The Ubisoft Era

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The Ubisoft Era

Postby Tale » May 5 2011, 21:28

ThunderTitan said: "Hey look, H4 had better critic scores. ... Considering the state Heroes 4 was released in no wonder that a lot of people where thankful that H5 went back to the old formula. And that's not even taking into account that if you bothered to check how many people reviewed it it's under 35..."

You're entirely right. Heroes 4 did have better critic scores. You're also right that Metacritic only had around 30 user reviews, which is why I went to IGN and GameSpot to see their user reviews. By the way, I did that with Heroes 4 as well - IGN's 519 user reviews gave it an 8.1, while GameSpot's 2,963 user reviews gave it an 8.3.

I didn't bring up these reviews because, unlike with Heroes 5, I have absolutely no metric by which to judge how well it sold. That said, it only goes to further prove my point. We get on these "fan" forums and a dozen or so people crow about how awful Heroes IV and V were, but when you look at the user reviews for these games, you see an entirely different story from a much larger sample size.


Dalai said: "So indeed money and time spent in an effort to continue the old universe would be worth nothing. Or it could double sales. Or it could triple loyalty instead of eroding it. Or... whatever, it's just your guesswork."

It could have also halved sales, or cut sales by a third, or... whatever, it's just your guesswork. hellegennes is right when he said, "Going back to a story spanning 20 years and trying to continue it, guarantees absolutely nothing in terms of success, is unquantifiable and it's quite uncertain if it going to work."


Dalai said: "It would be money spent on nothing, in terms of sales. And in terms of credit too. Many fans would still accuse them of not doing it right. But some would say it's right. If they made an effort it could be a majority. On their chosen path this number is exactly ZERO. Pros and cons, sure."

By what metric are you measuring a "majority" of fans? For that matter, just how many fans DOES this game have? Heroes 5 sold over 500,000 copies - are we making that a basis for the number of fans? Or are the people who bought Heroes V not "fan" enough for you? Heroes 1-3 sales combined to around 500,000 - if that's what your measurement is, how do you propose we find the 250,001 who bought those games and track them down for their opinions? Are we restricting this to US only, or may we include France as well? Or are you only talking about the people who visit this site and other fansites? I don't know how much traffic this site gets from unique visitors, but unless that number is over 5,000 people - which I strongly doubt - you DO realize you're talking about less than 1% of the people who actually purchased Heroes 5? Which in absolutely no conceivable manner can be considered a majority?

In case you want to know where I pulled that 500,000 number from in terms of sales of Heroes V, I'm massively lowballing an estimate. I got that number from Angelspit's post in 2006 that Heroes 5, Dark Messiah, and Red Steel sold 1.9 million copies in the holiday season of 2006. Giving Red Steel half that and splitting up the remainder between Heroes 5 and Dark Messiah provides 450,000. I'm adding on an additional 50,000 for good measure, for the time period between release and the holiday 2006. However, if you want to go by an unofficial estimate made here, on this website, in 2008, Heroes 5 sold over 2 million copies worldwide, and that was again in 2008. You can find the link here:
http://www.celestialheavens.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8809&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0
As a note, NONE of those figures count the expansions.

Heroes V was a success. Would it have been more successful if they had kept the old story? I have no idea, and even if I did have an idea, it's impossible to prove. But I can say I enjoyed Heroes 5, and I am very much so looking forward to Heroes 6.
Edited on Thu, May 05 2011, 17:29 by Tale

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The Ubisoft Era

Postby hellegennes » May 6 2011, 0:00

Actually, Tale, there is a way we can tell if it would have more success or not, had they continued the old story. This is the work of marketing analysts and sometimes of the QA dept. And as far as reboots go, they almost always result in success. Surely, there are counter-examples to that, but H5 would be a flop had this been true for this case. And it wasn't.

The question is, where would the additional income come from, if Ubi had bothered to go with the old story? To answer this, we have to ask two more questions:
1. would gamers new to the series, care for a story they didn't know?
2. did loyal fans buy the game, anyway?

The answers are "No" and "Yes". If not all fans, most bought the game anyway. Newcomers would have no interest if the story was a continuation of older stuff. In fact, previous marketing studies have shown just the opposite: Having to cope with old lore discourages new audiences.

So the true options for Ubi where two:
1. target the old audience
2. target a new audience

It's not much of an option for someone sane. While the second option has a potential of million buyers (the whole market of Turn Based Strategy gamers) plus whatever portion of the old audience, the first option only targets the old audience, plus some newcomers, with a potential of thousands buyers. Certainly, the whole market of TBS gamers is a greater set or, better, the old audience is just a subset of TBS gamers. Even if they could secure the 100% of old fans, this is still a lesser potential market. Not to mention that a good deal of old fans do not even play games anymore.

So a logical choice would be to go for the option that frees you from the bond with the old timers, trying to persuade them into buying, anyway but still target the market anew.

This is also somewhat reflected in the sales of MM versus HOMM games. The latter had a bigger audience, since they did not rely so much on the former plot. Having a direct link with the previous stories, the MM games did not sell as much as Heroes games did, relying on a somewhat older fanbase. On the other hand, would Heroes fans enjoy the old-old universe coming into the TBS series? Quite the contrary, the fans of the series reacted in the most negative way when the developers tried to introduce the Forge, which was directly relevant to the MM overall plot.

So we do have an analogy of how could the story go because NWC chanced upon this, accidentally.

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Re: The Ubisoft Era

Postby ThunderTitan » May 6 2011, 10:39

Tale wrote:IGN's 519 user reviews gave it an 8.1, while GameSpot's 2,963 user reviews gave it an 8.3.



So about the same as a normal sized forum... so it's about as valid as the argument you used those numbers against.

Do try to get the point next time.


hellegennes wrote:>>Also, buying a subsidiary is not at all easy, especially if they only wanted them for developing M&M games. Why bother buying the assets and keeping staff you don't know and have to keep control of a company in another continent? This is too much fuss for just wanting to make money off of a brand. This is extra money, since the right to the brand had nothing to do with NWC anyway.<<


Precisely my point, they only cared about a couple of letters that came with an existing fan base.

I do love it when people i'm arguing with are so helpful.



hellegennes wrote:>>Also, buying a bankrupt company means buying their debts. All these, granted bankruptcy in USA is different than what is in the UK. Here you can not buy a bankrupt company (nor does a company go bankrupt but rather becomes insolvent).<<


NWC didn't have debts, 3DO did... i doubt that they would have brought them any more debts then buying the M&M did. Think of it like buying one of McDonalds locations and keeping all the people that work there... you're not buying McD the company.

And i wasn't really saying they should have acquired NWC wholesale, they simply could have used the now jobless or soon-to-be jobless key employees and use a new name for it (if you want to save money on trademark which you'd need to call them NWC).



This is also somewhat reflected in the sales of MM versus HOMM games. The latter had a bigger audience, since they did not rely so much on the former plot.



I think the fact that it's another genre had more to do with continuing the story...
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The Ubisoft Era

Postby hellegennes » May 6 2011, 11:57

I already pointed out that most of the staff of NWC were not jobless, since they were fired a year ago so they would have found other jobs. Except of by "key staff" you mean just JVC. Well, he didn't accept their proposal, so what can you do? They did try to get some of the older staff but only the musicians ended up with them (Ubi).

Oh, and the fact that Heroes was another genre says almost nothing. Especially if you consider that CRPG gamers are more than those TBS players. So MM had a bigger potential market but you get a harder time selling something with a Latin numeral on its back to a fresh market. Sure you have the fans and if the series is good, you have support for that, but that's it. Getting new fans to come along to a series is harder than if you have something new. MM6 was advertised as something new, to remind you of that. Ok, it was the best entry in the series, probably, but also was marketed as a rebirth and the initial plot made it seem that it was a 100% new story, for newcomers. These are complimentary reasons on why it became such a smashing hit (the primary reason was that it was simply brilliant and challenged the then standards that wanted games to be easy and small in terms of hours of gameplay).

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Re: The Ubisoft Era

Postby Dalai » May 6 2011, 12:16

hellegennes wrote:Engineering did not become a science until very recently in human history.

How recently? Is Eifel Tower a guesswork? What about Sagrada Familia?
This is rather recent - does it change your "science" argument?

Anyway, you really want to say that there are less writers able to read a story and create a new one based on it (story for videogame, not a book!) than engineers able to create something like this? 8|

Bridges in the past where either absurdly overdesigned or underdesigned. They did not have knowledge of any scientific element about them. Before the industrial revolution it was only a matter of how many workers and material you had available and nothing else. Today the science is so exact that even the smallest screw is designed by exact equations. Uncertainty is really small and has mostly to do with awfully specific stuff that we may never know. Even that is quantifiable though.

If I see a design of a bridge, I can tell you if it works. If I see a work of art, a film, a videogame, I may never be sure because it's art, not science. You not only confuse it for science but even for exact science for that matter!

So, basically, your'e saying, that we can easily build bridges, because (unlike some time ago) it has become a precise science. But we still can not create a decent story connected to some lore, even though people were able to do it for many centuries. Right?

Going back to a story spanning 20 years and trying to continue it, guarantees absolutely nothing in terms of success, is unquantifiable and it's quite uncertain if it going to work. And even if it was easier than that, why do it if creating something from scratch is much easier, less costly and guaranties greater success?

Rephrasing your argument: "Continuing a story guarantees absolutely nothing in terms of success, but NOT continuing a story guaranties greater success?". And "it is unquantifiable".

We don't know if A is bigger than B, but we do know that B is bigger than A. And, btw, we don't know neither A nor B. I'm crushed. ;|
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Re: The Ubisoft Era

Postby Dalai » May 6 2011, 13:02

Tale wrote:By what metric are you measuring a "majority" of fans? For that matter, just how many fans DOES this game have?

Majority is very easy to define - more than half. Fan is someone showing enthusiasm and support. It's easy too.

Heroes 5 sold over 500,000 copies - are we making that a basis for the number of fans?

As a basis - ok, but what next?

Or are the people who bought Heroes V not "fan" enough for you?

I have bought a Logitech mouse, but I'm not a fan of Logitech, I just bought a mouse. The difference between "purchase" and "showing enthusiasm and support" is there. So, answer to your question - no, they are NOT all fans. Only some of them are.

Now the complex part. Are we talking about H5 fans of HoMM series fans? I was talking about latter. There are people enthusiastically supporting series but not the H5, me included. So not even the whole "fan" fraction of those 500k people are the subject of my quote "it could be a majority". "Fan of series" and "fan of h5" are overlapping, but not more. Am I right demanding attention to "fans of series"? I am sure I am, because that's what was promised by developers repeatedly.

Heroes 1-3 sales combined to around 500,000

Where did you take this number? I am sure it's in different order.

- if that's what your measurement is, how do you propose we find the 250,001 who bought those games and track them down for their opinions?

See above.

Are we restricting this to US only, or may we include France as well?

Can we please exclude Chinese and gays? And plumbers too.

What is so special about US??? 8|

Or are you only talking about the people who visit this site and other fansites? I don't know how much traffic this site gets from unique visitors, but unless that number is over 5,000 people - which I strongly doubt - you DO realize you're talking about less than 1% of the people who actually purchased Heroes 5? Which in absolutely no conceivable manner can be considered a majority?

You do know about statistics, about marketing research, representative sampling and stuff like that, right? :|
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Re: The Ubisoft Era

Postby Dalai » May 6 2011, 13:21

hellegennes wrote:The question is, where would the additional income come from, if Ubi had bothered to go with the old story? To answer this, we have to ask two more questions:
1. would gamers new to the series, care for a story they didn't know?
2. did loyal fans buy the game, anyway?

The answers are "No" and "Yes". If not all fans, most bought the game anyway.

The answer is "No, definitely" and "Errrr, may be, some of them".

I'd add one more question: did it erode core fan base loyalty? I know, that for some fans it did. This will be visible in next installments.

Newcomers would have no interest if the story was a continuation of older stuff. In fact, previous marketing studies have shown just the opposite: Having to cope with old lore discourages new audiences.

So that's the reason why H2 was less popular than H1, and H3 was even less popular than H2! What a pathetic decay :D

So the true options for Ubi where two:
1. target the old audience
2. target a new audience

It's not much of an option for someone sane.

Sure, it's not. Any sane company targets both old AND new audiences. Any sane company knows what is valued by existing customer base and what can be improved to attract new. Any sane company knows that winning a new customer costs several times more than keeping existing one. Any sane company knows that unhappy customer will discourage 3 times more new customers than happy customer will encourage.

Keeping lore never hurt the series, and never been a factor for new fans. Many people here started with 2, 3, or 4 installment. No sane company would scrap the lore, because keeping it was "difficult".
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The Ubisoft Era

Postby hellegennes » May 6 2011, 14:27

The reason H2 and H3 sold better, in this order, is because of several factors:

1. gaming industry extreme expansion
2. TBS sector even greater expansion when compared to industry expansion
3. better and more complex gameplay

Having a 2 and 3 after the title surely discouraged some audience portion but it matter not that much because the games were never that much connected. All three games have stand alone stories and knowing staff about other games in the series never was a condition for someone to understand their own lore. There were tons of H3 fans that had no idea that this game was directly connected to MM6 and MM7, storywise. This was a clever marketing a planning strategy of NWC. Not always can you do that. The introduction of Antagarich gave them this benefit as they could create several new storylines which did not require of someone to have knowledge of them all.

Nevertheless, you still discourage part of your potential buyers when you introduce that magic numbers after the title. It's just that H2 and H3 happened to be in a good time for the industry.

On the other hand, H4 didn't have this and so it's buyers' base was almost solely the old fanbase and that's one of the reasons it sold so much less than H3, especially with regards to the proportion of the market.

Also, even if it's off-topic, your points in structural engineering do not hold. You present me with a bridge that did not have any structural damage, just oscillate, as a counter-argument. Both Eiffel and Gaudi where in the heart of the industrial revolution. Nevertheless, both structures (the tower and S. Familia) are overdesigned to compensate for the lack of knowledge.

And to answer your question, there are more engineers in the UK that can build the bridge you link to, than writers in the world that can be good in continuing the work of others. Much more, to be exact. Graduate engineers can build it, with just their 3 years of BSc. You have no idea how standardised design of structures is. Moreover, complex calculation are only handled by computers today.

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Postby Metathron » May 6 2011, 15:12

On the other hand, H4 didn't have this and so it's buyers' base was almost solely the old fanbase and that's one of the reasons it sold so much less than H3

I don't buy that. What HoMM IV didn't have was polish, system stability, multiplayer (!!) and major gameplay changes that alienated the conservative part of the community. Also, HoMM IV started off in a new world anyway.

All three games have stand alone stories and knowing staff about other games in the series never was a condition for someone to understand their own lore.


So why would potential buyers find HoMM sequels off-putting then? I think for the majority of HoMM players, and certainly for myself, the gameplay of the game is far and away the most important aspect of the game.
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Re: The Ubisoft Era

Postby Dalai » May 6 2011, 17:06

hellegennes wrote:Having a 2 and 3 after the title surely discouraged some audience portion

Which is supported by numbers we are about to see. Or not. :devious:

but it matter not that much because the games were never that much connected. All three games have stand alone stories and knowing staff about other games in the series never was a condition for someone to understand their own lore. There were tons of H3 fans that had no idea that this game was directly connected to MM6 and MM7, storywise. This was a clever marketing a planning strategy of NWC.

This is perfect recipe for Ubisoft. It fully supports my solution "Any sane company targets both old AND new audiences" and contradicts your fears "Newcomers would have no interest if the story was a continuation of older stuff. In fact, previous marketing studies have shown just the opposite: Having to cope with old lore discourages new audiences." Thanks again for supporting my point of view :)

Not always can you do that.

Yes, true. Only if you make an effort. Without it, alas, you're doomed.

On the other hand, H4 didn't have this and so it's buyers' base was almost solely the old fanbase and that's one of the reasons it sold so much less than H3, especially with regards to the proportion of the market.

And the numbers are...??? ;|

I like your idea about direct and exclusive relationship between market phase and sales. It makes quality of product irrelevant. Good for explaining lost venture capital :D

You present me with a bridge that did not have any structural damage, just oscillate, as a counter-argument.

Last time I checked bridges were supposed to fulfill some other function than oscillate and preserve structural integrity.

Both Eiffel and Gaudi where in the heart of the industrial revolution. Nevertheless, both structures (the tower and S. Familia) are overdesigned to compensate for the lack of knowledge.

From today's gaming industry point of view H2 are just lame, with ugly pixelized graphics, poor screen resolution and so on. But it still fulfills it's purpose - entertain me - so-o-o much better, than "modern and epic" H5.

Both Eiffel's and Gaudi's creations do what they were designed to do. Some modern bridges - don't. I think it's obvious, that there is something more than just solving system of equations.

And to answer your question, there are more engineers in the UK that can build the bridge you link to, than writers in the world that can be good in continuing the work of others. Much more, to be exact. Graduate engineers can build it, with just their 3 years of BSc. You have no idea how standardised design of structures is. Moreover, complex calculation are only handled by computers today.

I think that the direct opposite is true. Ten's (hundreds?) of millions bloggers can not be wrong :D (btw, that exact bridge i linked to is just marvelous. It IS exceptional from engineering perspective.)

The best fan made maps, MADE FOR FREE, offer better quality and immersion than "professional" maps included with the game. "Continuing the work of others becomes much lesser problem when the next game has "stand alone stories and knowing staff about other games in the series is not "a condition for someone to understand their own lore" The lore is an added benefit for existing fans. Who are one of the best channels for new sales, btw.

If everything in engineering is just pure math and standardized to the maximum - it means that the profession will soon face extinction. Any underage with an "app for that" on his iPad will be able to do what engineers do, right? ;) I very much doubt it is the case. :creative:
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The Ubisoft Era

Postby hellegennes » May 6 2011, 18:03

No, you still have to have University education in order to become an engineer because even if it not a necessary condition, it assures that you know the basic staff about staying within regulations. Someone can still design adequate structures without having a degree, but there is no assurance for that.

Bridges do oscillate in high winds, nowadays because they are designed to do that. Today spans are much greater and in general bridges are much more complex, and massive than they used to be so they need to be also flexible. A bridge literally hanging in the air needs to be less prone to brittle fracture so there cases which are designed to oscillate instead.

Possessing a degree in civil engineering ensures that at least the majority of engineers understand regulations and comply. So it will never face extinction because there will always be a need to further complicate regulations and one must be dedicated in his life to follow it. This does not make it difficult but rather makes it one of these professions that require devotion. In the future, of course, single-storey houses will be possibly made by AI, not humans.

You argue that mapmakers make sometimes better quality maps. Not only this is not objective since it cannot not translated to sales, but also missed the point of time scheduling. Some of these maps take disproportionate amounts of time, spanning months in development. Surely, if you spent months on just a map, it can be rather good. But this means that in relation to that, a developer would need at least a decade to make a new game. Mapmaking is one of the least time consuming stages of development.

Also, to further my point, computers can already design simple structures on their own but they cannot create pieces of art. Random map generators are not the same as designed maps. So there is a huge difference here. Anyway, equating a science with an art is a big NO!

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The Ubisoft Era

Postby Tale » May 6 2011, 20:46

Dalai said: "Where did you take this number? I am sure it's in different order."

I got the number from heroesofmightandmagic.com, on a published interview with Greg Fulton about the Forge town. Unfortunately, my memory was off - the interview states 750,000, not 500,000, copies sold of Heroes 1-3. The direct quote is "As a series, Heroes has sold over 750,000 copies world wide." That said, Heroes 5 still sold over twice as many from the unofficial 2008 count, and that is the base game alone - not including expansions. You can see my previous posts for a link to that number.

It also doesn't change that you're still talking about a very, very small population sample. This website has a memberlist of 13,531 at the time I write this post. Given the 2 million sales estimate in 2008, the 13,531 people on this forum doesn't even make 1% of the total sales. Now, I'll grant that not all of the people who played the game would be considered fans. But I do know a little something about statistics and representative sampling. When all of the game review websites have average user ratings of the game at over 80%, then any decent representative population would have around 80% of people who LIKE the game. Unless you can produce any evidence of polls of people - that is, in the 3,000-6,000 person range - that are fans of the series and have a lower than 70% positive review of Heroes 5?

If you want me to bring out reviews from fansites, I personally consider this site to be the best and most populated Heroes fansite. I didn't use these polls because they only number in the hundreds, but here are the results for them:

- 78.81% said that Heroes 5 was either breathtaking, very good, or good. The highest single response was very good at 38.28%.

- About the Heroes 6 story, a 57% majority actually gave it a positive rating (i.e., 4-6 on a scale of 1-6).

- Whether people supported the continuation of the M&M universe, a 65.24% majority said either yes, a completely new universe, or it does not matter. Only 21.42% wanted the old story to be continued.

- A 59.99% majority were either disappointed (43.03%) or unsure how they felt (16.96%) that many of the Heroes 4 innovations were discontinued in Heroes 5.

I'm really failing to find any evidence that Heroes 5 sucked or that they should not have advanced the story. If you have any evidence to the contrary, I'd like to hear it. For reference, all that data I just pulled out is publicly available on this website, it's under the polls section.


ThunderTitan said, "So about the same as a normal sized forum... so it's about as valid as the argument you used those numbers against."

I do see your point about the number size not being as good as it should be. Unfortunately, I either don't see or don't have access to any better measurement out there. Can you offer me one? I've looked at fan sites, I've looked at game review sites... short of an email listserv of people who bought every single Heroes game, I'm at a loss as to what would satisfy you?

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The Ubisoft Era

Postby hellegennes » May 7 2011, 0:32

Also I want to re-establish the fact that you CAN sue someone over elements of your work, be it gameplay or script. That it doesn't happen that much often is because gaming companies rarely do it, knowing that this is something harder to prove, since courts still don't have concrete definitions on copyright infringement. Not to mention the fact that software houses do not have the necessary legal expertise to deal with it.

Nonetheless, there are cases where even distant similarities were the cause of legal action. Take Terminator (1984) for example. The purported plagiarised work were two episodes of Outer Limits of the 60's. It didn't reach the court but since it was settled out of it and acknowledgement was included in the movie, it means they knew they could be found guilty.

So Ubisoft could not make a similar game and hope that no one would sue them, especially if another company had bought the rights and was planning to release their own Heroes game. Buying the brand had little to do with the lore and more to do with gameplay.


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