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Should Amplitude be free-to-play? Audience research suggest that it should.

By on May 22, 2014

Leigh Alexander of Gamasutra just wrote up the story of Amplitude, the game that Harmonix launched in 2003 and is now kickstarting a new, updated version a decade later.

It contains a paragraph which suggests that the game ought to be a free-to-play title. Quoting Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopulos, Alexander reports:

“When Amplitude was close to launch at the turn of the millennium, Sony marketing decided to do some focus testing with about a thousand PlayStation fans. Each tester was given a “sell sheet”, full of pictures, facts and bullet points about Amplitude, and was asked questions about it. Then, they actually spent about half an hour playing Amplitude and were asked questions again, including about their intent to purchase.”

Rigopulos got a call from a Sony production manager: The pre-play “interest score” was the lowest of any game Sony had ever tested. Yet the post-play “intent to purchase” score was higher than any game Sony had ever tested. “You don’t it,” marketers told Rigopoulos. “We can’t market this game. No one wants to buy it unless they’ve played it.”

Alexander points out that in 2003, it was very difficult to get a demo in the hands of players, and the web was a very different place to the one that exists now. If only there was a mechanism – a distribution approach or a business model – that enabled you to get a game in front of millions of users while also enabling those who love the game to spend lots of money on things they really value.

I very much understand why Harmonix has turned to Kickstarter. It makes enormous sense to test demand, to allow fans of the original title to support the new one, and to raise the funds needed to make the game. But I can’t help thinking that a game that is hard to explain but is loved by everyone who plays it is a perfect match for a F2P approach.

At the time of writing, Harmonix had raised $693,432 of a $775,000 goal, with 36 hours to go. If you New want Amplitude to exist, you should go and back it now.


About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: