Microsoft is set to launch its latest initiative, known as "Consumables" - unveiled at Gamefest 2006 by Xbox Live Marketplace business manager, Rohan Oommen - promising new and exciting opportunities to spend more money in increasingly diverse ways. Essentially, "Consumables" are in-game assets that can deplete and be re-purchased - think forking over cash for the equivalent in in-game currency, or paying for armour that wears down as you battle.
More, from 1UP.com:
Another thing Microsoft intends to add to the Marketplace is the ability for vendors placed in videogames to allow gamers to buy from the Marketplace. Say, there is a vendor in an RPG selling a rare sword and that sword is available on the Marketplace, players will be able to put the sword in a checkout cart and then return to the Marketplace later to complete the download. For now, the in-game Marketplace will bring the Marketplace experience into the gameplay, but the transactions, for now, will still need to be completed on the Marketplace and not in-game.
So the vultures have arrived, and right on time.
"In-game assets that can be depleted and repurchased." Let me translate that for you: we are screwed.
This has nothing to do with improving our gaming experience--it's about generating additional revenue streams once a game has been released. I think most gamers, by far, would be most competitive in the online environment, and that's precisely when they're most likely to buy some kind of exclusive weapon that gives them an advantage. So the most profitable way to handle "consumables" is precisely the least fair, because skewing the multiplayer balance by selling "elite" items is a horrible, horrible idea.
It is profitable, though.
I can't say that I'm surprised. Gaming is all business now. Have you noticed how profit-enhancing ideas like in-game advertising never seem to lower game prices? Does anything ever benefit us? Have you noticed that at the same time that the gaming industry is creating all these additional revenue streams--and constantly whining about piracy--that we STILL can't return a shitty late-alpha that cost us fifty dollars and will never be playable? How much more can the table tilt in their direction?
I still find plenty of enjoyment from gaming. There's so much available now that I can pick and choose and still find a good experience. But the business itself has become so cynical and mercenary--and so openly so--that as a consumer, it's depressing.
And it didn't take long for "Screwables" to start doing their job. And it's even worse than in-game items that "deplete." From Gaming Bits:
From a review in OXM (rating Lumines Live 8.5): "You'll be prompted to buy the Puzzle/Mission Pack (400 MS Points extra)" once you start "getting on a roll with Mission Mode."
Also, in the VS CPU mode, when you are "knee-deep" in the VS CPU mode, "you'll be blocked by signage declaring: 'You need the VS CPU Pack (300 Points)."
This hasn't been confirmed by Microsoft, but when Gamespot asked them to respond, they had no comment.
I've never seen someone have "no comment" when something wasn't correct. So I suspect that this is true. That's how these things seem to work nowadays.
Charging for extra content is one thing. Charging for integral content, however, is something else entirely. It's just a big shit sandwich for us.