Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Sticky Situation (your e-mail)

The original post on e-mail prompted lots of interesting responses, so let's take a look.

First off, from Guthrie N.:
Does the gaming industry think they are the first to confront or coexist with a healthy, vital secondary market that in actuality broadens its reach? Have they heard of books or music? Music has abandoned the issue by surfeiting a physical existence and becoming digital, the secondary music market is piracy and sharing and that's a battle they can't win either. I thought with the advantage of restrictive, poorly built DRM machines that are consoles the game industry would worry less and go the same route as music. Apparently they will continue to mistreat their customers as long as they physically coexist.

Yes, in general, it's fair to say (based on my e-mail) that people are pissed off.

However, in addition to the heat, there was quite a bit of light, too, like this e-mail from Andrew R.:
Using Gears of War as a specific example, I bought Gears used for about 10ukp. Why? Well, I'm nota huge FPS/shooter fan, and am rather bored of all the usual Epic/ID fare. However, the co-op sounded interesting to play with my girlfriend. She's not big on shooters either, and typically prefers RPGs, but does like sci-fi movies. For 10ukp, I figured it was worth a punt. In fact, she ignored it for 6 months,and I was about to sell it to a friend. A week beforehand, I rather forced her to try it. It took us about4 days of solid play to finish, and it became her favourite game.

I bought Gears 2 on its first week of release, retail.

...If a customer has $100 to spend from his average wage packet, he can only buy two full-price titles. That means he'll never sample beyond his "safe zone." Epic would never have received a dime from me.

That's a real-world example of an excellent point: for games with sequels (or yearly installments), the used market can introduce many more people to the series.

Here's more, from Adam G.:
I've seen Mike Capps's comments about requiring renters and second buyers to pay extra for a game's integral content discussed elsewhere on the internet, and I'm not sure that he had any idea of the fury that he'd kick up. No one seems to like the idea of one-use codes or extra downloaded content to be required in order to finish a game, and I agree with them. Personally, I bought a 360 solely because I knew that I could buy games used when I couldn't afford new ones. I wouldn't buy them used if I couldn't finish them, but I wouldn't buy them new either, not on principle but for lack of funds.

One thing that I've not seen mentioned much around the internet is the impact this would have on parents purchasing and renting games and hardware for their children. I used to work in a lower-middle class (and trending quickly downward) middle school, and most of the children's parents had purchased either a Wii or an Xbox 360. The kids didn't own many games, though, usually only two or three. They traded games a lot (which would be hindered by download codes), but mostly they rented games. I suspect that if their parents had heard that their kids would only be able to finish games at $60 a pop (or rental fee plus $20) versus a rental fee, they wouldn't have bought the consoles to begin with.

Children are an interesting (and generally somewhat ignored) part of this discussion, and here's another angle from Alex C.:
[This is about] my nephews.

One's fourteen and one is twelve. They don't have a lot of cash so they're always going to be using the secondary market when it's their money. (Of course, this ignores birthday and Christmas presents but we'll let that slide for now.) What'll happen if the secondary market get's killed off completely? They'll give up gaming. Trust me, I know these kids. They'll find something else to spend their money on because they'll have been priced out of the market. And I don't think they're some kind of outliers, I think killing off the secondary market means pricing a lot of teenagers out of the market.

We know how important branding is, so what happens when you effectively cut off teens from becoming "gamers?"

I don't think publishers have an answer for that, and I'm not sure they've even though about it yet. But someone who starts gaming as a kid could easily be buying games for fifty years, or longer. Doing anything that will jeopardize a core demographic is very risky business.

Finally, here's a note from Harold M. that's quite interesting:
Your analysis of the second hand market sounds like a prisoner's dilemma type situation. If only one game finds a way to be "unrentable" their sales will probably increase, but if everyone does it the second hand market will suffer per your blog post.

Here's my best guess on how this ends up, and least in the foreseeable future. The highest profile, AAA games will increasingly come with "one-time only" DLC codes. At some point, using a game that has a hardcore fan base (Halo comes to mind), the DLC will actually be an integral part of the game. And the price to download the content if a gamer purchased a used copy will be steep, somewhere in the $15-$20 range.

Um, yuck.

Thanks to all of you who e-mailed, and I apologize if I didn't use your thoughts--the volume on this subject was particularly high.

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