Published on February 5, 2009 By My Views and Muse In PC Gaming

I have been a long time GalCiv customer and love the game greatly.  I do not get to play it as often as I would like but anytime I have a few free moments I play a few turns. 

I recently bought (last week) Sins of a Solar Empire via impulse.  I know I am almost a 1 year late in coming to the party but when it came out I was still deep into GalCiv love and I had a hard time dealing with the fact that it was not enough like Homeworld.

But all of that is water under the bridge.  I buying SoaSE it caused me to wonder.  Just what is the life cycle of a computer game anyway?  I know they are getting ready to release a small and cheap enhancement but besides that how does shelf live and revenue compare between games sold at the store vs through something like Impulse?


Comments (Page 1)
on Feb 05, 2009

Not sure I understand the question. For good games, the life cycle is as long as it can be made to run on the current operating system. For bad games, they die quick. Couple weeks ago I looked at a game rack and StarCraft and Diablo were there, still strong sales for them; 10 and 11 years since they were released.

It gets even stranger. The Homeworld series still has an enthusiastic player and modding community, yet the series is long gone from retail shelves. Similarly, Microsoft Freelancer is still going strong with the Discovery mod, even though it might be fairly hard to find a copy.

Sins of a Solar Empire is still at the beginning of its life cycle. You are starting just as it's getting rolling good. No worry.

As for Impulse and similar services, I think the future will hold increasingly better revenues for digital distribution than retail boxes distributed by publishers.

on Feb 05, 2009

I think the life cycle of Stardock published games is much better than others because they are very good about releasing patches and new content.  Most other games will get one patch.... if they're lucky....

on Feb 05, 2009

If they're any good and have the ability to be modded, PC games last for a very long time. Fallout 1 and 2 still have an active community. has practically made SimCity 5 by themselves by adding tons of awesome content to SimCity 4. Every FPS game of note from the last decade still has people playing it.

That's why I PC games.

on Feb 05, 2009

it really depends.  I still play Civilizations IV from time to time, heck I still play master of magic from time to time (and that game is from 1993-95 range).  But other games, I beat once and never pick up again.  I think sins will continue to be played by me for at least a few years (not just because of expansion packs) just because I never really feel like I've gotten enough of it.  I blame the lack of singleplayer.  At the same time I tend not to play more than 1 or 2 games in a week's timeframe, and I am usually playing it when I SHOULD be doing something else.   However, when I sit down to play a game (like I say, I don't work today... time to GAME! ) I usually don't play sins (though I have been known to play master of magic when I say such things)

on Feb 06, 2009

I usually get about a week or so in which I am playing nothing but a game, followed by a few weeks of moderate playing of the game, followed by possibly years of sporadicly playing a game.

Games which are actively supported by the devs *cough* Stardock *cough* last MUCH longer than those left out to dry *cough* Far Cry 2 *cough*. I have got more play time from Mount and Blade, which I got on Steam for $7.50 (on sale) than I have from Far Cry 2 which I bought for $50. IMO the top notch graphics games are often the least apreciated in the future, since the gameplay value of the game seems to decrease as they focus more attention on adding shinies.

"But other games, I beat once and never pick up again."

I haven't even gotten around to beating Far Cry 2 yet. The gameplay is extremely repetetive when you take away the shinies. Get mission. Get side mission. Kill target X for side mission. Kill target Y for main mission. Do an underground mission. Get mission. Get side mission. Kill target X for side mission. Kill target Y for main mission. Do an underground mission. Get mission. Get side mission. Kill target X for side mission. Kill target Y for main mission. Do an underground mission. Rinse lather repeat. Oh, and I forgot, between each area is about 10-15 minutes of traveling.

on Feb 06, 2009

I think it has to do something with how well a game can entertain a person. In this day and age of advanced video games and computer games, there are still people out there who play poker. I'm sure that it has a large enough of a fan base that if I were to call it a simple game of cards, I get a few people who would argue otherwise, both from the traditional hardcore to the new recruits from the commercials.

Inaddition to card games, people do other activities like play football or hockey, as adults without multi-million dollar contract. Some people take up professional trades a hoppy, such as jewelery. Others tinker with their cars and such.

I wonder how many adults would show up to play in a dodgeball tournament if they had the opportunity...

on Feb 06, 2009

I would! Of course I dont act my age half the time anyhow.

on Feb 06, 2009

Games are like music or art. Truly good ones have a much longer life than those that are mediocre. I still play some DOS games from the mid-90s (Caesar II and Conquest of the New World) using DOSBox. As Serik55 mentioned, SimCity 4 is still a great game, and it will be 6 years old this year. Starcraft is a game that is about 10 years old and I still see it for sale in retail outlets.

on Feb 06, 2009

Well... at least one of you got it...


Typical shelf life on a major release is a few months.  In a specialty shop they can stick around a lot longer, by specialty I mean places besides Walmart.  Bestbuy for instance keeps them around much much longer than they do, it's mostly dependant on shelf space.  The last time I was in a CompUSA, they had at least two years worth of the big ones.  A lot of flash in the pan releases dont even make it a week at Walmart, some of them never even hit the shelf at all.  The lower budget stuff just doesn't have the muscle behind it to stay on their shelves long even if it's still selling.


There are also the hits that break the mold in the other direction, you could still buy Half-life at Walmart years after it's release, Diablo 2 was the same way.  Quite a few of them stayed there solid till their sequels finally pushed them out.


As far as revenue goes, it's rare that the industry people actually let you know just how much they made off their product, but I expect nearly all of it is collected in the first month.  Once you've made back your investment it's almost pure profit though, so additional sales are still very much a good thing.  If the per unit cost were more than a negligible factor then it would be a different story, but plenty of people have gotten rich just selling jewel cased ten year old games for five bucks.


I expect the online sales are nearly identical, with the profit going more to the seller and less to the beaurocracy that surrounds a retail store product.  They still have to follow the same law of supply and demand, they just get to skip the myriad of middlemen.

on Feb 06, 2009

Most games out there can outlast even the toughest hardcore players... but, it IS the hardware that dictates how long a title can remain "active".

Take the newest hype over 64 bits OS and how it opens up a few areas for developpers and you'll figure that whatever "better_bigger_faster" gameplay engines can exploit these features would grab its fair share of any possible market - for a given period until new stuff comes around.

Heck, just going 4 shaders and 512MB video memory on 'newest' cards caused chaos in the programming paths of some game_corps.

No wonder everyone tags their boxes with *Minimal system requirements* and some optimal configurations suggestion; they know what quality of gameplay they can (or should for awhile, btw) afford to put in IF a purchaser has the gear for it.


I still play X-Com:UFODefense and even in a DosBox mode within Vista on a DualCore CPU and that title is from the mid 90's!

on Feb 06, 2009

I wonder how many adults would show up to play in a dodgeball tournament if they had the opportunity...

Find me an Arcade and a MSPacman' fruits hunt and i'll dump my shiny quarter right in the slot just to see if i still have the reflexes for 200,000+ points games!

on Feb 10, 2009

The life cycle of a modern AAA game?  Six months.  A year tops.  Push it out, patch it, move on.   With the exception of something that can be used to bilk the customer for more ££££'s... like The Sims or Spore where you'll be paying for nice new content from here until the universe dies of proton decay.

The interesting thing is this, it's really unlikley things like x86 are going anywhere and even if they do their will be emulators appearing for them much like their are for Atari ST, Megadrive and the like.  But fundementally the x86 is here to stay as is digital distribution.

Which means hypothetically the life span of a modern game in terms of sales... is rather long, after all in 10 years time someone, might just decide to see what all the fuss that was made of SoaSE was about and download it digitally to run on their petracored system.

Old, gold games don't die.  They just rest peacefully in the land of emulation.   

on Feb 11, 2009

Old, gold games don't die. They just rest peacefully in the land of emulation.


I like this quote. It even gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

on Feb 13, 2009

Just comes down to how fun the game is and the ability to mod it. I still play Total Annihilation today because it's still fun as hell to play today as it was the day I bought it. Plus it's so mod-able you can literally make it into another game. I might not play it as much as I use to but It's still installed years later.

SoaSE and GalCiv 2 are fun as hell as well so their last a long time. And they both allow quite a bit of moding, which keeps the fans aroudn fot years to come.

Sadly most games lost their fun factor quick (very true with MMORPGS) and end up as bargain bin rejects. 

on Feb 13, 2009

Most Blizzard and Valve game will have many years of shelf life.