I read a very interesting article on the BBC’s site about how humans are born fair and how the idea of fairness is really unique to humans.
Now we know the world isn’t fair and we’ve come across a lot of things that shouldn’t be, but that doesn’t mean we give up and allow rampant murder throughout the streets of the world.
We do our best to try to get as much justice for people as possible, so that we can live as fairly as possible. What does all of this have to do with gaming? The game industry is charging us the same price for a digital game as it would for the physical copy. That’s like a slap in the face to the regular gamer. Literally, we’re all being slapped and have been for years now, and no one seems to be speaking up about it.
It takes months to prepare to mass release millions of physical copies of games and hundreds of hours just to make the discs, print the instruction manuals, get the plastic cases, and make sure it’s all working and it’s all transported across the entire globe!
It’s frustrating, time consuming, and frankly it’s why publishing companies exist. Besides putting up the cost of marketing a game, a publishers job usually includes paying for the manufacturing costs. These costs are significant and include managing things like logistics which is simply the art and science of moving things across the world efficiently and in a timely manner.
Game companies earn every penny when they sell us that physical copy and they get it to us whether we’re in Europe, Japan, America, or Korea. They work hard and long hours and put in lots of quality control mechanisms to make sure their game launch goes off perfectly.
Digital games require NONE of this. There is much less planning needed about launch day besides making sure all the servers can cope with the downloads.
Literally, all you do is upload the game to all the servers, make sure they stay up, and allow everyone to download it. No DVDs that cost time and money to produce; no covers; no instruction manuals; no painstaking hours of logistics because the whole world is already connected by the internet.
Yet for getting rid of the game publishers headache, customers willing to buy the digital copies of a game pay the SAME exact price as if they bought the physical one. Not a penny less.
What’s worse is EA, one of the largest gaming companies, and the only gaming company currently listed on the S&P 500 says gamers are trending towards buying more digital games then physical ones. They’re saying this is the future. This decade is simply the end of the long headache that game publishers have had for the past few decades.
“EA Labels President Frank Gibeau has told GamesIndustry.Biz that he believes EA will be a “100% digital” company in the future.
“It’s inevitable,” says Gibeau. “It’s in the near future. It’s coming. We have a clear line of sight on it and we’re excited about it.””
The game industry is definitely thrilled to see this transition. Everyone wants to live as easy a life as possible and the stress that goes with launching a game is exhausting enough without having to worry about juggling physical copies around the world to your millions of fans.
But while the game industry celebrates the common gamer is left only to be punished. For sacrificing our cherished physical copies of games we’re giving up a lot.
Here’s a small list of what gamers give up when they go digital:
- Right to re-sell game as used. Sacrifices 20-40% returns on initial costs if consumer had resold game.
- Shrinks the supply of used games – making gaming more expensive as it gets harder to find cheaper used games.
- Loss of instruction guide and artwork.
- Right to play your game without internet. Hard to travel with your game:
- Overseas: You can take an Xbox with games and play it anywhere. But that can’t be said by installing Steam overseas without the ability to validate it in counties without internet. Even if you got a signal, you still have to download every game you want to play. Most games are very large and take hours to download on a fast connection. On a slow one or medium one it can take the whole day.
- Hotel: You go on a road trip and you’re at a hotel room. You want to play your games but you can’t since internet there costs extra. Had you brought an PS3 with games, you’d have been set. Or even if the hotel has internet, it may be slow, and it may take you hours to re-download the games you want to play.
These are just a few problems associated with digital games and just the fact that you can’t resell your game is reason enough to be wary of it.
So understandably, if the consumers are willing to make a large sacrifice and actually buy the digital download of a game, the game should come with a huge price drop. But the fact remains that it doesn’t.
The whole digital gaming industry is in on this and has made it standard practice. From Gamefly to Steam to Amazon, all retailers sell brand new games at physical copy prices. There isn’t enough competition to force one of them to turn against the others and it has been this way for years.
Gamers have a choice to make about their future. If they want to be treated fairly and pay fair prices for the games they love they need to start speaking up and letting the game companies know that this business practice is simply wrong, unfair, and unjust.
It’s no wonder people are rushing to consoles when there are so many issues with PC downloads. The other added bonus of Consoles is that they also don’t have the same nagging D.R.M issues that P.C’s have when downloading digital games.
If we are willing to make the lives of the gaming industry significantly easier, we should get a reward as well, and that means significant price reductions on digital downloads from their physical siblings.
You can’t sell a stripped down version of a product for the same price as the full version. Sometimes this is followed up by tacking on DRM, making the whole experience even more stressful.
If this situation doesn’t change boycotts may come into effect, especially as the issue gets more traction and gamers realize exactly how much they are being punished.
This information will spread and game companies will eventually be called to account for what they’ve done. If not now then eventually one day. To gain back a loyal customer is much harder than to keep them in the first place. It makes financial sense to be fair from the beginning with your customers. Game companies simply need to do what’s right, not what’s most profitable in the short term.