Microsoft targets 5m Fable III sales, profits of $150m

Molyneux calls demos "crazy" and reveals plans for episodic and social content

Lionhead's Peter Molyneux has revealed the weight of expectation about the studio's next project, Fable III.

Positing the sequel as more of an action-adventure than an RPG, he said it was a deliberate attempt to reach a wider audience.

"We are driving to sell more than five million units and to make a profit in excess of $150 million," he said. "We have to do that because if a franchise doesn't reach that level it will inevitably wither."

Part of this strategy would involve selling the game as downloadable episodes, said Molyneux. "Soon after the retail launch we're doing episodic. We break it down in chapters. We give away the first chapter entirely free, the first hour. When you reach a certain point in the game it says 'thank you for playing the pilot of Fable 3, do you want to spend an extra 2-5 or whatever dollars to buy the next episode, or buy the whole lot?' Press 'yes' and you will immediately continue playing."

The concept was previously trialled with Fable II, which was converted into online episodes nine months after the retail launch. Molyneux claimed that the first episode saw 1.6 million downloads, and the episodes as a whole earned $15 million in contribution margins.

He was adamant that providing the first chapter for free was a better model than a demo. "It supports this freemium idea. It gets around this horrible concept of demos. Anyone out there who thinks a demo is a good idea is crazy. It's never a good idea, because demos are usually done at the end of a game and they require an enormous amount of design talent to make a demo. The other thing is you're more likely to satisfying the curiosity of a user rather than entice them to play more."

He also reiterated that Fable III would be a more accessible prospect, due to concerns that over 60 per cent of Fable II players understood and used less than 50 per cent of the game's features. The new title will consciously chase a casual and female audience.

"About 30 per cent of people that played Fable II were women," he said, revealing that Lionhead had recently been on a recruitment drive for more female staff.

"The reason we're doing this is really trying to bring a wider audience into the Fable franchise, because my suspicion is there are a lot of people who are the partners of core games who probably want to get involved as well." Almost half the Milo team are women, he added.

Highlighting Fable III's social and micro-transaction features, he accused this year's E3 of being "weirdly and bizarrely kind of not relevant. There wasn't much there in the space of social gaming."

He also joked that Fable III's Kinect features, which enable a gamer to reach out and 'cup' another player's avatar, would gain the game 100,000 sales in Europe but lose 100,000 in the US.

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Latest comments (9)

Junior Enwright Writer - novelist, comic book scripts, game narrative, article writer 11 years ago
I really want this game, the game seems to have changed so much in comparsion to the second installment
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 11 years ago
All this talk of making it simpler and more accessible... it's making me think of Prince of Persia 2008, which wasn't a very well-received direction for the series. I can't think of many people who appreciate removing depth; particularly when the predecessor was as accessible and enjoyable as Fable II was.

I also don't understand his points about a demo - many a time I've only become interested in a game due to its demo, such as, say, Yakuza 3, Valkyria Chronicles and MotorStorm: PR (that's not to mention downloadable games). I don't know about anyone else, but I'm much more inclined to take the plunge with a game if I can try a demo first.
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 11 years ago
Not sure if this is a little over ambitious or not. However what I do feel is the majority of gamers buying this isn't because of Kinect.
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Show all comments (9)
Rafal Baranowski11 years ago
"I really want this game, the game seems to have changed so much in comparsion to the second installment "

hm. For me, it hasn't changed like... at all. It's all the same.

And BTW, speaking of demos: Darksiders with its 90-minute-long demo is 100% contrast to what Molyneux is saying.
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Julian Toseland games podcaster/website 11 years ago
I'm with the above poster, demo's to me are an essential part of any title, and I agree, many, many times I have taken the plunge and got a full title, purley based on its demo, and even the other way, wished so many times certain games did have a demo, i will not rely on other resources in order for me to buy the full product, espedially given the economic climate now.

On the actual, fable series, i have to say being an avid RPG, fan, I was so disspaointed at the "lets lead you buy the hand" type gameplay, it was a game i never, despite many attempts got to the end of, it was voted by me in our podcast as my biggest disspointment of that year gaming wise.
And I have to say, Fable 3 just gives me even worse kind of feelings listening to all the pre-release chatter, and is completely off my radar.
IMO, should never mess with a major franchise's gameplay, people buy mario, sonic, halo, tomb raider, for the same reason every time, they like it, peoplemhate change, if you want the ideas, such as are being banded about this new fable, why not make a new title altogether, much better in my opinion.
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Tommy Thompson Studying Artificial Intelligence (PhD), University of Strathclyde11 years ago
I would agree with the other comments that demos are, for many games lacking mass media exposure, an essential to gain extra sales. Even if it is the case that one consumer plays the demo, enjoys it and then helps spread word-of-mouth to get others to either download the demo themselves or purchase the game outright. More and more these days the actual game press have less influence on the buying habits of consumers. Getting the game in a reduced form can help people to make a decision whether they will buy it or not.

However, even from my own experience I feel that there is a balance that has to be attained when building demos. Certain demos give a complete flavour of the game within one contained experience that reflects the potential of the game as a whole. Split/Second and the recent Transformers:War for Cybertron were great examples of this, and I intend to buy these as soon as it is financially feasible. Of course the opposite side of that coin is a demo which either gives too much and therefore leaves very little to explore in the retail version, or does not give an appropriate measure of the 'feel' of a game.

For example, Crackdown (and potentially Crackdown 2) suffer from the first case, where the full version of the game was just the demo with longer progression and no time limit. Having purchased the game based on that demo, I was disappointed to discover nothing else really of merit - though I still enjoyed it. In the latter case, my experience with the Ghostbusters demo on Xbox Live was very disappointing and immediately stopped me from buying the title. Since then I borrowed the game from a friend and discovered that, when played in context and from the beginning, it's a rlot of fun!

I can understand why Mr Molyneux does not appreciate demos compared to his 'freemium' approach given the substantial man-power it can take to make a good experience. But nonetheless an argument for these demos still exists, since they can hopefully convert curiosity into sales.

Ironically, I downloaded the free Fable II episode when it was released and I still haven't played it yet. :-S
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Claire Blackshaw Senior Online Consultant, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe11 years ago
I'm in agreement with the Demo comment. I just got back from the conference and there was some very good conversations around Demos and how feeble they are. Most people agreed Demos were not good investments pre-launch. This at a conference where Freemium was a buzz-word.

Peter did clarify that post release the episodic version of Fable 3 would be released and that the first chapter would be free and "act as a demo".
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Diarmuid Murphy Developer Marketing, Microsoft11 years ago
I think what is being offered in Fable3 is better than your standard demo. If you had a standard fable 3 demo you would build up your character and unlocked features in the demo, buy the retail version and have to repeat it all. With this "freemium" (I do not like that word) approach you keep your character, you keep what you have done and you can seemlessly move from free to paying cusotmer.
Key point is that the first episode has to have a significant action sequence. Many demos do not focus on the start of the game because the character has not unlocked enough to showcase the game's mechanics.
Great example is "Star wars force unleashed 1" you start with most of the powers unlocked in the demo.

Alternatively I question releasing a demo of a sports game i.e. FIFA, NHL etc without restricitions on match timelimit. NHL09 demo was one of my favourite games, I never bought the full version because I have no interest in what team I play as and the only mode I wanted was exibition.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Diarmuid Murphy on 1st July 2010 11:32am

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Iain Lowson Writer 11 years ago
I'd rather developers put the time and effort that can be spent making a demo into making the main game better. Doing a demo will split studio talent off from the main task at hand. Those who spoke at GameHorizon (and I've heard it said often elsewhere) pointed out that demos deliver little to no benefit, but regularly damage the project and can adversely affect sales. There are exceptions but, judging by comments from the great and the good, they seem to be few and far between.

That's just what I've heard at conferences and at work. Personally, demos have only ever served to reinforce purchasing decisions I've already made based on what I've seen and heard elsewhere.

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