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Friday, May 24, 2013

Baseless Speculation: What will the end of used games actually do?

Look you guys! Look how monochrome!

So, the Xbox One cat is out of the bag and I don't have too many strong feelings about it. Well, I do have strong feelings about them allegedly planting cheerers in the press conference audience like North Korea at the Olympics, but lets move on. I don't have a dog in this fight and I am very curious to see how this console race shakes out. Right now I'd say the PS4 is winning the PR arms race, but I think we all know the cheaper console is going to win no matter what. Because that's where the economy is and because Sony hasn't stuck its foot in its mouth...yet.

But there are more aspects to a "cheaper" console than the initial price point and that's the used game market. No one is going to buy all their games at $60. That's absurd. I think the saturation of Gamestop  proves my point. People can get their games anywhere, but they flock to Gamestop for the discounts. I'm sure Sony and Microsoft would love to live in a world where they were like the big department stores. In which their "sales discounts" were what the product was actually worth and they could sell it at an inflated price for the rest of the year. Here's the thing though, and its really one of the best things about gamers as a consumer: We're too smart for that crap and will not take it lying down.

Ergo, gamers are reading the fine print about how Xbox One games can only be installed on "one" system and if you try to play the same disk on another (even if you already own it) you'll hit a pay wall (or will you? *rolls eyes*). The community has now become noticeably upset. We hear how the Xbox Neo will  "totally" support used games, but come on, they'll tell us anything we want to hear because we haven't bought it yet.  Like all sweeping security measures, this one will be attributed to piracy eventually and I can understand that.  But I'd like to float the idea that since video games are a digital medium and can be copied an infinite number of times; there comes a point where they can become devilishly cheap and will still be able to turn a handsome profit.

Steam in a minute!
I'll admit I used to be quite the pirate for games I was on the fence for. But once I stopped worrying and began to love the Steam I realised that there were other approaches to marketing video games. In that, games I wouldn't dream of buying ended up clogging my Steam library because there was a 24 hour sale for them at $7.50.

$7.50! The cheapest game worth a damn I've ever seen at a Gamestop is $15. The idea that a game makes all its real sales within its first two weeks of release is insane.Talented studios have been closed over this antiquated barometer of success and no one ever seems to blame the marketers for forcing a release at the wrong time. But with a daily deal system where you could easily find the newest Assassins Creed for $15 six months later, you'll sell many more copies than you would have at some BS sale price of $35.50. That's the entire point of a sale, a slightly higher profit margin with a strengthened brand awareness. I know I wasn't on the AC band wagon until AC II was going for $20. Well, until Revelations anyway... god, that was boring.

Unless you REALLY liked Suleiman the First.

Yet as much as I'd like to see all that, the wind is blowing in the direction of a dead used market. It bears mentioning that used sales profits only go to the store and not to the studio or publisher. In fact, that's why all games now have DLC, because that does go straight to the content creators. In the end, I think we all love games, and will do what it takes to get our fix. I'm not ignorant of the possibility of Sony and Microsoft (Nintendo will just make more money printing handhelds) stabbing Gamestop in the back to make one more console generation possible.

So I personally don't think the end of traditional used games will change a damn thing. It was already money producers never saw and there are ways to make similar sales systems while also cutting out brick and mortar store outlets (but that's a whole 'nuther rant). The real question, one I don't have the slightest clue how to answer, is what happens to the AAA market when all legitimate outlets sell them for a fixed price. All I can say is that's a really stupid, and shortsightedly greedy, idea...that's probably going to happen eventually.

Well that's depressing, you know what?, I'm gonna make a drink and play Psychonauts!

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