My friends and family all tend to play different types of games, and none of us can really relate to what the others play. For example, my best friend Kelly plays Sims 3.
I do not understand this game at all.
Honestly, I get the appeal on some level, but when choosing how to use the time I've budgeted for video games, Sims is very low on that list. Still, it was her birthday and I wanted to get her something she'd enjoy even if I didn't totally get it. I imagine this is the same feeling most parents have when buying games for their kids. That analogy may not be entirely inaccurate in describing our friendship.
So the birthday comes, and she is now the proud owner of this:
I looked briefly at it. It seems to be a cross between spring break and an episode of True Blood.
Two things I enjoy on an intellectual level, but for some reason do not hold the same appeal in this iteration. Still, she wanted it, and I gave it to her on the condition she create me and Jessica Hamby (a character from True Blood) living together.
Seeing the result, it was both admittedly creepy and funny. I probably should've also asked that we be exclusive to each other, but Sim-Me seems to have coped fine with things over time.
It was probably the best game-related gift I've ever given someone.
On the opposite side though, the best game-related gift I ever got was from Hamza and Jesse.
To be honest, it was something I won for donating to Child's Play during their gaming marathon. I love our community, and I loved watching them and the rest of the Dtoid staff play games and mess around for a really good cause. Receiving these things made me feel like I was a part of it even though I wasn't there in person. Most importantly, it showed me that something undeniably good, like helping sick kids in our own way, can happen because of video games and the people that love playing them.
Digital distribution for games is the future. Digital purchases have increased year after year. Mass Effect 2 debuted on PSN Store selling double-digit percentages of all copies sold. The casual and social networking games market, comprised mostly of Zynga-style games and cheap games on iTunes, make billions of dollars despite having no physical presence at all (unless you include monetary cards to buy even more digital property). Valve, the company behind Steam, estimates that digital distribution will overtake retail by 2012. Most people agree that digital distribution is the future.
But what will happen when we get there?
One market that will be changed, if not outright destroyed, is the used games industry. Games bought on a digital distribution platform typically have all purchased games tied to an individual. You can gift unplayed copies of games on a lot of these services, but you cannot sell off an individual game you own if you no longer wish to keep it. It may be possible to sell an account with all games tied to it, but no existing business model supports this so the legality is grey at best. There might be workarounds but they seem overly complicated or at the very least incredibly inconvenient. This means that if the used games industry cannot find a way to exist in this market, they'll disappear.
GameStop, who makes roughly half of its revenue from used games, can see this threat on the horizon. They've had public battles with Steam, and have purchased digital distribution platforms of their own to try to stay competitive. However, they jumped in the game too late. Steam dominates the PC digital distribution games market at roughly 70%. Even within its own stores, GameStop still sells games that are tied to Steam in one way or another that benefits the consumer by having free registration for a digital copy, or simply supporting Steam's auxiliary features. They have no apparent answer to save the used games industry, and are attempting to change their business model altogether by embracing digital distribution.
Even though the used games market will likely disappear as our industry advances, it isn't all bad news. Services like Steam give publishers about 70% of the revenue from a sold game, nearly double what standard retailers offer. This allows games to be sold at a much lower price point (often during Steam's infamous sales). Although, a lot of publishers still try to sell games at the full retail price to increase their profits on each copy sold, many large titles have participated in these sales, and competition with other services will likely make similar pricing the norm.
In light of all this, it is interesting how much bad will game companies are willing to incur in punishing the used game consumer when the evolution of the industry will cause the end of the used games market as we know it. However, it is possible in the digital age for some new form of the market to emerge as services offer new features to try to remain competitive. Digital content providers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon have taken to allowing users to lend out e-books, albeit with strict limitations. Selling off digital copies may be one, but given the current distaste most publishers have for this industry, it seems unlikely. However, there will come a time when the average consumer will have spent a fortune on digital content and realize that is money they are never getting back and something will have to give.