Killzone 3 (KZ3) came out 14 months ago exclusively on Sony’s PlayStation 3. The game received high critical praise, especially in regards to the title’s the top-notch competitive multiplayer. Unfortunately, like many first person shooters not named Call of Duty or Battlefield, the community dwindled to a steady, but comparatively smaller group of dedicated players. One could always find games online, but rosters weren’t regularly as full as they could be and finding matches took a little longer than in the months first following launch.
Sony surprised shooter fans six weeks ago by releasing the Killzone 3 multiplayer experience as a free download on PlayStation Network. Released with little marketing support, the trial gave players the opportunity to demo all the standard and DLC KZ3 multiplayer maps until reaching a predetermined level 10 cap.
At that point, the player can keep his or her character progress by purchasing the full multiplayer experience (note that the campaign is not included). Priced at $14.99 (and a sweet $7.99 for PS+ subscribers), the offer is a steal for anyone looking for quality, visually stunning multiplayer mayhem.
Most gamers may not realize it, but we are seeing a great experiment unfold right in front of our eyes. With the release of Killzone 3’s multiplayer as a download, we have seen an ‘AAA’ title split down the middle and put online to try and grow the game’s community.
There are naturally three questions we need to ask at this juncture. First, has the trial been a success and grown the Killzone 3 community as hoped? Second, if the answer to question number one is “yes,” are we witnessing the birth of a new distribution method for ‘AAA’ multiplayer gaming? Lastly, does splitting a game into smaller parts help or hurt the game overall?
To answer the third question, industry statistics show that most single player campaigns are never completed. In fact, only 10% of players ever finished Red Dead Redemption’s main storyline, a game universally praised by critics and gamers alike. Similarly, in the words of Activision’s Keith Fuller in an interview last year with CNN, “What I’ve been told as a blanket expectation is that 90% of players who start your game will never see the end of it unless they watch a clip on YouTube.”
Whatever the genre, whatever the platform, 90% of people will never finish the average console game’s single player campaign.
I decided to pole ten of my avid gaming friends to put the ‘10%’ statistic to the test, simply for the sake of argument. Of my ten gamer friends, only one ever finished the Call of Duty: Black Ops campaign, two finished Mass Effect 2 and zero finished The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s main storyline. Now, that doesn’t mean they didn’t spend massive amounts of time on these games, it simply means they didn’t finish the main storylines.
I do not, unfortunately, have statistics to share regarding Sony’s KZ3 experiment at this time. (I contacted Guerilla Games for comment, but haven’t heard back yet.) However, what I do have is my own observations and those of other long-time KZ3 players. In a nutshell, KZ3 hasn’t had this many people joining multiplayer matches for months. Even more interesting, people keep talking about the influx of players during matches I’ve competed in. The feeling in the air for the average KZ3 multiplayer community member is one of excitement.
Whether all these new players become long-term community members, either by purchasing the multiplayer download or the full retail game, remains to be seen. What we do know is that splitting the experience and giving gamers several hours of playtime has unquestionably exposed new blood to KZ3. That can only be good for the online community.
I personally hope this form of distribution spreads to other games featuring dedicated online communities. Those that want to enjoy the full experience always have the option of buying complete games on discs, and those on a budget or who only want to play online can do so at a lower price and still contribute to the community.
What do you think? Is Sony’s Killzone 3 experiment good for the industry and gamers alike, or bad? Tell us in the comments or share on twitter at @GameJudgment.