Thursday, August 05, 2010

Unfinished, By Design

I was flooded with links to Codemaster CEO Rod Cousens's interview with CVG. Here's the freaky bit (in regards to piracy):
"My answer is for us as publishers is to actually sell unfinished games -- and to offer the consumer multiple micro-payments to buy elements of the full experience. That would create an offering that is affordable at retail -- but over a period of time may also generate more revenue for the publishers to reinvest in our games."

"If these games are pirated, those who get their hands on them won't be able to complete the experience. There will be technology, coding aspects, that will come to bear that will unlock some aspects. Some people will want them and some won't. When it comes to piracy, I think you have to make the experience the answer to the issue - rather than respond the other way round and risk damaging that experience for the user."

Selling unfinished games? I thought Codemasters was already doing that--isn't that called Project Operation Flashpoint?

I kid.

There's been quite a feeding frenzy over these comments (a slightly dated frenzy, certainly, since this happened in the middle of last month), but I think it's mostly because Cousen was somewhat unclear in his comments, particularly in regards to the term "unfinished".

What the hell does "unfinished" mean, anyway? To me, it means releasing a game that hasn't completed development. What Cousens seems to be talking about though, is more of a micro-payment structure, albeit with a charge up front to buy the incomplete game. And it also sounds like the additional content is being used as the primary DRM method.

What's in it for us, exactly? Besides nothing, I mean.

What Cousens has done is take the economically appealing aspects of the micro-transaction model (from a business side) and totally ignored why it's attractive from a consumer standpoint. The reason the MMO micro-transaction model works is because we get the core game for free, but Cousens doesn't want to do that. Instead, he wants to charge for the core game, then keep on charging.

Who would buy a game with this kind of content model? Almost no one, I'm guessing.

There's a very good reason that Cousens is advancing relatively insane models like this, though: the business model of the gaming industry doesn't work. At least, it doesn't work for big companies anymore, and in large part, they've caused their own problem (that's a topic for next week, though).

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