Ripping off consumers is good for businesses only in the short term. An early burn by a company will linger in the mind of the consumer, and when a superior product finally comes along, that company will be abandoned without a moment's hesitation.
By limiting the hard drive in my console to a 20GB drive, Microsoft has not only burned me, but burned itself. As a [relatively speaking] early adopter, I was shafted in my inability to use HDMI, and I am screwed in my storage space. Why don't I upgrade, then, if I'm such a whiny bitch?
Because a 120GB hard drive costs too much money
Anyone who buys a hard drive for their Xbox 360 is getting absolutely screwed. In general, used prices for hard drives (and hard drives are one thing I would never buy used) hover around $100, while new ones are generally around $120. By comparison, a look on Newegg tells me that, for the same price (or lower), I can get an external 1 TB (which, for those of you who aren't very good at math, is more than 8X as much space) or an internal 1.5 TB hard drive (more than 12X the space, for you high school dropouts).
I have a few XBLA games (20 or so), and I will be buying a few more to be sure, with The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom
being my next game purchase. However, when my hard drive is full, instead of deleting the content currently on it, I will simply stop buying games.
The bigger issue is not, however, my paltry selection of XBLA games, but my refusal to buy Xbox Originals/Games on Demand or any DLC that isn't for Rock Band. Now, this burns both Microsoft and I, as well as a number of developers. Games that plan to add major features or content that would have once been and should be on the disc are simply not games I will buy, because I don't want to miss out on the content I don't have room for. My issue is not so much with the purchasing of it, but with the fact that I can't hold it.
Let's take the recently released Dante's Inferno
. I very much enjoyed the demo for that game, and was planning on picking it up sooner rather than later. That is, until I heard about the Trials of Saint Lucia DLC that is coming out in the next few months. A major, adding co-op and
a level creator?! Holy shit! That's fantastic. That's so fantastic, it should really
be on the disc, as opposed to separate paid content!
But that's fine, EA wants to screw the consumer over by giving them a clearly incomplete game? Okay, but Microsoft needs to remember that not only is the game incomplete, but it is inferior on their platform
. By missing all of the content that is free on the PS3 version's "Divine Edition," the game already has a strike against it. The second strike comes in the form of an inability to buy DLC, leaving me with a vastly inferior product.
It's interesting that I now pat Sony on the back where I once vehemently bashed them, but such is the way of the world. For all of Sony's missteps, they made a very smart decision with regards to their hard drives. They realized, as Microsoft seems now to have, but too little too late, that a hard drive was a necessity in the generation. With the exception of a single SKU, the PS3 hard drive has always been 60 GB or more. 60 GB is a perfectly respectable amount of space. For some people, it may be too little, for most people it is too much, but it is a much better number than 20. Where Sony truly shines is in their allowance of third party hard drives. Anyone who wants to can easily upgrade their PS3's hard drive with an off-the-shelf model. The only true limit to space on the PS3 is the limit to space in a retail hard drive.
And this is where the burn comes in.
When the next console generation comes around, and I'm only buying a PS4 or an Xbox 720, I will not have to think very hard in my decision. I don't care about online play, so Xbox Live holds no allure over me. My 360 has broken twice, one time I had to pay for because it wasn't a red-ring. Every time I turn it on after neglecting it for a few days, it whines and makes the noise of disc destruction. I have no more space on my default hard drive, and Microsoft seems to think that I should pay exorbitant prices for relatively paltry space.
The decision will be quite easy.
But back to the beginning of this. Another potential title for this post was, "Valve's Philosophy, and Why Microsoft Should Steal It." Why? Because of how Valve handles post-release content, and they understand brand-loyalty.
There are three companies I hold a legitimate allegiance to: Grasshopper Manufacturers, Nintendo, and Valve. Grasshopper has my allegiance because of its incredibly interesting products, Nintendo has my allegiance because it makes some of the best games in the history of ever, and Valve has my allegiance because of everything.
Say what you want to about the company, they know how to treat their consumers. If you don't believe me, log onto Team Fortress 2
. Long after its original release, the game bears only a passing resemblance to what it once was. Maps, modes, weapons, items, etc. etc. have made TF2
a wholly different experience than it once was. The Left 4 Dead
games follow in this trend. The original game got new modes, a new campaign, and will be getting another new campaign after its sequel does. Its sequel, likewise, is getting some free content in the form of The Passing.
Why does Valve release all of this content for free when its competitors charge an arm and a leg for vastly inferior content? For exactly the reason I love them: consumer loyalty. Steam sales are not only a benefit to the consumer, but a benefit to the developer. When a bunch of people buy Mass Effect
for 5 bucks, their friends see them playing it and decide to finally make the plunge. There is an initial spike, and the subsequent baseline is higher than it was before. Everyone wins.
The same happens with every major free content release Valve has. After updates or map packs or a TF2 Free Weekend the sales spike and they stay up. The theoretical lost profits from that weekend of a sale is more than made up for by the subsequent sales, and by the loyalty it builds among the consumers.
Valve is not perfect, but their issues are relatively minor, and easy to excuse with all of the fantastic benefits their system allows. The Void
went up on D2D for $5 this weekend, the price at which I would finally take the plunge, as I don't know if I'd find it at all worth it past that price. I didn't buy it. Instead, I bought Mount & Blade
. Why did I choose that? Because it was on Steam, and Steam makes my PC life so much easier. I love having all my games easily accesible in a single place, and Steam affords me that. I can be on my PC, on the laptop I will be getting for college, or even on a friend's PC, and I can download and play the games. It's a really fantastic system, and one that I am absolutely willing to give up some basic theoretical rights for (yeah, Steam content is DRMed, but I don't foresee Valve disappearing any time soon, and the ability to access the internet and thus Steam is only going to increase in the near future, so it will only get easier).
So Microsoft should give me, and you, and everyone else a 120 GB hard drive for our respective 360s. Sure, they'll lose the initial $100-120 or whatever, but they will make it all back in the overpriced DLC and XBLA games that we buy with the extra space.
I have not bought a new song for Rock Band 2 in months. Part of that is my slowly waning interest in the game, but a major part of that is the fact that if I keep buying more songs I will not have any space to buy more P.B. Winterbottom
s and the like. If something comes along that I absolutely need, I will buy it, but unless it's a must have, I have put off many purchases. The money Microsoft would have made from me in the past few months had they only given me a 120 GB drive is significantly larger than what they would have made from that drive.
Is it worth it? Absolutely not. They lost any loyalty from one particular customer, and are cheating themselves out of potential revenue (a lot of potential revenue, as I have slowly been moving towards more and more indie/downloadable games in the past few months). When a game is available on the 360 or on my PC, I will almost always go for the PC, because I never have to worry about my 500 GB drive running out, and if it does... well, as I've already said, a 1.5 TB replacement is about $110 away.
Microsoft is losing money on this proposition, whether they want to accept it or not. Consumers are paradoxically more forgiving in the short term than in the long term. I pay to have my 360 fixed because I don't want to ruin my gaming investments in the platform. Once its successor appears, however, and I have had my fill of the platform, I will not stand by Microsoft's side. The system has left a bad taste in the mouths of fans and haters alike, and people will not be so forgiving the next time a console launch comes around.
"You have to spend money to make money," so says the proverb. Microsoft should spend a little bit more money making their customers loyal for the right reasons, as has Valve and many other companies. We have witnessed the fall of many gaming dynasties. Gaming is an expensive hobby, and it would be in the best interests of companies to realize that, and stop taking their customers for granted. read