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Nickel and Dimed at the Online Store

An in-depth roundtable discussion on the growing used games monetization problem – and its solutions.

Jason R: There's a clear loss in value when buying used. You don't get the case, you don't get the inserts or the club Nintendo code, and in some cases, you don't get the manual. These items DO marginally increase the cost of manufacturing. So what did publishers do? They cut back on the plastic in the cases, they made very few inserts, they've slimmed down rewards programs, and they've even taken out the manual in quite a few instances. 

We've seen an annoying trend. There are two tiers of new purchases. If you want the special things, the goodies, the manuals, something to display, you buy an ultra-expensive collector's edition game. Some people care about that, and some people don't. This didn't work out too well; for one thing, these limited collector's editions can often be too limited. Marvel vs. Capcom 3, for example, had a ten dollar higher collector's edition that was sparse and difficult to find come launch day. Halo 3 cat helmets were in high demand, greater, in most markets, than there were copies of the collector's edition out there. In other cases, these limited editions take up too much space. How many sales did we see of Epic Mickey's collector's edition on Amazon? How many brick-and-mortar stores even decided to carry it? 

So now we're at a point where it seems publishers want to make the BRAND NEW experience something that's at a premium over the plain ol' new experience. And now we're at a point where consumers have realized just plain ol' new isn't that much different than used. So we're at a point where many people just buy used and play used. It's cheaper, you get the same amount of game for your cash, and your friends, pals, buddies, and online gaming journalists and bloggers have already rendered a verdict on the quality of the game. 

The truth is, I don't think people would mind paying the new price for a game they could trust they'd want to continue playing. I still want to play Chrono Trigger from time to time. Super Mario 64 is a classic I'll always want to turn on here or there. I have hundreds of hours of memories in Super Smash Bros. Melee. I don't feel a need to subsidize those purchases by buying used. 

But do you think I should feel that same way about Scribblenauts? Would I really want to shell out $40 for a new copy of Star Fox 64 3D when it didn't even come with the commemorative soundtrack that OoT 3D received for new purchases? Why should I trust Original FPS #57 of this generation when I already have the most popular, Call of Duty: This One is the One All My Buddies Play? I feel much less comfortable paying full price for all these iffy games and the rest of the world has come to the same conclusion too. 

In my book, the best way to entice earlier, new purchases of a game is to ensure the consumer sees it as a solid value. I'm not talking creating a 200-hour epic with slightly random changes each time the player reaches the same area on a save file. I'm not talking about full-on world customization. The truth is that people are drawn to games for the experiences. New Super Mario Bros. brought me some great stages I can play with friends, enemies, and Chris. Call of Duty: Black Ops has brought my brother-in-law a way to bond with his fellow officers off-duty. Portal has given Chessa hours of opportunities to sing a fun, memorable song or two. 

The games people buy, the games that are successes, are the ones that make memories, that add experience to one's life. A ten dollar pass doesn't do that. A collector's edition doesn't do that, not alone, at least. DLC and DRM don't do it. 

I'm with Jesse. Offer games a la cart. Offer a cheaper single-player. Offer the robust multiplayer. Let gamers choose their experience. If someone wants to play Metal Gear Solid 4, why is the dissimilar Metal Gear Solid Online game bundled in with that? So many people play so many games online without even touching the single-player, except as an option to do basic training, that it makes one wonder why it's even there in some cases. Some companies realize this, some do not. I sure wish I could have bought a version of Smash Bros. Brawl that just had all the multiplayer content without any of the waste that was the Subspace Emissary.

If game developers focused on their truly worthy game ideas and didn't feel the need to tag on something that doesn't fit, I think they would find games prices to be fine just where they are.

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10/25/2011 at 09:11 PM

Jesse- it's funny you mention that the used price should be LOWER if an online pass is required to play it.....just today I was scouting the Gamestop site for a used copy of Battlefield 3, and the used pricetag (for ps3, at least) is 49.99.

Is this a taste of things to come???

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/25/2011 at 11:57 PM

That's probably what newer releases should be used to begin with. It's a good start, anyway.

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

10/26/2011 at 09:12 AM

It very well could be. The blessing in disguise could be lower used game prices for gamers that couldn't care less about online content. My worry is when games like the new Batman have single player unlockable content that actually ends up being a good chunk of the game.


10/26/2011 at 01:47 PM

Agreed. The entire 10 dollar headache in order to use Catwoman is absurd....she's a significant portion of the game, and easily one of the most anticipated characters in AC by fans. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing that GameStop is going to do a solid and give that access to those who purchase used. BTW....if either of you guys need NOS codes for a Batman Beyond skin, let me know via PM @ 1Up, I'll shoot them to you directly. I drink NOS every day.

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