Section 8: Prejudice Interview


posted 4/20/2011 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
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Stop me if you've heard this one before.  You have a FPS game with a five hour single player campaign and some cool online modes.  Sound familiar?  How much would you expect to pay for that game?  $60?  Well the folks at TimeGate have come out with a shooter that sounds a little familiar but they've released it at the low price of $15.  How did they do that and what makes their game different?  Well read on and get the scoop from Brett Norton, the design director behind the game.

For those who didn’t play the first game could you give us a short summary of the universe the game is set in?

The Section 8 universe is set in a distant sci-fi future. Mankind has spread out amongst the stars, setting up a series of loosely aligned colonies. Many of these colonies are governed by a central Earth empire, others are independent colony-states. The military unit, the 8th Armored (nicknamed Section 8), is a group of powered-armor soldiers that are sent to spearhead dangerous military operations. At the start of the first game, Section 8 arrives on the fringes of Earth’s space to crush an insurrection by a group known as the Arm of Orion. Although they were expected to steamroll the opposition, the 8th becomes involved in a protracted war. While Earth’s forces are ultimately victorious, the costly war raises a lot of questions, stemming from the Arm of Orion’s relative success against Earth’s best. Prejudice picks up at this point in the story, following the character of Alex Corde as he and the 8th search for answers to this Arm of Orion mystery.

Why the decision to launch the game at such a budget price (considering the amount of content)? How much of this is a pricing experiment vs. marketing hook?
Price and distribution were considered hand-in-hand. At first, Prejudice was going to be a full retail title, but about halfway into development we started to think how releasing it as a digital-only title would allow us to hit a very large audience. Since we’re self-publishing Prejudice, we have total control over how we distribute and price it. We didn’t feel that it would be appropriate to sell the game for $60 on services like X-Box Live and PSN, given that most XBLA titles are in the sub-$20 range. It wasn’t an easy decision, but the more we considered the breadth-and-depth of the audience we could reach, the more we liked the idea.

In the end, it’s both a bit of an experiment and a marketing hook. Since nothing like this has ever been tried before, we’re not entirely sure of the outcome. All we can do is hope the outcome is a great game that lots of players get for an amazing price.

Safe to assume that a $15 price isn’t possible without digital distribution? How much would physical distribution add to the cost of the game?
A good bit; more than doubling it. Manufacturing, shipping, and retail margins add up. The scope and budget of Prejudice is a lot bigger than what would be successful at a $15 retail route. Digital distribution, with its higher developer margins, is certainly what is making the $15 price point practical.

The pricing angle of the game is fairly big risk, are you putting your studio at long term risk or have you hedged your bets a bit?
There’s always risk in trying something new. That’s the scary part of business, as well as the exciting part. We’re not really worried about the health of the company though; Prejudice would need to be a spectacular flop for it to seriously affect TimeGate.
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