The rise of episodic video games

In a world full of endless DLC content, additional game packages, and bonus in-game keepsakes maps, it seems video game companies are having a hard time packaging full games for consumer consumption.

Or, more likely they’re just not giving us full games and are instead keeping us permanently strung out and always looking for that next hit of content.

Nuka World” is a perfect example.

The Bethesda twitter account, which I follow religiously, has been giving us sneak peeks of the new DLC for weeks before finally releasing it on August 30 to a flurry of user downloads.

While I haven’t actually gotten the time to sit down and play the new DLC myself, I can’t help but wonder why extra downloadable content has become such a popular marketing model for AAA consoles and beyond.

Along the same lines, why are there so many episodic games of late?

Episodic games are basically teaser DLC content on steroids and they have become increasingly popular in recent years.

“Life is Strange,” Telltale’s “Batman” and, well, Telltale’s everything, basically.

Telltale Games first rose to prominence in the gaming world with the 2011 release of their “Walking Dead” series. For those who haven’t played, the game’s first season follows the down-on-his-luck convict Lee and how he deals with the fallout of the zombie apocalypse.

brighter holy shit lee


Everything goes about as well as you might expect, but somewhere in between the gruesome face-gnawing and head-exploding that comes with the zombiefied territory, Telltale managed to hook audiences with their story-rich gameplay.

While the game lacked the point-and-shoot action of comparable AAA games, it had everything else gamers could want: great graphics, developed characters, high-key suspense and dialogue that kept us coming back.

“The Walking Dead” was wildly successful for an episodic game, belaying a rise in popularity for similar games.

The trend was easy to ignore when it was just Telltale.

But now it seems episodic games are popping up everywhere you look. “Life is Strange” from Square Enix, “Heavy Rain” from Sony and others.

heavy rain choice.jpg


Not that I don’t enjoy these games. In fact, the greater the story, the move involvement I can have in the players actions, the more I love a game.

The thing I’m having a hard time coming to terms with is the format of the game themselves.

While the concept is pretty unique (or at least, it was a couple years ago) and the idea of a slow, timed release an admittedly brilliant feat of marketing genius, it is still hard for me to commit myself to this new form of packaged game content.

I’m reluctant to love up on these games too much because I’ve only played the ones that have already been completely released. “Tales from the Borderlands” was absolutely amazing, especially in the way it handled Handsome Jack’s death and his subsequent resurrection. I also really liked being able to play both Rhys, handsome company man, and Fiona, the quick-witted Pandoran con-artist.

in the middle of a choice borderlands.jpg


But that game was already completely released by the time I played it. And while they had an opening segment narrated by the game’s gun master Marcus Kincaid that constantly evolved with my in-game choices, I still feel that had I actually waited the designated time between releases I would have either gone crazy or lost interest entirely.

Case in point, episode one “Zero Sum” was released a full four months before the second, “Atlas Mugged,” which was released another three months before the third.

I like to think I’m pretty good at time management and about rewarding myself with video games after a long week, but even I couldn’t bear waiting that long between episodes.

It’s like watching a TV show on Netflix. While I like the periodic breaks between episodes, it’s always better to gasp at the show’s cliffhanger, speculate wildly about what will happen, and then hit next episode.

I don’t know if episodic gaming is here to stay, or if it will still be popular in five years when I stumble upon this blog and cringe at my poor life choices, but I can say it will be interesting to watch.

In the mean time, my wallet will cry with each new installment and I will await the day a video game is finally packaged whole, with no DLC or additional downloads to suffer through.

Until then, game on and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

good enough life is strange


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