Monday, August 17, 2015

The Flock's Planned Business Model - Genius or Disaster in the Making?

When it comes to marketing various indy titles these days, there aren't really a huge number of options at the disposal of publishers, but new ground is apparently being broken in this respect, by Vogelsap's horror game, The Flock, which is set up to "expire" from the beginning, as the in-game population dies out one-by-one. Looking to make the unique business model a reality, The Flock is a rather peculiar game indeed: it comes with a predetermined population, which - every time a player dies in the game - has one life subtracted. When the counter - which is available in the shape of a widget through various social channels, in-game menus and the Steam store page - reaches zero, the game dies too, in the sense that no one will be able to buy it anymore. Those who bought it before, will take part in what's called a "cinematic finale" after which the whole project is wrapped up and the game goes offline forever.

To truly understand how the concept is supposed to work, one needs to gain a sneak-peek into the actual game mechanics. The Flock started as a student project and considering that, its unorthodox twist on its business model isn't really that surprising. Set in a post-apocalyptic 3000, the game takes place on Earth, long after humanity died out by its own devices (massive pollution). The race dominating the game world is the Flock, a race of monsters which thrives until the arrival of a new, superior race: that of the Carriers.

Players all start out as members of the Flock. The catalyst of the action is a strange, light-emitting artifact, called the Light Artifact, which appears randomly on the map. When the first player reaches the artifact and picks it up, he is turned into a Carrier and the chase starts. The Flock is looking to kill the Carrier, grabbing the torch and becoming the Carrier in turn. The Carrier can kill Flock members by shining the light of the artifact on them. To avoid the lethal effects of the light, Flock members can stay motionless. The Carrier can win the game by surviving or by capturing a number of objectives.

The echo the game's planned business model has generated within the community was as strong as it was diverse: some like the idea, while others hate it, pointing at the lack of re-playability as a huge flaw. Will the Flock be an epic failure, or will it blaze the trail of a new business model for future MMOs? We'll find out come October when it's due out.

Philip Thalberg has been working for Gosugamers, the original cradle of eSports, since 2004.

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