A Tale of Tragedy - Evolve's Pricing Model


#1

I know it’s been talked about to death, but TRS and 2K need as much feedback on this matter as everyone is willing to provide and I am well-educated in this matter. This is a game-killing issue and it needs to be fixed before it’s too late.

Gaming is my life and I have studied and observed the gaming industry at an obsessive level for the better part of 3 decades. I have experience and have done significant research in designing and promoting games, 4 years of business school, I own and operate a startup business and I have made it a priority to study and observe microtransactions and game sales and statistics when possible for at least 12 years. I know who has been successful and who hasn’t whether it come from the mobile, console, PC or even board/card game market, I know who has gone out of business and why, and I keep an unblinking eye on the evolution of pricing models in the game industry. I read articles from Gamespot, IGN, Tomshardware, Kotaku, Gameindustry, PCgamer, Polygon and more on literally a daily basis. I have my hand securely strangling the pulse of the game industry and my level of commitment to it might be described as “obsessive”. My point is, I have a little bit of an idea of what I am talking about and I can say with 100% certainty that you guys have screwed the pooch harder than I’ve ever seen when it comes to a pricing model for a game.

I told myself I was going to stay constructive, but how you guys managed to screw this up so badly when you have SO MANY amazing pricing models to observe is just fascinating to me. Do you not realize that it is your pricing model and not your game(obviously some improvements can be made and kinks ironed out, like any new game of this size) that is driving people away? People have few reasons not to continue giving a game a chance when there is no risk involved. They can pick it up or come back without any fear. No one is going to continue playing a game that involves such a tremendous financial investment with no sign of slowing down for continued support. Do you realize that Evolve costs $100 to play right now if you want all the available content? One hundred dollars…

I get it, Evolve is a AAA title with an enormous development overhead and likely a significant upkeep cost. What you don’t get is that profits don’t come from squeezing income out of the dedicated playerbase. Profits come from drawing in as many players as possible, then providing them with a continuous stream of content which has such fantastic value that the vast majority of them would feel stupid NOT to purchase it. What you’ve done is literally the exact opposite of what every successful “continuous-development” game of the last 5 years has done.

FIRST ERROR

Your first error was in charging $60 for the game up front. NEW franchises(not to be confused with established brands) only have success with this approach when game reviews are off the charts and/or when a significant number of players have been given an opportunity to play the game for an extended amount of time before release. Your Alpha and Beta tests weren’t anywhere near long enough to meet this standard and your game reviews are far from what they need to be at to spur gamers into making a full-price purchase, let alone continued purchases so soon after.

It doesn’t matter how sure you are that your game is going to sell millions of copies, the majority of players do not share your convictions, nor have they been given a real reason to purchase your game. Commercial marketing in the game industry(and others)doesn’t work like it used to. Marketing now is all about exposure in the hopes that potential consumers will be provided with enough initial interest to do their OWN research on a game. Your game presents such a tremendous barrier to entry that you have essentially turned off 90%(or more) of your active demographic RIGHT OUT OF THE GATE. That means that 90% of those people won’t even touch your game until a large number of conditions are met(some of which I’ve already laid out). So right away you’ve restricted players from experiencing what is absolutely, 100%, unequivocally the MOST IMPORTANT part of promoting a game and leading it to eventual success: being able to try the game.

And it only gets worse. Those that actually took the jump and made the investment because they felt they had reason to do so find themselves in a game publisher’s worst nightmare. If a significant number of those people, upon purchasing and playing the game, find out that they aren’t happy for a number of reasons(not their kind of game, poor performance, bad bugs, slow content, friends didn’t want to spend $60 on a game they know nothing about, inactive playerbase, EXPENSIVE DLC, etc.) you’ve essentially tarnished your game’s reputation almost beyond repair. In this day and age, it is INCREDIBLY difficult and rare for a game to recover from such a thing.

You need to face one important fact about the current state of the game industry: Players don’t take risks with their purchases when there are SO many options available for them that present ZERO risk. Evolve was a risk that, for many, turned out very poorly, when what it should have been was a zero-risk opportunity to experience a whole new kind of gameplay and fun. Do you think anyone is going to REALLY care if your game has some issues if players were charged little to nothing to give it a try? Complaints are not the same as write-offs. The funny thing is that game publishers who take this approach to game sales present themselves with the very same risk when it comes to profits! So silly.

SECOND ERROR

Outrageously-priced DLC.

I’m going to share with you a secret about microtransactions/DLC. I am so sure of the effectiveness of this fact that I would literally bet my life on its validity.

The first part is simple; your game has to be fun. This is an obvious requirement of every single game in existence and I’m pretty sure it didn’t even need to be said, but what the hell. But here’s the primary fact: If the majority of players look at your available list of DLC and find themselves thinking ANYTHING other than, “Wow, that value is so good that I would feel stupid for NOT purchasing it and I’m pretty sure I’ll go insane if I don’t buy it all” then your pricing model is off. It really is that simple. Don’t believe me? Everyone who is reading this, check out your Steam profiles for some of your very cheap or F2P games to see how much money you’ve spent in them.

Here’s a quick list of a few games between me and just ONE of my gamer friends.

Marvel Heroes: $361

Dota 2: $612

CS-GO: $243

Payday 2: $121

That’s over $1,300 spend between TWO people on just 4 games(over $300 per game on average). Do you not see the significance of this? Need more evidence? Ever heard of the Steam summer/winter sales? Ask yourselves, what is the one thing you are thinking during those sales. If it isn’t, “I’m going to buy every game because they’re so incredibly cheap even though I’ll probably never play half of them”, then there might be something wrong with you. I know one thing for certain, every single gamer I know, rich or poor, competitive or loner, slow PC or fast, buys up hundreds of dollars in games and DLC content during these sales. The value is just too good to pass up. Have you seen Steam’s sales figures during these sales? It’s unbelievable.

Your game could have assisted in furthering the evolution of pricing in the game industry, instead it chose to fall into literally the WORST category of content pricing that this industry has ever seen.

Luckily, it isn’t too late to correct your mistakes and make some headway on recovering from your obvious blunder. Whether you believe it or not, I have provided you (2K/TRS) with the information you need to revive this game and bring in a larger playerbase than you ever thought possible. In case some of it wasn’t understood, I want to just lay it out once more in a very simple list.

How to profit from the sale of a game and DLC

1. Create fun game - Obvious

2. Create as much exposure for the game as possible - Can’t accumulate players if they don’t know you exist and have a way to research you or even test you out before making any decisions.

3. Remove any perceived risk from potential consumers - Little or no risk = little or no reason not to try the game and plenty of good reasons(beta feedback, reviews, gameplay trailers, previews, streams, etc.) to give it a shot

4. Provide content updates with such incredible value that the vast majority of your playerbase would feel like fools for not snatching up as much of it as they can possibly afford. - Once you have enough people interested in and committed to playing the game for the foreseeable future, all you need to do is give them lots of stuff to buy and frequent sales on bundles/packs, each with incredible value. Anyone who thinks that profits come from squeezing as much money as possible out of ONLY the most dedicated/dependant consumers either runs a monopoly, a well-established brand known for consistent and superior quality or a very unsuccessful/dying business. When myself and most of the community look at Evolve’s prices, we’re thinking, “this is embarrassing, offensive and it will probably play a major role in the downfall of this game” not, “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”.

5. Support, listen to, provide updates for and address any concerns and/or requests deemed legitimate by both the community at large as well as the developers of the game. - Can’t stress the importance of open communication with a game that is being continuously developed and improved. Just look at the Path of Exile or Marvel Heroes forums as well as their development history.

6. Profit

I’ve said what I came here to say, thanks to anyone who got this far and don’t forget to support this thread if you want 2K/TRS to give it real consideration.


#2

So its ok to separate the community form those who buy dlc to those whom havent? Well with your knowledge of gaming how much would it cost to sell evolves maps and game modes?


#3

When was that ever said?


#4

I said from the beginning that 2K used every possible marketing gimmick and made every possible mistake you could make with a new IP all at once. It was like watching a train wreck in progress. This is a game that I really enjoy, it’s very good, and I know a lot of people who would love it - but 9 people that I played CS, TF2, & L4D with obsessively, who would have really enjoyed playing Evolve, skipped it entirely, and used the word “cash grab” quite often - they didn’t even get it during the Steam sale like I thought they would because of the DLC prices. I know it’s anecdotal, but if 9 out of 10 of the people in my little gaming clan decided not to play, what does that mean for the gaming community at large?

The majority of their target audience - fairly hardcore competitive PC gamers, a massive, growing global demographic - passed on the game without ever trying it based on word of mouth & even misinformation, but that misinformation was easily believable because of all the gimmicks. AAA priced base game for multiplayer only content, F2P DLC prices, pay to win companion app, cosmetic microtransaction DLC totaling the entire cost of the game in an in-game store on day 1 - after selling 100$ versions that supposedly contained everything, timed exclusive free content (maps), timed exclusive free content that they reneged on (PCMR “exclusive” skins, sold in the PSN/XB1 stores when released) - you could make a college course about what not to do with marketing in gaming based on 2K’s approach to Evolve, trying to bank every possible dollar off of E3 hype and instead slashing their playerbase into bits.


#5

When exactly did I say that? This thread is about pricing models and the value of content, not what the content contains or how it changes the game/community. This thread doesn’t JUST apply to Evolve, it applies to all games.


#6

I basically agree with everything you said. It’s a shame too because I think they’ve made a well designed game.


#7

I know. It’s a GREAT game, like for all intents and purposes this was L4D3 or TF3, and it was entirely on the end of corporate greed and exploitative marketing that reduced its potential success. I STILL want this game to succeed, I still wish I could play with my friends, but I can’t honestly recommend to them that they pay 100$ for all the available content.


#8

Yeah I literally cannot get any of my friends to play with me :frowning:


#9

just use xbox live rewards problem solved it helped me get those dlc’s.


#10

Yeah, that’s exactly why it’s such a tragedy :frowning:


#11

Well thought out post. And yes people will get annoyed because the topic has been brought up, but I agree with you. From my point of view, it seems as if 2K is trying to milk the dedicated player base for all that they are worth, and pick up whatever scraps come later from sales. Very similar to a scorched earth tactic.

This works well for consoles as console players very rarely research what the buy and generally have much worse spending habits. Hence Evolve has sold very well for both consoles while the PC sales were disappointing at best, with only around 4000 players on at any one time (and that’s with the tier 4 release).

Adding insult to injury was the day 1 DLC cash shop. This was especially bad because Evolves reputation was already going downhill fast. The fact that they chose not to announce the cash shop before release is another example of a desperate cash grab. Not just the selling of the skins, but the fact that they did not announce it in order to lock in people’s pre-orders before they canceled them.

Overall Evolve is a great game and a breath of fresh air into a stale genre. However with 2K pushing TRS to make marketable content over providing a polished working product, the communities enthusiasm is draining. After 1 month of the game being released, TRS managed to fix the cursor bug that had been present since alpha. Not a very large accomplishment really. And or course the horrific progress loss on XBone. What do we have now? An extremely buggy and horridly balanced monster, behemoth, being sold at $15 to those that did not get sucked into the pre-order gimmick. And of course all the other game breaking bugs that have not been addressed whatsoever.

At this point it just seems like they are trying to find more bullets to shoot their feet with. Very disappointing and frustrating to see.

Did I mention that there is a special event that will be held on the evolve app this weekend that will feature pay-to-win mechanics?


#12

The game is fun, just not for everyone. They did literally everything you listed and many people just didn’t like the game. They were misinformed about dlc and refused to to actually do research cause a youtuber said so so it must be true


#13

The main thing I disagree with is the shady wording of the hunting season pass. You know a few people bought it thinking it was a season pass just like any other video game. A season pass that includes all curent and future game updates for one fee


#14

4 evolve maps 15 bucks and 1 mode 7.50 lol


#15

Fair enough, but I think we’d be looking at a much different situation if 100x the number of people had been able to try the game without risk, which is sort of the whole point of this thread.


#16

I honestly don’t believe their target audience was PC. Multi platform games ALWAYS sell better on consoles.


#17

Well, they might have expected to sell more units or DLC on console, but the real target audience for this type of game is the CS/TF2/L4D crowd, competitive gamers who have consoles too. Literally tens of thousands more PC players might have bought the game at launch and supported it if not for the pricing model.


#18

I would strongly agree that they need to get a demo out or something so that people can experience the game without having to buy it. A lot of friends that were skeptical of the game now love it (maybe not enough to shell out the 60 to get it now or buy DLC if they get the game, but enough to want to play it if they come over and to buy it when the price finally drops). Sooo many people would end up purchasing it if they had been able to or could now try without risk.


#19

Well it was simply their decision to get as much money out of it as they can, because they didnt felt sure about the success and they didnt wanted to risk it.

If they made a lower/fairer pricing model, it could have attracted thousands and thousands of more people and they could potentially swim now in money, but what if that would not have happend? Then it maybe would have sold 30k-40k copies more on a lower price with lower priced dlc’s and they would have barely got their already invested money back.

So you see why they did choose Path A, its the safer way. Of course its the dead end way, but not all publishers are willing to risk their money for a new brand or potential new star on the gaming industry - its sad but its the truth.


#20

Agreed. 2k got crazy with the pricing model.

the game should have launched at $40, maybe $50 max. They should have had a lot less day one cosmetic DLC. More of it should have been in game and unlockable without money.

The new DLC is the most glaring flaw. They are taking the route of trying to milk the dedicated fanbase as much as possible at the expense of potentially enticing a lot of new players with more consumer friendly prices.

well see a situation like Titanfall, where eventually the game is on sale over and over for dirt cheap. Like $12.50 could get you the complete Titanfall with all DLC like 8 months after release.

2k sucks. They ruined Borderlands with this content/DLC stuff too.