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Oddworld Dev Says PS Plus Free Game Deal Was’ Devastating’

IbizaPocholo

NeoGAFs Kent Brockman

PlayStation Plus is essentially Sony’s answer to Xbox Game Pass. PS Plus offers subscribers two free games a month and can significantly help small and medium-sized studios who might not have the marketing budget to put their games out there. However, not every studio benefits from the arrangement, as Oddworld: Soulstorm exemplifies.

According to studio head Lorne Lanning, the agreement was evidently a disaster for developer Oddworld Inhabitants. He described the decision to bring Oddworld: Soulstorm to PS Plus as “devastating,” costing the studio a significant amount of money.

Lanning recently went on the Xbox Expansion Pass podcast. During the interview, he explained how the studio lost out on tens of millions of dollars due to the PS Plus deal. According to Lanning, Oddworld Inhabitants suffered from financial difficulties during Oddworld: Soulstorm’s development. The studio agreed to offer the game free for a month through PlayStation plus in exchange for an undisclosed sum. Oddworld Inhabitants negotiated the payment expecting Soulstorm to sell between 50,000 and 100,000 copies at launch. However, it ultimately moved more than 4 million units during the month it was free with PlayStation Plus.

The COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role in the problem. The outbreak forced developers to work from home, pushing the release of Oddworld: Soulstorm back to April 2021. While COVID delays were common during that time, it also meant that the PS5 had been on the market for three additional months. This resulted in the game having significantly more potential PS5 players than either Sony or Oddworld Inhabitants expected during their negotiations. As a result, Oddworld: Soulstorm saw more than 40 times more sales than the developer’s most optimistic estimate. That would usually be fantastic, but in this case, it meant the studio lost out on a staggering amount of money.

 

Dr Bass

Member
This summary you wrote is terrible. Without wanting to listen to a movie length podcast to get the actual info ... what are you saying?

That way more people downloaded the game for free than they expected, which cannibalized potential sales? You talk about how it "moved more than 4 million units during the month it was free" but they expected it to "sell" between 50k and 100k during the negotiations. Can you explain that more clearly? They only expected 50k-100k free downloads? Or they expected that number during the free month to also sell to people who didn't have PS+?

How can the game have "40 times more sales than expected" and result in a huge loss of money, unless it's not SALES we are talking about?

Based on what you wrote my guess is simply this: They agreed to a free month for a lump sum payment. WAY more people than planned took advantage of that offer, and it essentially killed the potential sales they actually expected to have.

Is that correct?
 
Oddworld Inhabitants negotiated the payment expecting Soulstorm to sell between 50,000 and 100,000 copies at launch. However, it ultimately moved more than 4 million units during the month it was free with PlayStation Plus.
So it sold 4 million physical/digital copies? Can't be that, right? Or it was downloaded 4 million times on ps+?

Because if it's the latter, that says nothing about how much it could of sold because most ps+ users just cop the free game even if they never play it.

Bit misleading here.
 
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Dr Bass

Member
This is the crutch for offering games day one or early after release on a service

You're missing out on a lot of sales depending on the game because most people won't buy it after playing it for cheap
Yeah ... someone else around here has been making that pretty obvious argument around here. And here we have rock solid proof of that idea.

Wish I could put my finger on the person. :messenger_grinning_sweat:
 

Zeroing

Gold Member
So from what I understood, sales expectations were wrong when making the deal! Then external events like COVID made those sale numbers deal for ps plus even more inaccurate? Thus resulting in a really bad deal!
 

KungFucius

Member
The developers left significant amount of money on the table by choosing to receive a lump sum payment upfront instead of having their pay based on sales performance.
Ok this makes sense. They made the deal assuming less PS5 owners but delays resulted in more PS5 owners so they fucked themselves by choosing the shit option when making the deal.
 

StreetsofBeige

Gold Member
What probably happened is the got a fixed fee for PS+, and the actual sales (people paying $30 or whatever it cost to buy) ended up much lower than thought.

But I wouldnt blame that on delayed launch or covid or whatever they said in the article. It's not like PS+ membership doubled during year one of covid. There's still shitloads of PS4 and PS5 gamers not on PS+. So if it turns out they didn't want to buy the game it's because nobody cares about Oddworld.
 

ethomaz

Banned
The developers left significant amount of money on the table by choosing to receive a lump sum payment upfront instead of having their pay based on sales performance.
I don’t think his dreams should be true at all.
He think the 4 million players that downloaded the game due PS+ should buy the game if not on PS+.

The game without PS+ could have sold 100k units at launch because nobody cared.

I added the game to my library but never played it (and probably won’t ever play it).
 
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Fox Mulder

Member
This is the crutch for offering games day one or early after release on a service

You're missing out on a lot of sales depending on the game because most people won't buy it after playing it for cheap

More people playing doesn’t mean those people were ever going to actually buy it. What a shock that people check out free games on their subscription.

It’s weird to whine about millions playing your game most likely for the first time ever. Maybe their next game will benefit.
 
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I’ve been a fan since I saw the big box of Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee at Target. We had just gotten a PC for Encarta. Game was incredible.

Does Oddworld still have an audience?

I really don’t know if it does.

At least it got out there.

Amazing but incredibly dated games.

Lorne Lanning, Ron Gilbert, even Tim Schafer share this hell.

Tried and true game design, amazing writing and polish, more heart than anything in this business, hellish financials.

The Old Gods are dying.

(David Jaffe)
(Yuji Naka)
(Yu Suzuki)
(Keiji Inafune)
(Koji Igarashi)
(Shinji Mikami)
(Dennis Dyack)




Randy Pitchford, healthy as a horse.
 

BigBooper

Gold Member
Makes no sense of course. They don't know if it would have sold like that had they not had the good PR and free customers from PS Plus.
 

TransTrender

Gold Member
I don't understand how you can equate 4 million free PSPlus downloads to 4 million full priced launch window sales.

Let me know if I'm misunderstanding this.

Edit:
Nah. This is just dumb and should be a business lesson learned event. Any bean counter worth their salt would have seen this coming.
 
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kyliethicc

Member
So…. It sold much more than expected but he lost money? What?
He’s saying the game was downloaded around 4 million times via PS Plus.

He’s then using that data to make the illogical leap that his game would have sold far better than he expected.

He’s correct in guessing that some people who would have bought it didn’t cause they got to play it via PS Plus instead.

But there’s no evidence that his game would have sold significantly more than he anticipated. I doubt he lost much potential cash.
 

Pagusas

Elden Member
if 4 million people downloaded it free on PS Plus, I expect maybe 10 of them actually played the game. I imagine all of us Ps plus people grab all the games offered free each month, with most of us never actually playing them.

real world sales can’t be compared.
 
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What a joke.
The game was console exclusive to Playstation on launch, and then they make the game free on launch to PS Plus owners.
Ummm, that would mean only PC players were actually paying for it.
He is either the dumbest businessman in the world, or Sony short charged them on the payment.
You have the same situation where Xbox console exclusives are also released on Gamepass at launch yet the developers are happy with what they get?
They would have received money for putting the game on PS Plus and they would have received money from Sony for the exclusive as well.
Without that Sony money they most likely couldn't have afforded to make the game even.
 

jaysius

Member
Oddworld Who? The guy is lucky that the game got played at all, if it wasn't for PLUS this wouldn't even been a blip on any radars.
 

ZehDon

Member
I suppose we know now that PS+ games are negotiated for an upfront sum, not an amount per download. This feels like a bad business decision for new developers or new IPs, because they won't really have accurate projections to understand potential sales.
 

nbcjr

Member
The math he did makes no sense. Even worse than the napster-era equating mp3s downloaded with lost revenue, as they did get paid by sony.
 

StreetsofBeige

Gold Member
I suppose we know now that PS+ games are negotiated for an upfront sum, not an amount per download. This feels like a bad business decision for new developers or new IPs, because they won't really have accurate projections to understand potential sales.
If that's the case with sub plan deals, then all these game studios got to man up on business acumen. Or just dont do the deal and sell the indie game traditionally for $30 per pop.

Just do what most companies do with retailers selling chips and jars of coffee. The more it sells on a weekly deal, the more deal money that changes hands. Sounds like a simple concept to me. It's only been done for like 80 years. Probably more. Sounds like the Soulstorm studio got hooped in the PS+ deal with a flat rate fee they approved. Their fault for agreeing to a shitty deal if it's that bad.

Also, there's only so many PS4 and PS5 gamers who even do PS+. So if this game sold that bad across the other gamers who cant do the PS download, it means nobody gives a shit about Oddworld regardless.
 
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BigBooper

Gold Member
The article by Gamerant is somewhat deceptive. He isn't saying that all the people that downloaded it via PS Plus would have bought it.

He's saying that since they had to delay from a January release to an April release, there were more consoles available and more people received it for free than would have if they'd been able to release in January, which was right after the consoles launched. It makes sense in that context.

Link to the podcast discussion about it below.

 
Never negotiate against yourself.

And real talk: He should be happy he still gets to make these games. They have design from the 1990s, graphics from the early 2000s, and essentially never advance in any way. Who is audience for these?
 
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Developers should understand opportunity costs better. Nice to have the security of up front lumpsums but at least barter your contracts so you still have some percentages of sales based on volume tiers. Lower your lumpsum and gain more profit sharing as sales increase or be willing to stand by your agreement.

For newer IPs or indies/small studios a lumpsum is some nice security when establishing themselves. For an established IP like Oddworld or lightning in a bottle with runaway sales the lumpsum is handing your future profits away for candy right now. Business leaders should consider that balance very carefully in their negotiations and contract agreements.
 

SlimySnake

Member
None of this makes any sense. Is he saying that those 4 million PS+ downloads were lost sales? If so, thats fucking insane. people just claim free shit because its free. no one was gonna buy fucking oddworld for $60.

And no one forced them to do the deal. they took the money because it was attractive and guaranteed and they knew the game's success was in no way a guarantee.

the game was going to flop big time. if sony gave them a lump sum for 100k sales then thats $6 million. 1 million more than what MS paid for guardians of the galaxy 6 months after launch. They are stupid to accept such a shit deal but they did because they probably saw the engagement numbers on youtube and saw that no one was talking about the game, freaked out and took the guaranteed money.
 

wipeout364

Member
I did not listen to the podcast but I imagine they are comparing the downloads for the free PSplus version.with potential lost sales. I would imagine that most of the people that downloaded the free PSplus game would not have purchased the game in the store( maybe 10% of the people would) so his estimate is probably closer than he thinks.

Personally I add everything to my library that is on PlayStation plus even if I have no intention of playing it.
 

wolffy71

Member
He blames the pandemic but if not for ot he probably wouldn't have that many people playing it anyway. In short, he wouldnt have ever had those sales
 
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