June 12, 2011

You can see the light at the end of the tunnel

Some scary and awesome things are happening at the moment. I realize most of these things didn't happen JUST NOW but I think the combination of all of them is really cool.

Digital Downloads are amazing for pretty much any medium. I haven't had to go to a bookstore in years thanks to my Kindle/Kindle app. I don't seem to be the only one as Borders is dead. I have bought a large quantity of games the last few years, fewer and fewer at Best Buy and Gamestop.  I haven't purchased a physical music album in years.

Free to play games are also becoming more and more palatable. Sure, the bizarre business strategy from Asia still has some kinks to work through. A lot of MMOs use the shift to free to play to as the final hail mary for a failed game. I'd put Age of Conan, Champions Online, and Pirates of the Burning Sea in that category. Other MMOs, like Lord of the Rings Online have been very successful with it. I imagine niche games like Fallen Earth will prosper and grow more with such a business model. Even traditional shooters like World of Tanks and now Arma 2 are free to play. I know the former is successful and I believe the latter will slowly grow and prosper more with such an offering.

Good things are happening with freemium. Spending money gives players good value and broadens and enhances the experience. For a long time, putting money down in a freemium game made the experience less shitty, not more fun. A lot of the games are really fun to play without spending a dime, which is a good way to convince a player that things only get better if you do spend money. Digital download plus free also makes it ridiculously easy for new players to sample the game. All good things.

Social games are also starting to get really interesting. I mean, any game that has millions of daily users is quite interesting. But, whereas I found no joy or interest in Farmville or text RPGs like Mafia Wars, I'm beginning to find myself quite entertained by some newer titles like Digital Chocolate's Army Attack and Zynga's Empires & Allies. I'm even a little interested in Loot Drop's upcoming Cloudforest Expedition, though I'm a bit leery of a story-based game on Facebook. Story isn't quite what I'm looking for when I have 10 minutes to kill.

My territory in Digital Chocolate's Army Attack
I like the theme and art of Army Attack. I like that I have some choice in how I proceed, whether I want to attack, improve my infrastructure, save for units or defenses. Plus, there's a little challenge and back pressure and I actually need my friends to blow up enemies and heal my units. That's compelling! The game reminds me of a persistent Advance Wars, which is good, because Advance Wars is one of my favorite games ever.

Empires & Allies is Cityville with a military theme, a campaign, and a super light rock/paper/scissor combat mini-game. It's persistent, has some light strategic choices (which resources to buy, which units to buy, who to attack), and some interesting social mechanics, like defeating people invading your friends' territories. Interestingly enough, my biggest problem with the game is the fact that the server seems to crash on almost every session. It is very tedious and defeats the purpose of a social game -- quick, mindless entertainment.

Cool things are happening! Digital, free to play, better social games...fantastic mobile games, consoles like OnLive. I love it!

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