When corporate leadership of established community followings stop treating their loyal faithful as fans, and as just consumers, said corporations lose fans. For example; Star Wars & Star Trek. Star Trek holds multiple annual conventions with much fanfare. Not that individual vendors don’t profit, they do. But these conventions exist as means for directors, producers, actors to reach their fanbase. This community outreach is the reason why Trek fans were designated with their own name. As for Star Wars, George Lucas got rich off selling lunch-boxes and action figures. It is also the same reason why he’s received scathing criticism over the years. If only he’d have paid homage…
My most beloved video game series, Halo, is going the way of the latter after eliciting so much love from an ever-growing fan base. Said admiration peaked during the helm of Halo 2, and has been on the downward ever since. The community has been fragmented time and time again from piss-poor management decisions which originated in a corporate culture pooled by then-CEO Steve Balmer.
The fragmenting factor is the impact of optional “map packs”. See in Halo 2, every few months the team at Bungie, creators of Halo, would release downloadable map pack with additional multiplayer maps. Initially $2 or so, the maps would be made available free, a few months after release. When the change in price occurred, the maps would then be obligatory if one wanted to continue playing online. People loved it.
Halo 3 reversed this trend by making majority of the map packs optional. While not a make it or break it event, it was a slight annoyance and viewed as a cash grab by many. Playlists still contained a healthy selection of about 8-10 maps per playlist. Halo: Reach, the next refresh in the series, followed a similar pattern. Map packs were paid and optional, while the number of playable maps per playlist was reduced to 5-7. The most recent release, Halo 4, completely trashed fans with a detestable 4 maps per playlist. Paid downloadable content was released, however, the optional maps were available to play for only a brief few months. And while the $30 season pass was to cover all future map packs, an additional paid map pack was made available outside it’s purview.
It’s appallingly gut-wrenching as fan to see something fun turn into a nasty corporate gouging. Such nasty pilfering conjures up feelings of anger, resentment, and disgust. Perhaps masochists like such interactions with the company which provides them entertainment. I am no masochist.
Others share this sentiment as well. On a prominent Microsoft news site, one of the blogs’ writers once included a blip in his signature that read:
“Halo – 24/7”
After the asinine map pack was released on top of Halo 4’s season pass, that portion of his signature was removed.
But if they’re raking the cash, who cares?
Well the answer here is that this situation is one where they can have their cake and eat it too.
For every map pack release, Halo 4 was averaging about 3,500 players playing at any one given time. Allowing for fluctuating time zones, at most let’s say 15,000 copies for each of the four DLC packs (limited edition bundles included) was sold. At $10 apiece, that’s what, 600K USD? That number doesn’t even incorporate royalties owed to MS for selling through the Xbox Live marketplace. For time’s sake, let’s just use that number…
Is 600k worth the diminished brand image?
Halo games have been selling at least 4 million units.
Just think, what if the next Halo game were to tick on an additional $10 for every copy sold ($70 vs $60) for unilateral access to all future and obligatory map packs? No, not codes. If you have the disc, you can download the DLC. Let’s see, 4 million multiplied by 10 is forty million, as in dollars. As in, instead of pocketing a measly 600k and fragmenting the player base, there would exist no fragmentation and a $40 million cash infusion for the studio (no percentages to MS either as the DLC is free).
Inflation happens. People still buy food. Food prices increase. However, stores don’t sell corn by the kernel. Maybe a very small subset of the store’s shoppers can afford the corn in such fashion. But the vast majority can’t. Much of the store’s inventory rots even though the store is making some additional dollars by implementing that pricing structure. The store could sell all its corn and profit more under the conventional pricing structure. Again, the prices have gone up, but the structure remains.
Halo is not some ninny poo-poo franchise. Those four million units would still sell at 70 apiece, justifiably, with future DLC included.
Alas, as sound as my logic is on this, I would wager $10 it never happens. Would you?
My rant, analysis, and proposed solution for both the fragmentation and financial concerns with relation to the well-established video game franchise that is Halo can be considered purely informed. Any suggestions that this would not work should be taken with suspicion of malicious intent on part of the naysayer.