From GameDaily today: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment today announced their intention to publish an episodic game series based upon the upcoming Watchmen film. The game will go into more detail on the characters and so-called “masks” of the film. Watchmen is a comic story originally created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, where the world is on the brink of nuclear annihilation and “costumed superheroes” are tied intimately with the politics of the day.
Recently I did an interview with Gareth Von Kallenbach over at “2404 – PC Gaming”. We talked about Grimm’s game play, challenges faced during development, and the episodic model production and distribution model. Here’s an excerpt:
1. What is the background and setting for the Grimm and how is it similar and different from Alice?
The backgrounds and settings in Grimm vary from episode to episode. Each new episode is based on a different fairy tale â€“ presented by the main character â€œGrimmâ€. In every episode he presents a puppet theater of the current-day â€œlightâ€ version of the tale. He then invites you to help him return the tale to a form closer to the original â€“ darker, meaner, and more informative. When finished he presents the â€œfixedâ€ version in another puppet theater.
So far it seems that wherever he goes Grimm is finding fans. The preview response to Episode 1 was positive across the board. Of course Kotaku hasn’t seen it yet – God knows what sort of punishment they’ll dish out! A little over 30 days before Episode 1 goes lives. Stay tuned for more previews, interviews, and interesting bits of content in the coming weeks.
Grimm’s making #3 on the PS3! It’s a sign of affection, trust me. You really don’t want to know how he displays his love towards the 360. Regardless of how he’s expressing his feelings towards either platform, we’re excited to announce that he is in fact playable on both.
I make this announcement on the same day I read on Gamasutra the timely piece “Who’s Afraid of Gamestop?” in which Brandon Sheffield opines:
Shamefully, almost everyone in the industry seems to be afraid of retail. I spoke with a number of people at the DICE Summit a while back, and while some agreed that digital downloads are making headway, nobody sees it replacing retail.
This at the same time that download episodic game content like Penny Arcade Adventures is cleaning up on XBLA. If you ask me, we’re entering the Age of Episodic.
Seems it’s high time we find Grimm a strong publishing partner for digital distribution to consoles. If you’re a publisher tired of being tied to retail and looking to take a dip in the episodic hot tub, then drop me a line.
I promise to make Grimm keep his affections to himself.
I placed a countdown clock on the site to track the number of days until the release of “Grimm” Episode 1. July 31 2008 EST is the official time set by Gametap. Be sure to check the Gametap Grimm Site for updates in the coming weeks.
Matthew Razak over at That Video Game Blog revealed in a post today that the new episodic game Penny Arcade Adventures has set a record for being the highest grossing debut of an Xbox Live Arcade game. The article says:
It must be good to be the PA guys. Not only are they basically nerd gods, read by millions, funny and the originators of one of the most popular gaming conventions out there but now theyâ€™re also the creators of the highest grossing debut in Xbox LIVE Arcade history with their new episodic game Penny Arcade Adventures. The game has made a massive $330,000 over three days, obliterating Worms HDâ€™s previous hold on the spot by $50,000. Yup, it is pretty good to be Gabe and Tycho.
“Massive” might be overstating it, $330,000 over three days translates to 16,500 downloads – and it remains to be seen how long those initial download rates will hold – but two things are clear: download game content of an episodic nature IS viable and XBLA as a distribution platform for this sort of content IS gaining traction. Is this the beginning of the end for the traditional game development model?
Razak goes on to say:
Itâ€™s also good to be XBL Arcade. Not only did this game prove that people are willing to pay a bit more for bigger games, it also marked the arrival of said bigger games with Penny Arcade Adventures being the first game to exceed the 150 MB limit. This is also the first outrageously successful episodic content to be released on XBLA and if the second chapter, which Iâ€™m sure is now being pushed forward with even more gusto, is just as successful, hopefully weâ€™ll be seeing more game designers jumping on board with the method.
I think the “hope” that game designers will jump on board is a valid one. But the issue isn’t game designers. Of course they want more platforms and models to push their ideas upon. The obstacle in my opinion is the publishing environment. With the exception of a few specialized (Gametap being one) publishers, the concept of digitally distributed small-to-medium scale game content is still regarded with suspicion – even hostility – by the publishing establishment. This resistance is of interest to me – and I think it should be of interest to game makers and gamers as well.
In many ways digital distribution of game content threatens to destroy the current box product based financier-publisher-distribution model. It renders useless the mechanisms of marketing, packaging, distribution, and perhaps most importantly – financing. Ultimately, it means freedom for content creators and consumers – but a “captured market” is suddenly lost for retailers, publishers, and marketers. This same thing happened to music, almost overnight.
At the same time I recognize the “threat” – that big publishers aren’t fully embracing smaller budget, faster scheduled, inexpensively distributed episodic download game content is a bit of a mystery. There’s always opportunity in change. It seems that the ideal “game producer” (I mean producer in the Hollywood sense) would model itself after a company like Jerry Bruckheimer Films – bridging the gap between commercial, TV, film, and more (btw, I’m not saying they always produce good content, just that their wider format model is something to be envied.)
The market of the future there will always have a place for $100mm Grand Theft Auto 4 type “blockbuster games” – and in fact, it might turn out that publishers ONLY want to make big budget blockbusters, the same way Hollywood would prefer to make a $100mm movie over a $20mm one. The format is big – the gamble is big – and the reward is big. This has been the logical progression over the last decade. But a gap is left – a space filled by commercial/TV/mini-series content in the “linear world” – and one that can (perhaps should?) be filled by casual/episodic/downloadable content in the interactive world.
Like Penny Arcade Adventures, Grimm is an experiment in this new model. It gives me hope that PAA has done so well – it means there’s a mechanism and an audience – supplying good content is what’s remaining to prove the model.
We think Grimm is great content. I hope you will too.