Mortal Kombat Screenshot

I was excited for Mortal Kombat. The demo played pretty well, albeit a little on the slow side. The special editions of the game looked pretty neat. It felt like a throwback rather than an attempt to keep expanding in the direction that the games took during the last console generation. It seemed like a day-one purchase for me, if only to support the revival of a fighting game that used to share the spotlight with Street Fighter some 15 years ago.

At the same time, I was a little disturbed by some of the publishing decisions that Warner Brothers Interactive had made regarding the game. Different DLC for different retailers means that consumers have no way of getting all of the content that is available for the game when it launches without spending more than the $60+ that they're spending when they buy it. Then I heard about DLC characters after the fact, and after what Capcom pulled with their $5 per character pricing, I am less than excited to hear about any DLC characters—especially before the game's launch date.

With the addition of an online pass fee—including the way that the company is disguising it from packaging and forcing retailers to tell consumers— I'm officially done with Mortal Kombat. My Kollector's Edition pre-order is getting cancelled today and I'll have to reconsider whether I'm going to buy the game at all. I'm sure that Warner Brothers isn't going to miss my $100, but it's the only way that I can send the message that I don't agree with any of these decisions that have been made regarding the game's content… errr… kontent.

As with all of these cases of online pass usage, we're seeing the Industry Defense Force mobilize and defend the practice. Woe be the developers and publishers, for they do not profit from the sale of a pre-owned game… and all of you who buy them are no better than a pirate who gets the game illegally. After all, the industry doesn't see a dime from used game sales—even though they actually got the profit already when the game was sold. Oh, and lest we forget the strain on the online infrastructure… even though there's no additional strain at all. Pity the poor industry. They are the victims here.

Unless these people actually work within the industry—as programmers, artists, producers, or something else—then I don't get why they blindly defend such ridiculousness. Apparently these people have money coming out of their ears since they buy everything new. Here's an idea: If you're worried about the industry not getting enough money, why don't you start sending donations? Come on. I dare you. Pick up that checkbook and write a $50 check to Warner Brothers, Electronic Arts, or THQ. Put your money where your mouths are. Of course, nobody will do this… and even if they did, publishers wouldn't know what to do with it.

Mortal Kombat Screenshot

Pre-owned games are been around for decades, and, until this console generation, there wasn't this movement of vilify the practice and punish consumers who bought them. We can argue about weak trade-in values all day (and I'll agree with you), but game trade-ins have always made games and systems more affordable and pre-owned games are simply cheaper alternatives to buying new. $5 less is still $5 less, no matter how minor a difference that you think it might be. If you told me that you'd walk by a $5 bill lying on the ground or that you're not pleasantly surprised by finding a $5 bill in your jacket pocket, I have no problem calling you a liar. Sure, resellers like GameStop can be criticized for imbalanced pricing—but they're not the only resellers around. eBay, Amazon, Best Buy, and others all engage in the practice. In going out of your way to see GameStop drawn and quartered, you're trying to do away with what's been an acceptable practice for generations. Let's also not forget that no matter what method of tender that is taken for the sale of new games at GameStop—including trade-ins—the company already paid cash money to distributors and publishers for them. Everyone got paid.

The Industry Defense Force throws around terms like inflation and increased development budgets as reasons why we all need to suck it up and accept these anti-consumer programs. When's the last time inflation showed up in your paycheck? I sure as hell don't recall. Also, if you're going to use inflation to justify higher costs to consumers, then they can just as easily remind you that food and fuel costs are rising, too, and when a silly form of entertainment like video games becomes too expensive… they'll stop buying them. As for increased development budgets, that's the industry's fault. Big-budget games are popular because the industry put them out there and consumers bought into it. I'm willing to bet, though, that the development budget for Just Dance 2 isn't nearly the same as it was for Bulletstorm—and yet Just Dance 2 killed it in sales. Imagine that.

Let's talk about the Industry Defense Force's other popular term: Entitlement. How dare consumers expect the same level of content and the same feature sets that we used to get included with our games until this console generation? Those things cost money, you know… and now that internet-connected gaming and DLC has given the industry the opportunity to finally charge for these things à la carte, consumers should just accept it. How about no? Why should consumers all of a sudden stop expecting online play, bonus costumes, cheats, and other features to be additional expenses after all these years? Should they accept it for the good of the industry? Should we stop questioning because, to quote Bruce Hornsby, that's just the way it is? I don't see why. We're paying 20% more for new games on average, and getting fewer features. That's not a case of entitlement—it's robbery.

I'm frankly tired of reading that consumers are responsible for the well-being of the video game industry. I'm sick of reading comments, message board posts, and tweets that make it sound as though it's up to us to keep the industry going and that it's somehow our fault that developers and publishers are closing their doors. That's not a problem for consumers to be tasked with. It's an industry problem. If the industry crashed and burned tomorrow, consumers will find other sources of entertainment to pursue and spend money on. The onus needs to go back on the industry to rediscover the magic that it had during its period of expansion from 1995-2005. Instead of penalizing consumers with nickel-and-dime DLC and stripping out features from retail releases, maybe they need to make video games financially accessible and infuse them with value once again.

And, don't look now, but Warner Brothers is looking to implement Online Pass into Batman: Arkham City. That's a single-player game. The future is, indeed, upon us.

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9 Comments on "Consoleation: The war on used games—greed-ality!"

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crackajack
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crackajack
5 years 4 months ago
“tired of reading that consumers are responsible for the well-being of the video game industry” “and now that internet-connected gaming and DLC has given the industry the opportunity to finally charge for these things à la carte, consumers should just accept it. How about no?” Now you’re a member of the IDF, or what? Does this article make any sense? Consumers might not be directly responsible for the well being, that’s still the job of the publishers, but they are responsible of how the present and the future of the industry looks like. And they quite clearly decided that they… Read more »
Jimu Hsien
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Jimu Hsien
5 years 5 months ago

Does it matter?

Anonymous
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Anonymous
5 years 5 months ago

Peter–don’t you work for Gamestop?

StrongStyle81
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StrongStyle81
5 years 5 months ago
Price gouging, lame gimmicks and lack of quality content is what led to the comic book industry to crash in the 90’s. The video game industry is on the same path right now with their ridiculous nickel and diming, less content for higher prices and release gimmicks. I don’t know why there are people who rush to defend the industry for these practices. The industry is starting to show that they don’t care about their customers, that they expect them to throw money at them blindly regardless if their product deserves it or not. Funny how you bring up the… Read more »
Alv
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Alv
5 years 5 months ago
[quote=Zolbrod] Couldn’t agree more. This is the very reason I don’t bother with DLC (although I make an exception for Bethesda since they always offer huge amounts of content in the first place). I hate the direction the industry is going in at the moment.[/quote] It’s a shame when pricing strategies price-out the marginal consumer by choice or by necessity. But this is the world we created and capitalism has until now, proved to be the only political/economic philosophy that has stood the test of evolution. 1001 articles can be written complaining about DLC and $60 pricing but ultimately, games… Read more »
Crofto
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Crofto
5 years 5 months ago
[quote]I have to state my appreciation for Nintendo in this regard. Their Online functionality may leave a LOT to be desired, but at least the Wii doesn’t allow for developers to bleed gamers dry.[/quote] I too share your appreciation for Nintendo. To be honest, they don’t gain nearly enough credit for sticking to a more traditional — better — method of releasing their games. When I bought Mario Galaxy 2 what I got was a 100% finished product with everything already on the disc and ready to be accessed. It’s that simple, yet so rare now. Unfortunately, with publishers no-doubt… Read more »
Zolbrod
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Zolbrod
5 years 5 months ago

*standing ovation*

Couldn’t agree more.
This is the very reason I don’t bother with DLC (although I make an exception for Bethesda since they always offer huge amounts of content in the first place). I hate the direction the industry is going in at the moment.

I have to state my appreciation for Nintendo in this regard. Their Online functionality may leave a LOT to be desired, but at least the Wii doesn’t allow for developers to bleed gamers dry.

Alv
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Alv
5 years 5 months ago
As always, a thought provoking article from yourself, but as always the standard economic reasoning applies to the bigger picture: price discrimination. The shifting of economic benefit from consumer to producer without lowering overall economic output. Somewhere, somehow, seemingly exponentially rising investment costs in future games development need to be met with higher revenues. It appears that the industry has reached a stage whereby obtaining higher revenues through marginal pricing is becoming more effective and less risky in relation to doing so using attempts to expand demand via normal channels such as advertising, marketing, new devices etc. While the former… Read more »
Trog
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Trog
5 years 5 months ago

I really like your posts, Peter, and am in total agreement. In a way though, this whole trend has (with me at least) had a negative impact in the amount I’m spending on games… I will never preorder now, and I’m ditching franchises (like Dragon Age 2, and Batman if what you say is true) when the publishers start playing silly games with content; like you did, out of principle. My only hope is that, sooner or later, publishers will realize there is a sizeable “niche” of mature gamers that don’t buy into all this nonsense.

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