in opposition.
*** Spoilers End***
Also to say, Chaos Warriors aren’t the same as Chaos Daemons; we are treating them as separate, just like the tabletop army books. Later on in the trilogy, you will be exposed to the full horrors of the Realm of Chaos.
About Pre-order Bonuses
We know pre-ordering is a leap of faith, but as Mike says it’s a very helpful indicator of interest in the game.
To help incentivise that and to say thanks for putting your faith in us early, we offer a pre-order bonus.
We try to make those as good as possible. Not just to convince you, but to add value as much as we can.
In the past we’ve done simple single units or factions as pre-order bonuses that were exclusive to certain retailers (see TW: Empire). We didn’t feel that was totally great as, even if you did pre-order, you never got all the available content because it was exclusive (either to a single retailer or it wasn’t available after launch).
So now we have a dedicated production budget to generate DLC in support of the main games, and we assign some of that cost to helping create a really great pre-order bonus. And what’s more we can make it available to buy from day one if you don’t want to pre-order. So the advantage is there if you do put your money down early, but you don’t miss out entirely if you decide not to.
And also you can wait for a sale after launch and still pick it all up, again because it’s not exclusive to a retailer.
We think it’s better to take the opportunity of doing a pre-order bonus and make it the best value we can.
Finally, you can take advantage of Steam Refunds, or any refund programme offered by your favourite retailer (and please check with them what it is before pre-ordering). We absolutely want you to be happy with what you’re buying and we’re committed to offering a deep and satisfying game.
I don’t want to pre-order without seeing more of the game or a review!
That’s entirely and absolutely reasonable. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the game yet and there’s plenty more to come. Soon, through the eyes of the Greenskins, we’ll be showing you campaign gameplay for the first time. Then there’s lots, lots more, including plenty of livestreams, Lets Plays and Youtuber and press coverage.
Also, for TW: Warhammer we are going to be doing the same thing we did with TW: Attila. Reviewers and Youtubers are going to get the final game before release and can make their own Lets Plays and publish their own reviews in advance of the game going on sale.
Before release day, you should be in a position where you can read reviews and see the impressions from your favourite Youtuber, and still have time to decide if you want to pre-order.
If for whatever reason we aren't in a position where we can send code out to review and give people enough time to review it before release, we will move the release date back until we can.
We know that at the end of the day it is on us to prove to you that the game we’re making is incredible. We hope to do that.