Poor Episodic Gaming: Puzzle Quest on iPhone

When I first bought Puzzle Quest on the iPhone on the first day it came out in December 2008, I fully knew that I could have gotten the complete game on the DS, XBOX Live or the Wii. However, I felt that this style of gameplay would serve me better on the iPhone. Despite the initial display issues (which were later patched), I was having a lot of fun with it.

That was, till the game ran out. You see, at a discounted price, you got 1/3 of the game, with the other two parts coming at an undetermined date at an undetermined price. I was able to get through that initial chunk within a few weeks. I said to myself, “OK, cool. I’ll wait for the second chapter.”

To the delight of Puzzle Quest iPhone owners, the second part of the game came out in February of 2009 for free. I played through it once again within a matter of weeks, and stopped when the chapter ran out.

Here’s where the story gets messy. It’s March of 2010 now. D3 Publisher just released the final chapter of Puzzle Quest…as an in-game purchase of $1.99 in real money. I have two problems with this.

1) D3 Publisher is asking users pay extra for this final chapter.

I understand that it was explicitly stated that the initial product was for 1/3 of the game. If you bought the game after chapter 2 was released, you got 2/3 of the game for the same price. I also understand that even buying both pieces for the full game is still cheaper than buying any other version of Puzzle Quest at this point. However, it does feel like D3 Publisher is cheating it’s customers when it set a precedent by giving it’s customers chapter 2 for free.

2) It’s taken over a year for customers to receive the full game.

This bothers me much more than the price. I would have gladly paid a bit more money to get the entire game when this first came out. I had bought this thinking that since this game was made months before on other platforms, and that it shouldn’t take much work to port it over to iPhone, that customers would be getting all three parts in a timely manner. I had to wait roughly a month for chapter 2 to come out and over a year for the chance to get chapter 3. What kind of episodic schedule is that? In that time, I have since lost interest in Puzzle Quest and faith in D3 as far as their ability to support their customers.

No one is forcing me to buy this final expansion to complete Puzzle Quest. If anything, the game was split this way so that users that didn’t want to spend more for the full game could get some of it for a discounted price. Had the pricing and the timing been correct, I would have paid for all three episodes, no problem. Instead, D3 has managed to lose me as a customer with poor episodic support.

I know a lot of companies are still struggling with episodic content (I’m look at you in particular, Valve). I just wish that companies that have episodic content in mind release it on an actual schedule with no surprises. It seems like such a simple concept that has been done for decades in other mediums, such as television. Why hasn’t it translated as smoothly for games? Some developers get it, but most still screw it up. Puzzle Quest on the iPhone definitely qualifies in the latter category.

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