March 29th, 2011
Saber Interactive isn't known for making great games. But that hasn't stopped them from trying to carve out a niche making really short shooter games with Call of Duty-like graphics.
"We tried this Battle: Los Angeles and on a commercial level it seems to be working out thus far," says Matthew Karch, CEO of Saber Interactive, in an interview with CVG. "We started up a separate company called Live Action Studios and put a very small team on this to leverage our tech. We only had about 6 months from start to finish and it was entirely self-funded so we needed to keep it simple. If we had an extra two months, we likely would have included multiplayer and coop so there would have been more value. But for people who want to relive the movie for a bit or just have some good dumb fun, its an inexpensive way to do that."
The game costs $10 to download and runs 1-2 hours depending on the difficulty. It's average at best, features comically cheap cut scenes, and plays like you're always walking in honey. With exception to clunkiness, Karch says that's the point.
"The only way for many gamers to currently play multiple AAA games is to shell out quite a bit of money and that definitely limits our consumer base. If you want to reach an audience that is not accustomed to spending or can't spend that kind of money, then you need to give them an alternative."
He goes on, "Our thought was that this game would be directed squarely at a casual audience for whom this game would take a couple of hours to complete. What we have noticed so far is that the hardcore gamers have jumped on too, many of them finishing it quicker than that, so the response to the game has been all over the map, but we are happy with the results of this first foray into this market. As we move forward we will be able to create longer games with improved production values that capitalize on this initial investment in the platform."
As for Battle: LA's hyper short length, Karch says, "It's very hard from a developer perspective to give gamers something new for a full ten hours. What ends up happening is that games become uneven experiences, with parts of the game being great and parts being a chore to get through. I think that's where we lose our audience - when you get to the boring parts in the middle. I don't mean to imply that there isn't a market for longer games, as I think there will always be an audience for that, but I don't think that anyone has ever really explored the market for shorter AAA games in the shooter genre."
What do you think? Could shorter, less expensive experiences be a viable alternative to free-to-play games?