Are Episodic Titles The Future Of Gaming?

Given the recent success of games like The Walking Dead and the reception of the newly released The Wolf Among Us, are episodic titles the future of gaming?

Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People, Tales of Monkey IslandBack To The Future: The GameThe Walking Dead, and the recently released The Wolf Among Us - These are just a few examples of games that have been released in a series of episodes, rather than a full initial release. One interesting thing about them?

They have all been developed by Telltale Games.

Are episodic games successful?

It would seem so.

Telltale Games was founded in 2004 by former LucasArts employees and specifically focuses on making episodic games. By 2010 they were seeing yearly revenues of $10 million USD, nearly a 90 percent increase in profit over the previous year. Steve Allison, Senior Vice President of Publishing at Telltale Games, has said they can see a profit after 100,000 copies of their episodic games have sold, thus indicating that indeed, the episodic form of game distribution can easily be successful.

The Walking Dead has been their most successful release so far. It has sold over 8.5 million episodes and has won over 80 game of the year awards. Their latest release, The Wolf Among Us, was highly anticipated by fans, and even though only the first episode has been released, it has already received many positive reviews.

But even if they are successful, does that necessarily mean they are the future of gaming?

I would wager a guess and say yes and no, but mostly no.

The episodic bandwagon is going to start filling up.

Yes, because I think other studios will see the success of Telltale Games and give the episodic release format a try. But on the other hand, I don't see episodic games becoming the norm any time soon. People like buying a game and being able to finish it as fast as possible. If the game is released as several episodes, they will have to wait until the next one is released in order to continue with the story.

They're not that different.

Personally, I have several Telltale releases and the ones I've played so far have been good. But I bought them after all of the episodes were already released, so it wasn't any different from buying any other non-episodic game. When it comes down to it, I'm not sure if I would be okay with buying a game based solely on the reception of the first episode.

But they are riskier to buy.

For example, there are many games out there where the first part of it is really awesome, but then it turns out that later on the game is horrible, making it not worth buying even though the first part was good. Also, the opposite can be true, where the first part of a game is bad, but if you put up with it, the rest of the game ends up being amazing. I think it's hard to decide whether or not buying such a game is a good decision when only part of it has been released.

What do you think? Do you like the episodic release format or do you want to buy the whole game all at once? Let me know in the comments below!

Featured Correspondent

Published Oct. 23rd 2013
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    Clearly, I need to play The Wolf Among Us - I've seen too many good reviews on it this week.

    I do agree with your points on buying episodic games. It's like buying a comic book in the middle of the series and having to buy the prior issues to understand where you are in the story line. That said, if each episode is fairly well contained and can be picked up on it's own it mitigates that risk. But I suspect different games will have various levels of success with that.
  • Ryan Chizmar
    Featured Correspondent
    I know, right? I really want to try it myself!

    You got my point exactly and you actually made a good point about something I thought about after I published this article: If an episode can be purchased individually at a low price, as well as work well on its own as a stand-alone title, then there certainly isn't nearly as much risk.

    I'd go so far as to say it might even be worth it in those situations, but it would ultimately depend on the content of course.

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