Developers Roundtable: The Future of Simulations – Part 3 Page 2

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SimHQ: At the same time, this eliminates some of the traditional goodies that have come with boxed sims, like keycards, quick start manuals and ever increasingly rare full printed manual. Do you think that the loss of a paper manual has hurt the sales of simulations?

David (Matrix Games): Absolutely! The number one overall request we get for is printed manuals. I must admit that only a few ever ask anymore. While our games often do come with quick start guides in .pdf form it requires the user to print it themselves. We currently offer a “Manual On Demand” service that allows printed manuals to be mailed to you. Furthermore, we feel customers who could live without it should not be burdened by the extra cost. In the end the current truth is this: The loss of the manual doesn’t hurt sales as much as the cost to print them would. .pdf manuals also allow us better control in updating and search features of our manuals.

Chris (Lead Pursuit): Possibly. We have two manuals with Allied Force: a 716-page .pdf version and a 109 page printed version. To create a production run of printed manuals for the “full works” would have significantly increased the cost of the product. We hope the printed Basic Operations Manual gives sufficient help to those new to the simulation, while the more experienced pilot will dig deeper with the .pdf.

Julian (XSI): Not necessarily, I think these can still be provided by mail order. I think tiered pricing may become more common, $x for a download license, a little more if you want the box, keycard, etc. As far as realistic simulations go, I don’t think we’ll see full printed manuals included in the base price ever again, only as optional extras, pretty much sold at cost.

Martin (Battlefront): Not directly perhaps, but it is probably symptomatic of the direction the entire market has taken. If you as the publisher and developer are not willing to take the trouble to print proper documentation, how do you expect players to have the patience to learn how to play it. I am not entirely sure what came first though — the impatience of the player or the loss of paper manuals.

Rick (XSI): I really believe that flight simmers are a very refined and understanding group of people. The entire intact gaming market is undergoing these major cost reduction adjustments together, as the days of the massively expensive 700 page flight sim manuals included in the box have forever vanished and have been replaced by the .pdf file on the CD. But the lack of a game manual is certainly not going to stump the sales of a flight sim if the product is first-rate. The more developers and publishers can cut costs by shedding skin, the greater the opportunity becomes for the viability of the flight sim.

SimHQ: Many of the latest games have shipped with .pdf manuals. The cost of printing these manuals sometimes is prohibitive for the average gamer. Have developers considered getting together and contracting for a single source of paper manuals for sims?

Chris (Lead Pursuit): Not sure how that could work.

Julian (XSI): A good idea; not sure how much of an extra saving this would entail as they would still be separate print runs.

Martin (Battlefront): It’s not like the cost to print manuals is so extremely high. It is far far far less than what the average publisher spends on pointless twitch marketing for a mediocre title. If publishers wanted to spend the money on manuals they could, and contracting a single source isn’t going to reduce the cost much if at all. Of course spending cash on marketing brings better results (more mainstream customers) than in-depth manuals, which is why you as customer have .pdf manuals to print at home… and 4 page color spreads to look at in gaming mags instead.

Rick (XSI): In the massive hunt for reducing gaming costs, developers and publishers are moving away from the inclusion of paper manuals, that big cumbersome manual has become a pastime, and .pdf manuals are the new chosen technique of wisdom created by developers and publishers. This method can be especially harsh for flight sim enthusiasts, as these sims tend to be the more difficult and complex games to play. This philosophy regrettably allows the consumer if they choose to print out the manual themselves and absorb the high cost of printing.

Nils (eSim Games): Where publishers deal with the production and distribution of titles, developers have little saying. And for self-publishing developers, there already are production-on-demand service providers.

David (Matrix Games): As discussed above, while not directly related to simulations only, the entire Matrix Game line will eventually have a manual on demand feature that will offer to ship you a manual at the cost to have it printed. This value added feature applies to both our flight simulations and our strategy games.

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