Over on Gamasutra, they have an interesting article on episodic games. It was written more with the casual market in mind, than typical hardcore players.

While I’m not all that interested in episodic games myself, nonetheless, I think the piece makes a valid case for more development in this area.

The article points out several advantages to creating games in an episode format, not least of which is a shortened development time. This gives the designers more immediate feedback on what players like or don’t like, and changes can be made for subsequent episodes.

Keep in mind that an episode is a complete game in itself, not merely a demo. Demos are already more or less fixed products, showing off part of the whole game.

Another advantage to this format is that, being much smaller than the usual product, an episodic game can be more carefully debugged. I wouldn’t expect miracles in this department, but certainly a small game should come out in a much cleaner state than what we’re used to these days.

This is already being done with Sam & Max, where reception has been generally positive, aside from complaints that the episodes are too short.

The question is whether more developers will move to this format, especially the independent ones. It could certainly make life a little easier for them, coming up with several short episodes instead of one massive product.

I have doubts if this would work for the hardcore market, but for casual gamers, and those really strapped for time, it could prove to be a boon. And while individual episodes may go cheap, five or six at, say, 7.95 each with digital download, the cost would be the same as for a boxed game. Possibly more if the complete series is offered on disk later.

It has a benefit for gamers, as well. If they don’t like the game, they haven’t dropped anywhere what they would have on regular product.

If approached the right way, with quality offerings, episodic games could be the next big thing in the casual games market.

Episodic Games On Gamasutra