Friday, July 2, 2010

We used to get it for free

I have always thought that games have been too expensive and because of that, this industry will never get the mainstream acceptance that it craves.  Unfortunately, the industry in it's current state feels like it should be making more money and they are doing things to ensure they get as much as they can without looking at the underlying problems.

To be fair, the goal of any business worth a damn is to make money and I get it. I am never going to argue against Capitalism.  This rant is about the new trend in video game industry that is designed to fight off the used games market that is "killing the industry".  What they mean is Gamestop, but the odds of them coming out and actually naming them is about as good as George W. Bush being re-elected as president.

Before this becomes an anti-Gamestop rant (because I cannot stand the sight of another one), let me be somewhat clear.  I have bought new games from Gamestop in the past.  I will continue to buy new games from Gamestop in the future.  I have bought and sold used games in the past and I will not do so with Gamestop anymore because the way they sell buy and used games is straight bullshit in my opinion

Electronic Arts announced that they would be including inside all new copies of their EA Sports Games (Tiger Woods Golf, Madden, NBA Live, ect) a one-time use online code that will unlock their Online Pass.  They have not said specifically  what the online pass will entail, but it is widely rumored to affect online play in some form.  Want to let your homeboys borrow the game, they will not be able to use the online features UNLESS, they buy their own Online Pass from EA.  Want to sell your game to someone on Craigslist? If the new guy wants to play online, they too can buy their own Online Pass from EA.

Then, THQ announces that their highly anticipated UFC Undisputed 2010 will also include a one-time use code for online features including online play.  And now, Call of Duty Developer Treyarch, as well as Level 5 announces that they are also looking into this.  Well, fuck that noise.

This whole method is not a new occurrence.  Two years ago, Gears of War 2 shipped with a code for a free map pack for online matches.  Mass Effect 2 came with a code to get more free content.  Getting extra stuff with a new game purchase doesn't bother me in the slightest.  My problem with this is that companies are now starting to hold back what used to be built into the games.  It seems like publishers are too busy complaining about the "used game problem" instead of creating a solution.  Because despite what they are saying, it is clear that the majority of console game publishers are being mad salty because Gamestop is making money off of the problem they created.

I read an interview with Bill Gates a few years back and he made a comment about why he liked selling software.  He said that once you code a piece of software, it costs about $2-$3 to package it and you can sell it for whatever you want, for as long as you want.  If you made something good, it will never be obsolete.  Games, in theory, should never go bad.  Go look at Pac-Man.  Slight revisions like Champion Edition aside, the base game still holds up now.  I've rebought Final Fantasy III/VI more times for more systems than I care to count (thanks SquareEnix for keeping an addict on his addiction, even though your new stuff sucks.)

On the other hand, a quote from a message board acquaintance offers up this counterpoint…

“Try finding a brand new copy of any game over 4 years old that isn't in the hands of an eBay reseller. Pre-owned games will die when publishers drop the prices of games and continue to ship them for prolonged periods of time at rock bottom prices, the same as how I can still buy a brand new DVD of Men In Black but it only costs £2 now.”

But isn't this more about the fact that Men In Black on DVD isn't worthless?

By that I mean that Men in Black 3D is coming out in 2011-2012.  The fact that movie is coming out does not mean that Men in Black 2 is shit (the fact that the movie is bad makes it shit) or the original Men in Black is still not a good movie.  If I recall correctly, it is still being printed and selling even if only for $5.

Compare that to Call of Duty Modern Warfare.  Is Activision still printing new copies of that game to sell to retail?  It's still $40 new, so they must be.  Any other game that has a new sequel each year would be dirt cheap by now. 

My point is that publishers take all that money and hard work they put into a title and throw it all away by annualizing it.  Now they are mad because people see that 85% of the games coming out now ain't really worth shit.  It could be because of many factors like quality, lack of features, or new and better being released in less than a year.  But either way people now think that most games are damn sure not worth $60.

Going back to the DVD analogy, you don't see movie publishers shitting a brick over mom and pop stores selling used DVDs.  Because they have made it so mass market chains shouldn't have to.  Don't believe me, go to Wal Mart and take a look at their $5 DVD bin.  Not only is it full of somewhat recent movies, but there is always something in there that an average consumer would either buy right now, or they already have on their shelf.  If someone saw a new copy of Mean Girls in the $5 at Walmart and liked it, they may buy it.  Odds of someone buying a new copy of Madden 07 for 360, not a fucking chance.  Look at the average consumer's collection of DVDs/Blu-Rays and compare them to the average consumer's collection of games.  Notice the huge difference in amount.  Again, this could be due to many different factors, but one of those factors is that games as a whole are worth shit to the mainstream consumer.

And whose fault is that?