On several forums I frequent, including Matrix Games’ own forum, there has been more and more discussion about Distant Worlds, namely its current pricing model. Basically, if you want the original Distant Worlds, as well as its two expansions, The Return of the Shakturi and Legends, you need to fork over around $90 ($39.99+$24.99+$24.99, respectfully) for what is considered the “complete package”, since both expansions add so much to the game.
Whenever I talk to people about Distant Worlds – especially after my review of Legends — I gush and gush about how amazing the game is, trying to get them to buy it. However, price keeps coming up as the main reason people can’t pull the trigger, mainly because they can’t try it first and also because it’s now ultimately a two year old game. Now, I’m not privy to the pricing practices at Matrix games, so they may have a very legitimate reason for keeping the price as it is, but I feel doing so is cutting people off from one of the best 4X games made in the last decade, if not ever.
Now, in talking to people whom I’ve tried to convince, I’ve encountered two main issues/barriers:
The Price is Too High
I honestly think this is a valid argument. Again, while I’m unaware of Matrix’s pricing practices, many believe that a two year old game should drop in price as it ages. This is the cases for most games, yet Matrix still retains their high price. This might be to appear as a “boutique” of niche gaming, which I would totally understand, but to people who don’t own the game, this is a major barrier. Sure, the base game is $40, but to experience the full joy of Distant Worlds, one should have the game and the expansions, which totals around $90, as previously stated. That’s a LOT for a video game in the age of Steam sales and $0.99 iPhone games.
Sure, Distant Worlds is deeper than nearly any game in its class — or most other games period — and has really long legs due to its variety, moddability and so on, but does that mean it should retain its new-game price? I don’t mean to be too critical here, but lowering prices can be good for sales. Look at Jeff Vogel and Spiderweb Software. They sold their excellent RPG’s at $25 or more for many years, as they began in the age of shareware in the mid 90s and prices like that made sense. Eventually, however, they came around, and now all of their games will be cheaper due to heightened sales. Why couldn’t Matrix do something similar, I wonder? Another problem with this pricing is that buying the game is mostly based on faith, since folks can’t try it beforehand, which brings me to the other problem…
There’s No Way to Try Before You Buy
I think having a demo of Distant Worlds — which might a difficult game to encapsulate in a demo, granted — would really help people get over the sheepishness caused by the high price. I mean, Distant Worlds isn’t just a game, it’s honestly an investment in months if not years of wonderful 4X gameplay, but without a demo, people only have the word of people like me and other fans to even try to overcome the price barrier mentioned above.
Letting people try even a small, limited portion of the game before they plunked down their hard-earned money for it would also likely generate more sales and interest, once people saw what an amazing game it was. It would help fans like myself go “Here, try this!” when we tell people how wonderful the game is, so they can spend some time with it themselves and find out on their own if the game is right for them. Without a demo, all people have is faith in the word of fans like me, reviews, articles and the marketing blurbs on Matrix’s own site. Sadly, this might not be enough, and doesn’t seem to be in many cases.
Sure, I Could Be Wrong…
I mean, this is mostly optimistic speculation on my part, but I’ve seen examples — beyond just Spiderweb Software mentioned above — of developers noticing a jump in sales when the prices of their game are lowered dramatically for a sale or even permanently. I know I’ve purchased many games I might not have considered otherwise when the price was low enough. I therefore honestly feel that if Matrix lowered their bundled price of Distant Worlds and its expansions to maybe, $50 let’s say, that sales would like take a dramatic jump.
Again, I’m not trying to be critical of Matrix Games or the developers at Code Force because, again, I don’t know all the factors involved in their pricing. Despite that, hell, I WANT Distant Worlds to be a smashing success for everyone involved. It just honestly saddens me to see such a wonderful, truly marvelous game be passed over due to its current price and/or the lack of a demo. I would LOVE to see more people playing Distant Worlds and experience the sheer joy of exploration and discovery that few games have been able to capture (Starflight comes to mind of course), but with these two barriers still in place, I worry that Distant Worlds will remain a niche product within a small niche genre, never getting the full attention or audience it deserves. This, I feel, would be a crime against gaming, and one I would love to see solved sooner rather than later, if at all.
Welp, now that I’ve spoken my peace, what do you guys and gals think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and you can also vote in the polls below for a more concrete measure of opinion over this matter.
Thanks for reading and for your time! Have a great day! :)