Will the future come in small episodic chunks?

In a world where we’re seeing digital distribution becoming an increasingly popular way to buy video games, some developers are already altering the way they produce titles.  But firstly, what is an episodic game? Well, it’s a video game produced and sold in small units that build into a recognizable series as opposed to a single massive game. Basically a game could be released over five instalments with each one of these costing say between £5 and £10. Eventually, and when the gamer buys the episodes, they’ll end up with the full game.

Ok, so some of you are probably now saying ‘What’s the point of that? I want to play full games, not just little instalments of them!” And yes that’s a very valid point, after all Modern Warfare 2 wouldn’t have been as successful if it was released with an unfinished campaign mode right? But, episodic content does offer advantages! For a start it provides people with cheap games….you’re more likely to buy a game for under a tenner on impulse than a £40 one, yeah? It also makes things easier for developers and designers, providing them with deadlines in small manageable chunks! Though someone try telling that to Valve…can we have Half Life 2: Episode 3 yet please?

There have been a number of successful – mainly digitally downloadable – episodic games in recent years with Tales of Monkey Island featuring prominently among them. We also five episodes of an episodic Sam & Max title scheduled for release this year from Telltale Games who are well known for producing quality titles that come in little monthly chunks.

Now Telltale have revealed a new scheme which could both further develop the concept of episodic gaming via digital download and benefit Train2Game students aspiring to get their first big break in the industry. The developers will soon be using their skills to create pilots which if sell successfully could be made into full games.

Telltale’s CEO, Dan Connors says this concept is ““excellent way to expand the boundaries of interactive entertainment and gaming by bringing audiences unique and interesting content they might not see otherwise.”

Ok so you Train2Game students may not work for a developer yet, but the concept of episodic gaming could very well provide you with your first role in the industry.  Of course, you’re bound to be a very busy person but if you could produce say a pilot that was a few hours long then get it out there on the internet…and someone likes it, it could very well be the catalyst you need to start your career. There’s never been an easier time to get something out there, especially through the use of digital distribution.

And the use of digital distribution is bound to only get bigger, especially with a certain free and episodic Doctor Who adventure game on the horizon. Yes, it’s going to be free but it could also be the most popular episodic game to date!

So, what do you think? Is episodic gaming the way forward?