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Marketing IFs, Stories In Play

Choice of the Vampire: ‘Once bitten…’ (a two part post)

Yesterday, I was going to post my first impressions of the iApp Choice of the Vampire, one of the two paid games on the iStore by Choice of Games.

Yesterday, it would have been a reasonably positive post with some minor quibbles. Today–now that I’m a little further into the work–sadly, it’s a post (actually, two) that borders on sweeping criticism.

In the past I’ve blogged about how successful I believe the Choice of Games formula could be as a business model. Based on the progression from Choice of Dragons to Choice of Broadsides, CoG looked to be doing everything right, especially when they started tapping the iApp market.

Then they released Popcorn, Soda…Murder. The writing was terrible and the game was a mess. To be honest, I didn’t play it for long at all.

I blogged shortly after about being concerned that CoG could hurt their brand with such works, and was glad they didn’t give it a Choice of title. They had something good going for them, I wrote, and while the idea of having lots of people writing works for them (all bringing in money) was no doubt very attractive, killing their brand in the process would ultimately destroy their business.

Then came The Nightmare Maze. I wanted to like it, I wanted to believe that they wouldn’t just publish anything, but while the writing was a step up from Popcorn, it was still only passable, and the choices and narrative were so obtuse as to make everything seem meaningless. Every choice was just a guess; a seemingly random riccochet.

Finally, a Choice of game appeared. In fact, two: Choice of the Vampire and Choice of Romance. And they were on the iStore, albeit for $2.49 (AUD).

Always wanting to support what I believe in, I bought Choice of the Vampire

After spending a bit of time trawling through their blog, trying to understand, and seeing the emphasis that’s being placed on making (short-term) money, I fear now that Choice of Games is headed for turmoil. Understandably, they want to make a name for themselves, and they want to see a return on investment for all the effort that’s being put into their brand. But I wonder if they haven’t lost sight of the big picture. Video games may be all about the day one sales. But the book market is not–at least not for authors or publishers just starting out.

Without getting into minute details about decisions made, Choice of Games should have been about a consistent concept; a consistent level of quality; a consistent release schedule that was never hurried.

Had that been the case, I would have bought every one of their apps. Happily. More than happily.

Now… Well, let’s just say, ‘Thrice bitten…’

My next post:  some specific thoughts on Choice of the Vampire–the good and the bad. Includes unreliable narrators (and, apparently, players); bemoaning the belabouring; and the ‘bloody’ inconceivable (or, at the very least, highly illogical).


5 Responses to “Choice of the Vampire: ‘Once bitten…’ (a two part post)”

  1. About the “Choice of…” titles — I think the non-Choice of titles are games they didn’t write but are just hosting. (See here and here… which also emphasizes the week one sales, sadly.) So, though I found the Nightmare Maze baffling, I didn’t hold it against the rest of their work (which I haven’t played yet).

    If Vampires is bad, that’s bad, though. It’s also maybe questionable whether they ought to host just any old thing written in clear English.

    Posted by matt w | September 16, 2010, 9:39 pm
  2. @ Matt:

    You’re spot on. From all I can tell, the works without the Choice of prefix are simply works that others have written using their proprietary system. But the way that they’re packaging them and promoting them is extraordinarily detrimental to their brand, especially on the iStore where (without visiting their web site) a consumer wouldn’t/couldn’t make the distinction. Again, using book publishing as an example, you wouldn’t put six fan fiction novels (of varying quality) on the same shelf as an original, all bound the same way.

    Vampires isn’t so much “bad” as it is disappointing and flawed, especially when you pay money for it. I believe it’s still free on the web site, so play it that way if you want to try it. I’ll get my thoughts down in the part two post hopefully soon.

    Posted by Neophyte | September 16, 2010, 10:41 pm
  3. Vampires is not as awesome as some of their other stuff, but I greatly enjoyed both Romance and Broadsides.

    Posted by Gravel | September 17, 2010, 6:11 am
  4. @ Gravel:

    Broadsides is definitely the benchmark I would love to see from them. I thought that was a very strong work, and was what convinced me that CoG could be a force to be reckoned with. You say Romance is good…?

    Posted by Neophyte | September 17, 2010, 8:38 am
  5. Well, I certainly enjoyed it. In some ways, it wasn’t quite as strong as Broadsides – the story is a little more confined; but they did a few things I found very fun. (Rot13 for spoilers)
    Gur frg-hc vf erznexnoyl fvzvyne gb gur svefg frnfba bs gur Ghqbef; gurer’f bar fprar va cnegvphyne jurer V ernyvmrq, ncebcb bs abguvat, gung V jnf cynlvat n tnl jvmneq Naar Obyrla, juvpu vf xvaq bs njrfbzr.

    Posted by Gravel | September 17, 2010, 12:39 pm