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Like EA and Plants vs. Zombies fight the binge culture

After a countdown of only 24 hours, Electronic Arts launched a massive new addition to their Garden Warfare series. Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville launches four full PvE campaigns across three cosmopolitan hubs featuring quests, collectibles and secrets, as well as a series of multiplayer modes and freeform social areas.

The key surprise is not only that EA continues to pump money into the idiosyncratic shooter franchise for all ages (which I love), but also the way the publisher launches this game into the world.

  A look at the release plan of Plants vs.. Zombies Battle for Neighbourville

EA About Polygon

They call it "Founders Edition," and it's the latest in a series of moves by creators and companies to tackle the trivialization of their binge culture publications in the modern media landscape ,

When Entertainment Becomes Available

What is Binge Culture? Binge Culture looks at the latest Marvel movie on the opening night, so you will not be flooded with spoilers in the morning. The Binge Culture goes through a 10-hour season within days, leaving you time to discuss it with your friends. Binge Culture is an increasing lag of 100-hour games, which you can play for a dozen hours each.

It is the ever-growing watchlist. It's your social media feed. It's the transformation of your conversation into a shroud of commitment and guilt that keeps you going, because what's being discussed today is rarely considered relevant tomorrow. And the cycle is hellishly exhausting because there is little room between urgency and old news. Pop culture has become homework, not entertainment.

The fight serves your additional attention. Developers and businesses need to think, talk about, and care about a project after the release date.

You have two main options to accomplish this. The first is to keep posting new things or major updates for older things. Like rocket boosters on the Saturn V, this approach can be fast, flashy and extremely expensive. As a result, Netflix has recently borrowed another $ 2 billion in debt to continue to produce massive inventories of original content, and Fortnite is rejuvenating due to painful crisis cycles.

Businesses are always producing new things, but in this environment, the value of that content remains the same for the audience: available. Reclaiming this part of the audience's attention requires another batch of new material, leading to further spending, further potential workplace abuses and a continued increase in relevance.

The second important option is to divide your content into intentional pieces and potentially experiment with how they are born. This approach does not guarantee that all pieces will attract attention on their own, but overall creates an environment that encourages active, shared engagement for the duration of the release period.

Disney returns to the weekly release schedule for much of his streamed programs. Netflix, the driving force behind the modern audience's expectations for binge streaming, is pushing ahead with the idea of ​​a similar return to the weekly program with certain shows. Hitman (2016) attempted a modular and episodic approach in games, with results that are enlightening compared to his sequel Hitman 2 .

And that opens up a whole range of other ways of worms.

What Hitman Can Teach Us About Playing People

  A bald assassin in a suit and trench coat follows his target in Hitman 2

According to the documentary series Noclip about IO Interactive , Hitman did not do well commercially. It is regrettable, but it makes a sense. It was a continuously available, episodic AAA game released in 2016. Doubts about Kickstarter and early access times increased, and gamers' expectations as to how a Hitman game should look did not seem to match this new model. In a way, it was a game ahead of its time.

Hitman is basically a game for the championship. Go through a map over and over again in different ways to discover routes, murder possibilities, and secrets, to the point where the players in each session can somehow embody a supernaturally experienced and conscious assassin.

In earlier entries, this learning process was completely self-motivated. Hitman (2016) systematized it with progress systems, rewards, and weekly content increases that keep players in touch with their locations as they wish during the development of the next card.

And I loved this approach. The gigantic levels and possibilities of a Hitman game were made accessible to me for the first time. For me, Hitman finally "clicked". However, I remember a lot of doubts from players and the press, and many expressed a desire to play it "as soon as it's done".

With Hitman 2 IO Interactive required to release all six game locations on the launch day. Hitman 2 did well enough to keep one of my favorite studios in business, but an interesting trend comes from comparing the global Steam performance statistics to that of his predecessor:

The first three cards in have filled in more people hitman proportionally than hit the very first level in hitman 2 – a level that can be played for free. People seem a little easier to stick to the content of the first Hitman and they make more of a game. I do not think it's a coincidence.

Achievements for Hitman (2016) shown on the left, successes for Hitman 2 shown on the right. In the first game, more players completed more missions than the second. The staggered release schedule seems to have helped the commitment.
Steam via Polygon

Despite all the complaints about his episodic model, Hitman shows more engagement per card across the entire player base than his sequel. Segmentation fosters engagement, encouraging people to stay on a map, which puts the emphasis on mastery the developers wanted to build first. Speaking of the changing media environment, IO Interactive is again considering an episodic approach to its third hitman game, according to the same Noclip documentary. Maybe the players and experts have caught up with the ideal of this first episodic release.

Speaking of approaches before their time: Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare was released in 2014 as a pure multiplayer title (as was the cousin published by EA Titanfall ). This met with considerable resistance, and as the game gained much more players than expected, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 received an extensive amount of content for single players and more ways to spend time in the world.

Two PvE campaigns that can be played alone, a hub world, and a dramatic increase in character variants make Garden Warfare 2 a bombastic grab bag with things . I saw this change received with relative silence. Like an increasing number of creative projects across the media, Garden Warfare 2 underwent a very brief phase of the opening discussion before sinking into the waves of the news cycle until the next gigantic update was completed.

The growing trend is a major reason why I was intrigued by the approach of the founders edition of Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville . By purchasing the game at a 25% discount ($ 29.99 instead of $ 39.99 at launch), founders will get a step-by-step introduction of the content that will be available at launch.

In the first week, there is the first content segment – a PvE campaign and a multiplayer mode. In the second week, the game will be extended to another PvE region and a multiplayer mode. Until the official launch of the game on October 18, the sheer volume of content mentioned in the introduction to this piece (including three open-world hubs), combined with an intriguing array of interconnected currencies and systems, could be really overwhelming.

Here it is made accessible through a simple, semi-episodic time window. Players in those early days are not spread out in multiple modes, so at no time in the day did I have trouble finding a game within seconds. For founders, no progress is reset at startup. All content is final and ready. This is not a beta version and not an absurd way out for privileged early play (as opposed to the Byzantine access plans for Battlefield V or Anthem ). They play the game only in phases and at a reduced price along with other people who want to shoot as a zombifizierter action hero of the 80s with a laser arc plants.

When you buy Battle For Neighborville at the official launch on October 18th, you've missed most of the growing server pain and some exclusive cosmetics. If you buy it earlier, you will get an onboarding ramp and have access to one of the most surprising releases of the year.

I believe EA is taking steps with the Founder Edition to make the experience of Battle for Neighborville components an event, not an afterthought. Popcap is not only madness to work on new content, but also supports a recently released title with important online dependencies. Popcap also has a six-week buffer to keep out the beaches of the modern live service game model.

Power to get people's attention

I make games to make a living.

Lately I feel compelled to accept that my work is available. How can I think differently? I see years of incredible effort and talent in projects that are talked about, if at all, for 48 hours. I watch my friends pick up and reject ideas based on how often they can talk about them in development – how many chances they have of convincing people to take care of them.

I do not know if The Founder's Edition of Battle for Neighborville will do well on a commercial scale, but it's a fascinating undertaking to see from an entity of this magnitude. It is the kind of experiment that requires because it contributes to a more comprehensive definition of what a game's release can mean.

Keeping pace with the binge culture destroys us as the creator and pulls us down as an audience. We can only hope that the next cycle of content will make us a little freer. A live service game that does not try to take over my life?

That seems like a good start.

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