Episodic games are becoming more and more popular. Telltale was not the first to do it, but they certainly made them very popular with their games like The Walking Dead, etc. Series that you might never have imagined being broken down into episodes have been (Hitman). Not only that but we will be seeing a lot more variety of games in the future broken into episodes. A lot of people are reacting very differently to this. Some love it, some are down right sick of seeing it. Here are the pros and cons as I see them.
The games can feel smaller:
By their nature episodic games are shorter, and more to the point. They cut out things like side quests and wandering in order to focus in on the “point” of the game. Episodic games can often have rich character development, but it’s lacking in a lot of other areas. It’s a very point a to point b sort of experience.
There is often a notably worse episode:
It seems like in most episodic games you can pick out one episode that is notably worse than the others. It might not be horrible, but it certainly stands out as a low point. You could make the argument that most games have a level like that, however you have more to look forward to at the end. When you get to a level you dislike in a game you just play another level afterwards. If you get to an episode you don’t like you finish it, and that’s that. It can even throw off how you feel about the rest of the game.
The game might not finish, or dates might be all over the place:
In fairness I can only think of one notable example. D4 as of now has two episodes. It was supposed to have at least four, but as far as anyone can tell no new episodes will ever be made. Now while this is rare, it is a problem more likely to happen with this format than releasing a full game. In addition to that Telltale had problems with releasing episodes far too inconsistently for awhile. The waiting game can really kill hype.
It gives you a good stopping point:
Let’s face it, not all of us can do a ton of 30+ hour games. Sometimes we only have a few hours to play a week. Episodic games fit into that gaming style better. You can start, and get to good stopping point in relatively little time. It fits well into a lot of different schedules, giving the player enough time to play and progress forward, without feeling too bogged down by how much time they will have to spend on it.
For a time it gives you something to look forward to:
There is something to be said for the hype of knowing you have more good things coming your way. If there is an episodic game that you are really enjoying, you get to space that experience out and enjoy it for longer. This of course only works if there is some kind of consistent schedule.
They are typically cheaper, but still feel like a full game:
Episodic games tend to hover around the 30 dollar price range. Despite being cheaper, they still feel like full games. In fact they are some times longer than full retail games. While they can feel smaller than other games, they can still have value. In addition to being cheaper overall, it also gives the gamer freedom to choose how they pay.
Honestly, I don’t mind the episodic thing so much. I would not be pleased if it took over the gaming world, but a few episodic games here or there is nice. As they become more popular it seems like a lot of the rough edges are being ironed out as well. As more games consider the shift though, I am a bit hesitant to see the future of this trend.