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Outernauts to ditch viral gimmickry for gameplay

Making the conceptual shift from console action games to the social casual scene isn't as easy as many think. Insomniac talks about their growing pains as they further refine their online title Outernauts.

Any game developer worth their salt will listen to their player base, and this goes doubly so for a company that wants to take one game and turn it into a full franchise. So when Insomniac gauged the opinions of their players, they found a rather specific distaste for so-called "viral" features and a deep desire for refining the gameplay.

Brian Hastings, Insomniac's chief creative officer, said "We listened extensively to player feedback, and it was clear that many of the viral features were a drawback to their enjoyment of the game. Ultimately we think it's only effective in the short term to use gimmicks and other negatively perceived techniques to increase virality."

Without a doubt, the free-to-play market can be a difficult one. Revenue has to be earned somehow, and viral mechanics in these games help promote and share it - which in turn, provide a larger potential player base. The larger the number of players, the more those micro-transactions add up. But when your players get turned off by these features, it can quickly become a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Brian Hastings continues, "A lot of them didn't stick with it because of the viral elements that have since been removed. I think much of the negative feedback about the viral stuff was from core gamers or mid-core gamers. It's actually kind of funny because there are a lot of players who play the game for hundreds of hours but refuse to ever pay a dime just in principle because they don't believe in paying money for Facebook games."

I have a few family members on Facebook who do play Outernauts, and have certainly seen some of the pushes the game makes into timelines. It can get a bit much, like many "pushy" games, so the fact they have recognised this and making changes to that aspect will certainly help lower the annoyance factor.

Have you played Outernauts or seen it on your timeline? And what do you think of the whole (mostly) "free-to-play" games?

Thanks, Gamasutra.

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