Budget software labels are on the increase, and budget games are getting better, slowly.
This must represent a “good thing” for most Spectrum games players, as ten pound games seems to have become the norm. While you usually get more game the more you pay, it’s not always the case.
Mastertronic, without doubt, lead the field in the budget market — dominating the industry charts to the extent that a debate is raging about whether budget games should be excluded from the mainstream charts and put tidily somewhere else where their success is not quite so evident. From the point of view of a lot of retailers, budget games are bad news. You see, the mark up they make on a £1.99 or £2.99 cassette is much less than on a ‘full price’ game, yet it takes up the same amount of shelf space and the same amount of time, trouble and paperwork is involved in getting the cassette onto the shop and on the shelf. More units have to be sold to achieve a given level of profit.
Perhaps retailers, distributors — and programmers, who generally receive a royalty based on sales — are now prepared to support budget ranges. The high volume, low margin approach has been seen to work very well, with titles like Firebird’s Booty crossing the 100,000 barrier. Far better to have 100,000 5p’s than 5,000 25p’s if you are a programmer who lives on royalties!
Perhaps there’s a hint of irony in the fact that the first totally new and original games to be released for the 128K Spectrum is in fact a budget game: David Jones’ Knight Tyme, released by Mastertronic on their MAD Range. The economics of budget software publishing have been seen to work, and more and more companies are following the trend. Not all cheapo games are good quality, but the budget game as a respectable product is here to stay.
Good news for anyone still thinking about buying a Spectrum 128 — the price has dropped already, and the first CRASH Smash has just been awarded to an original 128 game!
As we sent this issue to press, the first rumours of a new Amstrad/Spectrum games machine began to circulate. Mutterings about a Spectrum based machine with 256K memory sold as a super games machine for under £200 were heard.
The rumour has it that Astron cards — credit card sized slivers of plastic containing programmable memory chips — will be used. Maybe this is what Alan Sugar meant by controlling the Spectrum software market. If Amstrad do come up with an economically viable games machine which effectively uses non-piratable cartridges to load games (which will almost certainly push the price of games up), they may be able to control whose programs actually get put onto the cartridges.
Fortunately for all existing Spectrum owners, there’s little danger of Amstrad dominating the cassette software market in the way they have come to preside over the home computer hardware market in this country. There’s no sign, as yet, of the software ‘approval’ scheme that Alan Sugar hinted at during the announcement of his company’s acquisition of a large chunk of Sinclair’s assets.
This issue of CRASH sees the start of several new sections in the magazine. Brendon Kavanagh kicks off a regular column on the Play By Mail gaming world with an introduction to the mechanics of such games, and will be contributing news, views and reviews on the Play By Mail scene on a regular basis.
Rainbird have kindly agreed to sponsor an Art Gallery section, in which CRASH readers get the opportunity to ‘hang’ their SCREEN$ creations on a page in the magazine and then on their wall at home in the form of a full colour screen dump produced by Dimension Graphics at Rainbird’s expense.
For the next six months we will be watching the development of a new game for Christmas — a game which will be designed by a CRASH reader, programmed by Design Design and taken to the marketplace by Domark. We’ll provide a monthly update on progress, and reveal lots of the secrets that lie behind the process of getting a game into the High Street shops.
And a section on ‘Home Grown Software’ begins gently, in which we take a look at some of the games you have been writing, rather than playing.
There’s never been a better time to subscribe to CRASH! Apart from the new things that are happening between the covers, the power of the MYSTICAL SUBSCRIBER NUMBER has finally been harnessed, bringing a host of goodies into the laps of readers whose copy of CRASH arrives through the mail.