Monday, September 15, 2008

my SPORE review

Good work to Will Wright and Maxis for their latest masterpiece, SPORE.

Spore is the type of game (or simulation shall I say) I dream of having played when I was a kid. It is a game of evolution developed for the masses done right! I don't understand why critics all over are claiming that it lacks depth or appeal in its individual parts. I would bow down to Spore's game design anyday. Evolution is not an easy subject to simplify for the masses, and definitely not for a video game. Will Wright has created a game even kids can understand and enjoy.

The design behind Spore I admire most is the creature/object creation tool. Not withstanding that the tool is a technical marvel in itself, what I like about the game design is the tool evolves throughout the different phases of evolution. The game is about the character creation tool and it is the component that unifies 'evolution' throughout the experience. This is why I believe the game shouldn't/can't be sized up through its individual parts.

I can probably go on and on about how Spore is a mind boggling experience. What I do want to question today is the game's business model: $50 a pop sold in retail.

Is Spore going to break-even? Time will tell right now, but I hear it will take 8 million sold copies to break-even. Let's reference some other games to get an idea of what type of calibur title we're looking at:

+ Final Fantasy VII (PS1 – 9.8 million)
+ StarCraft (9.5 million)
+ Mario Kart Wii (6.42 million)
+ Super Mario Galaxy (6.1 million)
+ Halo 3 (8.1 million)
+ Gears of War (4.7 million)
+ Diablo II (4 million)
+ Half-Life 2 (4 million)
# The Sims (50 million, 70 million including expansions)
# The Sims 2 (13 million)

I'm sure EA has a stable of business-minded soldiers at their helm to monetize their development costs, but if you ask me, maybe they're not looking hard enough at various other biz models and distribution strategies. The online components of Spore reek of opportunity. Micro-transactions, SNS apps, and many other online related gameplay elements is what's needed to keep the Spore revenue stream coming in for years (instead of just one-time customer payments). And best of all, solid online features automatically cut down on piracy. Gamers are cheap bastards who will pirate if possible.

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