Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Video Game Developers, and Their Battle Against Used Games.

It should be no secret that the Video Game industry has become huge over the last decade. The last couple years have seen consumers spending more money on video games, than on movies... which was an unprecedented concept when video games first caught on.

With titles like World of Warcraft that has millions of monthly subscribers, to franchises like Call of Duty that have had releases that generate billions of dollars per title... it's easy to see that there is indeed money in video games.

Where there is money, there are people and corporations that are looking for ways to make more of it, while cutting their own costs, and trying to do better than their competitors. This is just the way business goes.

A good percentage of gamers out there have been to a place like Gamestop, E.B. Games, or even now Best Buy, where used (or "secondhand") games are traded and sold. Now, I'm not saying anything against buying used games or the places that sell them. While I usually like to buy the majority of my games new... Sometimes, I'm simply not willing to spend $60 on a game, and when that happens, I buy used. I'm also a lot more likely to take a risk on a game I've never heard of by spending $12 for it used, than I would be if it were new and had a $30 price tag. Since it's the age of sequels, chances are that if I like the game I spent $12 on now, I'll shell out more money for the sequel later. Used games have their niche in the market, and for many reasons, I think they're good for the industry.

I can also see the game developers' standpoint, and why they dislike used-game sales...

The issue that video game developers have with these "secondhand" game sales is that they do not profit from a consumer buying a used game nearly as much as they would if that consumer bought that same game new. Video games are not cheap to develop, and it's only fair that they want to be paid for the product they've developed. I agree, and feel that these developers, if they make a quality game, do deserve to be paid top-dollar for their efforts.

Due to this, we have seen these developers try and find new and creative ways to create value for the consumer for buying a game new, instead of used. Currently, the most popular means of rewarding consumers for buying new vs. used is in the form of downloadable content (DLC). This DLC content with new games is sometimes exclusive, meaning that if you don't buy the game new, there is no other means to get that content. Other times, the DLC is free if you buy the game new, but it is available to everyone, you just have to pay separately for the DLC if you buy the game used. Most of the time, these DLC's for buying new isn't anything game-breaking. Usually it's just a skin, or weapon... but nothing that would actually take any extra time to develop once the game is already made and all the assets are there.

Personally, I like the whole DLC motivation for buying new. It makes you feel like you're getting something "extra" for shelling out the extra bucks for getting it new. From a customer service standpoint, it's like the developers are saying "Thank You" for buying the game new, instead of buying it used. As a customer, I like feeling appreciated... it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Other developers take it a little too far, and go in the opposite direction... Instead of adding something extra for buying new, they take features away.

For example, the new Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D for the 3DS that was released today, has other more "intrusive" ways to discourage consumers from buying the game used. This new installment in the Resident Evil saga does not allow you to erase your game data. There is a notice when you open the game, letting you know that once you start a game, there is no way to erase it. This means that if you were to buy the game used... you would not be able to start over from the beginning and unlock the content yourself, as a new player.

Now, to me, this seems like it would severely decrease the replay value of the game. I mean... I can't count how many times over the years I've deleted my Super Metroid save games and started fresh... simply because sometimes I find it fun just to completely start over fresh in a game. Capcom, who developed the new 3DS Resident Evil installment states that there will still be ways to replay stages to try and beat high scores, etc.... but in my opinion, it's just not the same. What if I wanted to let a friend borrow the game? What if I didn't like it and wanted to trade it in? You can bet that the trade-in value for this title will be next to nothing once people realize that it's pretty worthless to buy used. I just find this means of promoting "buying new" to be just a little too intrusive because it essentially tries to tell me how I can, and can't enjoy the product I purchased.

I also feel that while Capcom did call out the fact that you can't erase your data, it should have been called out on the outside of the packaging... instead of having to open the packaging in order to find that out. Most retailers will not allow returns on new video games if they've been opened, aside from exchanging it for the same title if the original was defective.

Unlike the warm-fuzzy "appreciated" feeling for buying new that the DLC's give me (as stated above), and instead of the developers saying "Thank You" for buying new... this method seems more like Capcom "punishing" customers for buying their product new. It's kind of like when you were in school and someone in the class did something that warranted a lost recess... but they wouldn't 'fess up so the teacher punished the whole class by taking away everyone's recess. If I were a customer, wanting to purchase this product (I don't have a 3DS), I would feel like Capcom is punishing me by restricting their product because of what other folks they don't like are doing.

Unlike being "thanked" for buying a product, this type of thing would just leave a bad taste in my mouth.

From my experience... it's always better to add a little something to make a customer feel appreciated and happy with their experience... than it is to take things away and make them feel under-appreciated.

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