Home Gaming Time to rethink gaming and money

Time to rethink gaming and money

5 min read
60

When I started out playing games, things were pretty simple.  There were game developers, retail game stores, and gamers.  I could go to a store, buy a (typically) awesome game, play it, and lend it to friends or sell it back to the same store.  Now, everyone believes piracy and the internet are killing gaming.  Stop telling me this crap and change your mindset.

I’m not just a gamer, I’m also a bookworm, movie buff and music aficionado.  All of these industries are apparently being killed by piracy and the internet.  Music can be downloaded for free, as can movies, books and games.  For years, everyone was convinced that music was going to die – blame Napster, it’s OVER!  And yet, musicians are still making money, and I might argue that they are even closer to their fans due to social media.

Amanda Palmer (a musician and one half of the Dresden Dolls) did an interesting TED talk about the relationship between artists and fans, and it involved rethinking the whole scenario.  She actually releases her albums for free online.  She also had one of the most successful Kickstarter projects.  According to her, it comes down to asking, and to recognizing who your fans are.  Sure, someone might find you because they download your music.  But, if you come to town, they’ll most likely give you a place to sleep for the night, or pay to see your concert, or give free publicity to their thousands of twitter followers and friends.

Neil Gaiman also gave an interesting talk on the topic, this time relating to books.  He spoke about music and literature, about content and experience.  He made two notable points for our situation in gaming.  

First, our society has moved from a situation of scarcity to that of abundance.  This is the case in books, but also in gaming – if I’d had more money when I was younger, I probably could have played all the great games that came out each year, with time to spare.  Now, there just simply aren’t enough hours in the day, let alone the funds to purchase them all; we’ve got indie games, AAA titles, MMOs, etc.  The issue now comes down to selection – which game to play and why, finding the signal in the noise.  And, like favorite authors or musicians, finding that game can be tricky.

A world in which anyone can publish anything, in which there’s too much information is one in which we no longer rely on gatekeepers as we once did, but we rely on guides and on recommenders to point to what’s good. We rely on word of mouth. And we rely on luck.

Second, we need to give people a reason to buy something beyond simply content.  Anyone can go online and get a pirated version of just about any game.  There has to be a reason to spend hard-earned money on a piece of someone else’s intellectual property.  Sure, if the game is really great most of us feel the urge to support the developers and buy the game.  However, I am usually most motivated by something unique or special.  A collector’s edition with a bobble-head, or even stickers and a keychain.  It doesn’t have to be big and expensive, but sometimes it helps when it is.  As Gaiman explains:

I suspect that one of the things that we should definitely be doing in digital in the world of publishing is making books – physical books – that are prettier, finer, and better. That we should be fetishizing objects. We should be giving people a reason to buy objects, not just content if we want to sell them objects. Or we can just as easily return to the idea that one does not judge a book by its cover.

(You can watch the video if you like, or read the transcript if you’re interested)

In general, I don’t buy most second-hand things – not books, movies or games.  Nothing against them, it just doesn’t really seem to happen that way.  So I buy new, for the most part, and it better be worth my while.  If I buy something, it’s generally for one of two reasons – I’m already in love with a franchise/developer and must get the latest release, or I’ve gotten time to play with the game/seen awesome gameplay videos (by people I actually trust or like).  

So, maybe the gaming industry needs to stop worrying about piracy and DRM.  Let people play games.  If they like your game, they will find a way to give you money, even if it’s just by ordering collector’s editions of your next games.  Make buying a game something worthwhile – spend the time to work out any glitches in your game, but also give me a sticker, or a matchbook with a QR code for something, or a mousepad.  These things are cheap, but make the experience unique and desirable.  Let people ‘upgrade’ their pirated version to a paid version of a game – sometimes it’s just the idea of starting over or losing progress that keeps people away.  If you need help funding a game, ask for help!  Kickstart, crowd fund, whatever.  Sure, there will always be people who think crowd funding is horrible, but there will be just as many people who are willing to throw money at you if you’ll make something worth their while. (If I found out that the reason we haven’t gotten a Beyond Good and Evil 2 game was funding, I’d Kickstart the crap out of it!)  

Stop worrying about how to make gamers pay for games, start thinking about how to let them.

Last Updated: June 20, 2013

60 Comments

  1. Admiral Chief Groot Wors

    June 20, 2013 at 13:03

    I say make a dev house publish game on their own website, then you can download and play, if you like, you can pay them. No middle man, just hosting fees.

    Reply

  2. Admiral Chief Groot Wors

    June 20, 2013 at 13:04

    And bring back those BIG gaming boxes of the old days, I STILL have my collection from those days!!!!

    Hands up if you know what I am talking about

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief Groot Wors

      June 20, 2013 at 13:04

      *raises hands*

      Reply

      • Rinceyouropinion

        June 20, 2013 at 13:11

        Raises hand!

        Reply

        • That Tall Twit

          June 20, 2013 at 15:54

          *Raises both hands*

          Reply

    • Happy Hamster

      June 20, 2013 at 13:24

      This?

      Reply

      • Happy Hamster

        June 20, 2013 at 13:25

        Wing Commander series was awesome

        Reply

        • HvR

          June 20, 2013 at 13:31

          Couldn’t agree more.

          Except for the movie, yuck!!!

          Reply

          • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

            June 20, 2013 at 13:33

            I think I skipped school to see that movie… it was atrocious!

          • Brady miaau

            June 20, 2013 at 14:19

            One of the best B (H?) grade sci-fi movies I have ever seen!

            Superb, bad acting, bad script, the lot.

          • HvR

            June 20, 2013 at 14:20

            B-grade normally doesn’t cost $30mill in the late 90’s

          • Brady miaau

            June 20, 2013 at 14:34

            Not all B grade movies are intended to be B Grade.

            Hobgoblin!

            Roller Blade 7!

      • Admiral Chief Groot Wors

        June 20, 2013 at 13:32

        OOOOOH YEAH!!!!!!

        Excuse me, made a mess in my pants. BRB

        (this collection is over 90000000)

        Reply

      • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

        June 20, 2013 at 13:40

        *Drool*

        Reply

      • Trevor Davies

        June 20, 2013 at 14:27

        That reminds me, I still have my Ultimate Doom poster neatly folded away.

        Reply

    • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

      June 20, 2013 at 13:25

      *Raises hands*

      Reply

    • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

      June 20, 2013 at 13:27

      Big gaming boxes and massive booksized manuals. I really miss those manuals….

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief Groot Wors

        June 20, 2013 at 13:32

        Yeah, screw PDF, I want to feel the blerrie paper manual!

        Reply

      • HvR

        June 20, 2013 at 13:41

        Remember the black and purple Starcraft manual, half a bloody novel included explaining the whole backstory. It was brilliant.

        Actually a game I pirated (as poor school boy I was desperate) until I saw the flip box with the Protos cover art and the manual and the cool CGI move clips (not included in the pirated edition). Got enough money together and bought it the next month.

        Reply

    • Trevor Davies

      June 20, 2013 at 13:30

      A big game box, with cool stuff in it!

      Reply

  3. Rinceyouropinion

    June 20, 2013 at 13:11

    Yes. It is time to rethink. Couldn’t agree more. You get dicks out there like Cliffy B who think they know everything, but what they know comes from closing their eyes and humming a really really loud tune in the hope what has been happening for the past 10 years will keep on going. Rather damn amusing I say, and sad.

    Reply

  4. OVG

    June 20, 2013 at 13:18

    I had to cut and paste this from a comment in Kotaku to save me time.

    Tad-bravo says

    “M$ was doing what’s best for the game industry??

    Who the fuck cares about the game industry? what matters is the
    gamers. If huge corporations stop making games that magically cost them $
    500.000.000 to make then so be it.

    A good game doesn’t need Hollywood writers, doesn’t need Hollywood
    actors for voice overs and motion cap and certainly doesn’t need to cost
    hundreds of millions of dollars to make.

    The best games in history were not big budget ones and never will be
    so fuck the big corporations if they can’t survive without making
    millions of dollar profits on our back. ”

    What he said.

    Reply

    • Brady miaau

      June 20, 2013 at 13:53

      What he / she / gender neutral said indeed.

      Inderdaad! (I steal, but hey)

      Reply

  5. Warren Ross

    June 20, 2013 at 13:21

    This old chestnut. 😀

    I’m still of the opinion that, if somebody has made something creative (a game, a song, a book) and feels that they want to charge a fee for others to have the rights to enjoy the fruits of their labour, that they’re entitled to be paid for what they do. This means that hopefully the creator can continue making a living doing creative things.

    Real life is a bit more complicated. Game prices in particular, have become somewhat difficult to defend. But gamers sang this same “too expensive” song back when all games cost R299 on the PC, and even before then. Just because something is too expensive to be palatable for you shouldn’t give you the right to just use it without re-imbursing the creative people behind it. I also don’t think you should need additional motivation beyond the content itself, because that’s where the bulk of the effort was spent.

    On the other hand, as consumers we’ve become unwilling to pay all the in-between fees around distribution, marketing etc. Or, at least, we’re more aware that it’s not just the creative people getting paid, but the entire human machine surrounding them that gets the content to the consumers (and quite often the creative folks get the least share of the profits).

    I think that kind of awareness is a good thing: developers can make their stuff available online independently, or through stores like Steam. There are more legitimate avenues than ever before, and gamers seem to genuinely embrace these platforms (and they should, when you see the frequency of the specials that put some very high-end titles into some very affordable packages).

    In many ways, developers are already addressing these changing needs in the marketplace by offering different options for getting your content, across many platforms and many different payment gateways.

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief Groot Wors

      June 20, 2013 at 13:35

      Well said dude, well said.

      I’d buy direct from the devs

      Reply

    • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

      June 20, 2013 at 13:39

      I’d buy direct as well.

      Reply

  6. RitterBruder

    June 20, 2013 at 13:24

    Ohhh this kitty’s got a whip !! meowwww !!

    Reply

  7. Yolanda Green

    June 20, 2013 at 13:27

  8. Happy Hamster

    June 20, 2013 at 13:28

    If i had to wake up next to Amanda Palmer i would crap my pants at her eyebrows

    Reply

  9. Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

    June 20, 2013 at 13:37

    I was speaking about something like this earlier. After reading about the Xbox turnaround especially with the 2nd hand thing I sat wondering why PC is restricted.

    If, fo arguments sake, I’m on console, I can buy a game, play it and then lend it to a friend to try out. If they like it they may just end up buying it themselves.

    On PC this is simply not possible. You cannot resell, there is no trade option for devs to get involved in and if you “lend out” your game it’s piracy. Why the discrepancy?

    Piracy is not more rife on PC than on consoles. Consoles suffer the same level of piracy except on console it’s ok to borrow your games out to someone. So those figures never get counted. Yet the console industry isn’t failing but rather flourishing. Consoles have taken over in terms of amounts of gamers in total and profits. It’s why devs prefer to make games for consoles as of late. It’s where the money is.

    But people lend and borrow games like crazy. Those devs don’t see extra money for a game lent yet they scream and shout that they lose sales on PC and that PC is so rife with piracy that it isn’t worth it. Yet they turn a blind eye when it comes to the console games again because they know it will put light on the lie they try to tell everyone.

    Look. Piracy is not right and demaninding your games for free and never paying a cent is hurting the people who put their hard work in to it and yes, it even chips away at potential earnings.

    My point I am trying to make is that piracy isn’t to blame here. Perhaps it’s the exact opposite that is to blame. DRM is to blame because PC has the strictest form of DRM yet they claim PC has the highest form of piracy. Consoles have almost zero DRM and they have the lowest form of piracy (in a sense). There is a definite correlation there that I think devs and publishers need to investigate.

    Reply

    • HvR

      June 20, 2013 at 13:49

      The guys normally decrying the piracy on PC and that there isn;t any money in PC gaming are the console devs who never made a proper PC titles (duck and shoot, duck and shoot)

      Biggest names in the industry was built on the PC platform in a time where piracy was at ridiculous levels and profit margins were a whole lot less than today.

      Reply

    • Brady miaau

      June 20, 2013 at 13:49

      Console’s require a hardware mod to accept pirated games. I think that is a deterrent to many people, me included.

      what are the consequences, if any, of your console going online and the hardware mod is detected?

      Reply

      • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

        June 20, 2013 at 13:52

        Not talking about piracy as in actual pirated games for consoles. On console you can lend the game out. No funny business. No nothing. Lend, pop in to console. Play.

        You don’t actually need to pirate it. That’s what I am trying to point out. Lending on PC is seen as bad and piracy but on consoles it’s ok. Consoles do better than PC in terms of game sales. What does that lead us to believe? That the ability to lend and share games creates a positive environment that can grow. Restrictive DRM like on PC causes that industry to slow and ultimately fail

        Reply

        • Brady miaau

          June 20, 2013 at 13:55

          Ah, missed that. Did not think of that side of it. But while your friend is playing you cannot play. That is great and fine.

          But yes, try that on a PC.

          Thanks for the thoughts

          Reply

          • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

            June 20, 2013 at 14:05

            Yeah I understand that portion of it and it’s a bit of a hurdle. However consoles don’t allow lending of digital purchases so a PC can do the same thing. Disc based we should be allowed to lend out.

            But if two people can play it at the same time or only one at a time. There is still a 2nd person who didn’t pay for they game they are borrowing. The industry is still failing to grasp the fact that console is doing better not because it’s harder to pirate but rather because it’s so easy to try a game from various devs with no commitment at first and if it’s good you most likely will want to buy the next game because heck, if you don’t like it you can sell it again.

            But yeah, PC is a bit more tough to maintain control.. but then again also not really. The tech is all the same at the end of the day. Games come on disc or in digital format.

          • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

            June 20, 2013 at 14:21

            You know what I reckon. Sell games for $40 if it’s DRM’d beyond belief and sell it at $60 DRM free.

          • Brady miaau

            June 20, 2013 at 14:33

            yeah, why not?

            Also, why should I pay 50 Euro for Heart of the swarm digital edition?

        • Zubayr Bhyat

          June 21, 2013 at 12:01

          That’s why I get frustrated when people like CliffyB come out with stupid comments about devs losing money. That’s how they get popular, be lending and sharing.

          Reply

    • Trevor Davies

      June 20, 2013 at 14:11

      I think devs & publishers suffer far more from bootleg copies of games being sold in markets all over the world, than from someone downloading a copy online, which are all cracked anyway – so what has their DRM done there?

      Reply

      • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

        June 20, 2013 at 14:16

        Yeah dude. I hear you. DRM has done nothing to stop this. All DRM does is make legitimate gamers suffer and then seek other avenues of enjoying their games.

        Reply

        • Trevor Davies

          June 20, 2013 at 14:24

          Exactly. I’ll never forget installing Far Cry again (from disk) a few years back & when I tried to run it I got an error msg telling me that because my ORIGINAL disk was in a dvd-writer, it won’t launch because I could be a filthy pirate. Oh the DRM! It took me less than 5 minutes to find & download a no-CD patch. It doesn’t even take a minute to de-DRM my Kindle books.

          Reply

  10. Galbedir

    June 20, 2013 at 13:37

    Witcher 2…one of the best original buys I ever got. The standard box came with a metal coin from Witcher, artbook, music cd, 2 paper foldouts for while you install the game…oh and yes, the game…Witcher 3 has my money 110% when it gets released if its the same. <3 CDPROJEKT

    Reply

  11. fred

    June 20, 2013 at 13:45

    The problem is that people feel that because something is in digital form they have the right to consume and distribute it freely.

    Reply

    • Trevor Davies

      June 20, 2013 at 14:07

      I don’t want to distribute something I bought digitally, what I want is the ability to make a backup or use it on another medium. DRM tries to prevent me from doing something so simple, and the retailer wants to paint me as a criminal for doing so.

      Reply

  12. Brady miaau

    June 20, 2013 at 13:46

    I read a lot. I buy 2nd books, some obscure Sci-fi from the 60’s or something not easy to get otherwise. so what?

    I believe, and I think the music industry is proving this point, that if a content creator gives us something we truly like, they will be supported. Look at Lady Gaga. I have no idea what music she does, but her albums sell very well. She still sells CD’s. And she is massive into social media and is close to fans.

    There is something to this argument of over abundance of content to choose from. I hear music on the radio from “big names” that I do not know or recognise, same with books, games and so forth. There is just so much to choose from: what percentage of it is crap? I have tried to read some free e-books, the idea being that you like the first book and then buy the second. Highly rated books, too. (Who owns the rating systems?). No editor, bad grammar in places and dodgy pacing. I have yet to finish one of the three I started. Yet I bought a series of 7 books without blinking in December. Because it was worth the money.

    to sum up, make stuff worth buying. I know that many copies of games are downloaded and pirated. How many are played for more than two or three hours?

    Reply

  13. Trevor Davies

    June 20, 2013 at 13:59

    I like the point about signal to noise. We have so many entertainment options available to us now it’s not funny. So the more money I’m spending on something the more discerning I have to be, because I hate feeling like I’ve wasted my time & money on something.

    As long as you’re selling something I want, the price is fair, and my budget allows for it, then I’ll buy what you’re selling. Even if I don’t have the time for it now, because I still like my shiny shinys. What constitutes a fair price differs from person to person though.

    I’ve switched to buying most of my entertainment digitally because it’s cheaper, more convenient & cuts down on clutter. What annoys me is that I’m no longer in control of it, because of the story that I now haven’t bought a product, but I’ve bought a license or service.

    Reply

  14. Rock789

    June 20, 2013 at 15:42

    Great article Zoe – totally agree. Can still remember buying games on ‘floppy disks’ back in the day (yes, I was around then!), oblivious to any marketing, etc. from the publishers and just simply buying it because the package looked cool. Was so much simpler back then. 🙂

    I love games! Always have since I got my first PC 25 years ago (ok, now I feel old!). And that love has grown as I’ve gotten older. So I really hope the industry grows from strength to strength, and is not hamstrung by ‘big ol corporates’ who only have money on the brain… That’s why I love the guys at CD Projekt Red – they truly get gamers, because they are, themselves, gamers.

    Ok, now I want this workday to end so I can get back to The Last of Us!

    Reply

  15. Zubayr Bhyat

    June 21, 2013 at 11:30

    Zoe: So you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman?

    Reply

  16. Chantal Wood

    June 21, 2013 at 14:40

    Excellent article, Zoe!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.