Thursday, 30 May 2013

TotalBiscuit vs used games (and why I politely disagree with him)

So, I saw a video by TotalBiscuit/TotalHalibut about his opinions on used games. Wanna know something? A lot of what he said made sense. I found myself going, "Yes, that's very true" and not getting as angry as a lot of his followers on Twitter (his responses to them were why I went and watched the video).

Now, I recommend you watch the video. It IS long (30 minutes-ish), but he says a lot in it and makes some very good points about how gaming's income stream is different to other forms of media. This is true and people need to realise this. He also used to work in Game, therefore knows that they have an agressive sell-used policy. I can vouch for this myself - I've often gone up to the till with a new copy of the game, only to be asked, "would you like a used copy instead?" Most of the time the used copy is only £2-£5 cheaper, and I'd rather pay that extra, knowing that my money was getting to the developers. However, I have bought used if the game is drastically cheaper & I can't afford to buy new, or if I am unable to find a new copy. 

However, there ends the bits I agree with. The problem is he keeps comparing the console games model to the PC games model, saying "us PC players are going all digital" and "we have eliminated used games and we still get awesome deals on Steam". Yes, both of those are true, but the PC games sales model is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT to the console games one. 

Yes, Steam has amazing sales (and are amazing because they also have Mac-compatible games at the same price!!), but Steam is NOT the ONLY digital platform where you can buy games. Steam is in constant competition with developers who sell direct from their websites (Minecraft, anyone?), free-to-play online games (I put a lot of hours into Runescape as a teen...), even casual gaming sites can offer some competition. PC games are also in indirect competition with everything else you can do on a PC - developers have to make sure games are cheap enough AND fun enough to stop people from closing that game & opening up YouTube. There are also far lower barriers to entry in the PC games market; you don't have to get special licensing from a huge corporation for your game to be sold to play on a PC, you don't have to meet certain criteria, you just have to make it available. Because of this, there is HUGE choice for PC gamers out there; they merely have to search in Google to find a decent game they can play, often for free.

Where can I buy digital content for my Xbox 360? Xbox live. Anywhere else? No. It's the same with the Playstation 3 and PSN. Yes, they sometimes have sales, but NEVER on new-release games like the offers you can find on Steam and hardly ever at the lower prices. Why? because each of those selling platforms are the ONLY PLACE to get digital content for those consoles (apart from some DLC packages sold in stores).

Microsoft and Sony have a monopoly when it comes to digital gaming on their platforms. Why ANYONE would see this as a good thing for consumers, I don't know. If you do, please go pick up a basic business studies book & have a read.

Right now there IS competition in the form of retail & used games - it's not perfect, but it's something. Then again, it is sometimes ignored - the other day I saw Black Ops 2 was £59.99 on PSN. How much was it in the few stores I could find it in, new? £44.99. TB did say retailers apparently pressured publishers to not have cheaper digital copies of games, but I very much doubt they have the power to say games had to be over £15 more... That's just greed, either from Sony or the publisher (or both).

The real problem is that brand new games are expensive on console. TB said that, relative to inflation, they're cheaper than before; the thing is inflation hasn't affected games that much because they are not an essential item. Food, energy and housing has gone up in price mainly because we NEED those things and we can't just stop buying them; gaming is a luxury, therefore people can easily cut it out if the prices go too high for them. This means that whilst a loaf of bread has doubled in price in my lifetime, entertainment items like games have only gone up a little (don't want to scare off all the customers, do they?). Even so, I don't often buy at launch. Most of my game collection is bought new, but months after at a much lower price - this is because I joined the current-gen console gang a few years after everyone else & now find myself constantly going back and catching-up with old games, but also because I could not (and currently cannot) afford to buy all my games at release-date value. We have a system where more cautious people who wait a few months and read everyone's reviews are the ones who are rewarded, getting a lower price & knowing more about what they are paying for (and publishers complain that not enough people buy on release-date...). Publishers have all these pre-order deals, throwing in "bonuses", which are often just codes for disk-locked content, purely aesthetic in-game features or a pretty box. You know what would increase pre-orders? £10 off the release price for pre-ordered games. If that's too much, make it £5 (see, I'm being nice). Gamers take a chance on a before it launches, they get a good deal on it.

There is also this thing, not seen in PC gaming nowadays, that ALL console games are around £40 at release. There is this 'default' price, but some games have hundreds of hours worth of high-quality content, whilst others may have 5-10. Some games are of amazing quality, and others are crap, yet they all have a similar price tag on release day (£35-45 in the UK). This doesn't happen on the PC games market - developers can work out the optimal price point for their game and have optimum sales. They don't have to go " sony/microsoft wants us to make a game worth £40. We have to develop a game in that price range". They can make the game they wantMicrosoft and Sony have become better at pricing with Arcade, smaller PSN games and older titles (digital & physical), but for the big releases, they don't seem to realise that not all games are worth the same amount on release. This is one reason why I don't trust them to have the monopoly on their systems & why many people hesitate to buy at launch.

Anyway, wrapping this up (I did babble on for a bit there...), you can't just point to the PC digital games market and go, "Look, that works, stop complaining about used games being taken away". It's a different environment and until the console digital games market turns into an equally diverse space, you can't just go "all retailers are bad, booooo used games, bring on digital". I also don't think used games are as huge an issue as publishers make them out to be. Yes there are massive "pre-owned" displays in shops, but look through them and you'll find only a handful of good games. You wanna find out what boring games to avoid? You wanna find out what games have been made obsolete because publishers bring out a slightly-updated one every year? Look in pre-owned. Sooo many sports games... Used games are a great way to see how good a game is - only one copy of Uncharted 3 in there? Guess it was pretty good. Let's go see if we can buy it new. Loads of Tiger Woods games? Guess it gets pretty avoid that one. LOADS of copies of Aliens: Colonial Marines? Guess all the crap reviews it got were spot on... Trade-ins of crappy games feed new sales (I know because both my boyfriend & I have traded in to get brand new items) & let the consumer know what other gamers thought. Maybe that's another reason why publishers don't like used games..? Hmm?

We need a middle ground, rather than going for just one or the other. Right now, used games help give console gamers a little bit of leverage in the market. I don't mind paying a little to unlock  a used game & make sure money goes STRAIGHT to the developer, but I don't like the idea of paying £10 that the developers never see & instead goes straight into EA's pocket.

It is a broken system, but a monopoly would be far, far worse.

Here's another video that also shares my point of view & is very eloquent and well-argued. Go watch it if you have time!

No comments:

Post a Comment