Defiance is a crazy gamble and an ambitious experiment. Combining a new Syfy channel series with a shooter MMO is bold. Somehow, someway, the show and the game are meant to interact. There’s one problem though, both have to take off for this experiment to be a success, and it seems like one of the two is already falling behind.
It’d take an even bolder move to make a sudden change to the whole thing, but the biggest issue holding back Defiance is the game. Early press and reviews have not been kind, leaving many curious people hesitant to drop $60 on a potentially mediocre game. But what if you could download it right now and try it out free-of-charge? What if you could test the waters and pull in your friends without any upfront costs?
Defiance stands as a really strong case for the free-to-play/pay for microtransactions and DLC model. Here’s why:
Defiance always had some buzz surrounding it simply by the nature of what it was offering. An MMO is ambitious on its own, but this transmedia concept was a really compelling idea. When it finally came time to launch, though, the game seemed to blindside everyone. The launch was quiet, and many in the press talked about not getting review copies or even having trouble finding the game in stores. Then the reviews and impressions started coming in and it was a mixed bag. The overarching theme seems to be that Defiance has a lot of issues, but there’s a fun game at its core. There’s enough of a glimmer of promise to get potential players interested, but to drop $60? Certainly not.
Now imagine if the game was a simple download away whether playing on PC, PS3, or PC. Sure, the downloadable, free-to-play model is completely different from what they have now, and who knows how much red tape Trion Worlds would need to go through to get it going. Without some miracle, incredible work on the part of the developer, and a ton of leniency on the part of publishers and platform holders, a sudden shift in model is a pipedream.
But! But, if it were possible, suddenly you’d have a game that every curious and hesitant player could not only start playing, but encourage all their friends as well. It can be a nightmare trying to get friends gaming on a budget to take time away from Call of Duty, League of Legends, or whatever they’re obsessing over, but that perception changes completely when you say “it’s free-to-play.”
While there are games like Guild Wars 2 that manage to succeed with the Defiance model, they also earn it through a ton of pre-existing goodwill and solid reviews. In general, the story with MMOs these days is that the best way to succeed is through free-to-play, and any games that fight that model eventually lose out. Why do games continue to fight that model instead of embracing it from the very start?
That said, while Defiance is a $60 game now, that price is only going to drop. How long before players can get the full game for a fraction of the price? How long before Defiance is missing out on a pile of the profits that smaller DLC seems to offer?
Again and again, mostly because of Microsoft’s methods and not any fault of developers, the Xbox 360 misses out on MMOs and free-to-play games. Free-to-play games get ported and transformed into pay experiences, while MMOs in general remain a mirage on the horizon. Meanwhile, PS3 has MMOs, free-to-play games, AND MMOs, and the PC is basically a paradise for these things. I suspect that a lot of the curiosity for Defiance comes from the Xbox-owning crowd who haven’t had any opportunities to play an MMO outside of Final Fantasy XI.
I can go on Syfy’s website right now and watch the premiere episode of Defiance. In fact I did, and it was decent. I enjoyed it, and I’ll continue watching it. Sure, there were some ads, but I got to watch the show I was mildly curious about without any upfront costs. If I had to pay money to watch Defiance I may have never made that leap because, like the game, the show seemed like it could go either way. The TV show benefited from being free-to-watch, and I assume the game would get the same benefits.
As of this writing I’m still curious about the game, but I’m hesitant to drop the money on it. How long will that curiosity last? I’ll tell you there are many other retail games that are vying for my attention, games I’d even be willing to pay upfront for. Defiance doesn’t have that degree of appeal for me, and the further I get from launch, the more I feel my interest waning. But what if I could play it now? Even a sample, a demo, something to get my feet wet would do wonders. I’d be all over that, and if Trion could keep me engaged with content, they might even make their money back.