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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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Alec Meer: A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.
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