Episodic games have always felt like an idea ahead of its time. For many players, this is a fascinating concept: story-driven games divided into digestible pieces that you can play for weeks or months. But the reality of game development and launch schedules has proved problematic. Telltale Games, the studio behind episodic hits like Living Dead and Batman, collapsed in disgrace as he struggled with demands for new episodes each month. Meanwhile, last year Life is strange 2 it was excellent, but difficult to deal with, as the heads started at an unstable pace, coming out every few months.
But with the advent of subscription services like the Xbox Game Pass, episodic games may have finally found their way.
I came to this realization while playing Tell me why on Xbox One, the latest edition of the French studio Dontnod, which is the same team behind Life is strange series. Exactly what we expected from the studio: a combination of prestigious drama TV and a classic adventure game with directing and clicking. Players control two twins living in a small town in Alaska who are struggling with their mother̵
The story itself is great and I’ve been hooked from the beginning. The first episode of Tell me why starts on August 27, with new chapters coming out weekly. The third and final episode comes out today. This rhythm proved particularly convincing; in the past, episodic games usually released new chapters every month or two, making it difficult to follow the story. Usually I just waited for each episode to come out and played it in one go. But with Tell me whyKnowing that a new episode was coming out every week, I played differently, diving right after the next chapter came out.
This is a model that fits especially well with a streaming service like Game Pass, which is increasingly starting to feel like a long-sought Netflix for gaming. The whole process is seamless: you don’t have to worry about buying new episodes or tracking your savings. Everything just works, so I can focus on enjoying the story.
The Game Pass sale is access to Microsoft’s great exclusives; if you subscribe, you will not have to buy a new one Hello or Gears game as they are part of the service. But Microsoft has also done a great job of constantly building a Game Pass with a variety of different experiences. There are great online worlds like Fate, survival games like Groundedand classic arcade titles like Battle peaks. There is enough that the Game Pass has become an important part of Microsoft’s next-generation strategy. When I end up buying an Xbox Series X, there’s a good chance I won’t buy any games for it. I’ll just put things in Game Pass.
Episodic games fit perfectly into this strategy. On the one hand, they are small, types of experiences that you can play between larger games. But their behavioral nature also means that they deal with different topics – and in turn may appeal to a new audience – compared to traditional blockbusters. Dontnod became especially adept at this. The first two seasons of Life is strange it covered difficult topics such as suicide and racism in a way that was both direct and sensitive, a rarity among mass games. Tell me why trying to do something similar with regard to his transgender leading character. Having a growing service like Game Pass can open up these types of games to a whole new audience.
Subscription services do not necessarily solve every problem with occasional games. Launching new games on a weekly or monthly basis is still a huge undertaking for any developer; Tell me why it seems to have been completed before the episodes start, which may be a solution. Besides, however, they both look perfect. As services like Game Pass become more and more similar to their streaming TV counterparts, games that combine interactivity with storytelling in a TV style are beginning to make much more sense. It took several years, but the industry finally caught up.