Chủ Nhật, 17 tháng 7, 2011

Gaming Industry Punishing Gamers for Buying Used Games with Online Passes

The Recent Decline of Value

A vicious cycle is rapidly gaining pace in the gaming world. Publishers continue to raise prices while cutting back on content. Where we had $40-50 games with multiplayer included and 10-14 hours of single player, we now have $60 games with 4-6 hours of single player, and a pass code for online.The decline of value vs. increase of price of games
While raising their prices they’re shooting their sales in the foot as many gamers can afford to buy fewer and fewer games per year. So gamers turn to second hand copies of games, because that’s all they can afford.
Unhappy that their profits are dwindling due to their high prices and poor quality, short games, the industry in  turn decides that they will start pulling content out of the games to make a bigger profit.

In Defense of Used Game Sales

First, it was DLC, downloadable content packs that expanded the game. However, many seem to have started to pull out content from a complete game, still charge $60 for that game, and then charge gamers $10 or more to get the rest of the actual game. Yet another reason gamers look to second hand to get the games they want.
Now, the advent of the online pass is gaining far more momentum than is good for gamers and the industry on a whole. To fight back against second hand sales, the publishers have decided that they will now also pull out multiplayer gaming and create a pass code for it.
If you can afford the new game, you’ll get the multiplayer (but still not that extra content they’re calling ’expansions’ and charging extra for, which is always ready right at release meaning it was certainly ready to be a part of the shipped game, i.e. removed to make more money it seems). If you can’t afford the new game, you’ll still end up paying extra thanks to the online passes and the DLC.
Now DLC does also serve another purpose of extending the lifetime of a game and giving gamers a reason to hold onto the game. Not all DLC is pulled right from the main game. Games like L.A. Noire, Fallout 3 and Borderlands are good examples of how they extend the life and value of the game over time. I’m not against DLC in general, just when it seems like it was part of the original finished product, then pulled out, like what it looked like for Mafia II, and made into DLC.

Online Passes Punish Gamers

The fact of the matter is that online passes punish gamers for not being able to afford new games. The prices of the games online pass punishes gamersincreased to $60 with the latest generation of consoles, which themselves cost far more in the beginning. Citing expanded development costs, the publishers dictated that the price increase was here to stay. Then EA came out and said that 75% of a game’s budget is marketing, which must be the price of pushing gamers into buying poor games.
Now, online passes are also here to stay it seems. It’s not because the publishers aren’t making money. Several of them have been showing good profits. It’s because some of them aren’t and need to fix that. Instead of reorganizing and refocusing, they’ve decided to grab more money from the pockets of gamers.
As I said, the main reasons for gamers buying second hand games is a combination of price and quality.
In regards to price, gamers simply can’t afford to keep buying expensive, new games on a monthly basis.The economy is poor, unemployment has reached 9.2% in the US. Yet, instead of looking at ways to generate more sales of new games (like increasing the quality or length), publishers have decided to punish those who can’t afford the new games.
Essentially, online passes are changing multiplayer from a right to a privilege and removing integral content from games and dangling it on a string in front of less affluent gamers saying, "Oh, we know you want to play cough up the cash you didn’t give us on a new game."
It’s almost like extortion if you think about it. Multiplayer online will become the realm of the affluent, only those who can afford new games, will get to play online. If you can’t afford all the games new and buy them used, well, you’ll still need to pay to play.

Another Bad Move for Gaming

Just like the constant move toward shorter and shorter single player in lieu of pay-to-play add-ons, this is also another move that pulls content out of a game and makes it an add-on.
So what is the next step? Will the industry, next year, just sell single player games and make all multiplayer online an extra add-on feature that costs $20 on top of the $60 for the 6 hour single player game.
Since gamers can hardly afford new games weekly now, do they believe that the path they are going down is really going to increase sales?
The NPD Group just reported that US Video Game Sales for June were down 10%. It was actually a 9% loss on hardware, a 12% loss on software and an 11% loss on accessories.
So of all categories, gamers lowered spending on software (games) the most. $61.8 million alone were lost in lower sales and this is the month that saw L.A. Noire top the charts followed by the poor Duke Nukem Forever (which goes to show the power of name recognition).
Now the NPD Group report is only on new physical sales. On the flip side, the first quarter of 2011 saw around $5.9 billion in sales with used games, game rentals, subscriptions, digital full-game downloads, social network games, downloadable content, and mobile games pulling in an estimated $1.85 billion.
Only $2.03 billion of that 5.9 was new physical sales of games, which means that they are now only about 1/3 of the industry.

A Good Move for Gaming

Paradox Interactive has already got the future well in hand. Fredrik Wester, the CEO, recently reported that digital sales are some 90% of total sales at the sales increase and are a cure
To combat the continued rise in game prices, digital is definitely an answer. However, what many publishers don’t do is price accordingly.
A digital copy of the game is the same as a physical copy, except that it doesn’t have the disc, packaging, printed manual etc. So why then should it be exactly the same price? Even just a $5-10 reduction would be acceptable and would probably increase their sales overall. Plus, with no shipping, packaging, warehousing, returns, or logistics, they could definitely increase their bottom line.
I’m not saying all games need to go digital only. There are some gamers that will always want and need that physical copy and packaging. I’m more than happy to have it all digital personally because I have more than enough storage and backups. Plus, if you lose a hard drive you can always re-download the game, or if you need to make space, delete it and it’s still in your account whether it be on Steam, GamersGate or whatever.
Considering that digital delivery accounted for almost the same as physical sales in Q1, doesn’t it seem like this is the way to go?
Additionally, there’s no second hand on digital sales, so there’s no need to create online passes and gamers might even consider paying for that DLC with the $10 they saved, if publishers were to discount the digital version.
Sure, the brick-and-mortar retailers won’t like it, but they’re not your consumers, we, the gamers are and we would probably be more likely to respond positively, if you were to show that you understand where we are on the subject. You can still included them in the loop by offering game cards, and special packs. They can sell codes to consumers who don’t have a credit card or don’t want to use real money online. Sell them the codes, for a slight markup, to cover the overhead and you can still get sales from that demographic.
The world is moving online, to a more social, more connected, more digital lifestyle. Isn’t it time that the game publishers saw this and instead of coming up with ways to punish gamers and make them pay more, try to look at ways to get us the value we previously had in a new way that doesn’t make them all look like massively greedy faceless corporations?

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