Game Column: Game Makers Gotta Get Paid

Over the past week or so, two issues have bubbled up and they have put many gamers on different sides of the same fence. It all has to do with publishers and developers and how they are reimbursed for the content they provide us. It seems like a combination of feelings of protection for the industry we love and those of entitlement when it comes to content for the games we buy.

Amazon and Toys R Us have both thrown their hats into the used games ring, with rumblings that Best Buy will follow, and many gamers, after pointing to the fact that they are happy that GameStop will have some competition, have been reinvigorated in their claims that the now-expanded market only hurts game makers. Yes, sales are not made on used games sold by the GameStops of the world. The fact that used cars, cds, movies and host of other goods have been available, and probably purchased by this same group, for years and those industries have coped with it.

I think gamers fail to realize that, despite the lost sales, having your products name out there and having it be available to the most people possible is sometimes more important. There are plenty of younger gamers and gamers on budgets who cannot afford to buy new games at full price constantly. A used game market and game trading services like Goozex, can open up the possibility of those gamers playing more new games or play games that they would not normally try at full price. Once getting an opportunity to play a title, gamers may be more likely to buy the next title in a series once they know they like it. I had this scenario play out with the Motorstorm franchise. I was not willing to roll the dice on the original Motorstorm for $60 as the marketplace is always cluttered with racing gamers. Having the chance to pick the game up from GameStop for a mere $14 and really enjoying it, I was compelled to buy the sequel, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift, at the full retail price as soon as it was available.

While gamers are quick to defend the industry when it comes to used game sales and how they want game makers to get paid for work they do, they do not use the same logic when it comes to downloadable content. No content for which you are simply downloading an unlock code, as seems to be the case in the upcoming Resident Evil 5, which is inexcusable. I mean real content that adds value and playtime to a game which was not available at the time of release.

Downloadable content has become a part of most major releases in the video game world. Sometimes it goes well, like Critereon’s Burnout Paradise. Sometimes it goes poorly, like Oblivion’s horse armor. Either way, the game makers are using this new delivery system to make more money on the titles they release. For the most part, it seems that many gamers get very angry with this new reality even when it is a company like Criterion deciding to charge for content after providing free DLC for an entire year previous.

Many gamers, especially the truly hardcore, seem to want to protect the industry and make sure that game makers make money on every sale of every game but, at the same time, love to complain about paying those same people money for the DLC they provide. These two ideas are directly in opposition of each other yet many gamers will argue the two points to the death. I think there is a single point from which these two clashing ideas meet: value.

The cost of gaming, with consoles costing as much as $600 at launch and the cost of a gme rising to $60 on the PS3 and Xbox 360 from $50 in the previous generation. Gamers want to support the people who make the games they enjoy so much but, often enough, it seems that, to truly enjoy a title, you are spending more like $70 – $80 to get the “full” experience. So, gamers go out to buy a game but know that $60 is not going to get the job done, they know they will probably be picking up some new levels and a map pack at some point. Each of those cost $10. That means they need to find a way to offset that cost up front. That is where sometimes the lower cost of used games or waiting as short as a week or two to get the game at $40 to $50 is the best option for many gamers.

Obviously, as time goes on, prices for playing and making games rise and someone has to pay for it. It always seemed odd to me that game makers don’t realize the fact that $60 is the highest retail price and not the only retail price they can charge for a new game. Perhaps a game would be better served to sell for $30 to $40 and sell a few copies rather than debut at $60 and not make a peep on the sales front. At the same time, gamers should realize that, whether it be a game or a new costume for their character, they ultimately have the ability to just say “no.” If the game or DLC is priced too high or just not worth it, don’t buy it. Buying something, regardless of how much complaining proceeds it, is a “yes” vote in the eyes of almost any business.

Whether it be the cost of new games or the cost of DLC. You, the gamer, are the one who decides what you spend money on. You are both the solution and the problem in many cases. Just be mindful of what you buy and support game makers who make good games and provide good content. You know the difference between meaningful content and horse armor. Now act like it.