Rayman Legends Challenge App – A Surprisingly Amazing Idea

Back when Ubisoft announced that former Wii U exclusive Rayman Legends would be ported to every other system, things didn’t look so good. The delay was set to put them directly against huge holiday rush competition, and, more importantly, the decision came as a major slap in the face to Wii U users, many of whom bought the system for this exclusive alone. There were protests, petitions, and loads of bad press for Ubisoft. Fortunately, they haven’t simply let the worst case scenario play out. Firstly, they announced that they aren’t sitting on their hands during the substantial delay, and have in fact created an additional 30 levels for the game. Secondly, their new release date is August 30th, which doesn’t put them in as much competition as everyone thought when they announced a September release. Finally, to placate the Wii U users who they completely screwed over they decided to release the Rayman Legends Challenge App. I’ve had some time to play around with the app since it launched and I can say with certainty that it not only eases the pain, but may lead to a really interesting business model if developers catch on, which they might not. So today, I want to talk about the challenge app, why it’s so good and why it could possibly affect the industry.

If only people were so keen on challenges in real life.
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So what is the Rayman Legends challenge app? This app includes all of the demo levels previously released without the ridiculous usage limit that Nintendo is so fond of. These levels have been tweaked very slightly in order to line up to the real game more fully. However, the true meat of the experience is found in the new challenges. Initially, there are two challenges available to the player: daily and weekly challenges. Daily challenges change daily, while weekly challenges remain up for a week. As you play these challenges, you unlock medals ranging from bronze to diamond, and the more medals you get, the higher your awesomeness ranking gets. When you have achieved higher awesomeness ranks, you can unlock two more challenge modes, which are simply harder versions of the daily and weekly challenges. As such, you will eventually have two new challenges a day, and two new ones a week.

There’s something sinister about this whole thing.
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The challenges are all of specific types, which are tied to the level you play them in. One challenge tasks you with controlling your character in a race; one has you controlling Murphy the fly in order to clear obstacles for an AI (Playable co-op), and one has you falling down, as you try to collect Lums (Think coins). Obstacle positions and goal differs  between levels. Sometimes you will be trying to go as far as you can. Other times, you will be collecting a certain amount of Lums as quickly as you can, and so forth. The modes seem somewhat limited, but the constant release of new levels means that you’ll never be stuck with a mode you don’t like for long. As an added bonus, as you collect more Lums, you unlock new characters to play as and for the competitive there are leaderboards for every challenge.

That’s right, Critters_SP is better than you. What are you going to do about it?
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What is brilliant about the challenge app is it provides so much more of an incentive to buy the game than any demo could. Rayman Legends is a fairly deep platformer, which becomes immediately obvious as you try to get the higher scores. As such, the constant stream of releases is actively hooking players on the game. It is important to note that the limited number of modes, none of which resemble the traditional platforming found in the final game, means that gamers are less likely to simply be satisfied by the challenge app, and are going to be more interested in purchasing the game. Gamers tire of demos usually after a playthrough or two, and demos often fail to impress. More damning, demos are a dime a dozen and it can be difficult for many gamers to decide what game they want to buy based on the demo alone. By releasing a steady stream of new content, you up the chance that gamers will notice your product above other releases.

The Soul Sacrifice demo on the other hand seemed to have kept people playing for 50+ hours, so what do I know?
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Not only does this model work better as an incentive, it also allows for far more player feedback for developers. Releasing content lets developers see what content is favoured by players, what characters they should focus on, what challenges players will play over and over again, and which they will just abandon. These are just some things that Ubisoft can learn from this app. Imagine what developers could learn through their own custom-made apps. Demos give players a chance to try out a game before they buy it so they can make an informed purchase. This seems like the natural evolution. Letting gamers try out the game, while simultaneously trying to get them hooked on it. So many demos fall down because developers don’t know what to do with them. This seems like it could give some good incentives for them to figure it out.

Tecmo might have learned that Quantum Theory was an abomination nobody wanted to play.
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There are downsides to this model of course. Not all games are well suited to this style, particularly the more story driven games. I can’t really imagine this working with a game like Heavy Rain. However, the biggest problems lies in a recent theory that demos are themselves bad for sales, and providing a ton of new content on a regular basis may not be worth the expense required to sustain it. And it is expensive. Even if the content is limited in the same manner as the Rayman Legends challenge app, it still requires far more resources than a standard demo. If this model doesn’t actually increase sales, but possibly even reduces them, then it is a complete waste of time and money. This is a serious risk that I doubt most developers are going to take and this challenge app is unlikely to provide any usable data due to the fact that the current attach rate of the Wii U is unknown so how much this may or may not affect sales is impossible to judge.

There’s a metaphor in here somewhere. I’m sure of it.
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As it stands, whether this model has any future in the industry depends on whether more developers take the chance and use it. At this point, I can’t say for certain that it is overall beneficial. There are lots of theoretical benefits, but also many pitfalls, and I am not in the position to judge what side will actually come out on top. As such, the implementation of this style of demo is very risky. One thing I can be sure of, however, is that the Rayman Challenge App is a ton of fun, and makes the wait for the full release a lot more bearable.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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