Want to resell your game? With all the one-time use codes included with new games, resell value has gone down.
DRM? Ubisoft now requires you to have a constant Internet connection to play their PC games. And EA’s recently released Command & Conquer 4 has the same requirement.
The most recent mind-blowing announcement was that EA is planning to release “very long” game demos (3-4 hours, apparently) and charge $10-15 for them, then sell the full game later at full price.
All together now: holy shit.
Can anyone give me an example of one of the big gaming companies providing more value to the consumer in the last year?
I desperately want to tell the story of why EA’s demos (Skate as exception) are so awful, but I shouldn’t because it is Inside Baseball and I don’t want to name names. Here’s the moral of the story though. Consumers see demos as a “try before you buy” that can help persuade you or dissuade you. Fairly reasonable. Some publishers see demos as another reason to issue a press release. If the demo could just be the Press Start screen, that’s what they would do. Any gameplay someone gets for free that they could be paying for is theft. If the demo provides no value to the consumer, that is irrelevant. If one person tries the demo and decides not to buy the game (FREELOADER) it is not worth it if two potential people who weren’t going to buy the game convinced by a satisfactory demo.
Why? To them, demos are for people who are already going to buy the game. That’s why they are going to charge for them. Some folks at EA see demos as accessories, ways to monetize existing fans. Not everyone in the brass is that shallow, but they get the most press. Some of the smartest people I’ve met at EA are in those echelons, but they don’t get the attention of the Intermob.
Generally, we designers hate that mercenary approach. We want to create art and get it into people’s hands. And if they enjoy it, it is only fair that they pay for the full experience. Anything that treats the audiences we respect as breathing piles of money is generally seen as sketchy, hence the recent backlash against Skinner Box Game developers.
But you know what? It will backfire. Because AAAs have been making culturally empty things for so long thanks to the suits that a second-tier game these days only has a few hours before it wears out its welcome. Many of us will gladly pay the $15 to get a few fun hours out of Generic Shooter X rather than a few fun hours and a lot of slogging with the $60 version.
It will just take a few iterations of the big publisher Prisoner’s Dilemma with one of them releasing a string of big budget flops to really shake things up. Which will happen first? This? Or the bubble bursting on the studios doing Skinner Box games? Or will they happen simultaneously? I for one am thrilled at the prospects of the aftermath.