When you hear the statistics about the number of people who actually complete the campaign in even a relatively short game -- like a 10, 15 hour console game -- they can be quite low. I'm surprised to hear that.
TH: I know; it's really cool. We have a niche audience, and they just love it, and they come back for more. And downloadable content -- we do loads of downloadable content now for Total War, which elongates the game and adds to the game, and that's been hugely successful.
Do you think it's your audience? Or do you think that it's something that you intrinsically do with the design of the games? Or is it a blend that keeps the engagement like that?
TH: Yeah, I think it's that people make their own game within Total War. We're not a story-driven game; we're not about a directed campaign. And we'll occasionally do some elements of that -- but yeah, absolutely, you make what you want of it. So when you're allowed to do that, you will follow it through; you attach much better to it, I think.
And it's such a huge, deep game, and that's one of its selling points. I've had conversations with people at Sega who almost feel like we're doing too much -- that there's too much content there. Sometimes a publisher will go, "Ehh, there's 100 hours of gameplay for 40 bucks; maybe that's not the best way to do it." It absolutely is; it's just one of the things that we can do.
How do you make that case? Because I understand exactly what you're saying...
TH: Because we're unique. I mean, we're not unique, but we are one of those players that can offer a huge amount of content with the way the game's made up, and it's quite a unique kind of game style. I think if we cut it, a lot of our hardcore fans would be very, very disappointed. Day one, that massive, deep experience.
And my guess is that a lot of Total War players don't buy many other games; they want a strategy game, and Total War fulfills all their needs, to some extent, or certainly for long periods of time. So it's one of our pillars, to give huge amounts of content.
It's the kind of thing that you can't really illustrate with a spreadsheet, which is how publishers make decisions. So I'm curious about that.
TH: Well, that's the beauty of us still feeling quite independent. And Total War is perceived throughout Sega as highly successful. So luckily we are in a strong position to defend our case. And if we don't sell games, we will certainly quite happily rethink that policy, but until then, if we hit a sweet spot...
Plus, I think that heavyweight gaming experience, that tentpole experience, actually allows us to do really interesting things with extra content, with some of the ideas we've got around multiplayer at the moment. And it's actually going to allow us to do some clever things that we couldn't do if we were really a constrained, small game. And so it's a great strategy for the future, I think.
Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai
Do you have any more detailed analytics around what your players engage with and how?
TH: Well, we do. We have an in-game metrics system, which has collected one and a half terabytes of data so far from Shogun 2. And so we absolutely can see how people play to a huge, deep level, and that is feeding back into the design of our next game hugely.
And then we also see how people play through Steam analytics, and some other data that we collect, and we can see how people purchase, we can see at what price point they like to buy, how long they wait till they buy downloadable content, whether they buy one piece of downloadable content or all of it, etcetera, etcetera. How many hours they play.
So bringing all that together, it is the future. Metrics is the future. And we hear that from social all the time, and we truly believe that, and we have a telemetry set of people within the studio who do that analysis on a daily basis.
Like you say, you have 11 years of experience, so there are people at the studio who are positively sure they know exactly what the audience likes, wants, and how it functions. Has it yielded any surprises?
TH: Yeah. I find it tough to pick one particular insight that would be pertinent, actually. I'm not sure.
But have you had that experience?
TH: Oh yeah, we have. I mean, I won't be able to say what areas of the game worked or whatever, but, certainly, absolutely, there are elements that helped our balance hugely. But we absolutely can see areas of the game that don't get played, and don't get played a surprisingly large amount, and we see how people want to auto-resolve battles, and things like that. So it definitely steers us in a particular direction.