Go ahead, read through any major publishing outlet’s article about Dead Space 3. Done? Now scroll to the bottom and read through the comments section. I’ve noticed a steadily growing trend where gamers seem to think they’re entitled to something well beyond the price of the game they paid for AND that somehow game publishers and developers have become “evil” organizations. I’m sure the executives at EA enjoy sitting on large sacks of money while shackled minions shovel heaps of gamers’ hard-earned cash into large furnaces. Oh and of course they’re all emitting hysterical Bond-villain-style guffaws, right? Right.
Now here’s the reality of the situation: The “Game Industry” is a tough as nails business and on average, most people who decide to enter this business burn out after only 5 years. Sales of consoles, physical video games and accessories all fell over 22% since last year and that’s on top of a 9% decline between 2010 and 2011. The industry experienced a dismal holiday season where sales fell over 20% from December 2011, which by the way happens to equate to well over a billion dollars. Digital downloads and mobile games are taking a giant bite out of a dwindling handheld market every month. Smartphones and their associated apps now make up over half of all game downloads and the number of gamers playing on mobile devices just recently surpassed the number playing on dedicated consoles. Oh and let’s not forget what an unfortunate disaster the Wii U has been lately. Clearly something needs to change. How many other industry decision-makers would look at this data and say, “You know what? Our customers work hard and deserve lots of free things. Let’s lower our prices and forget about trying to make any money to save our declining industry.” None that I know of. And this is why EA is trying to do something different and work some of the successful techniques utilized in the social/mobile market into their upcoming games. They know that subtle monetization practices yield profits. They also completely understand (I assure you) that console gamers generally do not want to pay extra money in order to progress in a game. This is why EA and Visceral have smartly balanced their game to not force players to have to spend extra money to complete the game. In fact, reviewers at multiple outlets have flat out stated that paying is not required to complete the game. Companies like EA also understand that generating a large amount of DLC from the start keeps interest and media publicity over the game constant to help soften the sales drop-off that occurs shortly after a game’s release. Often times at the end of a game’s production, entire development teams are laid off—there’s simply no more work to be done on the game. This is where DLC helps. Simply stated, DLC keeps hard-working game developers employed. It’s a good thing and the more of it we have and the more people buy it, the healthier our industry will be. It’s all cyclical and there’s nothing evil about trying to capitalize off of additional content.
While we’re on the subject; what about charging for online play? Used games certainly won’t kill the industry but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to reserve online services—which cost money to maintain—for people who actually pay the companies for their products. Yes publishers receive a small royalty for used game sales, but it amounts to a significantly smaller profit margin versus buying a game new. Used games appear harmless outright, but over time these sales make a lot of money for GameStop and less money for the small developer.
So why is there so much disdain? Unfortunately, unlike other hobbyists, gamers generally tend to feel entitled. So much so that publishers and developers often seem to “owe” them something. This baffles me and is a slightly disturbing trend. Realize this: game publishers and developers “owe” gamers absolutely nothing beyond trying to provide quality entertainment. They are businesses, and in order for businesses to continue being businesses they must make profits. Yes, there are certainly a number of missteps the industry has taken in order to attempt to reverse dwindling sales numbers but gamers should not blame an industry for trying to push for upward momentum and profits. If companies just “gave it all away” what would the quality of the industry look like? More importantly, how long would it really last?