When $60 Isn't Enough

As publishers find more ways to squeeze gamers for incremental revenue, the $60 boxed retail product is buying a smaller and smaller portion of the game experience.

by

Until recently, I was just fine with the digital era of gaming. I didn't mind downloadable content that shipped on the disc but needed to be purchased separately. I didn't mind unlocking online multiplayer modes with one-time use codes from new games or a $10 online pass. And despite some misgivings, I didn't even mind microtransactions or retailer-exclusive preorder incentives when they were done right.

But the rise of premium subscription services like Call of Duty: Elite and Electronic Arts' Season Ticket is a fee too far for me. My tolerance for incremental revenue streams has died a death of a thousand cuts, and I've lost all taste for publishers' short-sighted, exploitive, and (in the case of free-to-play games) downright predatory tactics in the marketplace.

If the subscribers are considered Elite, what does Activision think of the unwashed masses who paid "only" $60 for Modern Warfare 3?

In most of these cases, publishers will tell us that the game on the disc is every bit as good as it ever was, and that gamers are getting everything they're accustomed to--a full-featured product with sufficient bells and whistles to justify a $60 price tag. And to take their side for a moment, each one of these approaches is defensible.

After all, the difference between DLC on the disc or not is a question of semantics: Should transferring MB of data to access the content instead of KB really make a big difference to the consumer? As for combating used game sales, why shouldn't publishers take issue with the practice? These companies spend millions making and marketing a game to convince people to go to their local GameStops to buy the thing, only to have the retailer sell them a used copy from which the people who made the game won't see a dime. Those sales add up pretty quickly, given that GameStop annually rakes in $2 billion in used game sales, an amount roughly 13 percent the size of the US retail gaming market last year.

Even microtransactions and preorder incentives have had their place. Who could argue with Rock Band's a la carte approach that gave gamers access to thousands of extra songs, tailoring the game to their exact musical tastes? And I'll be the first to admit I preordered Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike just for the preorder disc that featured the old Star Wars arcade game.

But when taken together, every one of these incremental revenue streams that publishers so desperately crave might leave a bitter taste in a gamer's mouth. While the $60 we once spent for new retail games is arguably buying just as much, it certainly isn't buying any more than it did before. In fact, that same $60 is now undeniably buying a second-class game experience.

Rock Band did it right by focusing one extra revenue stream and implementing it in a consumer-friendly way.

If you don't buy the collector's edition with the extra content, the map packs, and the subscription service with the whiz-bang Web-based tools, you're only getting a fraction of the total game experience. And if that fraction doesn't meet your fancy and you trade the game in, you're getting less value in return because GameStop knows it's getting a disc with crippled online features. As a result, even consumers who always buy new games at full price are being punished by this scheme.

Publishers can say the core product doesn't suffer as a result of these initiatives, but the problem is one of perception. I perceive that my $60 is no longer enough for them. I perceive that their focus is shifting from making a game to making a business model. I perceive that the more desperate they become for my money, the more cynical, manipulative, and dehumanizing their approach to getting it will become. I can't even convince myself that I am a valued customer any longer; I am simply a potential revenue stream with an incidental pulse.

But the more examples I see of downright disrespectful cash grabs from publishers, the less common it becomes for my full-price purchase to get me a complete, cohesive gaming experience and the more I'll appreciate (and happily shell out for) the games that buck that trend: the Vanquishes, the Children of Eden, and the Shadows of the Damned.

Discussion

377 comments
Mr_Big_Boss
Mr_Big_Boss

This is my first time seeing this article, so much truth in it. We should see more articles like this on Gamespot.

lowkey254
lowkey254

First I must say that I would like to see more GS articles like this. Secondly I totally agree. That's what most of my own blogs are about.

killerjoe679
killerjoe679

@frankblack789 The singleplayer content they're locking out has nothing to do with the campaign and they said that most people won't be able to find all the manholes that activate the missions. So if you're buying it used you're probably getting the same experience as 75% of the people that buy it new. And it's a massive game anyway.

tyco_ex
tyco_ex

@Catalooch13: How about just not buying the game in the first place? I don't buy any games with excessive DLC, or any money-grabs. Remember people, capitalism only works correctly if you are an informed consumer. If you just buy crap willy-nilly without considering whether or not you are getting ripped off, you are only encouraging this kind of behavior. Also don't forget, crippled used sales hurts people who buy new also. I like to buy new games because I know I can sell them on e-bay or elsewhere if I'm done with them and recoup some of my costs. If I buy a game on launch for 60 dollars, and then sell it later for 30 dollars, I really only paid 30 dollars for the game. If the game lowers that used value, I'm effectively paying more to buy the new copy.

frankblack789
frankblack789

i can't believe it! i was super-excited about Rage but bethesda& id have found a way to completely RUIN this game for the single-player community. there is a significant amount of players who choose not to participate in multiplayer features that games offer. so i understand roping off multiplayer content on used game sales. i don't like it but i understand it. but roping off SINGLE-PLAYER content is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. if we, as gamers allow this to happen, what's next? what else will game developers take away from us? send bethesda & id a message. DO NOT buy this game. it's horrible to pass up the opportunity to play what is undoubtedly going to be a great game, but the gaming community has to take a stand. always-online DRM & roped-off single player content is NOT the answer to used game sales. developers CANNOT get away with that. in an age of dwindling resources & rising transportation costs, the video game industry has shown itself to be a leader in reducing, reusing & recycling by championing used video game sales. we can teach other industries that reusing a product & recycling it through a community is a viable alternative. we should all be proud of this accomplishment. i understand that game developers need to find some way to monetize used game sales. but this is NOT the solution. the solution is still out there game developers. you're smart people. find it...

djmadeira
djmadeira

This is so, so right. Johnathan Blow has been saying this for a years now.

keybladegamer
keybladegamer

60 usd is crazy for any game. and DLC not being free is outrageous. No wonder low cost apps and free to play games are doing well. It's because many aren't willing to pay 60 usd for (most of the time) a half finished game loaded with overpriced dlc and subscriptions.

kian681
kian681

I agree with the concerns expressed by several of the gamers here .I am concerned that $60.00 is not enough for many developers and publishers anymore .(yes I am talking about activision ) . Increasingly, gaming seems to be a big business and this means more and more copycat games, shallow experiences,generic landscapes and superficial characters . For most of us, $60.00 is still a fair amount of money and we do not have either the time or the money to play everything that comes out. We have to focus on the games that will provide the best gaming experience for us .Spending a lot of money on mediocre dlc or map packs and item packs is going to reduce the gaming experience (our love of the games) , shrink the money available to experience other games that are worth trying and deteriorate the quality of games to the point where they start to resemble network TV more and more .(no !!!!!) Some games such as the fallout series do provide entertaining and worthwhile dlc's that take the story and the character in different directions than the original game did and are worth embracing .Some are so bland and boring that they look like the developers simply recycled some of the content from the original game to make a fast buck . These should not be supported by gaming fans. Thats my rant for today.

noigel
noigel

F*ck yeah! and @naomha1: Hallelujah! :) One of the most, and at the same time less clear examples of this, and taking this very same strategy a step further is Assassins Creed franchise, where instead of explaining the "complete" story of Ezio in just 1 game and move forward to Desmond in what it should have been the 3rd and last game of the series, they divide Ezio's story in three $60 games (AC2, AC2:B & AC2:R) and try to sell them separately... that's what I personally call fraud...

jpnelson82
jpnelson82

Yeah, it seems that our US$ 60 is getting less built in content, but on the other hand I haven't been so offended yet that I thought I got screwed with my trousers on. I've run across some bad games out there(e.g. AC:B); but they were bad because they were poorly thought out kitbashes of other games, or were boring, not because they were killing me slowly with worthless DLC, yet.

lilflex1
lilflex1

the closest thing to getting anything extra from $60 is from pre-orders which some are better than most dlc's

digitalwill2000
digitalwill2000

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

naomha1
naomha1

Amen and can I get a hallelujah! DLC does not stand for downloadable content, it stands for Dudes are Lazy and Cheap. What ever happened to EXPANSION packs. Yeah. Bring them back, screw DLC. For real. Big business is ruining the gaming business and we are all suckers being taken in by all their shennanigans. EA just paid a sum shy of 1 billion dollars for a game company. What that tells me is that big name publishers are holding all the cards and all those creative people making the games are having to bow down and kiss the rings of these arses. While I'm not entirely sold on having all games digitally downloaded at this time, it sure cuts out these middle men publishers that want to rock our socks off with their prices. If every game company was able to self publish, I'd imagine most game prices would come down and DLC would be a thing of the past again. Expansion packs contained numerous amounts of goodies including expanding the game for lengthy periods of time. Also, bring back the demo. Seriously. No one wants to pay full price for a game that is absolutely terrible and no one wants the measly $5 price break buying it used from Gamestop. If Gamestop sells you a used game, it should warrant at least, at the minimum, a $20 or so price break, especially if codes have been used and expired. Greed is going to be the undermining of the game business.

jsly268
jsly268

@Catalooch13 What do you meeaan... You People

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

This article makes sense, Some of the things publishers do are justified/Other times it is a cash grab. but at the end of the day. Just don't buy the Extra DLC. or buy it. It is your choice. The videogame industry will once again crash. Let "nature" take its course...

turkey39470
turkey39470

Uh what else is new. They have always done this. They just don't bother hiding it anymore.

Uesugi-dono
Uesugi-dono

"people who made the game won't see a dime" - Well, no, they saw 60 bucks when they first SOLD it to the person who OWNED it and decided to SELL it. That's just capitalism.

bp968
bp968

I think its important to define what is "good" DLC and what is bad DLC. For example: Good: Fallout New Vegas DLC Expansions, 10$ each with 15-30 hours of gameplay each (honest hearts, etc) Bad: Civ5 map and civilization packs. 40$ worth of DLC that includes maps and scenarios 2K probably spent a couple days making, and a few civs that should have shipped with the base game. Shame on you 2K. Bad: any DLC that comes out on day one and isn't free. Its a slap in the face.

gambit001
gambit001

I tend to buy my games new at full price(usually \\$60) when they come out because I really want them, but I am extremely frustrated when there are tons of DLCs that come out shortly after and they are \\$10 or more. A full featured DLC that offers some real game-play should be at most \\$5 if not less or even free. And all those DLCs for items packs etc should definitely be free. My suggestion would be to have people register the games they buy on the company's site when they buy them as proof they bought it and from that point forward it's free for any extra content. I know this will never happen, but they need to follow suit with the way all the Indy companies and almost every app on iTunes do business, updates with new content should be free. I am however more than willing to pay out for an actual expansion to a game, however the word expansion is thrown around so loosely these days that even then I may feel otherwise. Love this article and it brings up what I believe is the biggest issue in the current gaming community. Also I feel that the only advantages you should have in a game are experience, skill, or time spent to earn that advantage and never the amount of extra money you have.

Catalooch13
Catalooch13

You people need to realize that most of this content is optional, so if it's too expensive then don't buy it?

drago2021
drago2021

Yeah. This is why I liked the good old arcade days better. Recently, publishers have made us gamers marketable. It's sad to admit, but true.

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

completely agree with everything said here...but i will for most games wait until they are much cheaper before buying them, most games just are not worth the full price...with exception to the games i am really looking forward to e.g. skyrim (which i believe will contain plenty of substance to make it a worthwhile investment)

cbb1018
cbb1018

i think bethesda has gone out of their minds with the collectors edition of skyrim i mean come on who wants to pay an additional $90 for a book a peice of cloth a dragon statue and a 10 minute long DVD really bethesda youve gone to far

mjbcfc
mjbcfc

Great article. Publishers like EA and Activision (CoD series) really do annoy me with their incesent greedy ways, I sincerely hope they both start to change their whole business model and begin valuing their loyal customers once again by ensuring their games are shipped to the highest quality possible rather than purposely creating ways of witholding chunks of their games to sell on at realease for high preium prices, they are a bloody joke! The even more annoying thing is that EA and Activision are two of the highest earners in the industry and so really don't need these cheap tricks to make some extra coin. DLC should be for in depth high quality expansion packs as released by the likes of Bioware and Bethesda.

gamer2190
gamer2190

Marvel Vs Capcom 3 was a huge let down in terms of value for for money..sure the game is freaking awesome but i paid almost \$100 for the collectors edition and i still got the same game with barren features and modes. I basically spent the extra $40 for the two dlc characters and a comic book (which was like 10 pages long). The hardened and prestige editions of black ops were good because they gave the customers who spent the extra money a good deal of extra content (like original zombie maps). Even now i happily spend cash on their map packs because i know that each of those map packs will probably provide me with hours of entertainment. i think game publishers should realize that when customers spend their extra money on a collectors edition of a game they expect the deserved fan service.

wars45
wars45

i wont be payin it

dotWithShoes
dotWithShoes

@Plo_Koon_basic As Activision has stated before, CoD: Elite, which includes online stat tracking, clans, multimedia functions, and others is a free service. Basically everything that EA's Battlelog includes, is included in CoD elite for free. Like I said, I've used Elite, it is nice, reminds me a lot of Bungie's stat tracking for Halo. @theshonen8899 I never said anything about its premium services did I? can't remember(honest).

IanNottinghamX
IanNottinghamX

Gaming companies and Gamestop are overreaching into gamers pockets too much and theyll use any excuse to increase the costs of gaming unnecessarily. The prices Gamestop sells their used games for is a complete rip off compared to what they give you back for a used game anyway. And the Companies wanna charge us the players for a profit that shouldnt even exist in the first place? Is anyone f***** seeing the s*** im talking about here? Gamestop is one of the worst things that happened to gaming period. They rip people off on preorders they rip people off on used games....If you end up paying $75 per title next gen blame gamestop...

ferretlord2177
ferretlord2177

and people wonder why im losing interest in current generation gaming in general. i don't care if im not supporting the slimy A holes whu have turned my favorite hobby into a shallow pit filled with nothing but disappointment, tired mechanics , casual gimmicks , flashy set pieces and of course you money burning in the middle. i wish i never gave these guys a dime. god i wish i could have all that money back. i could have built awesome gaming/multimedia pc setups for the whole family. i learned the free content on pc like classic console emulators and half-life 2 mods beat a pile of games i'll rarely play again besides some action RPGs.

dmfreak
dmfreak

littlejordan23 YOU shut up and grow up! Don't you ever realized how bad most of those DLC ripoffs are? Or do you only care for yourself? Back to the topic: now this is an article. This stupid business practice must be stopped because a lot of ignorant idiots like littlejordan23 doesn't give a damn on spending those garbage using their own or their parent's hard earned cash. And yes hooray for those niche and independent games because they will always give you a really complete game without those stupid add-ons. Most of my PSP games are from Falcom/Xseed Games btw. But for me, a $60 game is fine (even though I know it's very expensive) and an expansion one is fine as long as they're being distributed just right for the customers like us.

dmfreak
dmfreak

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

littlejordan23
littlejordan23

im so sick of people crying about dlc if u dont want it then stfu and keep playing the same old maps and get over it!

SillySkeleton
SillySkeleton

Finally someone has written an article on this issue. While DLC and subscription services are great when they're done right, too many developers are abusing the system to hold back content from the initial $60 purchase, and charge an additional fee for it. It's a slap in the face to the consumer, and it's getting worse as time goes on.

arlonborges
arlonborges

Finally someone whom sticked out and said something about what the gaming companies are doing. It's impressive how much DLC's the games are receiveng these days, and how these companies are giving us less on the game we buy. Actually a game now is costing 80 to 100 bucks if you want to really see everything the game has to offer, and when you do it, they release a sequel. It's what Activision is doing right now, releasing a new map pack a few months before the release of a total new Call of Duty... and don't think it will not sell, and that is the real problem. The consumers are not thinking ahead, they are not spenting any time to analyse their actions and the consequences on the future of our beloved industry. If you don't want to pay 80 bucks on a game in the next generation, stop buying every DLC, every map pack released to your game... or at least make a complaint to the companies, since they are launching games for 60 bucks, and 2 months later (or even less) there's a DLC or a map pack that you have to buy... no one creates a map pack or a DLC in 2 months... they were done when the game was released, but the companies hold it for some time and then release it to charge more... let's think a little about what we are doing since in the near future we will be the ones suffering the consequences of what we do now.

djimenez0628
djimenez0628

I don't spend $60 on a game anyway. I just wait until they come down to like 5 bucks and buy 'em then.

soulless4now
soulless4now

Finally, an article that understands. I'll never be one for downloadable content because it simply doesn't interest me. If I were to ever pay $60 for a game, I want the complete package and not just a piece of the pie.

ker28
ker28

Great article Brendan. It's hard not to feel like gamers are just walking wallets now, and that's a sad feeling, especially for those of us who have been through the better days (when every game wasn't turned in to a game-per-year franchise). I try to do my part by avoiding obvious cash grab ploys, but it seems like it won't be enough to turn the industry around. Services like Call of Duty: Elite and the EA Season Pass are just another step in the wrong direction. I'm worried that my longtime hobby and passion is only ruining itself.

bp968
bp968

Look at the PC gaming world through Steam. Steam has tons of great indy games that sell for 20$ or less that often have more polish and a longer, better gaming experience then the 60$ "AAA" titles (I loathe to use the term triple A for most of them). I think we are going to see a strong shift away from the major publishers towards these small indy studios that are putting out such great work. So I say buy the indy games and do what another poster suggested and wait 3-6 months for the game to hit 30$ (for console games) or a steam sale for PC games. I picked up a years worth of gaming (20+ games) for less then 100$ during the last steam sale. Time to show EA/Ubi/etc that we can't be endlessly squeezed for revenue in exchange for crap games.

DJMetal947
DJMetal947

gamespot... brandon... your a hero this showed up in my email and i never pay xtra for videogame content this is how i felt all along and its getting rediculous

mike12431
mike12431

The sad thing is, even with all these complaints, so many people are just going to blow this off and continue feeding off of publishers.

theshonen8899
theshonen8899

@dotWithShoes What are you talking about? We know nothing at all about the Elite's premium "gold" service. Seriously, go on they're site, it says right there: "Why are we not revealing all of the features that are part of the premium service today? Simple. Because the service was designed to be deeply integrated with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and will not be demonstrable until we are closer to the launch of the game."

BelaidKL
BelaidKL

This is why people download games from the internet... to avoid the price-tag. If these companies make everything more affordable and more customer friendly then they wont have to suffer millions worth of dollar / pounds with piracy and hunting down the pirates...make games cheaper & fairer, you make more money & the customers happier

Spybreak
Spybreak

Good thing we've got competitive retailers, I mean just have the willpower to hold off and grab it 3 to 5 months later and you don't have to worry about that big ol' 60 dollar price point.

booty56
booty56

@Rabastu, Me and my friends do that when we get the new call of duty map pack, or something we really like

Frimmel
Frimmel

One of the things that will help is if we stop using their (corporations of all stripes) term for us -- consumers. I've seen it often in these comments.

A customer is always right.

A consumer is always exploited.

edwin92
edwin92

*Cough *Cough DukeNukem:Forever

BEREBOBE
BEREBOBE

This is only black-ops creators; we all know they don't give a sh*t. Look at Rockstar however, one year later and they are still giving us dlc packs for red dead redemption - For absolute free... For appreciation of they're fans.. anyways call of duty isn't even fun anymore, maybe if we stop buying their stuff, they might learn something

Plo_Koon_basic
Plo_Koon_basic

@dotWithShoes , I'm pretty sure that CoD:Elite is not a free service, but a paid for service for the "elite" or as i will put it stupid people. Which ever it is it don't matter to me, i'm not falling for it. But i will say that i completely agree to what the guy has wrote.