Not too long ago, the rise of the YouTube playthrough and Twitch stream may have seemed detrimental to game sales. This might have especially been the case for story-focused titles, such as A Way Out and Detroit: Become Human. However, the creative directors behind these titles, Josef Fares and David Cage, respectively, say the opposite is true. If anything, gameplay walkthroughs actually help boost sales, as viewers want to experience whatever the YouTuber or Twitch streamer didn’t.
The two developers addressed this topic during a recent talk at Gamelab Barcelona, which was hosted by Gamesbeat’s Dean Takahashi. According to Cage, Detroit benefited from walkthroughs because of its incredible number of story possibilities and endings. Cage told Takahashi,
We can never count exactly how many endings there were to Detroit. It was not about the endings; it was about having a different path, leading to different endings. The journey itself is different, and different characters can be present, or be dead, or make different moral choices and be in different situations by the end.
People who watch a YouTube walkthrough will never see everything the game has to offer. Another player’s decision may take the narrative in a direction viewers don’t like. To appeal to their own curiosity, some viewers will simply opt to purchase the game and play for themselves. Quantic Dream took advantage of this knowledge by challenging the player with tough choices. If only 10 percent of players choose one of two options, “the dilemma is not really there,” Cage noted. As such, Quantic Dream wanted each choice to be a 70/30 split for the audience at minimum. The team considers a 50/50 split preferable, however.
Cage expounded further,
What we realized is the very positive impact this had on the community, and on the sales of the game. In the past, YouTubers were very problematic for us, because players were watching those videos thinking, ‘Okay, I’ve got the story, I don’t need to play the game, I know what it’s about.’
With Detroit, the opposite happened. They were showing one walkthrough, but they couldn’t show all of the things that happened in all of the branches. Players watching thought, ‘I wish he’d done this’… Suddenly they became our allies, and they helped us to promote the game.
Interestingly, A Way Out’s Fares originally foresaw trouble for the game’s sales when it became an instant hit on Twitch, despite its linearity. Yet, it seems viewers were intrigued by more than just the narrative’s outcome. Many also wanted to experience the game’s co-op with another player who knew nothing of the story. Fares explained,
I remember when it came out, and A Way Out–which was still an indie title–was the number one game on Twitch. I thought, ‘Oh shit, we’re fucked.’ But then it sold really well, because people saw it and wanted to play it. In A Way Out’s case, it was because they wanted to experience it with someone who hadn’t seen it on Twitch.
As games of this nature continue to evolve, it should be interesting to see what the next phase brings. It appears Supermassive’s The Dark Pictures Anthology may usher in something fresh, as its first entry, Man of Medan, will explore multiplayer options in a couple of unique ways.