Recently, we were informed that Microsoft might be going to make it so that large games would require an always-on connection to block used games. Some people think this is a terrible idea. While I believe it is a good idea, I also think there could be other ways of going about this. Some third-party retailers rely on this used game transaction as a large business profit. So, I’ve had a couple ideas brewing in my head.
Many of us have known games are going digital for quite some time. Companies like Valve and EA have created clients like Steam and Origin to provide such a service and consoles each have their respective markets as well. However, there is a flaw in all of this: Most new games cost the same online as they do in stores. Instead of paying for a physical copy you can shelve, you end up with the ability to get something “on demand.” (Based on how fast your internet is, it might just be better to get up, go out, and get the physical copy.) By going digital, a game is almost always accompanied with a ID Key per game so your account can be flagged as “owning” the game. Keys for games have been around for a long time now. They are used for combating several things. The two large topics are used games and piracy. The war on used games (by developers) is what I’ll be focusing on.
I remember when you would have to insert the same CD used during installation in order to play a game. However, this didn’t stop people from selling their keys back to a store. A complete no-go on preventing used games. Recently, we’ve started to see a slightly more effective method where games require you to log a key (sold with the game) into an online account owned by you. In all of these accounts, most people check off “I agree” boxes when creating an account not even knowing what they’ve just agreed to. This makes it easy to get a much larger majority of users to agree to things so long as they don’t upset the people who sit and really read what they are signing off on. The part that pertains to all this is where some agreements say you cannot share the game you’ve just bought legally or the account it is tied to. In fact, you’re not supposed to even install it on multiple devices you own sometimes. See where this is going? These terms are very specific on what you can and can’t do with what you’ve bought. This also permanently ties a game to one account when you submit the key it came with. By doing so, developers manage to accomplish one massive goal: no used games! All of this also applies to downloading a digital game.
I believe digital games should be sold at a reduced price. I see reason in paying for a premium if I get to be one of the first to install and play when a game launches [this generally only pertains to massive multiplayer online (MMO) or server games where many people are needed to contribute.] However, if I buy a digital game months after its been released, the only thing I pay for by paying full price is the luxury of being lazy and not having to go out to a store. I sacrifice the ability to shelve a game as a trophy. I sacrifice the feeling of eagerly waiting for a game I’ve seen previews of. I sacrifice the feeling I get on the drive home with a new game in my lap. However, I do realized a digital store has the ability to provide many more titles. Knowing that, I know there are a lot of games I would be wasting my time visiting a shop for. Digital games are more easily stored in quantity when compared to a physical counterpart. You need less space in the physical world to store the same amount of games on a server than to find shelf space cases you would have in your average game store.
One of the leading factors behind the price in games today is used games. Developers generally don’t make money when a game is sold used or handed off to a friend. So, it starts very simple. A developer raises the price because they want to make more since people share. Less people buy the game and share even more. They raise the price yet again to balance the effect. Rinse and repeat this process, and now you have games going from $30 to $60. The prices for digital copies usually matches that of physical ones. The only positive side that might come out of this is the increased sales of games from putting a game for sale at a discounted price. However, if you plan on selling things at a discounted price, you still have to make enough to profit. If your average game costs $60, you only make $25 off of every copy you sell, and you go on sale for 50% (like Steam does quite often and is what makes it appealing with the “cheap prices”), you now have to sell twice as many in order to make a profit before paying off your employees. A method to meet that quota would be to put a timer on the sale; people then feel almost obligated to impulse buy. Generally, sales are worth it to either get rid of stock or to help things sell quicker. Though, all of the discounted prices still don’t mean they are cheaper. In the end, it’s just a temporary markdown.
As far as I can tell, the most successful digital game seller is Steam. However, it is still only digitized a store. It has not made games cheaper but merely more accessible to wallets. If every game sold on Steam was discounted (compared to in-store prices) due to being digitized, then they’d have changed how games were sold. Without the need for physical content, they eliminate a huge chunk of expenses and are able to provide a store that has a massive library which would not be possible in your average store. The same goes for the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Store; they are not exempt from this. Knowing this, we see where sales can be allowed. Reduce the price as incentive of being a digital copy, and people buy it without caring they are buying “one license” rather than a “share-with-anyone-near-you license.” They’ll see it as both “getting a deal” and “not having to go out to get it.”
All this said, a digital game SHOULD be able to reduce the prices permanently since people can’t share the game — discounting any form of piracy.
“Locks are for honest people.” I strongly believe this is true for locks both in the physical and digital realm. If it is protected, only the honest people won’t get into it.
I’ve thought of some options that might allow the re-sale of games as used games where the developers could still make money.
Option 1: (~a bit flawed~)
Charge stores a fee for the resale of a game. Portions of all profits sold go to a developing company right? So. what if when the shops who bought the games back had to pay a percentage of what they are paying to the developers. This would create something similar to a royalties system. Every time it was sold, it would generate royalties. This, of course, does not eliminate anyone’s ability “donate” a game.
Option 2: (~micro-transactions~)
This one exists already. The beauty and attraction of Free-To-Play (F2P) games to developers found commonly among MMOs and mobile games is that the game itself is free. You can monetize in game items and bind them to an account(/character) making it impossible to “hand” something off. On top of that, you can put timers on the items sold. This causes players to have to buy them again if they like it.
Option 3: (~more likely to work but would require an internet connection.~)
If I bought a game for $60 and it required a key, I could use the key like some games have now. This would bind it to my account. When I finish with said game I would go into my account settings and enable my key to be “bought”. This would allow whomever I give the key to the ability to buy the used game for something like $20. When he completed the transaction, it would deactivate my account’s ability to play the game. Every person who is not the first person (me) would have to pay this “used game key” fee.