Elite Dangerous: Horizons – The Dangerous Business Model?

frontier-developments-elite-dangerous-horizons-business-model-new-features-planetary-landings-1A couple days ago, I took a look at Star Citizen‘s Alpha 2.0, and after playing it for about a week, I came to the conclusion that I really, really want the game to finally come out. Alpha 2.0 is a mess. A lovely mess. A mess I want to play more of but a mess nonetheless.

Enter Elite Dangerous: Horizons. If you’re a regular here at SimHQ then you’ll know we’ve talked about Frontier’s excellent space sim plenty of times before. However, I’m consistently surprised by the amount of casual space sim fans who, not really knowing much about Star Citizen, outside of the hype, have never even heard of Elite: Dangerous.

As a side note, I can’t thank Frontier enough for the stealthy name change from Elite: Dangerous to Elite Dangerous. Dealing with game title colons and expansions is… annoying. Elite: Dangerous: Horizons? No, that’s not right. Elite: Dangerous – Horizons? Eh… better, I guess.

But I digress. While Cloud Imperium Games continues the long slog forward with Star Citizen’s development, Frontier has been quietly and consistently turning :Elite:Dangerous: into a serious competitor. Now, keep in mind when I say “competitor,” I don’t mean it in the “omg ps4 versus x1” kind of way. I simply mean, from a business standpoint, the two games will be competing for the same audience, to some extent. In all likelihood, if you’re a fan of space games you’re going to be playing both… a lot. In fact, Frontier Developments and Cloud Imperium Games have a pleasantly cozy relationship and routinely praise the others’ achievements. It makes me warm and fuzzy seeing two great developers playing nicely.

frontier-developments-elite-dangerous-horizons-business-model-new-features-planetary-landingsBut I digress… again. Where were we? Elite-:Dangerous**Horizons:  officially went live last week, and it’s safe to say that December (and this year in general) is a great time to be a space sim fan. I’ve been playing Elite Dangerous since launch, on and off, and it’s been fantastic seeing the game grow. The latest expansion (or rather series of expansions), Horizons, promises to make the game even better.

At its core, Horizons is a package of updates that will extend well into next year. Planetary landings and exploration jump starts the updates this month in a big way. But you can look forward to multi-crewed ships, avatar creation, and looting/crafting in the coming months. One thing to note, if you’ve been playing Elite Dangerous for a while, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the strange mixture of single player and multiplayer elements. With Horizons, Frontier Developments is moving away from the single player experience and embracing the game’s multiplayer. With that in mind, players should also understand that Elite Dangerous: Horizons is, in fact, an entirely “new” game. So, if like thousands of other players, you’re more than a little miffed that you have to, essentially, re-buy the entire game just to get the next series of updates, you’re not alone. Far, far from alone. As a long time gamer who grew up playing MMO’s and paying standard monthly fees, I can’t bring myself to be too irritated at Frontier. I mean, it is a little bit of a slap in the face, but from a business standpoint, I understand that the funding for such a big game has to come from somewhere. After all, Frontier doesn’t have the $100m+ crowd funding of Star Citizen.


mfw I had to buy the game… again

So, what do you get for buying the game twice? Well, that’s a tricky question to answer with any kind of immediate satisfaction.

  • Access to the Planetary Landings “module” from the new season of updates
  • Plenty 1:1 scale worlds to explore (with lots to see on each individual planet)
  • The SRV ground vehicle to enable the exploration of planets

On paper, this is a paltry set of features to justify a complete re-purchase of the game. In practice, however, the new stuff packs quite a punch, in terms of gameplay. On top of the immediacy of Planetary Landings, you’ll get access to the new loot/crafting system, multi-crew ships, commander creator, and ship-launched fighters which are all scheduled to be released next year, under the umbrella of Horizons. Keep in mind, this also includes all the previously released mini-expansions: Community Goals, Wings, Powerplay, CQC, and the 1.5 Ships Expansion.

frontier-developments-elite-dangerous-horizons-business-model-new-features-planetary-landings-deploy-fightersNow, I’m not going to defend Frontier’s decision. I’m simply going to say that I understand the business model they’re using. It’s really up to you, the mass players, to decide whether or not it’s a business model you’re going to support. It’s a bit of a muddy situation because Elite Dangerous really is a great game with a lot of potential, but is that worth the 2x purchase price in order to play it? (Also, note that the double purchase price is only affecting people who already have the original game, you get 25% off if you do – if you’re buying it for the first time, all you have to do is grab Horizons and you’re set) Obviously, if you love the game and support the dev, your answer is probably “yes.” For others on the fence, however, it is definitely going to cause some hesitancy. It’s hard to say how this will impact Frontier’s long game, plus, so much could happen between now and then. Speculation is next to useless. So, what do you guys think? Are you willing to pony up the double purchase price to keep playing?

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