The Old, The New, and the 8-year-old-technically-in-Beta

TL;DR: CMV, Pablo is right about old stuff not being worth the revisit

Recent comments by certain sainted individuals during Tennocon have stirred up an ongoing debate among Warframe fans, and I started writing a response to it in another thread but it got long enough to justify its own post.

Old stuff isn't worth a revisit. New stuff is where the returns are. As players, we can rage or we can lean in to enjoying that. (or we can do both, more realistically)

DE has been saying this from day one–in fact, the entire MMO industry has been saying this for decades.

I (perhaps mistakenly, it was a while ago) remember a documentary about EverQuest (1999) that said the same thing that Pablo said. Going back and tuning old stuff is rarely worth it for the company no matter how much they and their fans may want to. They'll keep the lights on by banking on peoples' evergreen addiction to novelty. Whatever they produce, it'll be burnt through in maybe a hundreth of the amount of time it took to produce it, and then the players who showed up to play it disappear forever. Until the next new shiny.

This makes a lot of sense in my personal experience. I started Warframe in 2013. At roughly the same time I've played absolute gems of games with tight, focused design, thorough balancing, and layer upon layer of polish, like Transistor (2014) for example, but they will only last maybe 60 hours for me. Fucking artisanal in their craft, but they still only got $40 from me (and a chunk of that is for the OST, not even for the game).

With nearly 7,000 hours according to Steam, Warframe is a game I keep coming back to on the other hand, soaking in the novelty and compulsively farming and grinding while I eat a sandwich or drag myself through doldrums. Then I'm done and play something else. It is not artisanal, it is in fact basically known for its haphazard games-as-a-service bugginess. In order to reach $40, I'd have to have chosen to put in a half-a-US-cent-per-hour for my playtime. (Realistically, I've paid much more than $40 because you're also factoring all the times I've logged on drunk or got coupons. ).

While there is incredible quality and production value here and there, the revenue cycle is that of a fast food restaurant (where you pay what you want–perhaps it's more like a soup kitchen than a fast food restaurant, actually). Fine, the soft taco gave you the runs. But this crunchwrap looks good, try this instead! Fine, it was a little soggy towards the end there. But this quesadilla looks good, try this instead! By the way, you didn't need to pay upfront for any of it. You can leave at any point–and it don't mean jack to them, because there's a bunch of people in line behind you.

One-time purchase games are like going to a nice restaurant. You pay more, you pay up front, but you get a whole tailored experience and a college grad recommending a good wine to go with your fresh caught halibut prepared by a professional chef. Not that the fast food restaurant doesn't employ professionals–but the constraints on their products are entirely different. If you up and leave without paying your bill, the restaurant is fucked because it took a whole lot of doing to get that seat ready for you.

But anyway which one will make money, support its artists, hire more employees, and turn out more content over time?

Now, there are exceptions. It is possible to have spent so long on a project that fixing it becomes a matter of recouping losses or otherwise investing in harder to quantify sources of return on the developer's time. Taking a guess here, but redoing Railjack was probably imperative because I imagine it took a metric fuckton of time to piece together, and having it flop does much more damage than if it was an island that they can easily abandon because now they're getting people to leave beyond the rate they were already leaving at.

Anywho. Thoughts?


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