The Full Game + Expansion Pack Model, or, Why Wipeout HD Fury = The Future of Downloadable Games
Developers have been wringing their hands over App Store pricing for the past year, trying to figure out how to make money on games that—under the best conditions, but in actuality, very rarely—approach the quality of PlayStation Portable releases. So here’s the answer: Sony’s futuristic hovercraft racing game Wipeout HD Fury. We profiled Wipeout HD last September, a $20 downloadable game for the PlayStation 3 console, praising its pricing, distribution, and most importantly, its combination of cutting-edge graphics and exhilarating gameplay. Yesterday, Sony released Wipeout HD Fury, a $10 expansion pack that requires the original download, adding eight new tracks, 13 new ship models, new music, and a new user interface.
To be very clear about why this particular expansion pack works, and had us excitedly doing a midnight download with no questions asked before purchase, several facts need to be stated. First, the initial release was stunning—not just a console-quality game, but a piece of software that truly showed off what the console could do, priced so reasonably that we wanted to support the developers’ future efforts. Sony treated the initial title not as some half-quality, not-quite-finished game, but rather as a technology showcase complete with enough tracks, challenges, and music to fully justify a purchase. The tracks were as “alive” as visions of largely metal and glass future metropolises could be, with little background details that made each stage feel as if the crafts were racing through real, inhabited places.
Second, the Fury expansion pack offers real value, and it’s apparent from moment one. You boot up the game and see that the previously clean white and blue interface has been replaced with a grittier black and red version, complete with particle-effect rendered versions of ships, occasional and deliberate out-of-phase images—pop-up boxes shudder like a flickering TV—and edgier music. There’s an option to switch back to the prior interface, but after seeing this one, we didn’t want to.
The new stages follow in their predecessors’ footsteps, offering 60fps smoothness, outstanding design, and a level of detail that is almost invariably staggering. Every texture looks great at its normal distance, and you can switch between multiple in-game and paused camera views to see additional details that enable Wipeout HD Fury to look literally as good or better than the pre-rendered art Sony used to create for past Wipeout games. This discussion thread does the game far more justice than these quickly-snapped images; it suffices to say that Sony put as much time into making the new levels look fantastic as it had with the preceding title.
And there have been gameplay additions, as well: an Eliminator mode to rack up as many competitor eliminations as possible, leading to a target score, a Zone Battle mode that forces multiple vehicles to compete to reach a specific target speed first, and Detonator, which turns tracks into shooting galleries with fixed targets and limited ammunition to take them down. There’s also a new instant-180 feature, letting you turn your pack-leading ship completely around in a flash to unleash the weapon it’s carrying on unsuspecting followers. Plus, online multiplayer remains intact, with access to two of the three new modes.
When a developer does just about everything right, as Sony did in this case, the impact on potential purchasers is electric and palpable. Reactions from the PlayStation community have been not just overwhelmingly positive, but almost universally in the “amazing” category—exactly the sort of buzz that a company needs when its console’s sales have been hurting. If Sony can make a business out of $20 downloadable console games and full-sized $10 update packs—for the PlayStation 3, no less—anyone can. And on the iPhone, where the initial cost of development is way lower and the results are far less engaging, $10 premium downloadable games with big $5 level and feature upgrade packs seems to be the “right” direction for developers to take. Cartridges and discs may still dominate leading game platforms today, but every Wipeout-like release makes them feel like the walking dead. This is the future of gaming, and for the first time in many years, it feels like a future that’s worth paying for.
If you have a comment, news tip, advertising inquiry, or coverage request, a question about iPods or accessories, or if you sell or market products, read iLounge's Comments + Questions policies before posting, and fully identify yourself if you do. We will delete comments containing advertising, astroturfing, trolling, personal attacks, offensive language, or other objectionable content, then ban and/or publicly identify violators. Wondering why we're talking about something other than iPods? Check the Archives: Backstage has been here and kicking it since 2004.
- Some Apple Music and iTunes Match services may be illegal in the U.K.
- Australian banks accused of anti-competitive behavior over Apple Pay lockout
- Happy Thanksgiving 2015 from iLounge!
- Apple reaches deal with UnionPay to bring Apple Pay to China
- DisneyLife subscription-based app launches in the U.K.
- Apple buys motion capture company Faceshift
- Apple CarPlay included in 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage
- Apple aims to launch Apple Pay in China by February
- MasterCard giving Apple Pay users free trips on London’s public transit system
- Apple wins DRM patent case against ContentGuard
- Parrot Hydrofoil Drone
- Apple Pencil for iPad Pro
- IK Multimedia iRig Pro DUO
- CableJive HeroDock
- Phiaton BT 330 NC Headphones
- Ecoxgear EcoPebble Powerbank + Speaker
- Lunatik Taktik 360 for iPhone 6/6s
- Belkin Charge Dock for Apple Watch + iPhone
- SwitchEasy Aero, N+, Nude, Play for iPhone 6s/iPhone 6s Plus
- Netatmo Welcome Smart Home Camera
- Under the Radar: 10 ‘hidden’ details about the new Apple TV
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.0
- Under the Radar: A closer look at smaller iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus changes
- A First Look at iOS 9’s Transit in Apple Maps (Updated for watchOS 2)
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes 12.2
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 8.4 + Apple Music
- CE Week 2015: IK Multimedia, Monowear’s Apple Watch bands + More
- Live From CE Week 2015: Brand New iPad, iPhone + Mac Accessories!
- Opinion: The ‘Grand Experiment’ of shifting to Google Photos
- Will removing a credit card from Safari also remove it from Apple Pay?