Introducing a universe through XBLA
While playing Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team this past week something occurred to me; Xbox Live Arcade is the perfect venue for developers and publishers to introduce players to a gaming universe. Kill Team is a perfect example. Here you have a straight forward old school arcade style co-op shooter set in the Warhammer universe. I bought it because I had always read a lot about the Warhammer universe online and because I’m a fan of shooters. I invited a buddy down, we had our fun with the game and I quickly picked off the last few achievements in Kill Team by myself in the following days to officially “complete” everything the game had to offer.
In exchange for 800 Microsoft Points, I got a lot of bang-for-your-buck enjoyment. What Game Workshop, Relic and THQ got was my $9.99–and more importantly–my attention. Before I knew it, I was completely immersed in the Warhammer universe. I am now looking forward to Space Marine as well as the upcoming MMO, Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online. Oh yeah, and I ordered a copy of the book Warhammer 40,000: Let The Galaxy Burn. All they had to do on their end was put a relatively cheap and easy to develop arcade shooter on Xbox Live. Not only did they get my money, they made me a fan. They realize how easy it is for a player to jump on an affordable, simple to play, downloadable title like Kill Team. And they realize that’s all it was going to take to pull me into the Warhammer universe.
THQ and Relic aren’t the first company around to notice how perfect Xbox Live Arcade is for pulling gamers into the universes that game developers create. Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, Fable II: Pub Games and Battlefield 1943 are just a few other examples of companies taking advantage of Xbox Live Arcade. They have established universes with plenty of titles and other material (like literature) already available on the market and all is takes is an affordable XBLA title to pull consumers in.
The other convenience about games like Kill Team and Case Zero is that they are relatively cheap and simple to develop. Dead Rising 2: Case Zero for example was basically one environment flooded by zombies and characters that you had to save. It gave you a taste of the Dead Rising universe, and gameplay yet it was an adventure on its own and introduced you to the protagonists of Dead Rising 2. Shortly after Case Zero was a success on XBLA, Dead Rising 2 hit. And I’d be willing to bet that the majority of people who bought Case Zero also bought Dead Rising 2. And it likely took very little time, money and effort on the part of Capcom and Blue Castle.
This makes even more sense with a universe like Warhammer. If you’re a semi-serious gamer, let’s face it, you’ve heard of Warhammer. You may not have played any of the games, but you’ve heard of the franchise, and you’ve probably seen a few trailers. These games have primarily appeared on PC where I personally don’t do a whole lot of gaming. But this fall the Warhammer universe will be gracing consoles with the full fledged third-person shooter/action game, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. So what better way to introduce a new generation of console gamers to the Warhammer 40,000 universe then by pumping out a cost effective XBLA shooter like Kill Team? It’s marketing genius.
Some developers have taken this concept even further in an effort to literally hook gamers into products. Fable II: Pub Games had an achievement that you had to play Fable II in order to unlock. Other games contain unlockables that you must play both the XBLA title and its “big brother” retail game in order to unlock. For example, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine has an exclusive weapon known as the Power Sword that is only obtainable to players who have completed a mission in Kill Team. For all of us out there who are hell bent on completion and/or achievements, we feel compelled to do what we must to get these things. In this case that means playing both Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team and then Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine.
If you couldn’t guess, here at XBLAFans, we love Xbox Live Arcade games. We play games like Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team, Battlefield 1943, and Dead Rising 2: Case Zero mainly for the games themselves. They are all very enjoyable games that are certainly worth your money. Developers and publishers however are thinking about more than just putting a great XBLA game in your hands; They‘re thinking about introducing you to a universe and persuading you to commit your time and money to it. This works to the advantage of gaming companies who at the end of the day run a business –But it also benefits us all as gamers as we can now venture out and enjoy more games than ever thanks to Microsoft’s simple yet genius invention of Xbox Live Arcade.