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With the pre-order for Fall of the Samurai just announced and the Blood Pack released just before Christmas, there’s been plenty of debate in the community recently as to the whys and wherefores of pre-order incentives and DLC.
For some nuts and bolts answers, I put the more commonly asked questions to Rob Bartholomew, Total War Brand Director:
Why are there pre-order incentives?
Having a customer express an interest in a game before it is released is commercially important to publishers and retailers. It basically helps us budget and plan more accurately for the release of a game.
Placing a pre-order with your favoured retailer is a confirmation of that interest and it’s only fair to offer up a bonus thank-you to those gamers who put their money down early or with specific retailers.
Why, for FotS, can I only get one of the extra factions unless I buy the game three times?
There has to be some exclusivity involved for a pre-order incentive to work for us, the retailer and the customer. As you may have seen in the past, over time it is possible that exclusive pre-order content becomes widely available as DLC.
Isn’t this just a blatant money-grabbing move to make more profits? Don’t you make enough already?
Well, we are a business, and as you may have seen, many developers are finding it really tough to survive right now. A lot of the money we make goes into the production of our next Total War title. As we’ve shown over many years, we invest our money and passion into developing Total War games, and we try our best to get the balance right between commercial pressures and what we and our fans love. We have over 100 skilled and passionate staff here at CA working on Total War at any one time and that’s surprisingly expensive. Pre-order incentives are just part of our marketing costs rather than being directly profitable in themselves.
Why did you cut out 3 clans from the playable clan list just to make them pre-order only?
We do not cut game content for pre-order incentives. If we didn’t do pre-order incentives, these clans would not have been made. The fact that we can attach a direct promotional benefit to pre-order incentives means that we can justify spending studio time and budget on creating them.
The six main playable clans in FotS are all the major players in the Boshin war: Choshu, Satsuma, Tosa, Aizu, Nagaoka and Jozai.
Why is FotS £25 and not a £10 DLC?
As you can guess, pricing is complex and affected by many different factors, but the main one we care about here is that FotS is a significant Total War title, with a huge number of new features, and is much bigger in terms of new content than RoTS. In fact, Fall of the Samurai took more than seven times the effort to make than Rise of the Samurai. FotS is almost equivalent, in terms of size, content and play-time, to Shogun 2 – in itself a full-priced release.
Why do you make DLCs?
Essentially, we make DLC for the same reason we make full titles. We believe we make the best strategy games in the world and by constantly innovating and adding more interesting and fun content, we can continue to do that.
If you love a game, the chances are good that you might like to continue playing it with new areas, game modes, tweaks, characters, content and anything else that expands out the main game experience. The rise of digital distribution means that developers can offer up all sorts and scales of DLC so gamers can pick and choose what they fancy, and it’s turned out to be hugely popular.
Isn’t it just cut content?
No. DLC content is worked on in its own time and under its own budget. We couldn’t possibly make it otherwise. There has to be an end-point at which you finish and release a main game. DLC is a way for us to add extra content that we couldn’t fit into the original game’s time and budget.
It’s obviously up to the individual who pays for it as to whether they believe the content is worth it to them, and of course we’re really keen to make sure it is. But at no point is it valid to say that any content we charge for has been somehow held back from the main game. We simply couldn’t balance the books that way because a game would be more costly and take longer to make.
Anyone who’s worked in a job which has a pre-determined schedule for a set amount of work will be pretty familiar with the situation. You wouldn’t miss your deadline because you’re doing more work and hand it in a year later; you’d be shown the door pretty quickly.
Even for something as seemingly straightforward as the recent Blood Pack, it takes time and money to produce, test and integrate into the game. Total War is a large and complex game, and even the smallest DLC takes a dedicated team to produce. The Blood Pack required new animations, particle effects, sprites, and dedicated code to trigger all these actions and effects. It was by no means a small endeavour. And for various reasons the content wasn’t within the scope and budget of the original game; it would affect the age rating of the main game for example, which would have meant denying Shogun 2 to huge number of players under the age of 18. Building it after launch and releasing it as DLC gives us the opportunity to enhance the game after release, while keeping the core game available to a large number of fans.
Don’t the number of DLCs put off customers and hurt your sales?
We’ve yet to see it have anything like a negative effect on sales… quite the opposite.
It’s important to add that none of the DLCs are required to enjoy the main game, we believe they should always enhance the experience rather than be some sort of ‘I-win’ button, or offer a feature that can’t practically be done without (though personally I don’t actually like starting a new game of S2 without the Hattori, something about that start position…).
Are we going to keep getting more DLC?
We’d love to do more, for all titles, and the team has more ideas than SEGA could ever possibly let us put into production. Yes we’re a business, but all our games are very much a labour of love and the chance to revisit them and add new stuff is still exciting and inspiring (even after all that time spent making them in the first place).
In these economically challenging times, and with the continuing rising cost of game development, The Creative Assembly is in the great position of being able to continue making and expanding on award-winning games.
If you enjoy what we do, then thank you very much for allowing us to entertain you.
Game Director - Thrones of Britannia
Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed here are those of the poster and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Creative Assembly or SEGA.