The Cost of Doing Business: Video Games Cost Too Much

That decision was not very popular with gamers, largely because most gamers consider the $59.99 price point for new games to be too high. They prefer to spend less by purchasing a used copy, though the decision by game publishers to build-in limitations to access for the contents of a game has cooled the market considerably and, not surprisingly, has lead some state governments to begin requiring that retailers place stickers on the outside of used games that clearly identify titles that contain registration requirements and the fact that the consumer may be required to pay additional funds for a license to access those parts of the game, and that access is NOT included in the copy that they hold in their hands. That, as you can imagine, was not a popular idea for retailers...

If you believe that the move in any way resulted in a "win" for the industry, well, no, it did not. The pre-owned games market continues to thrive, and while the day may eventually arrive when games change to an all-digital distribution platform, until that day does arrive, publishers can expect the competition from pre-owned sales to continue. What is worse though, is the fact that game publishers may be badly underestimating the impact that moving to a digital distribution system exclusively will have on their industry. Recent surveys of gamers indicate that while they are happy to buy pre-owned copies of games today, and even to pay the license/pass fee in order to gain access to the online side of the pre-owned titles that they buy, when the day comes at which they no longer have a choice in the matter, their reaction is not likely to be what game makers are anticipating, which is no change in game sales figures.

Recent surveys suggest that the forced move to digital distribution will have a profound impact.

"I buy a lot of games used, and play them, and a lot of the time I pay for the online pass because even though I have to pay an extra $10 or $15 for that, it still works out to be less than what I had to pay if I bought the game brand new. But if they really do move to an online digital game ownership system, I can tell you that I will be playing a lot fewer games," Mark Thomson told GameWatch in its June 2012 survey.

To understand how the sale of pre-owned games is being perceived by the average consumer it may help to take in the point-of-view of the average consumer. In the video above, which was created by gamer Randall M. Rueff and posted to his YouTube Channel you get what is perhaps the most common view of pre-owned games and the entry into the field by retailer Walmart -- clearly Mr. Reuff is happy with the results of his online shopping experience with Walmart, and that experience is by no means uncommon.

"If you look at my games on my game shelf at home you are going to see all of the games in different game series' like GTA, Assassin's Creed, Hitman, Fable, Gears of War, COD, Battlefield, Madden, and the NBA games, but you will also see games like the Batman Arkham games, LA Noire, and other big titles but also a lot of small titles like Blur, Brink, Skate, Deus Ex, Red Dead, Mafia, and Lego Harry Potter, and I am telling you none of those games would be on some imaginary digital game shelf.

"Forcing us to pay full retail value for digital games we cannot loan to our friends or borrow from them, rent or buy used? Look, I liked the Mafia games, and I liked Red Dead, and I think that the Lego games a awesome, but I don't like them enough to actually buy them at full retail price. That is not going to happen. So forcing gamers into a position where they have no choice but to pay retail for games that they then have to download before they can even play them? You really have to want to play a game to tolerate being forced to wait six hours for it to download and install on your console is what I am saying, and me? I don't want them that bad."

== Sales of Aged Games ==
The recent sale on of Interplay's historic catalog of games is a perfect example of gamers seeking bargains for games, but it also may be a harbinger of things to come. Gamers got to decide what the games were worth to them and then pay a penny or more to get 8 games, among which are BioWare's first title, Shattered Steel, and classic games like Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Sim City 2000, the Might and Magic games, the list is very long, and the games are what was, when they were new, the AAA titles of the year! Considering that the average price being paid during the sale was about $13, that worked out to be a good deal for both gamers and GOG, as well as the publishers who ended up making sales that they otherwise would never have made. Gamers made out like bandits, especially with respect to the game collections being sold during the sale, averaging around a dollar each for the 32 games in the most popular collection, which included the Fallout series, Freespace 2, and many more.

Based upon comments being made by gamers in surveys and online, these sweeping changes that publishers hope to make in order to gain full control over their respective markets and games are likely to result in fewer sales, and a smaller market overall, and a lot of games that are otherwise profitable will become marginal, which in the end will hurt gamers the most because games that might otherwise get made under the current system will never be green-lit under the new system.

Even more interesting is the choices that gamers will start making as a matter of course, which in the end may very well promote the sort of sales that GOG just made -- with games waiting a few years until they can purchase the games new for a few dollars -- considerably LESS than the $10 or $15 pass fees publishers presently command for their games.

In the end the entire games market is very likely going to end up being the punchline to a joke that is based upon an old English Proverb: Be Careful what you Wish For -- You might get it.

* This is an average amount; depending upon the game and how popular it was the amount could be more or less, but mostly it was less.

** Members of the PowerUp Rewards Program frequently received double-value on games that they brought back for in-store credit, the value being added to their PUR card and then used to make purchases in the store.