Wednesday, December 07, 2011

This ONLINE PASS thing...

While it would be nice to take to heart the 'Jaffe's such a man of the people' well wishes that are coming my way from folks who usually dislike my virtual presence, I feel the need to clear up my stance on online passes.

In doing so, I’m sure some of my new ‘fans’ will call me an ass but at least I’ll be an honest ass.

Granted before they call me an ass I imagine some of them will talk to me about used car and used CD sales and on and on and on and on. Blech. Enough. It’s a junior high school debate team quality argument and you should know better. So moving on…

Point is this: I like used sales for customers. The customer should ALWAYS get the best deal they can. Been saying this for years and if you've followed this blog and my tweets, you know I've been unwavering on this view.

Now sure, while anyone who creates anything should always pursue and desire to create work that is so moving and so excellent that it creates a sense of loyalty in the customer, the honest bottom line is: the customer doesn’t owe us shit other than the cost we ask for to purchase the work we’ve done.  And we have to- as we should- work our ASSES off- with each and every new product- to earn the customer’s renewed desire to hand their precious money over to us in exchange for a product that- we hope- will bring them the promised effect (joy, entertainment, sustenance,etc).

But besides paying the cost of the product, the customer doesn’t owe us anything and I can tell you that when we put out a new game, we wait with baited breath hoping the customer will love- or at least like- what we’ve sold them because if they do, it means we may get a chance to do what we love once again.

But the core transaction is: we make something and (in my world) the publisher (who pays for that something) sets a price and the customer pays or doesn’t. And if the customer doesn't pay, then the publisher goes out of business. And the customer should not care. The customer should ALWAYS look out only for himself and should ALWAYS get the best deal they can and not give 2 shits if the publisher or the developer is making money or not. 

Now I'm not saying it’s not appreciated and nice when customers DO say stuff like ‘I buy my games new so the developer and publisher who paid for the game and bled for the game make the cash’…that fucking ROCKS to hear! I'm just saying those are nice surprises when we hear them, but we don’t expect that to be the general thinking and frankly, it should not be the general thinking. To me, the general customer thinking ideally should be: ‘Man, I love the games company X makes! They’ve made me so happy over the years and I feel like I’ve always gotten more value than what I paid for whenever I buy one of their products! Man, I just love that company and...Oh, what's that you say?!? They have a new game coming out? Well, it BETTER fucking good or those guys ain’t seeing a dime of my cash!’….  

So that’s my take on customers who buy games, used or otherwise.  

HIGH CONCEPT: I like used game sales for customers. Customer is always right. I get it and I like it.


I don’t like used sales for publishers and developers. I fucking hate what used sales do to publishers and developers. We make no cash at all when a game is sold used.

I wish retailers would cut us in on the action.

I get people don’t think we legally should be cut in on the action and they are 100% right. 

Legally speaking, I mean. 

Retailers don’t owe us shit other than what they promised in the deal that was signed.

We- or in my case, the game publisher- entered into a deal with the retailers and, far as I know, that deal didn’t involve publishers or developers making cash off the games the retailer sells to the customer used. I got no issue with that. It sucks, but hey, you live by the deal you make. Works for me.

Now, I do wish the retailers would cut us in as I personally like most retailers I’ve met and think they are honest and hard working folks as well and would like to see us all do well. But because the folks who pay to make the games are not getting a dime from a large (majority?) amount of sales the retailers do, I do think it’s bringing about digital distribution a hell of a lot faster than it otherwise would have. Which means sooner than later- just like record stores and soon to be book and comic book stores- those retailers (again, many of whom I like a lot) will be out of work.

And while I understand the point of view that used games actually help new games sell, and think in SOME customer’s cases this is totally true- we’ve seen way too much deterioration in the game business as of late for me to think that reasoning is pervasive among enough consumers that it counters the sales lost by publishers on used games. And so…

I do feel a large %  of that console software biz deterioration comes from the used game market cutting into the game maker’s ability to break even (let alone turn a profit).

Other than used game sales, I also get that another large % of the retail console software biz deterioration comes from the fact that MOST games cost too much to make and MOST games cost too much out of the consumers pocket.  60 bucks is a lot of muh-fukin-money for ANYTHING other that food and roof and shelter. No doubt. So hell yeah- at that price- customers are gonna be even MORE motivated to get the best deal they can. Why the hell not?!? So the games cost too much (to make and to buy...but I've seen the break evens and budgets folks...I assure you: there is not a lot of padding in these the cost of most 60 dollar games, break evens are close to 1 million units sold and often times that point the argument logically goes to: well SOME games sell amazing at 60 bucks so just make those! And to that I direct you here*)

Another big reason console game profits are falling is free and free to play games and less expensive download only games that- in many cases- are providing as much entertainment value as the big $60.00 games (again, I said ‘entertainment value’, not graphic quality or scope or similar experience as console gaming). Got no issue with this. If someone can entertain you for 99 cents good enough, why WOULD you pay $60 for anything OTHER THAN SIMPLY THE CREAM OF THE MUH-FUKIN-CROP, especially when that 'good enough but not great' $60 game will be $50 bucks used in just a few days...and 20 bucks in a month! So I get there are other reasons the 60 dollar game market is getting all fucked up. 

It ain’t JUST used sales.

And you know, that’s not even a bad thing.

Fuck it. If the traditional console market gets the shit disrupted out of it to the point that there are only 1-2 big budget games from 5-6 big publishers a year because that is what the free market decided, well then fuck it: that’s progress and disruption and it’s exciting and fun and I’m honored and privileged to be a part of it the biz at such an exciting time. Games have been around in some form or another for over 5000 years. We ain’t going nowhere.  So cool- bring change on. I’m in.

But RIGHT NOW we are still in the 60 dollar physical good space and that is space we are talking about. So…

…unless someone can show facts to the contrary (i.e. if there are facts out there that show that new games actually sell MORE because of used games, can you please provide a link? And don’t send me a link of the pres of some mega corp retailer just SAYING that…show us the figures, please…show us the stats)…but yeah, so unless you can show actual proof that used sales help new sales (and I don’t think you can, but I’m willing to admit I’m wrong if you can), it seems that a big % of the reason that it is feast or famine for the majority of retail console games is NOT because gamers actually feel the industry’s games are not worth 60 bucks, but it’s because the game you wanted that was 60 bucks 24 hours ago can now be purchased the day after release for a 5 or 10 dollar discount! Why would most people NOT WAIT the scant 12-36 hours it often takes for a BRAND NEW GAME to be sold used?   

And when the folks who make and/or finance the games don’t see a dime because the customer has been fiscally responsible and waited for a less expensive price for the IDENTICAL EXPERIENCE (which- by the way- is one of the big reasons ((but not the only one)) where the used car comparison breaks down), it becomes harder and harder for the folks who fund the games to break even, let alone profit.  

So why would us in the game biz try NOT to get some of that cash for ourselves, especially since there is truth when publishers tell you that it costs a lot of money to run online games and there are a large % of players playing these games for free and game makers/publishers should not have to take on the extra cost of maintaining the online game experience for those folks who have not paid us a dime.

*I get some folks will say, 'Well just make a game that I don’t want to sell back, you fucking idiot game maker loser greedy fuck'! And to that I say: yeah, fuck off. Actually I first say, ‘say good bye to story based games that last 8 hours (still a good fucking deal compared to a movie ticket considering you get to own the game and play it multiple times and a movie ticket lets you watch it a single time and then it’s a memory). And THEN I say to say goodbye even a lot of the long SP games cause those are getting hit as well...sure it may take a few weeks longer for a long game like Skyrim or Darksiders to hit USED but it'll get there, an it won't take long. So I say those things first. And THEN I say fuck off. And THEN I say, “show me something fun that never gets old and I’ll show you someone masturbating’.

And you know what’s funny? Besides that last line, I mean?

What's funny is: if used game sales for almost new games were selling briskly for 30 bucks less but barely a dollar more, then a message would be coming to us game makers loud and clear. That message would be ‘your products are wayyyyyy too expensive! We don't think they are worth 60 bucks or 50 bucks or even fucking 40 ass bucks!!!'....But a lot of used game sales are a tiny 10 bucks off. Usually less…like 5 bucks off! And they sell great! So you’re saying that SHADOWS OF THE DAMNED makes sense at 55 dollars but not 60?!? Or the brilliant RAYMAN:ORIGINS would have sold much better at 50 bucks but not 60?** Please. It’s a bullshit argument that really can only be logically made by folks who NEVER pay more than 30 bucks a game. 

So all this rambling is me saying these three things about the online pass:

-      -#1- I like the online pass for most games. I'm happy to be affiliated with a publisher that is at least TRYING to find a way to keep making big budget games that don't have to just be military shooters. Not that military shooters are bad, I love those kinds of games- they are great! But I also love that big publishers are willing- and currently able- to roll the big ass money dice on some titles that are more imaginative and unique (conceptually, IP wise) than military shooters. And if it turns out an online pass allows those publishers to keep rolling those dice on things like THE LAST GUARDIAN or LA NOIR or SHADOW RUN or BULLETSTORM or MASS EFFECT (on paper, that game- amazing as it turned out- could not have looked like a slam dunk, could it?!?) or NO MORE HEROES or yes, even TWISTED METAL and STARHAWK...then so motherfuckin be it. 

-       #2- I don’t like the online pass for TWISTED METAL but not for some 'man of the people/Jaffe really gets the customer and wants to stick it to the publisher/man' 'noble' reason. The ONLY reason I want Twisted Metal to ship without the online pass is because the big picture in my mind is to get as many folks trying Twisted Metal- even folks that we make NO money off of- so that if we ever make a part 2, our fan base will be much bigger and then on THAT game use the online pass. 

-      #3-I could be wrong about online passes. It could be true that making customers use online passes is actually hurting sales. Perhaps the vocal minority who say ‘they will never buy a game with an online pass’ is really quite a big ass group. And in that case- as I hope it’s clear by now- we should never do an online pass and figure out how- if at all- we can deal with the used sales issue that has significantly contributed to the drop in software dollars publishers (and thus developers) have been seeing as of late.  I’m all for letting the market decide and if the market says ‘we hate online passes’ then fuck it, you ignore your customers at your own peril and I don't want to play that game. Again, customer is always right. But I really don't think that's what is going on here.


** I enjoyed SHADOWS OF THE DAMNED and LOVE RAYMAN:ORIGINS (top 5 of the year, for sure) but I am just saying that if someone was willing to pay 55 bucks for RAYMAN, then they are willing to pay 60. I don't know if the number of folks who will buy RAYMAN:ORIGINS used (thus denying Ubisoft of any cash) is enough to bring them into profit (assuming they have not broken even- but I know NOTHING about that game's dev or cost...just using it as example cause I love it and it doesn't seem to have 'BIG 60 dollar hit!' written on it)...but no matter how much extra Ubisoft would make on that game if they got some of the used sales, at least it's SOMETHING they can add to get them closer to profit. Doesn't matter if you are talking a brilliant 60 dollar game that doesn't sell, a shitty 60 dollar game that does, or - best case- a brilliant 60 dollar game that flies off the shelf, the folks who financed it and made it NEED a cut from those used sales if the 60 dollar games biz is to survive in a form even somewhat resembling the current one. And again- if it doesn't survive- that's fine too. 99 cents, 10 bucks, 100 bucks...been wanting digital distribution and varied pricing tiers for years anyway! :)  


FredEffinChopin said...

Just wanted to point something out and ask a question. In regards to:

"What's funny is: if used game sales for almost new games were selling briskly for 30 bucks less but barely a dollar more, then a message would be coming to us game makers loud and clear. That message would be ‘your products are wayyyyyy too expensive! We don't think they are worth 60 bucks or 50 bucks or even fucking 40 ass bucks!!!'....But a lot of used game sales are a tiny 10 bucks off. Usually less…like 5 bucks off! And they sell great! So you’re saying that SHADOWS OF THE DAMNED makes sense at 55 dollars but not 60?!? Or the brilliant RAYMAN:ORIGINS would have sold much better at 50 bucks but not 60?** Please. It’s a bullshit argument that really can only be logically made by folks who NEVER pay more than 30 bucks a game. "

I don't think people are going and buying Rayman for $5 less in most cases, I (admittedly) imagine a lot of the "sales" that are made at someplace like Gamestop are closer to a trade. Back in my Gamestop-shopping days, one of the reasons the lines moved so painfully slowly was that there were a bunch of people each with an armful of games they were coming to unload. When they're getting thrown pennies-per-title for their games, people are already chiseling. At that point "Why not pay $10 and get two used games instead of one new one?" Stores that deal in used games will often have trade-in deals that people will wait on to maximize the amount of game they get per buck as well. I believe the message that you're referring to is being sent out loudly by the consumer (as evident by the popularity of used game outlets), just not very clearly.

Personally I'm a bit scared of the online pass for fear of what it will do to online game communities, as well as the potential threat that it poses not only to people's ability to rent games or loan them to friends, but the ability to play a purchased game across a household with multiple consoles. That's not to say I think a gamer's right to those liberties is or should be any more guaranteed against obsolescence than, say an industry that is acting all indignant about the fact that consumers aren't spending enough money to keep every single developer afloat as the rate of crap games increases. I'm just saying, as a selfish gamer, it's not a future I look forward to. The online pass is new though, and has a lot of evolving to do. It just might turn out not to work against the gamers' (and possibly in turn the video game industry's)interest as much as I'm fearing. As far as my current personal habits go, and the implementation of online passes so far, it's not a real issue yet.

Which brings me to my question: How do you feel about Gamefly and similar services? I'm curious to know how a developer feels about the role of that particular business model in the game industry. From what I understand, they just buy up retail copies which may get replenished if the demand for the games... demands it. It seems like a fair model to me, but my knowledge of it stops at the Gamely FAQ. Is that type of business considered a threat to the industry as well?

Anyway, great read, I'm 100% with about 90% of it. I can't say how refreshing it is to hear a developer speak so straightforwardly and honestly about something that some others might just spin in such a way that could benefit them in the future.

For the record, most of my purchases are either from Gamefly, or new after a price drop or two. I occasionally buy spanking new games at full price though. Sometimes just because I don't want to wait a single day longer than I have to, other times out of the desire to show full support for a publisher. Twisted Metal will be a case of both.

maxrenderer said...


I completely agree about letting developers in on the used game sales. I was just telling my buddy the other day that there should be some percentage you guys get for your work. I'm a "cheap-ass gamer" like most and like to get games for the price I think they are worth to me personally, but there's no reason you guys should get hurt by it.

I'm happy to pay $60 for a game like Red Dead, Batman AC, and, of course, Twisted because I know I will be getting a lot of play out of them. Games that you only play through once because they lose all appeal after the first playthrough are just not worth the inflated prices. Hell, Twisted 2 still gets played on my PSX or PC emulator every now and then....I even ported my original disc to my PSP because the game is so great. I would still pay $60 for that one knowing I'd get hundreds of hours out of it.

I could give a shit about online. It's fun every now and then, but a game to me, has to stand on it's own without the need for other humans to keep my experience going. Besides, I hate playing with whiny 14 year olds. I'm an older gamer and love bots most of the time because they do what they are supposed to do and don't drag the experience down. Too many devs are dumping the bot idea these days and most everyone I talk to hates that idea. I actually cancelled my pre-order of Battlefield 3 because of the lack of bots...I had hopes and they were crushed. I'm sure the game is brilliant online, but I just don't care that much.

Anyway, I got off on a tangent. There has to be something done about getting you guys the money you deserve from used games. I know virtually nothing of the industry's inner workings other than there's too much greed. There should be a movement, or at the least a petition, to get you guys paid for your art.

David Jaffe said...

FredEffinChopin: Thanks for the well thought out post. I appreciate it! Here's my response:

I don't totally understand your first point. Are you saying a lot of the non mega hit games that get sold as used don't go for 50+, but instead are just even-steven trades (i.e. 'here is my copy of MW3---I'll take Shadows of the Damned and Darksiders for that and I won't pay the store any cash')?

If so, then I guess you are saying the customer message is: unless the game is AAAAA, I won't pay for it at all but am happy to trade for it? Or really you are saying that the customer is saying that those games I mentioned- to the customer- MAY be worth 25 bucks each (2 games for a single 50 buck MW3 trade in) but they are NOT worth 50 bucks?

In which case, the real message is: MOST games cost more than the customer feels they are worth? SOME games are worth $50+ but not most...

Would this be correct? Is that what your are saying?

I could see that, by the way. And I DO tend to agree with that for most games.

Which is why- be it retail packaged games or digital- unique pricing on a game by game basis (or more likely a handful of different pricing tiers) is the way to go.

I know the biz is always worried that if you put a new game out at $39.99 instead of $59.99 then the customer will be confused and assume the $39.99 is a shit game and to an extent, I can see the worry over that. BUT I think if the biz can educate gamers that less expensive doesn't mean less quality but just that the quality is more focused on specific things, we could fix a lot of the issues.

Cause as much as- for the CURRENT CLIMATE- I am a fan of the online pass, I will also say that the huge backlash and sheer online animosity (bordering on anger and hate) that game companies are experiencing from some folks who think game makers are greedy HAS to be telling us that game buyers already feel they are paying more than a fair price and I think we- as game makers- need to listen to that anger and learn from it.

It's easy for businesses to get stuck in their ways and cycles and expectations of and lessons learned from past success. And I can see a lot of console game makers and publishers wanting to cling to the past where a game like FARTMAN or JUNGLE STRIKE or TONY HAWK could sit on the shelf at the same price as the MEGA HITS of the day. And I can see those people trying to adjust the current biz model to get back to those days vs. going 'hey, the customer is speaking to us and telling us- now that they have other alternatives-perhaps those games we made bank on back in the day were not worth the prices we charged for them'...and instead of listening, the game biz is just trying to rewind time and create a biz model that has long since outlived its value.

And as long as we can make a go of it at different price points- and I don't see why we can' for the iphone/ipad games-then not every game will need to have bleeding edge visuals and have 20+ hours of play....which will bring the cost down and allow us to make a profit on a game designed and developed to sell for 19.99 (or 9.99) to begin with! :)

If that is what you are saying, then I think we are on the same page. Is that what you are saying?

Thanks for coming to the blog!


David Jaffe said...

Max, thanks for the post!

I hope you will be pleased to learn that the new Twisted has a full single player campaign (more varied than any other Twisted Metal campaign) AND has bots for modes like 1v1 ENDURANCE (how many cars can you kill- one fight at a time- before you die), CHALLENGE (set number of bots you want to kill and set difficulty level and pick 1 of 30 levels to fight in), MAX ENDURANCE (how many cars can you kill- with multiple vehicle bots attacking you at the same time- before you die).

On top of that- to allow you to play online with just the peeps you like: we DO support instant action match making but we ALSO support server lists so you can set up just the kind of games you like as well as search for and jump into games (password protected if you like) that have players that are more calibrated to your play style and social style.

Not to mention we have 2,3,4 split screen local across a bunch of modes.

Hopefully with those elements, you won't feel that in order to get your TM fix you have to put up whiny, annoying players that you don't dig!

Talk soon- and thanks for visiting the blog and posting!


TyrantII said...


Personally if the Publishers want to take control of the used game market, they need to offer value to consumers for doing so.

Making used game unplayable, or incomplete unless you fork over more money is not a smart way to go about it IMO. It's as short sighted as root kits and DRM which tends to piss off the consumer and causes people to turn to piracy.

I'm reminded of a funny cartoon where it shows someone wanting to watch a bluray, pops it in only to be met with 15 warnings about piracy, 10 movie trailers, a few advertisments, and the inability to skip to the menu, who finally, thank the lords, gest to play the damn movie and is met with more menus. Under the 15 or so frames is "Movie Pirates: Some guy sitting there enjoying his movie". Screwing with and making access to the customer harder is not smart.

One thing I don't understand is why Publishers are not working harder on creating better brand loyalty, specifically loyalty programs that actually buy used game back from their customers?

Imagine if a publisher offered loyalty credit and free DLC for buying back / trading in your old games. Hell, you could even make that competitive and a badge of honor with stat tracking.

Less old games are then in circulation on the market, something positive is generated for the loyal customer, and the credits can be used towards a multiple of things thought up for the "publisher club": from free DLC, stat tracking, interactive game stuff, digital profile items, credit off direct new purchases, ect.

Personally, whining about the used game market and punishing you customers for legitimately trying to save a buck is bad policy.

As for game going for $55 used, it's only happening because of the monopoly Gamestop has on the used market. Their model is basically the same thing I'm talking about above, but on the retail side. Publishers need to come up with their own plans to undercut them, and not be afraid to do so, or there simply is no fix to the problem without alienating your customers.

TyrantII said...

And with that said, I think us gamers are a fickle bunch.

Games are much cheaper today than they were in the past. I remember paying $50-80 for SNES cartridges back in the day and that was in late 80's dollars! We've honestly never had it better (engrossing, encompassing games with lots of playability, at a cheaper price [inflation people]!).

That's at the same time Dev teams have jumped from small groups of people into the 200-300 behemoth teams it takes to put together a game like GTA or Skyrim.

That's 1000's of man hours of work, and computer artists, programmers and engineers are not cheap.

As I've said before, people would have gladly paid $50 for a simple game on the level of Angry Birds for the SNES back in the day. Today we have Uncharted AND it's MP component for $60.

That's pretty nuts that the industry has supplied that type of leap, while barely budging on price point. The growth of the "gamers" allowed it, but it's not sustainable in the long run as more and more people see and buy games.

Then things like quality, brand loyalty and value really become important.

4thHorseman said...


Glad to hear your thoughts on this. It has become a huge topic as of recently, and I've never really understood all the hate on them. Well, I do. People want to save money and if they need to pay more on a used game, they feel ripped off.

But at the same time, I think people tend to forget about how used games effect the sales of new games. And it's not in a positive way. Despite how some try to word it, the only way I can see used games benefit a new game would be the sequel to the used game they purchased. If they loved the used game, I can see them purchasing the sequel brand new. Unfortunately, if the damage is done, there may not be a sequel to the game they bought new. Then they act all surprised the game isn't getting a follow up because "It was so damn good" or whatever.

Publishers and developers need to make money. Bottom line. Used games don't do that. The more used games that are purchased, the sales for new games decreases. If new games are getting purchased less, the retailer won't buy more new copies to sell. Less new copies = less sales for the publisher/developer. I can't understand how this is so hard to comprehend.

I'm going to be honest, I buy used games. Retailers like Amazon Warehouse has used games for incredibly cheap. If I can purchase a game like Fallout: New Vegas for "Like New" at under $10, why would I go to Gamestop and buy it for $20 used or $30 brand new? Financially, it makes sense for me to buy it for the $8.99 or whatever. But then if there is an online pass, I have to take that into consideration. If I add $10 to that used price, is it still less than brand new? If it is, fantastic. If not, why not just buy the game new?

Really all depends on what the customer wants. There are few games where online matters to me. Didn't care to play Dead Space 2 online, so I'm not going to get an online pass for that. Same for Madden. True, it's because I'm terrible at those games whereas a game like Battlefield 3 I have a better chance in, so I don't mind playing that online. It just all depends on the taste of the customer.

Also David, I had a question regarding your comment on games selling better at cheaper prices. I feel some of the worst offenders to this are game reviewers. I could be completely wrong, but don't these people get quite a few games for free? I know not all of them, but I know the publishers send out plenty of review copies.

So when you hear a reviewer comment on how "this game would be an easier sell at $40 instead of $60" (which I use because one reviewer actually said something like this about Rayman:Origins), do you get upset with that? When reviewers who don't pay for the game are giving me buying advice, I've always found that a bit offputting and laughable at best.

And a second question that just came to mind: Do you feel some games SHOULD release for less? Not so much as they are worse games and don't deserve a full $60 price tag, but you did mention Shadows of the Damned. Despite all the positive remarks I've heard about that game, didn't it bomb horribly? Do you think games like this, where the game receives no support from the publisher, would have a better chance coming out at a $39.99 or $49.99 price tag to sound better to the consumer? Or do you think that there's a certain stigma with cheap new games that "if it's cheaper, it's garbage" mentality some gamers have talked themselves into?

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Hope it was coherent enough.

FredEffinChopin said...

Thank you for the reply! I'll certainly clarify what I was trying to go for in the beginning.

I was trying to point out that there is a type of Gamestop customer whose transaction isn't as clean as going in and saving the measly few bucks off for buying used instead of new. A gamer with enough patience and a blueprint for using the reseller's incentives advantageously can wind up getting a lot more game for their money than they could otherwise. It seems to me that (uninformed moms aside) the success of that particular kind of business seems dependent on finagling gamers who are doing what they need to do to support the habit. The guys who have the money to spare are likely far more inclined to punch their CC# into Amazon while eating cereal in their underwear, and getting release day delivery. I think the message being sent by all those Gamestop traders/shoppers isn't so much "We think you charge way too much for your games" as it is "We don't have enough money to keep buying games, so we'll recycle ours and pinch every penny to get another game to play."

While I was pointing that out to address a very small part of your post, I do think that that type of dynamic might be a bigger factor in determining the end justifying the means with certain uses of online passes or DRM than a lot of people are giving it credit for. If the Gamestops of the world thrive on that type of business as much as I suspect they do (which of course can't be proven with any more certainty than a publisher can convince a consumer that DRM inconveniences are necessary to keep the business alive), then surely the game industry can't expect to draw blood from a stone?

I think (and believe many others do as well) there is a strong possibility that all of this hassle isn't really going to wind up in significantly increased new-game sales, and is going to piss a lot of people off in the process. And how can the success or failure of something like that be proven to anyone after the fact, especially when the current effect of used game retailers on the industry is so dubious, or at least debatable? And is that the goal really, to kick used game sellers where it hurts? Or is it to make the extra money off the passes every time the game switches hands for extra money, whether it be from a used purchase, borrowed from a friend, or rented?

I believe it's a lot of that confusion that eventually leads to the hostility that you mentioned. There is no reason for people to think they aren't being taken advantage of, all they see is a disruption of their way of doing things with questionable justification being provided. PC gamers have had to jump through hoops for some time now because of the threat of rampant piracy, but console users have been doing business a certain way for a few decades now, and I think it's jarring for many people. Also on the PC, people understand that it is being done to prevent illegal activity, whereas the process being thwarted here is one that takes place in two locations in the same mall. It comes off as if the industry wants to hit Gamestops, but can't quite reach them so they punch the customers who shop there instead.

FredEffinChopin said...

While I personally can be persuaded that the online pass is justifiable for games whose online presence costs money to maintain, I think the line between that and the type of DRM nonsense that we saw in Bionic Commando Re-Armed 2 for the PS3 (which required an active PSN connection to even be played)is pretty thin and blurry, and my major concern is that something resembling the latter may become the norm once either of them become accepted enough. That's the day I either slowly become a retro gamer or start playing a lot more chess. Even in the case of the former though, I think that there will be many games whose online communities would die way before they would have if there was a steady stream of newbs coming in every time the game switched hands. When part of the incentive for the consumer is being able to access the online component of a game with their bundled code, that incentive becomes less appealing when the shelf life of the online component decreases dramatically. A skeptic might say it's the military shooters that would benefit from the kind of turnover that would create the most.

Anyway, I set out to explain what was intended as a footnote to a small part of your post and wound up rattling of some concerns about implementations of measures to combat used game sales. It comes off as really disagreeable, when really I felt your analysis of this entire situation was spot on. I think I've got some worst-case scenarios on my mind, and the outcome of it will all rely on exactly how many industry heads follow suit, and exactly what type of method they use to combat used sales.

As far as tiered or individual pricing for games goes, I think if you suggest to any gamer that even one of the games they have purchased at $60 in the past few years might have been purchased at $40 instead if developers had their way, you'd be preaching to the choir. While I can't say I see the fear of cheaper games being viewed as lesser in a sense as being completely unfounded, I would say it smells a little like market research gone wild. That seems like the only explanation for an industry that acknowledges and reacts to the dent made by retailers who are able to offer gamers mildly cheaper alternatives, and in the same breath worry that games might sell less if they were cheaper, because the consumers who use those same retailers would turn up their noses at anything less than full price. I'd imagine the real concern would be if the increased sales would be enough to make up for the reduced selling price. While I've comfortably and wildly speculated about a lot in this ramble, I'm so uninformed that I can't even pretend to go near that one. It honestly hadn't occurred to me until this post, as my memories of a time before standardized game prices are foggy ones of my mother paying something outlandish for Ocarina of Time. As you pointed out though, times are changing, and tiered pricing just might be the best way for the game business to adapt if it wants to keep pumping out and selling games at the rate that it is. It won't stop used game sales, but people will be far more inclined to purchase day 1*. Just one more broad assumption.

Anyway, thanks again for reading if you made it here, and thanks a lot for the reply!

maxrenderer said...

@da criminal (David),

Oh hell yes! You have completely put my fears (though unfounded since I feel like you always do what's better for the player) to rest. I am very happy to hear all of what you said; it's way more than I expected given today's game climate (so much so that I think I might have to change my pants...hang on....Ok, I'm back). TM is going on pre-order tonight and I'll have a big ol' shit-eatin' grin on my face while I'm doing it. You've had my support since TM2, brother, and you have it for life. Now, we just have to get you guys a percent of the pre-owned sales. Thank you for the response and for your hard work and devotion to your art and us gamers.

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Chris said...

I also agree that developers and publishers should get a percentage of the profit from used game sales. I understand the point of believing retailers don't legally owe developers and publishers anything other than what was promised in the deal, but I feel it would be honorable if the retailers did cut them in on a percentage of used game deals. After all, the developer puts in all of the hard work to make the game, so they should get a cut of the profit from used games. It would only be fair.

And I understand that you care about what's best for the customer, which is very commendable, but I also believe that it should be requited. If the developer makes a good game that the customer enjoys, then the customer should not only try to get the best deal, but also care if the developer or publisher is making money. If a developer makes a game that I love, then that earns my respect, thus causing me to care about the well-being of those people who worked so hard to give us a great game.

Which brings me to online passes: I personally support them. As much as I'm a cheap ass gamer and always looks for the best deal possible, I understand and respect the choice of online passes. There was really no choice but to implement them due to the fact that the developers and publishers don't get any percentage of used game sales. I'm a very fair person, so I respect online passes, even if I have to pay a little more. Now I admit that I have bought used games in my past, but I would rather buy new games. Not only because I am the type of person who wants the condition of discs perfect and scratch-free, but because I want to support the developers and publishers. Honestly, if the game is very good or has a lot of replay value, I wouldn't mind paying $60 (if I can't get a better deal), since it would be worth the price, and it supports the developers and publishers. And that being the case, the online pass doesn't cost any more since it is included in the $60 price tag.

And also keep in mind, that there are always ways for the customer to get a deal for a new game that is basically a comparable price when the game first becomes used. There are plenty of special deals and promotions that retailers do to sell new games. For instance, many times Amazon gives $10 promotional credit when pre-ordering a particular game, as well as sometimes also $5 off the price as well. And there are also occasional deals of buy 2, get 1 free, buy 1, get another 50% off, etc. I haven't bought a used game in a long time due to often being able to find good deals on new games. If the customer looks for the best deals (thanks to online communities like Cheap Ass Gamer), or even waits a little, they will not only get a good deal on a new game, but also help support the developers and publishers which is a win-win for both sides. And like I said, I will look for these good deals, and if I somehow can't find any good deals on a new game, then I will buy it anyway if it's very good and I don't want to wait to play. Most games I can definitely wait a little bit to play since I already have a huge library of games that I need to find more time to play, but my most anticipated games (such as Twisted Metal) are games where I would rather not wait and just buy immediately on pre-order even if I can't find a good deal. I'm confident that Twisted Metal will be worth every penny.

As always, it's great to read your views on various issues. I respect the fact of how open and honest you are, which is refreshing in this business. Best of luck with the remainder of the development of Twisted Metal, and keep up the great work! I've been a long-time fan of the Twisted Metal series ever since the first game came out in '95 (though I didn't like TM3 and TM4 due to the changes that were made by 989 Studios). I'm sure you and the rest of the Eat Sleep Play team will make this the best Twisted Metal yet! And you will get my support on day 1!

Unknown said...

I dont mind publishers placing online passes for multiplayer experiences. I do mind when the online pass cuts out a portion of the single player experience.

examples are: rage, that cut out portions of the single player, and batman: AC, that cut out catwoman entirely. If a user does not have the internet, then they lose out on parts of the game.

I think online passes should enhance the experience, like Battlefield: bad company 2 did with the free multiplayer maps. not limit the experience.

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