Nickel and Dimed at the Online Store
An in-depth roundtable discussion on the growing used games monetization problem – and its solutions.
Jesse: Since people apparently don’t want to spend $60 on every game, publishers have pinned their hopes on taking a bite out of the used market.
What they haven’t considered is why the used market is so big, especially when you consider other entertainment markets such as DVDs/Blu-rays and books. People don’t see as much of a savings for buying used books or movies and the trade-in value for these items is pitiful. This is a model that the game retail industry needs to look at. If they lowered the price of the product they would sell more new copies because the value in buying/trading-in used becomes lesser and lesser as the value in buying new goes up.
Publishers need to see that you can’t add value to a new product through preorder bonuses because a majority of sales aren’t made on day one. I’m telling you, lowering the price (or introducing a tiered system) would help to add value to the new product while lowering the value of the used product.
Heck, why not have online a la cart? I’d gladly play $40 for Modern Warfare and then pay $20 if I decided to play it online. I myself prefer the offline experience of gaming, so the online pass doesn’t bug me on a personal level too much, but it does bug me when I see games like Resistance 3 being pushed out with shorter offline experiences because of the development necessary for an online component I’m not likely to take too much advantage of.
Nick: Online passes are absolutely awful. I know that companies are using them as leverage against used game sales, but when we already pay for services like Xbox Live Gold, it's inexcusable to toss yet another expense in the ring to play a single game.
Speaking of used game sales, I'm getting sick of hearing the bellyaching from developers about it. You make products that can be sold if the owner of it so pleases. While I appreciate the efforts you invest, you are not entitled to anything from a resale of your game. If you want to stifle the used game mark, make more sustainable or enjoyable experiences. People wouldn't get rid of your game if you gave them a reason to keep it.
Esteban: I believe that online passes make sense because such practices have been happening for MMOs for a while now. However, we already pay Microsoft $60 a year for such services. The PS3 is viable since it's free but on the other hand they are still using their infrastructure. Subscription is also a risky proposition because some gamers will be turned off at the concept of having to pay more for a game they just bought used or were loaned or rented. Also, in terms of the Xbox 360, it's downright ludicrous because we as gamers are paying twice for the same service. I understand publishers want to make money but there's only so much gamers will pay.
One solution would be to go free to play and charge for items the way Team Fortress 2 does. As for the online passes, that business model will not work and eventually, hardware companies Sony and Microsoft will take offense as it'll be detrimental to their service. EA's sports pass is bulls**t. Those servers close after a couple of years!
Julian: The online pass is a poor way to get people to buy games new. It doesn't feel like added value for those purchasing games at full price, and gamers buying used (which isn't a crime, no matter what developers or the staff of EGM think) are cheated out of a vital component to the experience. Instead, more games should include content that is attractive to consumers, like the extra case for L.A. Noire, the first DLC episode of Alan Wake, or other items. Moreover, if developers work to make interesting and fun post-game DLC, that is revenue that will get attached to a large amount of used sales. I can't imagine a gamer that buys Mass Effect 2 used and enjoys it not wanting to purchase content like The Shadow Broker.