In the time before digital distribution, you had “expansion packs”. It is a concept that has survived well into the digital distribution age.
You’d release say Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar as an expansion for people who had the game and then Galactic Civilizations II: Gold Edition for new buyers. Similarly, we released Sins of a Solar Empire: Diplomacy and Sins of a solar Empire: Trinity for new buyers.
So why was that done? The answer is, in the old days, there was no sure fire way to tell if someone had the original game. So you had to offer a second SCU just for those people. On the business software side, all kinds of efforts have been made to try to get new editions down to a single SCU including installers that sniffed for the original version, send in a copy of your manual, you name it.
A New Team
Fallen Enchantress gives us the opportunity to have a very different fantasy strategy game than War of Magic. While the original intent was simply to eliminate an unnecessary SCU (we can simply have Fallen Enchantress with an upgrade price for people who have War of Magic), in this case, it lets us make an even bigger break from War of Magic because it has a new Lead Designer (Kael instead of myself) with Jon Shafer helping as well as we begin pre-production of Jon’s new game along with many other changes. It’s still Stardock but it’s a very different Stardock than what made War of Magic (or GalCiv II for that matter).
I’m still filling the role of studio lead developer and Executive Producer but we’re actively seeking out industry veterans to take over the role of lead developer of Stardock Entertainment.
A New Game
There is also another advantage to Fallen Enchantress being its own game rather than an “expansion pack”. And that is, it frees the team to make radical changes to the basics of the game while allowing War of Magic to still be updated on its own source tree. A user of Fallen Enchantress won’t have to have War of Magic to play it and can treat War of Magic as a separate game.
This will be the same case for the third entry in the Elemental world which won’t be out for a long time still (but will be free for people who got War of Magic before the end of October 2010). It’ll be its own game as well not requiring War of Magic and Fallen Enchantress but be available at a sharp discount to those who have the previous entries in the game world.
The Changing Market
A few years ago, this wouldn’t be possible. Retailers would have refused to carry just stand-alone expansion. There were exceptions and the Company of Heroes series did a lot of good for our industry by paving the way here. Supreme Commander’s “stand alone” expansion helps as well.
Of course, no one has brought more attention to the changing digital model of PC games more than Blizzard with its recent release of Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty which will have two additional stand-alone games in the Starcraft 2 universe.
Will this be a good thing for PC gamers? I think it depends on how it’s handled. Personally, I’d like to see people get discounts if they have other chapters in the series. That’s going to be our model for the foreseeable future but part of that is because we have our own digital distribution platform (Impulse).