I am an avid gamer and have been for 25 years. I worked at GameStop for 11 years before leaving to open my own used game store in Green Bay, WI called Game Trade (Look us up on Facebook!)
I am what I call a true gamer. I love retro, I love current, I play my PC, I love Sony, MS, AND Nintendo. I am a fan of GOOD GAMES! However I have high expectations of the great companies I have come to know and love and with that comes a very low tolerance for shenanigans. I always call it as I see it and have no blind loyalty to anything but a good game.
Lastly I am a co-founder of Asylum Games. We are an independant game studio in Green Bay, WI and have been working on games together for the last 3 years. We specialize in iOS games and F2P web games.
For those of you that haven't heard over the last few days Tim Schafer's studio Double Fine Productions decided to use Kick Starter to fund a new "classic point-and-click adventure utilizing modern touch technology." As of this writing there were over 25,000 donations totaling more than $1,000,000 with over 30 days left to donate.
However this is where my point comes in. I think Double Fine Productions using Kick Starter is a BAD THING!
Please before you grab your pitchforks and torches bear with me for a minute. Why are the customers now funding the games we want to play? Isn't that what buying the games is supposed to do? I understand that companies need money to work on projects and they need an initial investment to begin work. That is where a publisher comes in. Normally a publisher takes the risk and in doing so sets up milestones for the developer, paid structure based on said milestones, and in doing creates a sense of urgency for the developer to get the product finished.
Normally when a publisher invests in the game they get something out of it. Either its IP control or at the very least they get the profits from the sales. With Kick Starter everyone giving money is giving a donation not investing. The only reward you will see is the game being made at which point you have to pay more money to buy it. If this game is funded completely from donations then the game should be free. Now before anyone says "games take more than "X" amount of money to make" think about what they are making.
According to the Kick Starter page, the game will be in development with a small team over a six-to-eight month period. The game is described as "a classic point-and-click adventure utilizing modern touch technology." So it is safe to assume it is going to be an iOS or tablet based game. This is not going to be Star Wars TOR or Call of Duty in cost to develop.
My other main issue is the "who" part of this argument. I always felt like Kick Starter was a way for smaller studios and people who didn't have the resources to find a way to fund a project. Double Fine has roughly 50 employees and it feels not like they "couldn't" get the funding but more that Tim Schafer doesn't want to deal with the hassles of publishers. (Not that I blame him for that.) Tim Schafer has a name that can get publishing deals done and could secure funding when needed. I think that they are playing off of the fans that would love a new adventure game and that are still stuck in the past reliving memories of Day of the Tentacle and Escape From Monkey Island.
Lastly think of the future. I worry that other studios that may not need the service start using it and those smaller independent projects might have no way to get funded. We could see many of the more unique and fun games that have come out recently fade away.
With the recent rumor flying around that the new Xbox console might not allow used games to be played on it I wanted to share my insight and thoughts from years in the industry.
-GameStop Love them or hate them you cannot deny the fact that GameStop is the number one video game retailer in the world. Roughly 50% of GameStop profit comes from used sales. Over the years GameStop has done many things to alienate its core consumer and has had a terrible reputation online. Many people out there think ill of GameStop and would happy to see them go out of business. Besides the fact that ANY company going out of business is bad for the economy in general look at the state of the industry. If your number 1 client (GameStop) goes out of business that will negatively impact your own sales substantially. If GameStop cannot open new stores because of lack of funds, how do you expect them to increase YOUR preorders and sales? Do you think MW3 or Halo 3 would have sold as many copies if not for the massive preorder campaign by GameStop?
Now I do have one problem with GameStop practices and that has to do with how they push used over new. If a customer brings a new game to the counter and the clerk says "Want a used copy for $5 cheaper?" (Which happens EVERY TIME if the associate is doing what they were trained to do) that in my opinion is taking money from the developers and publishers. That customer chose the new copy of the game and was ready to check out. GameStop swooped in and snaked all of the profit. There needs to be a system in place that allows the freedom of selling used games without shafting the developers and publishers. I am not opposed to a "kickback" percentage of used game sales going back to the developer but other industries have had healthy used markets and have survived for many more years than GameStop has been around.
-Mom and Pop Shops Hey what about the little guys! One thing many people forget is that GameStop is NOT the only place selling used games. There are hundreds to thousands of independent game stores. Mine in particular! While we carry those ridiculously rare items and old school games that no one else does that does NOT pay the bills! I sell plenty of retro items but the real money comes from the current generation. (I have to sell roughly 10 NES games to equal one new release 360 games profits) So before you toss the used market aside don't forget there are many other stores in your own neighborhood that rely on it.
-DLC I have never been a fan of DLC because I knew that one day it would become what it is today. What once started out as the best idea to keep a game relevant by adding new content you can download turned into an abomination. Content being left out of a game to be used as DLC later or DLC being used as a reserve bonus for specific retailers.
However DLC was supposed to be the ultimate weapon against the used industry. Even if you bought the game used you would want extra content and would pay for it. That would help alleviate some of the loss from used sales right? Well DLC is EVERYWHERE now and it seems like they have now factored it in as part of the normal profit stream. This leads to my next point.
-Online Passes This reminds me of some of the bad managers I have known in my time in retail. Lets only punish the bad but not reward the good. The loyal customers that buy your games week in and week out get what? The game they paid for. Used customers are punished for buying used so they have to pay to unlock the rest of the game.
Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Bonus content for new purchases. Not just the ability to play the game you paid for but a special bonus area or item. (Many games do this already) Maybe early access to DLC or a free digital soundtrack. The point is that it should be a reward. A thank you for your loyalty.
2. Make a game WORTH BUYING AND PLAYING! Skyrim is the perfect example. When you make a game that is complete, fun to play, and has replay value, that game will hold its value. I have sold more copies of Skyrim NEW in my store than used. In fact Skyrim is on my most wanted list because no one EVER trades it in. Now I am not ignorant to the fact that not all games have high production values and endless funds. But then why are we paying $60 for a game that has a $20 million budget but also expected to pay $60 for a game with a $3 million budget. The entire system is old and broken and needs to be reworked.
So as I wrap this up I want one point to stand out more than anything. New and used games are not bitter rivals on opposite sides of the battlefield. They are part of an ecosystem. A young and still fragile ecosystem that needs everyone working together to make the video game industry the giant it can be. However if we keep having companies on BOTH sides doing anything they can to maximize self profits we could all see our favorite hobby turn into a shadow of its former self.