Another day at the Game Developer Conference, and another article from Gamasutra – this time, with industry giants Warren Spector of Junction Point, Neil Young of ngmoco, Will Wright of Maxis, Rob Pardo of Blizzard (or “the U.S. Mint,” as moderator Gary Whitta joked), Dave Perry of Acclaim, and Brian Fargo of inXile.  The topics they discuss are trends in the gaming hobby – socializing, upgrading/updates and digital distribution.

Wright recalled the rise of CD-ROM software, which was extremely slow for about eight years, before it suddenly exploded. “We’re almost at the steep part of that curve” with digital distribution, he estimated.

Whitta asked Young how he deals with the changing attitudes towards pricing, partially as a result of digital distribution, where people sometimes consider even tiny price points more money than they are willing to pay, since there is so much free content by comparison.

Young then referred back to ngmoco’s strategy for iPhone game Rolando, which will receive a slate of free content on a regular basis, followed by a paid sequel, with its own new free content, and so on. “It’s kind of like a proxy for building a service around your intellectual property,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is build a relationship for customers. …After that 12 months, we’ll end up making as much or more money than a DS or PSP game developed over a longer life cycle,” with the added benefit of getting more feedback from customers along the way.

“When we did The Sims Online, our primary customers were 12-year-old girls,” Wright said — and those consumers had no access to credit cards to purchase digitally-distributed content. “But these same people had no problem buying expansion packs every three months. …The expansion packs became voluntary subscriptions.”

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