開發者談單人體驗模式遊戲的營收和競爭狀態

開發者談單人體驗模式遊戲的營收和競爭狀態

原作者:Rob Fahey 譯者:Willow Wu

(前言:現在有很多頂級遊戲公司將重點放在多人/以服務爲主的遊戲上,那麼,由劇情主導的單人遊戲還能在行業中順利發展下去嗎?)

有謠言說單人遊戲要滅亡了,這實在是過分誇張了。雖說如此,遊戲創作者們對單人遊戲目前的健康狀況並不是完全放心的,還是有些令人擔憂的問題。

從Rockstar的堅持(他們仍然致力於創作單人遊戲DLC)到前Visceral開發者的Zach Wilson的有力辯護再到MachineGames開發者Tommy Tordsson Björk,他們傳遞出來的關鍵信息就是單人遊戲作爲一個概念和類別是需要去維護的。這句話本身並沒什麼錯,但是情況已經發展到了需要人們發聲的地步,這就有點不太樂觀了。

Grand Theft Auto V(from indiewire)

Grand Theft Auto V(from indiewire)

爲什麼人們會覺得需要爲單人遊戲說話,這其中的原因應該是很明瞭了。談到Visceral工作室的關閉,在有些人看來是因爲他們沒有把《星球大戰》這個遊戲做好,這本該是一個以單人玩法爲主的遊戲。EA的同路人Bioware曾經也是單人遊戲的捍衛者,然而他們最近在專心開發一款類似《命運》的多人遊戲。《命運》本身也是一個例子——Bungie在一開始的時候是做單人遊戲的,但隨着《命運》以及《光環》系列逐步向多人遊戲過渡,再加上後續的劇情設計越來越薄弱,最終Bungie還是徹底投入了多人遊戲的懷抱。

現在有小部分的遊戲工作室放棄單人遊戲,就其本身而言,這並不是導致人們擔憂的主要原因。事實上,這種擔憂其實是過慮了。單人遊戲體驗是個具有巨大潛力的盈利點,只要遊戲市場還在,就會有公司和創作者去追求這種遊戲體驗。

我要特別說明一下:我從未暗示接下來的年頭裏不會有任何單人遊戲發行,請大家在閱讀剩下的篇章時也不要忘了這點。我們更應該擔心的是這些遊戲的可支配預算到底有多少,發行商有沒有辦法做到像對多人遊戲那樣對單人遊戲也給予同樣的營銷支持以及推廣支持。

單人遊戲並不是賣不出去,熱門的單人遊戲銷量仍然可以達到幾百萬份。開發、銷售單人遊戲變得越來越難是因爲遊戲的內容創作成本在不斷提高。製作遊戲內容還是非常耗錢的——建模、做動畫、設計敵人以及其他角色、設計關卡、遊戲環境、錄製對話、寫腳本、調整光源、置入遊戲事件等等。想一想玩家在體驗遊戲時每一分鐘的成本或者是玩家付每一美元背後的創作成本,單人遊戲的內容成本無疑是非常昂貴的,而且它還在過去的幾十年中持續大幅度增長。

DLC可以幫助遊戲團隊減輕成本負擔,玩家付一定的費用獲得相對製作成本沒那麼高的東西,比如說角色的新皮膚或者是一堆新武器模型,這樣能夠讓遊戲的開發成本/收入回到一個比較健康的比率。但總體來說,DLC通常都會出現跟遊戲主體一樣的問題——製作成本高,但是大部分玩家不用花多長的時間就通關了,這就讓遊戲的合理定價問題變得更加複雜。

玩家們期待單人遊戲的靈活度能越來越高,如果一個遊戲沒有劇情分支可選擇,那麼這個遊戲會因爲過於線性而遭受到玩家的連連差評,而且這種情況出現得越來越多了。現在的開發者們要花費更多時間、金錢、精力去創造更多遊戲內容,而這些內容並不是所有玩家都會選擇的。除此之外,雖說DLC能把玩家短暫地召回來,增加收入,但通常在不久之後就會出現收益遞減。只有特定的玩家羣體會買第一個DLC,然後這羣玩家中的某些特定玩家會去購買第二個DLC,以此類推,越往後的DLC購買人數越少。

在另一方面,以服務爲主的遊戲執行的是另一套不同的策略。現代多人遊戲的發行後交易模型有一套基本的邏輯,就跟F2P手遊一模一樣。這些開發者賣的不是遊戲內容,賣的是消耗品——比如說遊戲中的貨幣,開發成本低,玩家還能回到遊戲中反覆購買。就算他們在遊戲內容上下了很多功夫、設計了很多遊戲特色,當然也是花了很多錢來豐富多人遊戲體驗(就比如《命運》的擴展包),這種做法也只能算是例外而不是規則。增加新的武器、汽車或者是模型纔是比較平常的做法,製作、銷售道具的經濟效益比單人遊戲的DLC高多了。

單人遊戲的開發者和發行商要怎麼設計內容就成了一個非常糾結的問題。一方面,多人/以服務爲主的遊戲盈利能力更強、回報率更高。但另一方面,還有很多人渴望優質的單人遊戲體驗。值得注意的是,即使一些知名開發人員轉向了偏多人風格的遊戲,但有些遊戲卻把目光轉回了單人遊戲——例如,《星球大戰:前線2》將會包含單人戰鬥機制,這大概是考慮到前作因爲缺乏了這類機制而錯過了一部分潛在玩家。

一邊是投資回報率,另一邊是玩家(實際上還有創者們)對優質劇情以及單人遊戲體驗的需求,在如今的行業中要實現這二者之間的平衡簡直是不能更難了。在上世紀90年代末期至2000年代早期,爲了增加收入,幾乎所有的單人遊戲都要無一例外地加上多人死亡競技模式(multiplayer deathmatch mode),而不是根據遊戲本身有選擇性地加入。現在的單人遊戲成本過高收入過低,有些開發者就害怕歷史會重演,到最後他們不得不給單人遊戲附上額外的東西。

即使很多公司不能單靠單人遊戲體驗獲得好成績,但這並不意味着所有人都做不到。那些花費好幾年時間積累玩家、以優秀的劇情主導遊戲獲得名聲的公司,他們沒有必要因爲現在的單人遊戲難做、難賣而直接放棄它。劇情主導遊戲的玩家們也許要試着接受這種情況:相比眼花繚亂、不考慮節省預算的多人遊戲(畢竟它們的預算是跟長期的微交易掛鉤),頂級單人遊戲也許會變得廉價一點點,畫面不會那麼華麗,動畫可能會反覆使用。

雖說使單人遊戲需要做出調整才能生存下去,但也不用擔心它會因此迎來終結時代。單人遊戲的當下經濟狀況是有點不太樂觀,但只要有玩家需求存在就不怕它會消失。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

As many top studios focus on multiplayer, service-based games, does the business case for narrative-driven single-player titles still add up?

Rumours of the death of single-player games have been greatly exaggerated; but nonetheless, there’s something a little concerning about the way creators and studios presently feel compelled to make statements about just how healthy single-player is right now.

From Rockstar’s insistence that it’s still committed to single-player DLC in its games to the robust defences of single-player from ex-Visceral developer Zach Wilson and MachineGames developer Tommy Tordsson Björk, the message that comes across most strongly is that single-player as a concept and a category is something that needs defending. There’s nothing wrong with the things being said; it’s the need to say them at all that’s of some concern.

The reasons why people might feel the need to come to the defence of single-player are fairly clear, after all. Visceral’s closure has been interpreted in some quarters as a vote of no confidence in what was thought to be a single-player focused Star Wars title it was working on; EA fellow traveller Bioware, once a bastion of single-player, has focused its efforts on a Destiny-style multiplayer game. Destiny itself is another example of the same trend; Bungie’s roots are in single-player, but after transitioning more and more towards multiplayer experiences over the course of its work on the Halo franchise, Destiny and its anaemic afterthought of a narrative sealed the transition.

That a handful of studios are moving away from self-contained single-player experiences is not, in and of itself, cause for major concern for this whole area of the industry’s output. In fact, that concern is unquestionably overblown; the reality is that there is an enormous market for single-player experiences, and as long as that market exists there will be companies and creators who seek to provide for it.

That’s the caveat that hangs over everything else written in this article; nothing I’m saying implies for a single second that there won’t be single-player games released next year, or the next, or the next. What is more questionable, however, is the kind of budgets those games can command, and whether publishers will be able to justify putting the same sort of development and marketing push behind them that multiplayer – or “service-based” – games now routinely receive.

After all, it’s not like single-player games don’t sell; major single-player titles still routinely sell several million copies. However, the economics of making and selling single-player games has been getting tougher and tougher as the costs of creating content have increased. Making content, after all, is expensive; building and animating models for players, enemies and other characters, constructing levels and environments, recording dialogue, scripting and lighting and rigging events in the game. Considered in terms of cost per minute of player experience, or cost per dollar paid by a player, single-player content is unquestionably expensive, and that cost has grown hugely in the past couple of decades.

DLC can help to alleviate that cost; when players pay a chunk of cash for something that’s relatively inexpensive to create, like a re-skin of a character or a bunch of new weapon models, it can help to push the game’s ratio of development cost to revenue back towards a healthy figure. In general, though, single-player DLC is often subject to the same problem that the original game had – it’s expensive to build and most players will run through it relatively quickly, which puts strict limits on what can reasonably be charged for it.

As players’ expectations of more flexibility in their single-player experiences have grown – a game that doesn’t have branching narratives with choices to be made will now be roundly bashed for being too linear – this problem has only become more severe; now developers are spending time, effort and money creating content that many players won’t see at all. Moreover, while single-player DLC can bring players back for a short while and provide a fresh injection of revenue, diminishing returns often kick in after a game launches. Only a certain slice of the player base will buy the first DLC pack, and only a certain slice of those players will buy the second, and so on.

Service-based games, on the other hand, operate on a rather different set of economic equations. The post-launch transaction model for modern multiplayer games owes its fundamental logic to exactly the same notion that underpins free-to-play gaming on mobile. The developers often don’t sell content, they sell consumables; items such as in-game currency that can be created cheaply and which players can keep coming back to buy over and over again. Even when developers do sell content, fully-featured and no doubt expensively developed multiplayer content like Destiny’s expansions are the exception rather than the rule; new weapons, vehicles or models are much more common, and the economics of building and selling something like that stacks up far more positively than the economics of a single-player DLC expansion.

This problem has caused a certain tension in how publishers and developers approach single-player content. On one hand, building multiplayer and service-based games is much more profitable; the return on investment on your content creation budget is simply better. On the other hand, much of the market still craves good single-player experiences. It’s noteworthy that even as some major developers switch gears towards more multiplayer-type games, others are reversing course a little; Star Wars Battlefront 2, for example, is going to ship with a single-player campaign, presumably based on a calculation that the original Star Wars Battlefront missed out on a chunk of its potential market due to the lack of such.

Striking a balance between those two sides – the cold logic of return on investment on one hand, and the demand of players (and indeed of many creators) for compelling narratives and engrossing single-player experiences on the other hand – is a tougher task than it’s ever been. There was a period in the late nineties and early 2000s where almost every game felt like it was getting a bolted-on multiplayer deathmatch mode for little reason other than ticking off a feature on the back of the box; as studios struggle to make the economics of AAA development add up in the current era, there’s a fear that many of them will end up tacking on single-player or narrative components for broadly the same reason.

Yet even if many companies can’t make the numbers add up on purely single-player experiences, there will be some who will; companies that have spent years building up fan bases and strong reputations for great narrative-driven games, which will have the sense not to slay that goose even if the eggs it lays have changed from gold to silver. The audience for narrative-driven games may need to accept that all but the cream of the crop will, perhaps, be developed a bit more cheaply, will look a little less graphically lush and repeat a few more canned animations, than the dazzling, no-expense-spared service games that justify their budgets on a long tail of microtransactions.

But even if this part of the market needs to adapt to survive, concerns over its passing are misplaced. The economics of single-player looks a little tarnished right now, but the kind of experiences it provides are here to stay, as long as there’s an audience that demands them.(source:gamesindustry.biz