Oddworld: Soulstorm developer says PlayStation Plus deal was "devastating" for sales

midian182

Posts: 8,041   +89
Staff member
In a nutshell: Allowing games onto subscription platforms like Xbox/PC Game Pass and PlayStation Plus can be a blessing and a curse. For Lorne Lanning, the creator of the Oddworld series, Sony's service was definitely in the latter camp due to the "devastating" effect it had on Oddworld: Soulstorm's sales.

Lanning, speaking on the Xbox Expansion Pass podcast this week (via VGC), said that studio Oddworld Inhabitants had expected Oddworld: Soulstorm to be downloaded around 50,000 to 100,000 times during its run as a PS Plus Free Bundle game, but it was actually downloaded 4 million times.

Attracting millions of downloads might be good for a game's popularity, but it's always going to have an impact on full-price sales. A "double-edged sword," as Lanning calls it.

If you're wondering why Lanning opted to put Soulstorm on PS Plus, other than expecting it to receive fewer downloads, he says it was necessary to get the project done.

"We were hitting a number of legacy technical debt issues and talent issues and you know, the game industry is emerging fast, huge companies are paying fortunes," he said.

Another factor was that there weren't many PS5 consoles available in January 2021. "The most we could sell is less than the money we're getting […] We might sell 50,000 units at launch, maybe 100,000 units. It was pretty small numbers because there wasn't going to be a lot of PS5s."

But Stoulstorm's release date changed, something Lanning believes resulted in many more downloads than he anticipated. "Because it slipped to April, we had the highest downloaded game on PS5 and it was, I think, approaching […] close to four million units or something like that for free because they were all subscriptions. So for us, it was devastating."

It's understood that Sony pays developers a flat fee for allowing a game onto PlayStation Plus, much like Microsoft, which reportedly paid between $5-10 million to get Guardians of the Galaxy onto Game Pass.

Sony recently announced that it would be responding to the success of Microsoft's Game Pass by combining PlayStation Plus and Now into a new PlayStation Plus service with four membership tiers. They offer access to a catalog of PS4 and PS5 games, as well as streaming and download options from the original PlayStation, PS2, and PSP generations.

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Aries Lyon

Posts: 24   +32
It's very naïve of him to think that those 4 million copies given for free, would be converted to 4 million copies sold.
Chances are, most people just picked up the game because it was free. Most probably didn't even play it.

Right? It's like companies who think every pirated copy directly leads to a lost sale. Most people wouldn't bother with a little-known game unless it was free/included with other games as part of a subscription.
 

NintPlayBox

Posts: 58   +55
It looks like Sony was nowhere near as generous in payments to the developer as Microsoft reportedly is.

If you read between the lines the developer is trying to tactfully say Sony didn't compensate them enough for the massive amount of downloads the game had through PsPlus.

explaining why they saw the low PS5 sales as a positive.
 

NintPlayBox

Posts: 58   +55
It's very naïve of him to think that those 4 million copies given for free, would be converted to 4 million copies sold.
Chances are, most people just picked up the game because it was free. Most probably didn't even play it.
You are missing the point of the developer....he is trying to tactfully say that Sony didn't compensate the studio enough for the massive amount of downloads the game had through PSPlus....when was the time you seen a studio trashing GamePass after they had their game on the service?...NEVER because it looks like Microsoft makes sure they get paid accordingly.
 
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NintPlayBox

Posts: 58   +55
Right? It's like companies who think every pirated copy directly leads to a lost sale. Most people wouldn't bother with a little-known game unless it was free/included with other games as part of a subscription.
That's the part you are wrong...Oddworld is not a little-known franchise... haven't you considered the fact that perhaps the developer just didn't get compensated enough by Sony?

That's more likely the scenario in here.
 

winjer

Posts: 446   +2,054
You are missing the point of the developer....he is trying to tactfully say that Sony didn't compensate the studio enough for the massive amount of downloads the game had through PSPlus....when was the time you seen a studio trashing GamePass after they had their game on the service?...NEVER because it looks like Microsoft makes sure they get paid accordingly.

Stop making excuses. He negotiated a deal with Sony and accepted the terms.
He probably just signed off the game, for a one time fee, expecting the game to be given to a few hundred thousand people. Although this series is old and has some recognition, it was never a chart breaker. It's more of a AA game, with decent sales figures.
Only when he saw 4 million people claiming a free game did he think he could have gotten a better deal.
If Sony's deal was so bad, then why did he release the game as a timed exclusive on Sony's consoles.
He could have just released it on all platforms, including Xbox and even Gamepass.

The reality is he miscalculated his part of the deal, and now is trying to shift blame unto the other party.
 

George Keech

Posts: 219   +393
I think comparing PS Plus to GamePass from what is publicly available is a bit misleading the pay structure is different - if im not mistaken PS Plus was a 1 off payment. Gamepass is based of percentages of play (for "indie" games anyway) or is at least an option.
 

TheBigFatClown

Posts: 1,020   +431
Right? It's like companies who think every pirated copy directly leads to a lost sale. Most people wouldn't bother with a little-known game unless it was free/included with other games as part of a subscription.

Let me bring some clarity into the situation. I have probably collected over 100+ games...for "free"...during giveaways on every game service you can think of..GOG...Ubisoft....Steam....Epic Games...I've hardly played any of them....let's rephrase that...I've played a handful of the hundreds...for very small amounts of time.
A download does NOT equate to a lost sale. What they should have done was built in a "total play time" metric into their game I'f they wanna know how many people bothered to 1) play it at all or 2) played it for less than 1 hour.
And to end in agreement with another post before mine...people love "free". I probably collected this game for free somewhere and tried it for a bit. But it's not way up high on my list of things to do.
 

NintPlayBox

Posts: 58   +55
Let me bring some clarity into the situation. I have probably collected over 100+ games...for "free"...during giveaways on every game service you can think of..GOG...Ubisoft....Steam....Epic Games...I've hardly played any of them....let's rephrase that...I've played a handful of the hundreds...for very small amounts of time.
A download does NOT equate to a lost sale. What they should have done was built in a "total play time" metric into their game I'f they wanna know how many people bothered to 1) play it at all or 2) played it for less than 1 hour.
And to end in agreement with another post before mine...people love "free". I probably collected this game for free somewhere and tried it for a bit. But it's not way up high on my list of things to do.
So what you are saying is that the developer should have known better that agreeing on giving his game practically for free instead of opting for PSNow or GamePass which developers get paid by consumers game time metrics.
 

bexwhitt

Posts: 595   +308
Putting the game as an Epic exclusive would not have helped either.
It's not an easy game and were some really annoying bugs and 2Dish platforming is not flavour of the year any more. That said I really enjoyed it and paid full whack for it on epic.
 

TheBigFatClown

Posts: 1,020   +431
So what you are saying is that the developer should have known better that agreeing on giving his game practically for free instead of opting for PSNow or GamePass which developers get paid by consumers game time metrics.

No, I didn't say any of that. I just wanted to state my situation as an example. Driving home the point that each free download is not equivalent to a lost sale.

If it was me...I would try to negotiate a deal similar too this. First 100k downloads for a base fee of 100k. Every additional 100k downloads 50k up to 1 million, etc.

The developer wants to have their cake and eat it too. If there had been no interest they would be happy they screwed over Sony. It's just human nature.
 

Lounds

Posts: 1,151   +1,057
This is why gamepass is a terrible model for the video games industry in general. It will stifle innovation and choice as the Devs will just make a game to a certain budget to remain profitable to them. Microsoft must be losing serious amounts of cash from gamepass, if Xbox was a private company from Microsoft it would have ran out of money by now.
 

tellmewhy

Posts: 183   +86
They can make some costumes and sell them, if that goes well and indicates that there are people who play the game and are passionate about it then they can make and an expansion and sell it too.

I have around 50 games (purchased, free or low price offers) in my account and I play occasionally only 1 of them. All the others with almost under 1 hour playtime.
 

KenkaOni

Posts: 14   +8
I think comparing PS Plus to GamePass from what is publicly available is a bit misleading the pay structure is different - if im not mistaken PS Plus was a 1 off payment. Gamepass is based of percentages of play (for "indie" games anyway) or is at least an option.
Ive read that microsft offer various options from case to case, from flat pay to pay4play to download count. Is like The Witcher's author which sold all rights for a flat payment of 10k$ and then was bitching about it later. Sony themselves did something like this not publishing Demon's Soul on PS3 on the western market, which became a it for ATLUS.

The thing of this case is that they took money upfront to pay debts, expecting some sales later, then they released on Xbox and steam. Most successful cases of DayOne Releases on PSplus are those which included some DLC as follow up (VF5USD from SEGA last year was a SOUND SUCCESS, shipped with some cheap cosmetic dlcs and the people paid for it), or are game services with recurrent microtransactions (Fallguys and Rocket League are the best examples).
 

KenkaOni

Posts: 14   +8
Sony is not at fault. Did the Devs not realize that the small user base would grow? And Sony will be able to pay out more if they improve the service and start making more money.
Actually you don't need a PS5 to adquire a PSPlus game, from the app or the browser you cana dd the game to your library. The thing is they thoughjt that the game wouldn't sell well on PS5 because of the small user base and the profile of their games. Then they took some money upfront, but the "downloads" were a lot. I'm subscribed to PS+ and I own every PS5 game released till now, Just add them from the App, is easy, when I buy one, I'll have a lots of games to test out and play.
 

AMDGeForceRX4090

Posts: 96   +107
The game sucks compared to the originals. He got more than he deserved. Also don't agree to a price, then sign a deal, only to cry about it afterwards.

And downloads in no way equals lost sales. Most people probably only downloaded because it was included with PS+. If it had a price tag next to it I'd bet 95% of gamers would ignore it. Just look at other Oddworld games in recent years.
 

George Keech

Posts: 219   +393
Ive read that microsft offer various options from case to case, from flat pay to pay4play to download count. Is like The Witcher's author which sold all rights for a flat payment of 10k$ and then was bitching about it later. Sony themselves did something like this not publishing Demon's Soul on PS3 on the western market, which became a it for ATLUS.

The thing of this case is that they took money upfront to pay debts, expecting some sales later, then they released on Xbox and steam. Most successful cases of DayOne Releases on PSplus are those which included some DLC as follow up (VF5USD from SEGA last year was a SOUND SUCCESS, shipped with some cheap cosmetic dlcs and the people paid for it), or are game services with recurrent microtransactions (Fallguys and Rocket League are the best examples).
100% I wish there was more info out there, smaller games I get because there is a lot of Gamepass I would not have even looked at if it wasn't on there. but then some that I don't understand how they can benefit like Guardians of the Galaxy - but they seem very happy with that deal.
 

Bp968

Posts: 254   +181
Im not sure why people are comparing this to gamepass. 4 million people were able to DL the game *forever* because it was free on the psPLUS free monthly deal. Its like humble choice, or epics free weekly game.

Gamepass on the otherhand is a "rental". I played MS flight sim for 50-60 hours, and when my gamepass sub expired so did my access to MSFS and any other gamepass game.

So being on gamepass would be far better for him. Because while that 4m number might not translate into 4m sales, it certainly translates into removing those 4m customers from ever buying the game, even discounted since they already "own" it, played or not. While if it had been on gamepass it would go away whenever it was removed from gamepass. For example, ive been tempted to buy MSFS on steam since im not paying for gamepass now.