Developers Roundtable: The Future of Simulations – Part 3 Page 3

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SimHQ: To continue in the same vein, since manuals are expensive for developers to make, how much extra would you think a printed manual would add to the cost of a modern simulation?

Chris (Lead Pursuit): A top notch color manual printed full version of the .pdf in Allied Force would probably have doubled the cost.

David (Matrix Games): A quick search on CafePress reveals that print on demand books, perfect bound, cost $10 for a 100 page manual and $13 for a 200 page (.03/page + 7 dollar fee). The quality of these, as I understand it, is not as high as many people would expect. If the developer wishes to print them beforehand they could benefit from a discount and probably have a higher quality manual but would have to take the risk of not selling out into account (so may end up charging the end user the same price anyway).

Julian (XSI): Very hard to generalize, the cost would vary dramatically depending on the number printed. In my opinion the extra cost is more than enough to prohibit including a printed manual as standard. My preference is to offer a high quality, nicely bound manual at about cost-price. With enough numbers this would work out cheaper for the consumer than having it printed at a print shop, and become a kind of collectors item.

Rick (XSI): I really think it depends on many different factors; the main focus to consider is the amount you will be printing. This includes page counts, the many different price points, pre-press costs of editing and design, etc.… it can add significant costs. I believe developers can help ease this tension a little by providing a wider array of comprehensive training missions in sims, to help significantly reduce the high learning curve. Also, by adding features that allow for instant pop-up access to the in-game manual while in-flight. The printing of a 40 page basic operations guide alone, can add a significant cost to production depending on the amount of volume produced. Clearly the higher the volume the cheaper it becomes, but high fidelity sims are not large volume sellers.

Martin (Battlefront): We have made a huge 570 page spiral-bound manual for the Dangerous Waters naval sim from Sonalysts Combat simulations. It’s part of the Deluxe version that we’re selling online, which is $10 more expensive than the regular version ($45 plus S&H). Those $10 cover the cost for the super-sized manual.

SimHQ: How do you perceive the sales of current simulations in today’s marketplace? In other words, are LOMAC, the IL-2 / FB / PF series, Wings Over Vietnam, GTR, NASCAR SimRacing, etc. actually doing well enough in retail sales to entice publishers to still desire to take on such titles?

David (Matrix Games): I believe the above mentioned titles are doing well enough that major publishers have not written off the entire genre as they have with, say, non-action adventure games.

Julian (XSI): When compared to the mammoth marketing power the current consoles hold, I think, unfortunately, they pale into insignificance.

Martin (Battlefront): Clear no. The problem is twofold — sims used to be the mega-sellers for many years before the RTS genre hit the market like a train — and nowadays sales are MUCH lower. Secondly, sims are selling much worse in comparison to some of the most successful titles out there, AND are usually more expensive to make (read: more money that actually has to go into real development and not marketing). Take these two points together, and sim is a four-letter word all of a sudden.

SimHQ: The latest two flight simulations being released are actually remakes of older code. Do you see any possibility of taking the PC sims from the past and either updating and re-releasing them or actually porting them to the next generation of consoles? Some have mentioned that a lot of the older titles may gain new life that way. I’d like to know if there’s any interest in taking a crack again at the old, Andy Hollis-style single-aircraft study? The Falcon 4: Allied Force team is doing this. Are the dev teams and publishers watching this redevelopment of F4?

Julian (XSI): I think it’ll happen sooner or later, the line between console and PC continues to blur, it only takes a little bit of hardware to be developed in the form of controllers, and some form of keyboard to make the next generation of console more than capable of running a flight simulator.

Rick (XSI): Console games comprise of about 85% of the market, where as the PC game makes up about 15%. Then you dissect the flight sim market, it would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Right now the future is sadly obscured a bit for flight sims until a new marketing direction is found, but it appears things could be changing rapidly

I truly believe MSFS will make the first move to the console market soon, offering their product for both PC and the Xbox console with their next release, and the fact that they won’t be dishing out royalty fees on their own products helps.

Chris (Lead Pursuit): If there’s a demand for a franchise, and if that franchise has heritage and “legs” then for sure there is a new lease of life for an older product. The key is evolving to keep up with demand.

Steve (Battlefront): There is always some amount of retro game development out there at any given time, regardless of genre. From the old classics like Missile Command and PacMan, to Lucas Art’s “Sam & Max”. Sometimes they hit, often they miss. The main reason is that the original was more a product of its time and timing rather than anything of intrinsic value. An F4 simulator is probably going to sell no better or worse depending no matter what its lineage is. And it must be kept in mind that just because a game was “best of the year” 10 years ago doesn’t necessarily mean anybody still cares about it today. For example, do you really think people would go ga-ga over a 3D rendered version of Space Invaders if it were released for $50 next year? I doubt it, yet Space Invaders was one of the biggest games of all times in relative terms

David (Matrix Games): I’m not sure how closely other teams are watching how this fad unfolds, but we are not very concerned with it. We aren’t market leaders in innovation in flight sims, if the market responds well to such factors we will have ample opportunity to duplicate it. There’s no need for established companies to take on that level of risk.

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