Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart believes one of the ways to combat used or rental games, is to release “the full package” and not require the consumer to download content in order to continue progressing in-game.
Speaking in an interview with Gamespot, Urquhart said a lot of publishers need to forget “gimmicks” such as including DLC on the disc that force second hand buyers unlock it with an extra purchase, as it alienates a future customer.
“One of the recent issues is not putting the full game in the package and requiring downloadable content to move on,” he said. “Also, including DLC in the package that will have to be repurchased for secondhand buyers. I think you have to go in and forget those gimmicks, and say, ‘How do I make them want to keep the game on the shelf?’ I think each genre has a way to do it. Battlefield and Call of Duty have it in multiplayer with maps, rankings, leveling up, and unlocks. There are different things, but the idea is making people feel, ‘I want to keep on playing it.’
“With a role-playing game, it is the same thing. We come up with things to make players want to keep on playing it. It was never developed this way, but it’s funny how it has become a way to do this. By having a good and evil track, like Knights of the Old Republic II, I can play as a light or dark Jedi. I may play through as a light Jedi, but I know that I could play through as a dark Jedi. So I think, ‘I’m gonna do that some day.’ So I put it back on my shelf and I don’t take it back to GameStop.
“If I play Fallout: New Vegas for 50 hours, but there are all these other quests, and there’s this whole other area I didn’t go to, and online there are people talking about all these things that you could have done all these different ways, I’ll feel like ‘Wow, I could play this game again,’ because there is all this stuff I didn’t get. And knowing that, publishers announce DLC plans the day the game comes out. And now, as a player who hasn’t experienced everything yet, I know there are these new stories, and I’m going to be able to level up my character and get better stuff, be more of a hero. The game is going to go back on my shelf, not back to GameStop.”
Urquhart said that a lot of players are unaware that a certain amount of the development team is “off of the product for months before the game comes out,” so you also have to be careful with DLC release timing or further risk alienating your customer.
“There were a lot of areas done for the expansion pack of World of Warcraft before it came out, and no one is complaining about that,” he said. “I think I could explain that if someone asks, ‘Why didn’t you put that in the game?’ Well, it’s not really done. So it really is just a matter of being careful about when that stuff comes out.
“Ultimately, if they felt that the game was worth it, if the vast majority of the players feel like they got their fun out of the game–I wanted to play Mass Effect 2, and I played it for 35 hours–they’ll feel like they got their $60 out of it and will be open to DLC. As long as the core of it makes people feel like ‘I got my fun out of the game,’ I think most people won’t have a problem.
“If you cut it back and made an RPG that was 12 hours, then suddenly there is an eight-hour expansion out a month after release; that’s when you start getting into trouble.”
With Dungeon Siege III out the door, Obsidian is currently working on an adaptation of Robert Jordan’s fantasy epic, Wheel of Time, among other things, as well.