According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average video gamer is now 33 years old. And your average 33 year old doesn't have the time to spare to learn the ropes and explore all the nooks and crannies of your average video game any more. The industry is starting to look at releasing video game in episodes, like a TV show. The idea is to keep interest in the characters and action high, and keep the content fresh and in manageable chunks for the poor people that can't play Doom 3 for eight hours at a stretch anymore or they'll lose their job, house, car, wife, and children. And worse, they'll lose at Doom anyway because they never have the time you need to get really good at it.
The idea behind episodic games is to release content in small batches, like episodes of a TV show. This concept has been around for a decade, but every attempt so far has flopped. In 1998, Wing Commander: Secret Ops proved too bulky to download; two years later, nobody cared about the role-playing game Siege of Avalon. Since then, broadband has replaced dial-up, and developers have acquired better design tools. Plus, more gamers are geezers.
Jason Hall, the head of the Warner Bros. game division, told me that whoever figures out episodic content first will "make a mint." For one thing, an episodic game would provide a simple, effective way to connect with a growing audience that uses online console services such as Xbox Live. Online distribution would allow companies to decrease production costs, and releasing games more frequently would lend itself to faster feedback, letting designers make tweaks based on user input in between episodes. Most simply, if episodic content really catches on, gamers will open their wallets every month or, perhaps, every week.
But remember designers, the purpose of gameplay is to do things you're not able to do in real life, so I don't want to ride around in Grand Theft Auto looking for Viagra bottles with the blinker on the whole time.
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