And The Award for Honest Reflection Upon Your Business Model That You Probably Oughtn’t to Have Told a Reporter Goes To:

Crystal Dynamics’ global brand director Karl Stewart, for telling CVG in all earnestness:

“I think the model as we see it right now is a frail one. Having the used market is not beneficial to any of us.”

Which is a completely true and honest statement, for values of the word “us” that do not include the subset “customers”. Try to keep that in mind the next time you decide to sling flame online in the name of your favorite major game corporation.

This Project $10 thing from EA is starting to get a bit out of hand. I didn’t particularly care when it was just extra stuff like costumes and weapons that aren’t part of the core experience of a game; in fact, I thought it was a clever way to incentivize buying a new title. The new deal, where sports games will cost an extra $10 to play online if bought used, flips that all upside down. It’s taken what originally sounded like a reasonable proposal – here’s a nice present if you do things the way that’s good for us – and turns it into a muscle play. I can’t imagine nearly as many people are going to stick up for the “buy it new or it’s broken and you’ll pay to fix it” model as were willing to speak out in favor of new-game bonuses. We’re not far now from simply having console games that require a 1-time activation code – free with a new copy, $60 otherwise – to work at all. we’ve already taken the leap that gets us about halfway there.

The devil of it is that as irritating as it is to think about not being able to sell games back to recoup my investment, or not being able to buy a newish game for $5 off with a wrinkled manual, or even not being able to pick up last year’s bigger hits for cheap even after all the remaindered new copies are gone, I still can’t really bring myself to say that EA is beyond their rights with this. From the strictly letter of the law standpoint, publishers don’t sell DVDs; they sell licenses to play the software on those DVDs, and you do not really own the software that you pay for. You license it, and that license can be made non-transferrable if EA or whoever wants to get paid. It’s a change from the way things used to be, but I see that more as a loss of a privilege that we gamers have enjoyed for a long time thanks to the limits of technology. Now that technology is catching up to the legal realities of things, we are finding that we don’t own our possessions in quite the way we thought we did, and it’s a bit jarring. I suspect we’ll adapt, if with a bit of regret for the good old days.

But who knows. Perhaps the reality of publisher/customer relations will be so glaringly brought to light by the ability of technology to represent them that there will be some sort of outcry, and meaningful change will result. Weirder things have happened.


One thought on “And The Award for Honest Reflection Upon Your Business Model That You Probably Oughtn’t to Have Told a Reporter Goes To:”

  1. I have to concur. The perception of what we are paying for and the legal reality are starting to merge facilitated by emergent technologies. I think that streaming movies and TV a la NetFlix are a more accurate reflection of the reality of our interaction with media publishers than physical media. As far as they are able, large game publishers are going to move in that direction. Instead of downloadable game platform like Steam being the exception they are going to be the rule. Instead of grumbling and talking about ye good olde days, we all just need to realign our expectations.

    There will also be significant opportunities for smaller designers and publishers to take advantage of both discontent and distribution channels that don’t require huge amount of upfront capital for physical manufacturing. In some ways this new reality will reduce some avenues for cheap game buying. I thin kit will open up more new methods for acquisition of content that will be advantageous to the consumer.

    And as for getting cheap games, look at the Steam sales. It will be a lot more palatable financially for a publisher to discount the sale of digital content than it would be to discount physical media.

    And GameStop sucks anyway so who cares if they eat shit?

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