Thursday, February 3, 2011

You Can't Buy Me Love, But Can I Trade For It...?

   For anyone that has watched the computer game industry and/or been interested in "just how much does it make", the simple answer is games can make a lot. But that doesn't mean it all comes easy or that just because a game has a licensed character like a certain fat plumber that the revenue will rain down like crazy. Well... maybe if it's a fat plumber that everyone really likes. But for the most part it seems that where the complex-math-that-makes-the-game-work ends, the real world mathematical application begins in trying to account for whether it is a best seller or even if the publisher will break even.

   One area of concern in recent past is the affects of "previously played" titles and how it impacts the industry. I can see the allure, heck, I may even be contributing to the popularity of it. Who doesn't want to get a hold of a great game at an even better price? And it's not as though retail stores can stock all the titles that are available for an indefinite amount of time. The brick-and-mortar stores have rents to pay, just like the rest of us. If a game isn't selling on the shelf they need to move it on and put something there that will sell. So from what I've seen and understood it could be summed up in two viewpoints.

Viewpoint #1 (The Publisher):
   The publisher/developer want it to sell when it is new. Even if it is less than the $50 - $60 price tag initially dropped on all the hot games. Only by selling it new to the consumer does the publisher actually make any money. This viewpoint wants players/consumers to fully appreciate the time and effort put into the making of the game. And of course, being in business means being in business to make money... simple concept, eh? So from that point of view, I can see why publishers are not a fan of the "previously played" selection that can be found at increasing locations. And why are those locations increasing...?

Viewpoint #2 (The Player)
   Used games are becoming popular because if you can play the same game but pay less... yeah, do I really need to finish that thought? Things are tight. Budgets are stretched. And still faithful game players devote hard earned money to escape for even a bit and play. Do they love the games they play? Yes. But do they feel that they can afford to pay the $50 retail sticker? Seriously, I'd rather pay $20 and put the other $30 to attending to the rest of life. I don't think that anyone honestly stresses for hours at length over buying a game new or used based on is it going to make or break a sales figure. Even when it isn't the publisher that is being paid, the sale of a used game does support the local employment of the GameStop staff or whoever your local video game reseller is.

   So the summary that I would have to come to at this juncture in my life is that if the game is really made to entertain the player, and the average player is content buying off the used rack over new at the local GameStop, what message is being heard at the developer/publisher level? I know the message I'm hearing as a young and budding indie developer is that it may be time for more adaptation and innovation on the part of developers. Find a way to get the game out there without it requiring a huge price line. If that's not an option, what more could be offered, if anything, to increase the value of buying new.

   The bottom line is really the history of the industry. SEGA was made as SErvice GAmes, games to relieve some of the stress associated with combat and military training. PONG came about as a version to relax MIT students. Games are for the players. Analogous to that is a phrase I learned to describe the best way to write code: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) Make games for players, if players can't afford to buy your games, adjust your methods to focus on the simple end goal of For the Gamers.

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