Welcome to the weekend!† Judging by the outcry on the internet I would be amazed if there are many people that think that Microsoft is taking the Xbox One in the right direction. † From DRM to people calling their practices anti-consumer they have built themselves quite the PR nightmare these last few weeks.† Looking in from the outside it would seem to me that Microsoft is trying to build a box to make everyone happy (and by everyone I mean content producers and consumers), but that is like cats and dogs living under the same roof.† I would also go as far to say that to me it looks a lot like Microsoft is trying to take the right steps to solve the wrong problem. †
The problem that they are trying to take on is the resale of games that consumers have purchased. † Are used games really the villain though?† I guess that would depend on your point of view.† I feel as if most publishers take the stance that every used copy sold is less money in their pocket, which is true to a certain degree.† Itís an incredibly black and white view on how used games actually contribute to the market. In a bubble that view may be perfect, but in the real world it doesnít take into account the many factors why a customer wouldnít just buy a new one in the first place.†
The most obvious factor in this equation is the price.† Yes, I am sure that there are customers who are excited to see a used copy of a brand new game for five dollars off, but there are equally more who would rather just wait for the game to be even cheaper before its worth buying.† Let me be honest too, there are many games based on quality alone that shouldnít even be on a store shelf for sixty dollars at release and people wonder why they donít sell. The sales you are losing are from the people who think that a sixty dollar game is too expensive and would rather pay forty or even twenty dollars for a game.† In a lot of cases games donít hit that price until some time after release and considering how stingy the publishers seem to be at dropping prices that can often be after the game has already stopped printing. †
Which brings me into my next point: Letís not forget that there are customers who actually would prefer to buy a new copy of a game that no longer can.† To be fair, this current generation will likely be the last where that ever is a concern.† But as it has been clear to see there have been many titles throughout the last generation that could only be purchased second hand, because new copies were no longer made after a few months.† Now that we are at the end of the console cycle more of those titles have the ability to be digitally distributed.† Even still though the download sizes in a lot of cases can be catastrophic and depending on your internet provider completely unfeasible. †
I would also be remiss if I didnít talk about how game trades lead to sales of new games.† The customer isnít always out there trying to take money away from publishers. For many people used games are a currency to buy brand new games with the shrink wrap and publisher money included.† If I was going to make this message as black and white as their view on used games is I would say: Putting limits on how a consumer can pay for your games will cause you lost sales.
There definitely has been talk in the community that if publishers made money off of the used games then games in general would be cheaper. † Do you want to know why no one believes that this would happen?† Itís because every time a potential savings could be passed on to the consumer it is absorbed back into the corporate wallet.† Digitally released games require no production or middle man yet cost exactly the same as one bought in brick and mortar.† Games arenít getting any cheaper for the consumer and even from a physical standpoint most games now come with no booklet and are nothing more than a disk in a flimsy box with a picture on it.† Granted a lot of that has to do with the pull from retailers, but if you think that pull will magically disappear with this new console then you are sadly mistaken.
Oh!† Donít worry!† I hear you telling me how it is on Steam, but letís be honest in most cases over the last decade the PC market has been treated as the ugly redheaded step child who only seems to generate money as an after thought.† Ubisoft and EA have both shown incredible under sight and made disastrous missteps in this market that could have been easily avoided if it was treated as importantly as itís console brethren.† Things definitely have been getting much much better, but most of that has to do with the fact that Steam is far more open for publishers and developers to be independent and competitive then the closed system that has been run on the console marketplaces.†
My message to publishers: Instead of running around screaming from the top of the mountain that used game sales are the devil have you considered that maybe the key is opening up more alternate revenue streams?† Letís be honest, by the time used DVD sales actually become relevant movies have already had two or three opportunities at making money with nearly infinitely more opportunities after the fact.† There is nothing remotely approaching that with video games. With most games they only tend to be relevant for a few months after their release and even after less than a year they fade into obscurity. †
What about a digital only early release edition?† Do you want to be the first person to play the new hot game?† Well, it costs more, but you get it a month before it releases anywhere else and it comes with some early adopter bonuses.† If you want the physical copy too throw in another ten dollars and weíll ship one to your house.
Another place that video games could follow in the footsteps of movies is by setting up deals with distribution services for some extra revenue.† The first thing that comes to mind for me is PlayStation Plus.† Sony is trying to entice people to join PlayStation Plus work with them to offer your old games as part of the package.† It garners goodwill, you will get some cut of the profit and it could lead to a revenue stream or a franchise revitalization that you had never expected.
Paid betas.† Seriously can you imagine the amount of money that Activision or EA could bring in by offering paid betas for Call of Duty or Battlefield respectively? †
Those are just three ideas I thought of in a matter of minutes.† I am sure if I had an afternoon I could fill a novel full of new ways to generate money for game publishers, but the key thing with the ideas that I listed above are that none of them infringe on the end consumers right to enjoy the game.† They enable the consumer to be in a position to help support the games that they love in new ways and ultimately are being rewarded for it.
The last thing I want to say to the developers and publishers out there: You are rushing something that is inevitable anyway.† Maybe it wonít be in November like you would like, but consoles games are moving toward a downloadable or cloud based streaming future.† Rushing it along is what is causing more ill will when you could instead be constructively helping build the future direction of this industry.† Donít blame the customer for your problems.† Ultimately, it is your business model with the over inflated budgets and unrealistic sales projections along with a true lack of innovative money generating ideas that are causing these problems.† Not the people who are passionate about playing these games.†