End game content

I’ve talked in the past about the game industry (and EA in particular) trying to fight back against the used games market; call it a hobby of mine. The newest idea thrown out there comes to us by way of Mike Capps from Epic Games:

I’ve talked to some developers who are saying, ‘If you want to fight the final boss, you go online and pay USD 20, but if you bought the retail version, you got it for free.’ We don’t make any money when someone rents it, and we don’t make any money when someone buys it used — way more than twice as many people played Gears than bought it.

Honestly, I’m kind of torn on this one. On the one hand, used game sales do eat a significant portion of the profit that might otherwise go to the developer/publisher of a given title. Once again, this is attacking the used game market from the consumer side, dissuading a potential consumer from buying it used because, odds are, the code for the ending has already been redeemed and they don’t want to pay more for it. It’s smart, and the companies do want to cut into GameStop’s huge profit margin somehow.

On the other hand…there are a lot of people that rely on renting or GameFly to play new entries in an increasingly expensive hobby. I know, because I was a broke kid, I rented A Link to the Past three separate times before I got around to owning it back in the day, and that’s one of my favorite games ever. How would I have felt if I had to pay more money because I wanted to know what happens after I beat Ganon? And what about people that play offline? Will they just never get to know what happens?

[[image: ar_111408_dlcend_01.jpg:Watch this for only $19.99!:center:0]]
I honestly don’t think this is a company wanting to nickel and dime us more than they already are. In fact, for many of us, this probably wouldn’t be an issue; if we really want a game, we’ll buy it new, and get the ending for free. This is teetering dangerously close to the edge of saying, “We don’t want poor people to play our games,” though, and I think that’s a misstep. Cutting down on your potential fanbase –- that may very well purchase the game when they have the money -– is a bad thing. And if nothing else, it’s irritating to have to download something that should be a standard part of the package. Harmonix let players download the Rock Band 1 songs into Rock Band 2 for a mere five-dollar licensing fee, simply because it was more convenient for the user. Let’s hope that other companies follow suit and find ways to combat used games without making everyone else jump through hoops.

…Of course, one could always argue that 99.99% (yes, that’s a scientific percentage…shut up) of all game endings aren’t worth downloading anyway, but that’s another discussion entirely.

19 thoughts on “End game content

  1. The worst thing about this whole model is what if 10 years down the line you buy some old games and the servers hosting the endings are long gone? How do you play “catch up” on a long running series if pieces exclusive to new buyers are forever cut off because publishers are greedy?*

    *Not any moreso than GameStop, etc.

  2. doesn’t this assume that the same number of people who buy a game, will still buy it even if they know they won’t be able to sell it used?

    I like to buy games used because
    1. It’s cheaper to buy.
    2. I know I can sell it for almost the same price as I bought it.

    What I’m saying is, I enjoy temporarily owning and playing games for little permanent financial cost.

    If I had to pay *retail* for all those games, no way would I buy even 1/3rd of them.

    also, how is any of this different from any other entertainment medium? Do studios get money from used dvd sales? or are they saying that the entire 2nd hand market is bad? That we shouldn’t ever own any of these things and just license them for our personal consumption?

  3. It seems that certain topics seem to pop up in and around the broad discussion of “getting gamers’ money.” For example, I think the earlier thread by Parish regarding emulated vs. authentic titles relates to this discussion. Why? The increasing awareness of games as digital — i.e. ones and zeros — vs. objects — immutable plastic cartridges shipped with manuals — devalues games in the mind of consumers.

    The problem is only compounded by game companies manipulating their product, in this case by severing the ending from the body of the game. While this decapitation is in reality superficial, it degrades the integrity (or mystique) of the in-game experience. We are too aware that it is a construct. And because we have grown accustomed to receiving most digital content for free, such as web pages, and the more aware people are of games as part of that digital stream, the less we are willing to pay for them.

  4. There’s ZERO justification for this. Every single other media industry, books, music, movies, etc. have to deal with the used market and have managed to thrive nonetheless. It’s been said a million times before, but if they need to destroy the used market to survive, maybe there’s something inherently wrong with their business model?

  5. More likely you should see video games as the bellwether of the direction other media publishers want to go. Even books — publishers almost certainly see devices like Kindle as a godsend, because the book downloads cost the same as a new paperback but they can’t be traded in or sold at a garage sale.

  6. I’m with anonymous. If the industry can’t turn a profit, then “business” may be the wrong business for them. I guess I sort of welcome these “gamer friendly” approaches, but I don’t feel like I should have to hear as much whining from the industry as I do.

    Consider the availability of your game on the used shelves a reflection on the desirability of your game. If consumer love keeps it from getting there in the first place, you win. Smash bros. is the prime example for that model in Japan at least in Japan.

  7. I think you solved the problem with that picture. The easiest way to defeat the final boss is to make him cost $20 to begin with instead of finding new ways to bleed your customer for money.

    those awful $10 take-two games on the Playstation sold like crazy.

  8. This isn’t really about the money anymore, it’s true. It’s about “the principle of the thing,” which in this case translates to “control.” Someone, somewhere is making money off of their IP and it’s not them. Someone else thinks they’re allowed to own things.

    My recommendation to all the entertainment industries: stop selling your shit. Don’t advertise- people could keep those pictures and reuse them. Lock everything you make in a vault. Shoot the production team and don’t allow anyone else to see the work, because any memories they retain are illegal copies.

    But if they did go this route I strongly believe that we should still pay them. To leave us alone.

  9. I did the same thing as Macc. I was still a happy, happy kid when I got my own copy for Christmas that year.

    I think to combat the used market, they need to make a product worth keeping. Look at Smash, look at Halo 3, look at Rock Band and Burnout and their downloads. Also less emphasis on churning out yearly sequels would help. Sure you sell a new copy of Madden, but you stop making money on last year’s edition and burn more every year on development.

  10. Seriously, if developers and publishers are truly considering models like this (ie. paying to beat the game), screw them so hard.

    “We don’t make any money when someone rents it, and we don’t make any money when someone buys it used — way more than twice as many people played Gears than bought it.”

    This comment is so short-sighted it’s insane.

  11. I’m also willing to bet only half of the people who played Gears of War beat it, thus making that potential plan even more dubious!

    It’s a crappy idea period (which I really don’t believe will be pulled except maybe by one publisher being experimental, if that), but I found a sorta-kinda acceptable alternative when sifting through the Neogaf thread: give the online component for free with new copies, charge for used. This way at least you’re holding off on a game aspect that actually requires internet access and should the hypothetical server shut down happen, you couldn’t have made use of it anyway (well, not legitimately at least). Bonus points in that they can sell the online aspect for people who don’t give a crap about the offline game, sorta like MGO for MGS4, but that would require a strong campaign.

    Nevertheless, the whole industry is being way too shortsighted. I suppose it’s inevitable when the media has a ridiculously short shelf life, but used games are what help counteract that. They should probably figure out how to keep supplying their game for us to buy before screwing over used sales.

  12. My biggest issue comes from “what about when the games can no longer be bought new?” Games don’t get the same shelf life as movies, music, books, etc., and unfortunately, GameStop can still charge quite a bit for even a used game; tacking on the proposed twenty bucks would be ridiculous.

  13. I know they are two separate issues, but I also have trouble hearing this from the sports car driving superstars at Epic Games, especially when other developers struggle struggle to stay ahead.

    That being said, after crapping on the devs I’ll crap on the users. I feel the business models need to somehow change, and that games aren’t cheap. But gamers are most certainly cheap, and that needs to stop. I still remember a guest lecture in college from a member of the Free Software Foundation. He explained how much he disliked DRM (of course), but constantly emphasized that, even if we got good DRM free business models, we still need to pay for our entertainment. A student simply remarked that he didn’t see the point when he could download movies quickly. The lecturer bargained with him. In the end, the student would only agree to pay for a film download if he could do it fast, with one click, and pay no more than a dollar for it. I talked to the guest afterward, and he told me how frustrated in general he was with that sentiment. He was fighting for personal and software freedoms, not for free Hollywood Blockbusters.

    Entertainment has no value to some people these days. And its getting worse.

  14. “I suppose it’s inevitable when the media has a ridiculously short shelf life, but used games are what help counteract that.”

    That’s it exactly. Even if publishers don’t make direct sales off used game sales, they keep software in the market, creating more players and, in turn, more fans and potential sequel buyers.

    There is more to be lost then there is to be gained in trying to cut out the aftermarket, especially after the software goes out of print.

  15. What’s really at the heart of the issue here, is that publishers are trying to play hardball with EBGamestopcoland (or whatever we’re calling the amalgamated game store lately) because they’re trying to establish a business model where they can get away with ordering, say, 5 copies of a game per location, and pushing trade-ins to the extent that they are basically running an overpriced rental business.

    It isn’t really a concern that “gasp! 2 people might end up playing the same copy of this game!” It’s “Frell these cheapskate retailers being such tightwads!” The fact that some of the solutions being tossed out are potentially making life miserable for anyone who’s too poor/cheap/determined to get some reliable reviews first because they miss out on pre-order goodies, or lose content buying used, or don’t get their free first-week-only downloads because they’re also too cheap to pay for Gold Xbox Live memberships, that’s just collateral damage… which happens to potentially get them more money.

    From where I sit though, the best solution (and what I’m attempting to do with my company) is to just cut the retailers out of the loop, and take orders directly over the web. There’s more hassle involved, but you make more per sale, and being totally cut off can really send a message.

  16. I agree with Googleshng: the best way to solve this problem is digital distribution. Unlimited virtual shelf space, low product prices, low distribution costs, and it would certainly cut out a large section of the pirate population [those that can’t afford to/don’t want to pay $70 for something they’ll just trade in anyway].

    Alternatively, replacing used game stores with digital distribution libraries would be an interesting idea. Charge the user a monthly membership fee, and they can download all the games they want for a month [they expire at the end of the month].

    I cannot support any developer that wants to combat the used market, especially by cutting content out of the game unless you pay a premium. I may be in the minority here [I certainly was when I suggested this on Kotaku], but I think that people have a right to culture. I believe in libraries and borrowing games and used game stores and so forth, because they make culture accessible. Now that the internet age is upon us, and everyone and their mother has a high speed connection, there’s not much reason for major developers not to go the route of Steam. Of course, I can’t reasonably expect them to be anything other than scroogish misers, charging $30 a download, alienating their peripheral audience, and driving them to piracy. Selling by volume works for Wal-Mart, it should work for Eidos and Ubisoft too.

  17. Bah. Good game endings are 1 in a 100. Especially in western games. I’ll rather play a Wii Sports clone than slog through a boring game to see an “epic” ending.

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