1C Company's Darryl Still has been speaking to CVG about the state of digital distribution. He describes the dichotomy between retailer's in-store stock levels, and customer's demand for products as "quite shocking."
According to the publishing director, the recent growth in digital distribution was inevitable: "I think of it as less a revolution, more a filling of a void. A new government coming in to a territory that has been pretty much ungoverned for the previous few years."
1C publish the Men of War, IL-2 Sturmovik, and King's Bounty series', among other PC stalwarts.
Still credits PC with the industry's technical advancements of late, saying: "The PC has been at the forefront of most technology shifts in the market. I was very aware of this at Nvidia. Most breakthroughs in console technology have their roots in the PC market. Most leaps in games development come to the PC first and then work their way into the SDK's of the console manufacturers."
He also says that PC gaming is still in a strong position, and that customer's lack of demand for boxed products is vastly exaggerated: "For the longest time we've been told by retail, in the UK and US especially, that PC games is a dying market.
"It has been getting less and less shelf space and less and less focus in store, but in all that time we, as a PC publisher have seen absolutely no drop off in demand. In fact the dichotomy between us being told by retail there is no demand for our product and us being asked by customers - by e-mail, phone etc. - where they can find our games is quite shocking.
"My favourite example is when one of our UK publishers came to explain why they had only managed to get 30 copies into the UK's largest retail chain. He passed on: 'They told us there was hardly any demand for the title.'
"At that time I had my digital sales reporting tool open, which tracks download sales instantly as they happen, I hit refresh and informed our partner: 'In the few seconds that's it has taken you to explain there is only demand for 30 units in the UK, we have sold twice as many as that digitally,'" concluded Still.
Digital distribution, and Steam's dominance over the market is a contentious issue. E.A's own download service, Origin has been creating all kinds of headlines over the past few weeks. When was the last time you bought a game in-store? Rich claims Enemy Territory: Quake Wars was his last boxed game, whereas Tom S, Tim and I all bought Starcraft II in-store thanks to the "nice box."
King’s Bounty: Crossworlds is an expansion for King’s Bounty: Armoured Princess, making it an expansion for an expandalone for the 2008 remake of the 1990 turnbased tactical RPG King’s Bounty. Much as in all of those, your job in Crossworlds is to heroically steer a horse around a medieval fantasy world, bump into evil generals, and fight their armies on a hex grid. Afterwards: XP and gold for all.
Unlike any of the previous games, Crossworlds comes with two discrete mini-campaigns to garnish the main expanded content. The first, Champion of the Arena, is about Arthur, a generic wanderer mercenary type who’s been drugged and taken to an underground city to complete a series of boss fights.
It’s easy. There are a bunch of race-themed guilds – Royal Academy of Shouty Men With Swords, Horrible Lizard Swamp, Dwarven Booze-O-Mine, etc. Fight various insta-battles for them and they’ll reward you with ludicrous amounts of cash to buy thousands of fairies with.
Look, I didn’t mean to start hanging out with fairies. I’ve got dryads and druids and shit like that, but it’s really just to boost the morale of my miniature murderous mistresses. Fairies are malice incarnate. Each turn, my dainty legions do horrible things to swarms of demons and undead. After each battle, I go up about five levels without breaking a sweat. It’s brief, silly fun, and I was done with it in about four hours. Square one If you prefer a challenge, there’s always the second mini-campaign. Defender of the Crown is set directly after the events of Princess. Princess Amelie has just defeated the Uberlord Demonpants guy, and returned as a battle hardened, triumphant... level one wimp? What? She’s also got to prove that she’s a bad enough dude to defend the crown, despite that whole freezing-time-and-voyaging-to-another-dimension thing she did.
Your resources are tight, the encounters so carefully built that you need to have a plan, and the rewards piled just high enough to make it seem worth it. It’s a frustrating gauntlet if you don’t know what you’re doing, but if you’re itching for a King’s Bounty style scrap that forces you to think, this is it.
The bulk of the expansion is less interesting. Orcs on the March is Armoured Princess again, but with some sloppy dialogue tree cock-ups, slightly more complicated Orc combat, and some more challenge-dungeons around the world. Loads of expensive magical items (which you can’t afford) lie around in shops from the off, and there’s a new Orc-centric quest chain, but it’s still the same old world from last time.
Although Crossworlds won’t rekindle your romance with the original Armoured Princess campaign, it offers enough content for veterans to justify the £15 purchase.