One of the biggest surprise announcements of E3 came out of the Sony press conference relating to Far Cry 4. Those who own the game will be able to invite friends to play co-op along with them, even when they don’t own the game themselves. Remembering back to the initial PlayStation 4 announcement Sony raised the idea of a feature where friends could not just spectate but participate without owning the games and that is starting to come to fruition now.
The thinking behind this feature could stretch to sports games in a way that makes a lot of sense. Inaccessibility is often cited as a significant barrier to picking up new consumers and implementing this could allow novices a chance to learn with someone who is more experienced as a teaching tool of sorts. It’s asking a lot for those who aren’t comfortable with these games to spend $60 on them just to find out almost immediately that they’re overwhelming and too hard to grasp. Those people may be lost for good after that.
Seem far fetched that companies like EA Sports and 2K Sports would institute the ability to play a part of their games with a friend despite not owning them? It really shouldn’t. Sony wants to implement the gaming sharing as a “platform level feature”. Of course they won’t be forcing publishers to utilize it, but if it works well for some games then others will seriously consider it.
It’s essentially the same idea as a demo – to provide a slide of the game that would entice someone enough to go out and buy it. In this case it could more target those who wouldn’t have bought the game anyway whereas the pre-release demos try to capture them for day one.
Demos for sports games are also extremely limited in what they can showcase. They are often too short to notice much of what has gone into improving gameplay, and they generally don’t present a glimpse of the various rich modes that will be included in the full game. Their value has seemingly plummeted in recent years with some of the companies just bypassing them altogether. Instead with the game sharing they could offer access into something they are most proud of that might sell the game better than a demo would.
These companies have noted themselves a concern with negative first online experiences, often citing how significant percentages of consumers go online once and then never return. Imagine those people being able to play a friend online without even having the game. That has the potential to be much more enjoyable than hopping online and playing someone random after spending $60. Or maybe it’s limited somehow to modes like Ultimate Team which will eventually be branched off into standalone free-to-play games anyway. Whatever the pleasant experience may be, that will increase the likelihood they decide to buy the game now or in the future.
The debate will be over whether or not limited game sharing would be able to generate more sales than those that are lost in the process. Would there be some who pass on buying the game because they could just play a handful of friends online for free for example? Likely some would…but the numbers of them should be pretty limited and they may not have been committed to spending $60 anyway. There’s too much content in these games to think one small slice is all someone is looking for out of them.
The potential is there to increase consumer reach by allowing for limited access to games, and sports titles are among the most natural fits for such a feature. It may just be a year or two away from happening.