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LBP was almost a downloadable, free-to-play title

By Dan Pearson

Wed 20 Jul 2011 1:11pm GMT / 9:11am EDT / 6:11am PDT

Phil Harrison "raised the bar" on Media Molecule's plans

Media Molecule

Media Molecule was founded by a small troupe of Lionhead veterans who, bolstered by their work together...

Sony Computer Entertainment

Sony Computer Entertainment is a Japanese videogame company specialising in a variety of areas in the...

Three of the founding members of Media Molecule have taken part in a panel discussion on the early years of the studio chaired by Phil Harrison, the then Sony executive who oversaw much of their early work with the publisher.

The most interesting revelation from that discussion was that originally, Harrison had pushed LittleBigPlanet as a free-to-play title, hoping that the studio could adapt their ideas to embrace a number of the new business models which were emerging.

"(Phil) said it should be free to play, it should have a new business model, it should be downloadable," said Media Molecule's technical director Alex Evans.

"It should do DLC, it should do user-generated content. Phil was basically raising the bar on what we were pitching."

Speaking exclusively to GamesIndustry after the presentation, Harrison clarified the advice he'd given the team.

"The challenge I gave the team was to make it possible for LBP to be a free to play downloadable service, not a product, and with a mechanism for monetizing user generated content that would allow the best creators to be to rewarded in some way for their for the innovation," Harrison revealed.

"There were many good reasons why that didn't happen with LBP, but clearly the seeds have certainly been sown and it will be fascinating to see how the console platforms take on that challenge in future."

Harrison also loosely discussed the potential for the way that content may have been sold, agreeing that several instances of the user-created levels were certainly good enough to charge app store range prices for on a download service such as PSN.

A fuller insight into the presentation will be appearing elsewhere on GamesIndustry later today.

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Alex Hutchinson Creative Director, Ubisoft Montreal

21 56 2.7
That's actually a little sad as if it had been free to play, it probably would have been far more successful.

Posted:5 years ago

I doubt it would have been as successful. I think it probably worked better for them to establish the LBP brand first with a retail game. However, if LBP2 had been F2P then yes, that would undoubtedly have been more successful.

Posted:5 years ago


David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers

361 80 0.2
Maybe Sony should make the original game F2P now. It could be an interesting experiment for Sony.

Posted:5 years ago


Terence Gage Freelance writer

1,289 126 0.1
Seeing as Media Molecule are now leaving the series in other studios' hands (I wonder who will helm it herein; Double Eleven, Tarsier, SCEE Cambridge or maybe another team entirely), perhaps now would be a good time for the series to take a new direction, and maybe have an F2P instalment as an experiment?

Anyway, I look forward to seeing where the series goes (I haven't played LBP2 nearly enough), how Double Eleven get on with it and what Media Molecule come up with next.

Posted:5 years ago

Did I miss something? Since when was Little Big Planet successful? The first game sold only 4.4 Million and the second one only 1.40 Million which is only half as much as Wii Music! If that doesn't show that nobody cares for User Generated Content than I don't know what.

Posted:5 years ago


Terence Gage Freelance writer

1,289 126 0.1
"Since when was Little Big Planet successful? The first game sold only 4.4 Million"

"Only" 4.4 million?! I dislike the term 'LOL' but in this instance it really applies.

Posted:5 years ago


Ben Carter

1 0 0.0
4.4 million is small compared to games like COD that sell a hundred million copies

Posted:5 years ago


Terence Gage Freelance writer

1,289 126 0.1
Would that be the imaginary COD instalment that's not released yet?!

Posted:5 years ago

4.4 Million is decent but far from the supposed scope of success a lot of people seem to talk about. It is on the same Level of success as Luigi's Mansion and Wii Music were, you know, the games nobody wanted. Suprisingly enough nobody talks about New Super Mario Bros. which sold more than 20 Mln. copies being successful, and proving that people actually want 2D platformers and not "make your own game" devkits. The hard truth is that User Generated Content was never a big or really profitable market and Little Big Planet and it's sequel that tanked pretty hard, spectacularly prove it.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Albert Schneider on 21st July 2011 6:58pm

Posted:5 years ago


Eliot Lloyd Studying Computer Games Design and Production, Northumbria University

23 0 0.0
If a game is profitable, then I'm sure it can be considered a success.

Posted:5 years ago


Terence Gage Freelance writer

1,289 126 0.1
But Albert, you're comparing it with one of the biggest sellers of the last few years. It's like trying to argue that Gears of War wasn't a success because it didn't sell the 20+ million of Modern Warfare 2, or that Battle: Los Angeles wasn't worthwhile because it didn't bring in the $2 billion+ of Avatar.

A little perspective is needed: 1-2 million sales is often these days cited as both profitable and a success, so 4.5 million is an excellent sell-through for a new franchise. I would wager that 4.4 million sales is more than about 95% of videogame releases ever.

Posted:5 years ago

So you will just ignore that not only Little Big Planet is not just as successful as a lot of the so called gaming "Journalists" make it out to be, you will also ignore that part 2 tanked? Yes it is probably a matter of interpretations what you view as a success but putting it in perspective: Luigi's Mansion sold about as much as little big planet and nobody views it as a success. Wii Music sold twice as much as the second one and is still considered one of the biggest failures in Nintendo's history. So what does make LBP special? Nothing it just isn't a success, it is profitable, but so was Babysitting Party by Ubisoft.

Posted:5 years ago


Terence Gage Freelance writer

1,289 126 0.1
"So you will just ignore that not only Little Big Planet is not just as successful as a lot of the so called gaming "Journalists" make it out to be,"

I'm not culpable for gaming journalists' opinions or exaggerations, and although I don't know who you're referring to specifically, I would call a new IP selling 4.5 million copies and getting an average review score of 95% to be a tremendous success.

I cannot comment on Luigi's Mansion as I haven't extensively played it, but its average review score is significantly lower than both LBPs at under 80%, and according to Wikipedia it has sold closer to half LBP1's alleged sales figures, so I'm not sure why you're so determined to compare the two.

As for LBP2, I can't find any reliable sales figures for it from a quick Google search (and my work firewalls block most game sites) but I would not be too surprised if it is around 1.5 million at present. I mean, it didn't make the impact that the first game did, and the first game also had slow-but-steady sales over a couple of years (albeit with some heavy discounting in place soon after launch). I wouldn't say it "tanked", but it's a fairly disappointing launch for the sequel to such a well-received game.

Posted:5 years ago

Erm, from what I know the series is bordering on 7+ million sales on a single platform, and thousands of fans buy the very regular PSN DLC hand over fist - and have been for years. All this is created & supported by a dev team of 40 guys.

With the rivals ye cite having teams of 200-400 people and spending eye-watering amounts on marketing & infrastructure, I rather think that to get a better profit margin for a game than LBP you probably have to be looking at Angry Birds, Mine Craft or some other superfreak success. And even if there is a heavyweight champ, the lightweight champ is still the champ.

Clearly to some folks though, success is in the eye of the beholder. I tend to think of it in terms of sales, costs and profit.

Posted:5 years ago


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