The Flock, an upcoming asymmetrical multiplayer, will go off sale if too many players die in the game. It’s a fascinating move that is either a fantastic or terrible idea. The Flock will launch with a set number of lives in the world, and each time a player dies, that number goes down. Once the count reaches zero, there is nobody left in the world and The Flock will be taken off sale.
The Flock developer Vogelsap says the game will never be put on sale again after that happens. People who already bought the game will still have it in their library, but it will never sell a single new copy. Vogelsap also promises that, when the population countdown reaches zero, there will be a “climactic finale.” What that means exactly isn’t clear yet, but once that finale has happened, the game will be shut down, the servers will go offline, and nobody will be able to play it ever again.
The move is both fascinating and worrying. On the one hand, it’s great that an indie developer is trying something so new, and it truly is an interesting concept. It succeeds in adding a real punishment to dying – bringing the end of the game closer – and it’s something that a big triple-A studio would never dream of doing. On the other hand, there’s a reason for that. Permanently destroying a game seems so obviously counter-intuitive from a business perspective that it’s hard to understand why they’re doing it at all. But there is a good reason.
Indie MMOs usually suffer a fate that some would call worse than death (as far as games go). They usually peter off fairly quickly, with interest in them dying down and less and less people logging on to play until the developers can no longer keep the lights on and are forced to shut off the servers. It’s a slow, painful demise that Vogelsap is avoiding by switching the game off themselves, on their own terms. If you think about it, since statistically this game, as an indie MMO, is doomed to fail eventually anyway, what’s the harm in making that end as awesome as it can be?