The gaming industry is full of money-making techniques that infuriate gamers, and yet persist nonetheless. Those could be “free to play” games that charge you an arm and a leg for the tools you actually need to play, “pay to win” games where you’re only competitive if you buy the upgrades, or expensive DLC that should have just been part of the game in the first place. But, as annoying as those are, they make developers money. Now, there’s a new game where you remotely pilot real, physical battle robots that could fail simply because it doesn’t make money.
Remote Games is a startup created to focus on “remote reality” gaming. These are games where players compete in actual real-world arenas, but remotely over the internet. Their first game is called Isotopium: Chernobyl, which they’re funding now through Kickstarter, and has players battling with robot car/tank things in a 210 square meter scale model of post-disaster Chernobyl. The environment and details look amazing, and Remote Games obviously put a lot of effort into its construction. But, the concept of a remote reality game comes with a number of challenges.
The most glaring of those is that only a handful of players — across the entire world — can play at any given time. For now, that’s limited to a total of 10 players. That means that it’s difficult for Remote Games to make any substantial amount of money, because they’re not just selling copies of digital content like conventional video game publishers. To pay for the system, they charge players for “energy units.” Each energy unit equals one minute of gameplay, and they’re charging $10 for 120 energy units through the Kickstarter campaign.
That comes out to $5 per hour of play, which is probably worthwhile for those gamers who want to experience a new type of gaming. The problem, of course, is that the model isn’t sustainable. In order to accommodate more players additional arenas will need to be built, and those are going to be wildly expensive if they’re anything like the Chernobyl arena. Even if each arena can handle 10 players, they will only generate $50 per hour before the costs of running the system are even factored in. So they’ll either need to charge significantly more for energy credits, or find additional ways to monetize the game.
There is no denying that Remote Games has a really interesting idea here, but it’s difficult to imagine it being a successful one under the current model. That said, if you want to experience it while you can, head over to the Kickstarter page to purchase some energy units.