Life, The Universe, And Gaming — War Is Coming
War never changes.
Except when it does and then you have to change your phrase because now you just look like an idiot.
A war is coming, gamers. Actually it’s already here, just not entirely acknowledged by many because they either don’t realise it, are intentionally oblivious to it or are too busy making excuses for it.
It’s exam time pretty much everywhere right now and as such, being the tertiary education student that I am, I’ve got more time on my hands than ever… just kidding. In any case, since I really need my time to get back to
procrastinating about studying, I thought I’d do a shorter piece for you all this morning by revisiting a few old columns of mine that have once again become relevant; because my columns are of course, future-proofed.
The first of these columns delved into the ‘shady business practice’ of second-hand retail with regards to gaming and posed the question of whether this could be considered glorified piracy, to which I explained both sides of the argument before settling on the “Uhm, no” response.
By now you gaming website frequenters must have heard of the rumoured plans for next-generation consoles that involved phasing out second-hand gaming by making it such that a console will only play games purchased at retail. I thought we could address this rumour here today, in this column.
The second-hand gaming resale market is one of the biggest around right now because frankly, we want to play as much as we possibly can and if we can get it cheaper elsewhere, we can’t be arsed to get it for full price at retail. I’m something of a second-hand connoisseur (that sounds disgusting) myself, having only purchased a single game at full retail, and you all know what that is. The rest of my gaming collection comes from either review copies, games I’ve won, games I’ve borrowed and finally; games I’ve traded for or purchased second-hand. The latter amounts to quite a bit, in fact.
This is the way of the second-world gamer who lives on a student’s income and has to make do with what he has. At least I’m not going and illegally downloading the games, right? I do support developers though; I purchase many DLC packs for games — the good ones that could actually qualify as DLC, anyway, not fucking map packs for Call of Duty and Halo — as well as Arcade titles. I also purchase other paraphernalia that tie into the gaming franchise in question, wherever I can. I’m a supporter of developers because I’ve played their games and enjoyed them, and want to give something back to show them my appreciation. I’m not some ruthless thief who takes and gives nothing back. And by thief I mean female. I’m joking. I mean male.
Personally, I feel as if I would never care for sequels to certain games if I hadn’t played the first game through some or other indirect means as mentioned above. For one, I just wouldn’t have the finances to risk a purchase on something I might not like and have not played before. For two, it would feel weird if I just started from the sequel knowing that there might have been story elements that I missed, from the first game. And for three, I’d probably still be saving up for a game I was certain would be great, effectively skipping what could have been an excellent new IP (or sequel to it), let’s say Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, RIP 38 Studios.
What this means then is that through sharing games with others, trading and reselling, I’ve allowed myself to experience more with less risk; and this in a time when every other market is still recovering from a recession. Such is the strength of this industry. This also means that I have vested interest in further follow-ups or new IP from certain developers I wouldn’t have dared to risk trusting in the first place. The winner in the end? Yes me, for getting more entertainment value than I’m worth. But also developers, because through allowing their customers to pass their games onto others, they’ve garnered more fans and supporters of their products.
This, friends and freaks, is exactly why the industry is as huge, booming and [more penis metaphors here] as it is. This is why during that recession I mentioned earlier, gaming was one of the few industries unaffected. Because once you’ve got a gamer hooked, they are yours. To some extent, right, Mass Effect 3 haters?
So why then would a console manufacturer implement such a feature in their next generation console? Is it perhaps at the request of publishers?
Publishers are of course the ones who benefit most from retail sales. They keep the fair bit of profits and give the developers basically what was promised to them and not much else — going on heresy yes, but if Zampella and West are to be believed, then it’s enough for me — and then look to new ways to extort money out of you, the gamer.
You see quite a few ways in which the publisher seeks to acquire more revenue through you, the supporting consumer; such things as release day DLC — downloadable content that is sometimes on the fucking disc that must be purchased online before it can be accessed, although sometimes the cheeky bastards remove the content entirely and just force you to download it instead because that’s the problem here — and the detestable Online Passes system are but two of these.
I ranted about the latter in another of my previous columns, probably one of the most random ones I’ve done too, and to be honest there were times since then when I considered making peace with Online Passes because hey; At least they drop the price on second-hand games where they’re included.
And then it hit me. That must have been the point of them in the first place.
One of my university modules this year is called Information Systems Strategy and part of it deals with hypercompetition in which you attempt to compete through various means that usually involve doing some nefarious things to your own product, all for the sake of eventually beating out your competitors. In this case the entire second-hand market is the competitor to retail.
That bullshit they told us about having to maintain servers? Of course it was bullshit. After all, I don’t see Epic Games struggling to maintain their Gears of War 3 servers, or indeed whoever is in charge of the Halo servers now. I would mention Call of Duty (a series I quite enjoy) but we already know Activision butt-fucks gamers for an extra R100-R200 for their games, so fuck them. All of this in fact becomes moot the second you consider that the Online Passes system in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, a fucking singleplayer offering, wasn’t enough to save 38 Studios from going into massive debt. RIP.
It makes perfect sense when you think about it; Online Passes decrease the resale value of games, meaning second-hand consumers can buy games for less but can sell them for virtually nothing, or just “less” depending on the time between buying and selling. The point is that the resale value of a game has dwindled and the consumer is discouraged from selling their title, forcing others to go out and get it at retail. Meanwhile, the consumer who’s decided to keep their game has since purchased an Online Pass because if they’re going to keep it then they might as well experience the game in full, and the publishers have made that much more off the gullible gamers who just can’t be bothered to care about the politics of it all.
Who wins? Not gamers. Not developers either.
If the console rumours are true and second-hand gaming is entirely wiped out, you can bloody well expect a huge crash in the gaming industry. It doesn’t even make sense. I mean sure, we’re a devoted lot who would most certainly sell organs in order to afford the next great title in our dying breaths, but when has gating a product ever stopped gamers? Ask anyone who downloaded DLC for Gears of War 2 before LIVE ZA existed, or anyone who resides in say, Australia, but plays every game that releases. We find ways to get around these things. Should I even mention hackers and pirates? Are console manufacturers so sure that their anti-second-hand systems won’t be bust in a day? What kind of hubris makes them think that even implementing some online check wouldn’t eventually be worked around?
But, them’s the breaks, and right now we’ve got a side to pick. The war is actually already here if you consider Online Passes being the paratroopers for the movement away from second-hand gaming.
I don’t see how any self-respecting gamer could pick the side of console manufacturers here, personally. Unless of course they’re a spoiled cunt of a person who can afford every game because their parents are rich — or at the very least left a huge trust fund — and they wished to see the world burn. Even with South Africa being something of a minnow in the international gaming industry, it still makes no sense when you consider that even in first-world countries the gaming resale market is huge, beyond comparison.
What the fuck are console manufacturers thinking? I sincerely hope that there isn’t a conglomerate of publishers behind the scenes pulling the strings. As there usually is, with any war.
I’ve picked my side. I say fuck publishers and their greed. Stop supporting unnecessary DLC packs containing nothing but map packs (unless they’re free, of course, or from a developer who cares; basically Epic then), stop purchasing Online Passes, stop buying games with on-disc DLC. I’d even go so far as to say that if a product hampers your experience, an experience that you paid good fucking money for — Diablo III’s Error 37, anyone? — then you might as well pirate it. Don’t pirate Diablo III though, Blizzard deserve your support. But what I’m saying is, stop supporting publishers who won’t support you.