Monday, October 19, 2009

Fable II: Game Episodes First Episode (Xbox 360) Review

At the end of September, Microsoft Game Studios added Fable II to their Games on Demand service, where you can pay an overinflated cost to not get off your ass and own a digital copy of a game. So far, that overinflated cost has made me look elsewhere for every game available, but the Fable II offering is a little different. Why? Because it's presented to us in episodes.

This is the first time a full retail title is available via Xbox LIVE in an episodic format, and the great thing is the first episode is free. The first episode is the complete beginning of the game, progressing through your childhood and into young adulthood to where you need to take on Thag. Once defeated and the road to Bowerstone re-opens, you're prompted to purchase the second episode for 800 Microsoft Points to continue the game. If you decline, you can still run around and enjoy the currently unlocked sections of the game.

Now, overall, this is the same as the retail game, just a small section of it so there's no point to review it separately from my Fable II review found here. What I find fascinating is that with Fable II brought to us in episodic format, this first free episode functions as a glorified demo and is an excellent option for someone on the fence about getting the game. I was even able to access my Limited Edition content that would have been available at the game's beginning naturally, however you do need to purchase the second episode to keep any Achievements you've earned.

If you were to purchase all of the episodes via Games on Demand, you'd still be paying more than you would if you got off the couch and went to a store (Fable II retails for $39.99 as of this typing), however the episodic nature of the product allows for a rather unique circumstance not available anywhere else: it really caters to the ADD riddled customer, a growing trend amongst gamers today. In fact, I already know a few people who've purchased the second episode and who may purchase the third, but they'll be bored of the game by that point and won't purchase the rest. This allows them to enjoy as much of the game as they want at a reduced cost from retail, and then simply wander off to something else. Microsoft Game Studios also receives a cut since the customer paid for each additional episode, so in this instance, it's win/win.

For me, I traded in my copy of Fable II, so this free first episode allowed me to get an additional hour and a half of entertainment out of the title, a quick little jaunt through one of the better sections of the game at no extra cost to me, my glorified self. The only real downer I see to this format is the lack of a physical copy to trade in after wards, but with convenience as a selling point and the first episode being free, this is a smaller issue.

Personally, I'd like to see more retail games brought to Games on Demand in episodic format. I think this is a great move from Microsoft to guarantee a little profit on their part while also providing flexibility to the customer. As a consumer, if you really enjoy the first episode and you want the rest of the game, head to retail for the better deal. If you just want to enjoy a few more hours and then plan to call it quits, you can buy the next episode at less cost, enjoy, and then forget.

Excellent marketing idea, and the best implementation of Games on Demand that I've seen yet, as in this format, it really emphasizes the "on Demand" aspect.

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