So over the past week the big story has been the massive backlash against EA for the loot box mechanics on Star Wars: Battlefront II. According to some very conservative estimates, it would take 40 hours of continuous play to unlock Darth Vader as a playable character. This is assuming you save every single point of in-game currency and don’t spend any of them on other things. Then you’d need another 40 hours to unlock Luke Skywalker. Even if you’re just going to save up for a simple loot box, it will take three hours of play.
This is a much slower system of progression than we see in other games, while at the same time the things you’re trying to earn are more substantial than the usual things like cosmetics. It rubbed people pretty raw that they might buy a $60 game and have to grind for a solid week (or pay an additional $20) just to unlock their favorite character.
EA tried to explain or justify the policy on Reddit:
This resulted in the most downvoted comment in the history of Reddit. The previous record was a comment with something in the neighborhood of 23k downvotes. This one got over 600k, smashing the old record by an order of magnitude. You can’t dismiss this as a vocal minority on Reddit, either. In the UK, physical sales of Battlefront II are down 60% compared to the previous entry in the series. We can’t prove that worldwide sales are down by the same ammount, although I can’t think of why sales would ONLY be down in the UK. Either way, it’s certainly troubling.
The controversy burned for a few days and was even picked up by major mainstream news outlets. Perhaps in response to this, EA disabled all microtransactions within the game. (For now.) Polygon suggested that this was in response to pressure from Disney, who perhaps don’t appreciate EA tarnishing their brand after the two entered into an exclusive deal a few years ago. While that article sounds plausible, it’s just conjecture. The reversal could also be due to low sales, or concerns that shareholders were getting nervous due to the negative press.
So that’s where the story stands now. EA is in the doghouse, sales are down, microtransaction loot boxes are disabled, and the community doesn’t know if EA is going to give them what they want (something fun) or just wait for the heat to die down and re-enable the system with some minor tweaks.
People are celebrating this as a victory, but I don’t see much to cheer about. EA is still run by a defective corporate culture, which means all of the uninformed people that made this happen will be making decisions down the road. It’s not a victory until there’s a serious shakeup inside the EA leadership, and I don’t think this controversy is big enough to make that happen.
Greed is not the Problem
Everyone is dumping on EA for their “greed”, but as I’ve said in the past, greed is not EA’s problem. Their problem is that they don’t know or understand their customers or their gaming habits, which means the EA leadership has no frame of reference when trying to figure out if the public will like a particular idea of policy.
Back in 1991, McDonald’s rolled out their “value menu”. They noticed a lot of people just bought a drink and a burger, and didn’t bother getting the french fries. So they introduced the “Value Meal”, which included drink, fries, and a burger for one “low price”. This sped up ordering, since someone could simply order a “Number 1” without having to list all of the items individually. It also created the false impression that they were saving money by ordering the meal. (If you added up the cost of items individually, they were within a few cents of the cost of the equivalent meal.)
It sped up order times, it got people to order more food, and it made the customer think they were saving money! You might not like this sort of behavior, but it was effective and clever.
Now imagine a version of McDonalds run like EA. The company leadership doesn’t really eat fast food except to sample their own products, and going to a fast food restaurant with the family isn’t something they would ever do.
So when they decide they want more money, the idea of a value meal doesn’t occur to them. Instead they just charge more. Charge for ketchup packets. Charge for napkins. Charge for bags.
There’s an outcry, and the leadership doesn’t understand why. They did the math and they figured these new policies should only add a few cents onto the usual order. What they didn’t foresee was just how much this change would hurt the overall dining experience. Now a lone mother with three kids has to stop and calculate how many napkins her children might need before they place the order. A guy who runs out of ketchup has to go and stand in line to get one more packet, while his food gets cold back at the table. Cheapskates try to save money by going without lids and straws, which results in more spills for the staff to clean up.
Worst of all, this policy just makes eating at McDonalds stressful and annoying. Next time, the family will probably go to Burger King rather than worry about rationing items of trivial value. So in the end you’ve got a system that hurts sales, makes messes, and slows down ordering. In the end, this could actually result in an overall drop in revenue.
So we’ve got two plans by two different versions of McDonalds. Both are “greedy” in the sense that they attempt to extract more money from the consumer, but one makes people happy and one annoys people. EA’s policies aren’t bad because they’re “greedy”, they’re bad because they’re idiotic and self-defeating. Once again, EA is spinning gold into straw. They did it with Dungeon Keeper, with SimCity, and now with friggin’ STAR WARS.
Greed is not the problem. A failure to understand consumers is the problem. A failure to understand the market is the problem.
They’re Even Bad at The Simple Stuff
Let’s go back to that Reddit comment from earlier. That comment displayed a spectacular level of contempt for the audience. It makes the claim that EA just wanted to give players a “sense of pride and accomplishment”. Nobody believes this. Nobody would be expected to believe this. EA did this to make money, and everyone knows it. They did it because they tried to predict how far they could push monetization and they overshot.
Public relations can “manage” public perceptions. It can steer public opinion by applying a crosswind to people heading towards the truth. Maybe a really good PR move can convince the consumer the sky is actually green, but no PR lie in the world can convince them that night is day. When you tell them night is day you’re sending a message that “We think you’re stupid enough to believe this.” So you follow up an unpopular policy with an insult. This is not a mistake they would make if they understood the landscape of the business they’re in.
Maybe they think consumers are stupid. Maybe they made this statement for shareholders and didn’t care enough about the consumer to tell them a plausible lie. In either case, it shows that even their PR apparatus is deeply out of touch. This controversy isn’t the result of a single mistake. It’s the result of years of systematic failure and malfunctioning company culture.
This Dumb CNBC Article
Let me set aside dumping on EA for a second to poke some holes in this opinion piece from CNBC: Gamers are overreacting to EA’s â€˜Star Wars' controversy; publishers should raise prices.
First off, this is another case where I think the term “gamer” is really hurting us. For years people – even a few gaming journalists – have been trading in the stereotype of the “gamer” as a fat loser living in his mother’s basement. (Or worse. Warning: Politics.) We’re a big diverse group these days, including all ages, income levels, genders, nationalities, and political backgrounds. “Gamer” is about a useful label as “driver”. It’s nearly everyone old enough to buy the product.
The article says “gamers” are overreacting. You know how those “gamers” are. I think a more useful label here would be “consumers”.
In any case, the analyst claims that:
If you take a step back and look at the data, an hour of video game content is still one of the cheapest forms of entertainment,” the firm’s analyst writes. “Quantitative analysis shows that video game publishers are actually charging gamers at a relatively inexpensive rate, and should probably raise prices.
Like I said in my McDonald’s example above, there are smart ways to raise prices, and there are stupid ways to raise prices. Even if we accept the premise that prices should be higher, this approach clearly falls into the “stupid” category.
But I don’t even agree with the premise that prices need to go up. There’s a lot of downward pressure on prices from the indie scene. Likewise, the world of retro gaming gets bigger every year. If this was 2007 and AAA gaming was the only source of new titles then you might have some room to increase prices. But in a world where there are more games, and cheaper games, then you need to bring something fresh to the table to lure consumers away from the alternatives. And making the game a mind-numbing grind is not going to accomplish that.
And finally, I take issue with the idea that AAA games are a particularly cheap form of entertainment. My family pays $12 a month for Netflix, which gives my wife about 50 hours of entertainment a month. That same $12 also gives me about 10 hours a month, and then some more time for each of the kids. We’re probably getting close to 100 hours for $12. You can find ratios that good in the world of videogames, but not easily, and certainly not in the AAA space.
Like I said, this isn’t really a victory over EA. Even if they give in to consumer pressure and give Battlefront II a progression system the public enjoys, this company is still run poorly and will continue to make bad decisions going forward.
A stream-of-gameplay review of Dead Island. This game is a cavalcade of bugs and bad design choices.
In Defense of Crunch
Crunch-mode game development isn't good, but sometimes it happens for good reasons.
Let's ruin everyone's fun by listing all the ways in which zombies can't work, couldn't happen, and don't make sense.
Juvenile and Proud
Yes, this game is loud, crude, childish, and stupid. But it it knows what it wants to be and nails it. And that's admirable.
What is Vulkan?
What is this Vulkan stuff? A graphics engine? A game engine? A new flavor of breakfast cereal? And how is it supposed to make PC games better?
286 thoughts on “This Dumb Industry: No, We Didn’t Beat EA”
I think what irks me the most about EA and Star Wars is that it’s obvious that the only reason that they have an exclusive deal is that the decision maker at Disney just looked, saw that EA was the biggest publisher in the world (or received a bid demonstrating that effect), and went with them reflexively. So the only Star Wars games we’re going to get are all going to come from EA*, with all the attendant bullshit that comes from such a poorly managed company that habitually ruins successful franchises.
Could you imagine what might’ve happened if Disney took a page from Games Workshop, who have licensed out their Warhammer properties to anyone who has an interesting pitch and have in turn enjoyed a massive amount of product flooding digital storefronts? I’m not even saying every Warhammer game is good, but there are enough of them at this point in enough genres that I’d bet even money that there’s something for just about anyone, and it’s probably not bad for Games Workshop’s bottom line regardless. And it’s certainly nice for fans of Warhammer that not every hope has to be pinned on one AAA, lowest-common-denominator-marketed game.
*Disney’s strange relationship with Square-Enix and the Kingdom Hearts franchise being the wildcard. Will they be allowed/mandated to have a Star Wars world in Kingdom Hearts III/some future KH title? Who knows! It would be one of the odder applications of the Star Wars license, though.
Disney would never do that. They take the Nintendo route of “We must absolutely control every aspect of our properties and how users interact with them in order to avoid ever risking negative press.” That’s why the idea of pressure on Disney being what led to the change seems to have caught on, Disney has a record of responding extremely quickly and forcefully to things that cause them negative publicity.
I don’t think that Disney would have to give up that power if they were freer with their license. And certainly the problem with putting all your eggs in one basket is that you need a competent basket. EA is not a great pick.
We effectively already had this previously back in the LucasArts days, with pretty much the same result as the current GW licensing arrangement; i.e. 90% of the games in both cases were/are hot garbage, with only the odd gem here and there making wading through the rest of it worthwhile.
Ultimately, I don’t think a return to that sort of arrangement would really improve matters. EA holding an exclusive license is not the problem. Assuming anyone could make a pitch directly to Disney (or the remaining shell of LucasArts as their proxy), the end result would still be pretty much the same because at the end of the day it all simply comes down to money rather than any particular interest in making a quality product. The people that would be likely to make a quality product, like, say, Obsidian for instance, would almost certainly be shot down (as they were previously) in favour of someone like an EA pitching Star Wars Shooter with Loot Boxes 2018.
That doesn’t sound like a problem at all. That sounds like there are some good games* made vs the current situation where none can be.
Plus with more smaller games the chances are greater that consumers find a single game that they really like as opposed to a mediocre one that they tolerate.
There’s no reason EA couldn’t make a good SW game. True, it’s highly unlikely given the management situation and their monetisation strategies, but miracles do occasionally occur.
I’d much rather a situation wherein good games occurring is guaranteed as a matter of statistics than one where no such safety exists and odds are much worse. Why? This is the goddamn information age, and as a result all you need is a robust network of people you pay attention to for the sake of reviewing. In other words I can outsource my gem finding for no cost to a market of gem finders wide enough that a few of them almost certainly have tastes similar to mine. I CANNOT do the same for my good game making desires.
There is no such guarantee. As I said in another post, EA having the license is not the problem, the problem is Disney only being interested in how much money the IP can make them. If they were actually interested in producing quality content then the thing to do would have been to have LucasArts as the sole publisher of all SW games, deeply involved with the production of any games they approved. But they didn’t want any of the hassle or expense of that sort of thing.
And see here’s the thing, I fully believe that you believe that. It’s just that you’re demonstrably wrong by the simple statistical rule that a larger number of different game makers making larger numbers of different game increases the likelihood of seeing products all across the spectrum of quality and even genre depending on subject matter. More generally speaking the more of a thing you make and the more differing conditions in thing making the higher the variance of result and the more likely you are to see something approaching an even distribution in any measurable variance.
Your idea is based on the assumption that removing EA’s exclusive license would open the flood gates to all and sundry being able to freely make SW games. Except that is not at all what would happen. Developers/publishers would have to individually pitch a game to Disney and be granted a license. Leaving aside the fact that this is exactly why they gave an exclusive license to EA in the first place, to avoid all that, we’d just end up more or less right back to where we already are, which is decisions for approval being made not based on artistic merit, but rather on probable ROI. All that would change is what corporate behemoth the suits making such decisions work for.
When I hear a position justified by “simple statistical rule”, I tend to get suspicious, especially when it’s applied to things that involve human behaviour [grin].
The problem here is that it isn’t simply a matter of one company doing something vs a lot of companies doing something. EA, at least arguably, has access to a lot of studios that cover a wide range of genres. If we assume that their deal is either “X amount of dollars per year for a license” or “Percentage of revenue per year for Star Wars related games”, then either way they have good reasons to churn out as many Star Wars licensed games as they can — as long as they are profitable — because either that will help them to overcome the up-front cost of the license or else it’ll just be a line item if the game works out well. To do that, they’d probably want to do things in multiple genres just to hit every market they can hit and might make money in. So since they can do multiple genres and Star Wars licensed games are likely to do better than the same game without the license, they’re likely to profit by making games in multiple genres, if their deal is structured properly so that making more Star Wars games is likely to make having the license pay off more than if they make less Star Wars games (which is about the only reason for a big company to push for exclusivity).
For smaller companies, though, there’s an issue where for the particular game they want to make they have to calculate whether being a Star Wars game is going to improve their sales enough to pay for the licensing. And they have to pay for that licensing up-front, for that game or game series, so it’s a risk; if they guess wrong, the license ITSELF could eat up the profits they would have had if they didn’t go for the license. And since Disney could always say “No” to licensing the game, they either have to wait until they know if they are going to have a license to work on it — if they want to make it sufficiently tied to Star Wars that extricating themselves would be a lot of work — or else they make the game just like any other game but swapping out skins and some small things at the end of the day. Which can be a good game, but not as good as it can be if the game is built with Star Wars in mind. So they have to decide if it is worth it. Some good companies will decide that it isn’t. Some will get turned down by Disney. Some will make reskins. Some will make really, really good games.
But for the most part it isn’t that likely that we’ll get more good games with things spread out than if EA does it, as long as EA is competent. That last part might be the real issue here, especially since when it was Lucasarts the one company to rule them all did indeed tend to make pretty decent games most of the time, without having quite as diverse a set of studios as EA at least in theory has access to.
You don’t seem to understand the core point being made. EA hasn’t actually been very diverse at all for years. This goes double if you only wish to count stuff that was reasonably successful. Now lets talk about what we’ve actually gotten from it all. To my understanding we’ve got exactly two recent star wars games out of EA both of which battlefront attempts. The first was widely lambasted as feature barren, rushed, and generally unappealing. The second has produced the current record holder for most downvoted reddit comment in history and a more active investigation by various powers to determine the extent to which loot boxes should be regulated. So yes I’d much rather everyone got the opportunity to take a crack at it because right now we’re all eating shit space cowboys.
But I wasn’t trying to go after that core point, if the core point was that EA isn’t doing a good job with the license. I was trying to go after your argument that spreading it out amongst a lot of smaller companies instead of contracting it to one big one would necessarily be the better move, which is what you argued in the comment I replied to. For various reasons, that’s not necessarily true.
Wow. We must have had totally different experiences with LucasArts games.
I’m hard pressed to pick bad games out of this list. Maybe Star Wars: Behind the Magic since it was a movie trivia application bundled in with some games? Or Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, which is really inaccessible because of how complex it is.
In any case, I’d say half of the LucasArts Star War games were really fantastic. They brought us awesome games like TIE Fighter and X-Wing, Dark Forces, Episode I Racer, Shadows of the Empire, KOTOR, and LEGO Star Wars games.
If EA could make half of their Star Wars games great, that would be a real miracle.
I actually really liked Battlegrounds, and still occasionally get the urge to install a VM to play it today.
Looking back, there some really sweet LucasArts games (especially non-licensed stuff) that I played the ever-living crap out of.
Agreed about classic LucasArts titles. Even though Battlegrounds was mostly a reskinned Age of Empires II it entertained me for many hours and I still have the original discs anytime I want to go back and replay it.
I’ve played most of the pre-Disney games and although there were a few stumbles the majority were good games.
Galactic Battlegrounds? Complex? I mean, I guess it did add shields, power for buildings, stealth, and air/anti-air units to the Age of Empires II engine, but if you could play AoE II (as many people did) then learning Galactic Battlegrounds was pretty trivial.
It could, certainly, have spent some more time in balancing (the whole air units system in particular felt somewhat tacked on) but it was still plenty fun in its own right and did a lot more to make the various factions feel and play different than AoE II did. I’m not claiming it was some masterpiece — it was always pretty transparently an attempt to wed the Star Wars license with the immense popularity of AoE II — but it was a rollicking little game if you wanted to wipe out AT-ATs with a horde of Wookie berserkers, build up a force of Jedi/Sith and go around converting the enemy force to your side, or just conquer the galaxy as the Gungans.
The best thing about it was the scenario/campaign builder. Sure, stuff like that existed in AoE as well, but it’s more meaningful when you can build one using the Star Wars characters and races and play out ideas on how the universe could go (for example, sending Vader out to exterminate the last of the Gungans …)
Star Wars: Rebellion was pretty wretched.
Hey! I really liked it!
My housemates will kill me if they ever hear “R2 indicates a manufacturing message has been received!” again.
One of the best licensed universe games I’ve ever played. Good enough to inspire a board game years later.
Even Star Wars Demolition could be a LOT of fun to play …
(Disney) Star Wars is the essence of AAA lowest-common-denominator-marketed corporate produced pig slop though so this really fits.
Well, yeah, so is bacon. Doesn’t make it inherently bad. And I wouldn’t really use the words “lowest common denominator”. That’s what I call PewDiePie’s content, for example. Disney actually makes good, quality stuff most of the time.
I don’t think that’s really fair. EA actually has a pretty decent record when it comes to games based on movie properties. In fact, Visceral were pretty good at that back when they were just EA Redwood Shores. Their James Bond games were good (and Everything or Nothing was straight up great), their LotR and Godfather games were fun. Plus EA handled arguably the best known space opera videogame franchise – Mass Effect – and supposedly knows how to market that stuff. Plus they have a very varied portfolio genre-wise. Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of a publisher that would be a better fit for Star Wars. Disney wouldn’t want to go to Sony or Microsoft for an exclusive deal, obviously. Activision Blizzard doesn’t seem to be a good fit and neither do Japanese companies. WB is out of the question. Bethesda doesn’t really do licensed stuff well and, again, are pretty limited in terms of genre and format. Once you star thinking about it, EA is really one of the better options, if not the best option when it comes to exclusive deals for a huge franchise.
Ubisoft might have worked, but I think their disadvantage is being an European company.
I’d play the hell out of a Star Wars/Assassin’s Creed crossover, that’s for sure. But probably not what Disney had in mind.
No thank you. I’d rather not have Ubisoft receiving any money printing licenses like Star Wars until they get their act together. Although a bounty hunter focused SW game using Creed mechanics would be interesting.
On top of that, EA has Bioware, and KOTOR was for many the most recent great star wars game ever. And they’re still running the SWTOR MMO.
Choosing EA might have been as simple as “these guys already have an MMO going”. Disney would be reluctant to shut it down by giving someone else exclusive rights, and EA would pay a fair bit to not have to shut it down.
It really is rather depressing. A company invests a vast amount of money in making a game, and another vast amount of money convincing the public that they must buy this thing at full price (which is a price I personally could never imagine paying for virutally any game ever) RIGHT NOW. And then it tries to extract yet more money… I can’t help feeling there is a better way of doing this (which I suppose it what is happening in indie gaming). But AAA gaming seems to work so I guess it’ll keep on happening.
As for the maddening “gaming is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment on a per-hour basis” claim… perhaps if games were shorter and paced better (like, hey, films) then we’d get a better measure of what the per-hour value of gaming is.
There are games which follow this pricing / pacing model. Firewatch, Gone Home, Subsurface Circular are some decent ones (that are something like “A” or “AA” games for budget). There was one indie game a couple years ago that was free of charge, where you were stuck in a cabin solving mysteries. I don’t think there’s any proper “AAA” games that fall into this category, but I could be wrong.
Indeed. Gone Home and Firewatch are good examples (I’m embarrassed to say I’v enever heard of your other example).
I have never found out what each “A” stands for in “AAA” but I’m pretty sure one of them is marketing… if you’re going to throw eyewatering amounts of money into marketing something then apparently you need to have spent eyewatering amounts on having developed it in the first place.
I wonder what would happen if a big publisher made a really good mid-budget game, priced it at a mid-budget game price, and then invested masses of money into marketing it… could it compete with your standard AAA releases in terms of value? They’d get less revenue per copy but they’d have spent less in developing it.
(Ubisoft did 2 out of those 3 with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, in that it was a budget-priced, game which was presumably relative cheap to develop, but they didn’t push the marketing… it’s one of my favourite games too)
AAA is borrowed from the financial world, where it’s the highest rating assigned to investments for reliability.
Aha! I’d never made that connection. That makes sense [for a certain meaning of “sense”]
As a little nitpicky note in what is otherwise what I consider a good comment, a games publisher wouldn’t really save time with mid-budget games. The basics of what a game needs are actually pretty static values, in terms of time management; where the money gets thrown at is making the pretty graphics during that static time frame. The only time I can tell where the timeline is an issue is if too few people have taken on too big a game, or if the basics of the game just don’t work, and thus the timeline must be lengthened to bring them in line.
Basically, with mid-budget titles, you’re still looking at a 2 year dev time, give or take some. You’d just need way fewer people to get the presentation made (and thus fewer salaries), and fewer dollars thrown at marketing to make your return on investment.
“I wonder what would happen if a big publisher made a really good mid-budget game, priced it at a mid-budget game price, and then invested masses of money into marketing it…”
I think that’s what No Man’s Sky was doing? These types of numbers are always a bit difficult to find, but it doesn’t have much in the way of voice actors/motion capture/level design/etc, while still being publicized everywhere. Of course, the game did have issues, but none of them really come from the team size, just from the game not being all that great.
The problem there is that No Man’s Sky was released at full price. Not a mid-budget game price.
That’s an interesting point. NMS was certainly massively pushed in terms of marketing, and seems to have been successful commercially (N.B. the quality of the game is completely irrelevant to this discussion!), although I might be wrong about that. And it doesn’t really look like a triple-A game.
It would be really interesting to know how profitable it was compared to your Call of Duties / Assassins Creeds / Destinys / etc
This is because everyone is pronouncing it wrong.Its not “triple a”,its actually read like this.
All right, you win. I did not expect that.
Huh. I had always assumed it was pronounced more like this.
I actually *do* think that games are one of the most money-efficient forms of entertainment. Now, I like grand strategy and gameplay-intensive tactical RPGs, so maybe I’m not the ideal target – but I think I’ve gotten about twenty hours of Crusader Kings II for each dollar I paid, and that’s with a lot of unnecessary DLC. And I don’t think of CK2 as a padded game; the gameplay *is* the game. While that’s the most extreme case I can think of, the most expensive-per-hour game I can remember enjoying was Analogue, which was very short and tightly-paced and was $5 for 5 hours, with something more normal like XCom ($20 for 55 hours) being closer to normal. (And yes, all of these were purchased in Steam sales.)
Meanwhile, movies are about $2 an hour to rent off of Amazon, $5 an hour to purchase or watch in theaters; purchasing TV shows is priced similarly. (And there aren’t Steam sales for those.) Novels compare to games favorably if you reread a lot; it’s normally $8-10 for a new book that will take 8-12 hours to read, though – as with games – if you like old ones, it’s a lot cheaper.
I’ll admit that the Netflix/Amazon Prime model is cheaper than most games – I probably watch about 15-20 hours of TV a month on Netflix – but not than old games, or games with extensive replay value.
Games are good value per hour if you like replayable strategy games or you wait for 75%-off sales.
But the analyst in question was saying that $60 AAA games were too cheap. I’d guess they’re closer to $6 per hour of entertainment? Slightly cheaper than going to a movie, more expensive than reading paperbacks…
It’s also bullshit that AAA games are $60 now, they haven’t been for years because of shit like season passes and DLC and microtransactions, meaning you don’t get a full game any longer. The REAL cost of a AAA (Jim Sterling voice) game is $100, $120, even ridiculous sums like $200+. Anyone who thinks the $60 price tag for AAA hasn’t changed and is too low has rocks in their head.
OK, than in that case, I misinterpreted it and I’m wrong. I’m willing to defend sticking a big “$60” sticker on a game, then discounting it 10% after a week and 50% after three months; I’m not willing to defend actually expecting people to pay $60 for a twenty-hour game with low replay value.
It’s not that games are super cheap. It’s that movies are very expensive for what they offer when you consider how cheap the logistics are nowadays: Streaming over the net is basically free in comparison to owning and running a cinema.
And then there’s the AAA issue, where games last you 10-20 hours (and then another 50 hours of boring busywork), at a $60 to $200 price point including DLC, loot boxes and collectors editions.
It’s not just about how much time you get out, it’s also about how good that time is. AssCreed is a great example: 90% of the time spent in that game is not actually fun, but purely filler. But watching a good show on Netflix? Zero filler.
What is even more maddening is that when you read the article the author states that the spending assumption is based off a $60 initial purchase price and a $20 monthly loot box purchase. $20 a month? Even in the heyday of MMO subscription models consumers weren’t expected to spend that much on the game every month. The other problem with the argument is the assumption that “gamers” are only buying the one game. Purchasing that one game and paying a twenty dollar subscription may yield the greatest “bang for the buck” for someone who only plays the one game for the next year, but the vast majority of consumers would like quite a bit more variation in their entertainment consumption.
I’m learning to really question that statement, that games are the best form of entertainment on a per-hour basis. Almost every game has those grindy parts to it that no one actually enjoys but puts up with because we know eventually the grind is over and the fun begins. Your not really being entertained during those grindy parts and a lot of us do things like pop up a YT video on another monitor or put on a TV show during those parts to keep us entertained enough to endure it.
In the past those grindy parts were spread out and didn’t last very long. They were easy to optimize away for experienced players. Modern games however seem to have more grind than game to them. Experiments with MMO gameplay have given the game industry ample examples on easy to use patterns to create grinds that predictably slow players down.
I gave up on playing Skyrim because it was more grind than game. When I found I had spent around 20 hours playing and could only say I found maybe 2 hours of that enjoyable. I began to question what made me think that game was worth the price tag associated with it. It’s not good when a game makes me feel that way considering I play Minecraft mods that are all about massive grinds. The difference being those mods make the grinds interesting and fun or give you means of optimizing them out piece by piece as you acquire more resources.
Not saying all games are like that. Some are definitely well beyond their monetary value in entertainment value. But using that metric alone, amount of hours played as indication of entertainment is a horrible indicator. We are a species that will put up with all sorts of bad things if it results in some good things after all.
“Battlefield II” in your link to sales figures (as opposed to Battlefront). Edit: And also in the picture hover-text
The fast food stores have tried to charge for sauce packets in the past. It usually doesn’t get enforced/last very long.
I remember this being a thing at local fish and chips stores back in the 80s. They’d charge you 10-20c for one of those little sauce packs.
There’s a chicken place in Columbus oh that charges for extras sauce packs, though to be fair it’s really good sauce (their entire menu consists of chicken, bread, sauce, fries, and I think coleslaw). It’s some tasty sort of fry sauce.
I imagine that takeaway places are more likely to charge for sauces because they sell less of them – most people will just take the food home and use their own condiments – and because there’s very little chance of the customer coming back for more. Restaurants will probably just buy in bulk and incorporate the costs into the price of the meal.
I know Pizza Hut still charges for extra marinara or wing sauces. Tends to work fine though, and the rules are often relaxed for dine in orders and the like.
This will always be the case at some locations because that isn’t a “company” policy but usually a local franchisee decision. Lord knows when you own the location you have to cringe sometimes at the amount of cost a month the ketchup packets or napkins will hit you with. I’d be willing to bet if you have enough McDonalds in your area you could find one that at least hides the ketchup behind the counter due to costs.
Ah, different countries.
You always pay extra for sauce here, and no-one bats an eye. McDonalds has paying bathrooms and we accept. Belgium’s lovely.
Found one delightful Freudian slip:
“Sales of Battlefield II are down 60% compared to the previous entry in the series.”
While many have argued (rightfully so) that these games are mere Star Wars styled reskins of the Battlefield series as opposed to successors of Battlefront fame, I doubt this is what you were getting at here ;)
Good grief, the reasoning in that CNBC article is a joke. Comparing gaming to other entertainment forms by using the case of the “average user” playing Battlefront 2 for 2.5h a day for a year?! That’s like saying that buying a chess set is so cheap per hour of entertainment that they should raise prices! :D
Some chess sets are thousands of dollars. Of course, some are also the same price as a McDonalds meal; There’s a wide variety of chess sets to serve everyone’s needs. :)
Yeah, but none of them has micro-transactions, grinding or filler.
You sure? Just to have a second queen, you have to cross the whole board with a pawn. Man, chess is so grindy.
And don’t forget the game-breaking secret rules! En passant? It’s like the developers didn’t even talk to each other!
The en passant thing is a balancing patch to nerf the speed boost mod everyone installs. If you don’t use the mod in your game, you don’t have to worry about the patch. It’s not really fair to blame the developers for modders messing up the game balance.
Some of these exploits have been around forever though. Like the Queen mod; suddenly the Adviser is more powerful than the bishop and rook combined, and they’ve let that slide for, what, two millenia? They really should have addressed that by now.
This is why Creation Club is so necessary, keep the modding community under control.
One of the more fun exploits. Let your opponent castle out of check. Illegal move: they forfeited the game.
It’s that weird way of measuring “how much game” you get by counting hours spent.
It’s also quite silly to say that consumers were wrong to dislike a product. It may or may not be appropriate to fault them for their form of protest, if, for example, someone started attacking people working for or at EA, verbally or otherwise, without having bought the game, based on the fact that they heard the game was bad but they wanted it to be good. That’s overreaction. It’s not overreaction to just plain not buy the thing, or give bad reviews. I mean, that’s the reason for reviews, isn’t it?
But then, I guess not just the gaming industry but lots of others have gotten away with “pay extra to unlock x” things for a long time, so they probably think nothing about it by now…
“It's that weird way of measuring “how much game” you get by counting hours spent.”
Remember Toddie boy and Failout 4? OVER 400 HOURS OF GAMEPLAY!
Sure, 400 hours of mindless tedium and grind, because that’ll be fun /s
For Bethesda games I tend to cut hours like that in half, to account for all of said tedium. So, you play Fallout 4 for 400 hours and really only get 200 hours of quality content — that’s still pretty good.
YMMV, of course. For some people Fallout 4 is such a colossal failure that ratio could be smaller or even nonexistent.
My favourite game of all time is New Vegas. You can probably guess my thoughts on Fallout 4.
While I didn’t like Fallout 4 enough to finish it. Objectively it did have a lot of quality content buried within it. Enough to make it worth the initial price tag. The problem however was that there was an equal or greater amount of poorly written/implemented content. That problem wouldn’t be so bad of a problem since the bulk of it is entirely optional but there were little to no indications of whether you were getting into something good or something bad until you actually invested around a half hour to an hour into each piece of content. I am actually talking from an objective standpoint, not a “I didn’t like this” standpoint. There was plenty of quality content things I didn’t like but I can see how others would or could appreciate the work that went into them.
Was just reminded of the best example: Desert Bus!
And it just got a VR remake coming out. Endless hours of entertainment!
Its baffling how they came out with that number. That’s 912.5 hours played in a single year! I consider myself to be on the more “hardcore” end of the gamer spectrum, and I haven’t come close to ever playing one game for that amount of time. Heck, there are long-running SERIES of games I haven’t put that much time into. Sure, there are some gamers that will put that much time into it, but that’s the extreme end of things. More likely, most people will play a few hours a week, then drop the game in 6 months when the next big thing comes out.
This is exactly what I thought when reading the article. Those figures are generous to the point of absurdism. I rarely play ANY games for 2.5 hours a day, and I think the average consumer doesn’t have that sort of time in their day. It’s also foolishly optimistic. 2.5 hours a day for a whole year implies A) I’ll be playing their game, and ONLY their game, for a year until (presumably) the next one comes out, and B) I’m going to pour over 900 hours into their game. While there are online FPS’s I could see that happening with, it’s not common for the average consumer unless the game starts with Call or ends with Field. It’s also incredibly cocky, assuming that their game is going to draw those sorts of sales and have that sort of staying power. especially when review scores (not a golden standard, I know) are worse than the first (third?) one pretty much around the board.
Nielsen assumes the average for gamers 13+ is between 6-7 hours a week. I don’t know where this analyst gets his numbers from, but I think he doesn’t really understand the market he supposedly analyzes.
On a sidenote, Call of Field should be the first multi billion dollar walking simulator franchise.
I bought a deck of playing cards for $1. I have gotten more hours of enjoyment than I can count out of that deck of cards. Playing card manufacturers are giving enjoyment at a relatively inexpensive rate, and should probably raise prices. Cause that’s how it works. /s
You know what would give even more value per dollar of entertainment? A public flogging of KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Evan Wingren (the guy who was quoted above). I bet millions could be raised if the flogging was properly priced.
I wholeheartedly endorse this suggestion.
To defend the indefensible, the level of play required to earn those unlocks is not really that high for dedicated players of this type of game. But it is a little shocking, and potentially embarrassing, to see it spelled out in simple terms. As far as the “pay to win” aspects go, people get up in arms whenever companies offer up something like that. But the companies keep doing it, because there a large enough player base lining up to throw money at them when they do. I’m not sure exactly where to hang the blame for that.
As a disclaimer: I don’t own and never intended to buy this particular title, not particularly into multiplayer shooters. That said I’m one of the few people who wouldn’t mind the required investment of hours mentioned. I love having long term goals in games that I intend to play for a long period of time, I latch onto an MMO and stick with it for years putting in hours instead of money (I tend to pick games that support that as mechanics). I’m not even going to try and count the times I had a conversation along the lines of “oh, I’m farming [resource X] for [objective Y]” and their reaction is like “it’s going to take you half a year to get it that way” to which I am “I know, isn’t it awesome?!”
So yeah, there are definitely players who’d see that as a fun idea but I understand we’re in a minority and the fact that we tend to stick to games for a long time rather than go for the next thing makes us a poor customer base.
So you’re the kind of gamer who would build a megastructure in Dwarf Fortress?
Without mods, of course. And without any on-site access to any of the materials you need. Where would be the fun in making it any easier for yourself?
Yes and no, I’m a grinder, I’m not very good with complex planning or math crunching, or auction house or other stuff like that. I’m more a person you’d want as one of your miners if you were building a diamond palace in minecraft on a server where you’d have to get all the resources the old fashioned way.
You’re just looking at the time needed to unlock a single thing, though.
“It will take 4,528 hours of gameplay (or $2100) to unlock all base-game content in star Wars: Battlefront 2”
That’s the problem.
See, this is exactly the kind of time investment that I’d see as a “long term goal” for myself. Even if I realistically couldn’t achieve it this would be something that I’d be working towards until I got completely bored off the game. Again, I realise that this is not what most players find attractive and in this particular case this has an additional issue of giving the paying players a major advantage.
But your long term goal is “Stop getting crapped on by EA’s pay-to-win monetisation policy.” You can’t make a good competitive multiplayer game in which the favoured players are rewarded not just with greater breadth of options but strictly better alternatives for actions made outside the competition.
This might not have come through because I still had in mind my other comments under this post but I was referring strictly to the time investment. Like, the 4000 hours quoted is something that makes my mouth water, I tend to stick to (massively) multiplayer games for years and I want to still be able to add and unlock stuff those years later. Like I said, I’m aware of the other issues.
Wow! That’s insane. For anyone not sharp on their math skills, that’s a bit over 180 days. I get the idea is to make it so grindy you want to spend money instead of doing it but that’s way overkill.
I guess if some market tactics makes you money from some subset of customers and makes another subset of them angry, it’s the supplier’s job to work out wether they want to make the money at the PR expense or not. But now they’re effectively saying “the other people had no problems with it so you vocal guys have no reason to complain.” Which is of course nonsense.
I’ve got no horse in this race. AAA gaming lost my money when DRM became unavoidable. Around the time when I was finally earning enough to actually buy all the games I wanted to play. Since then, I’ve spent an order of magnitude more money on games from GOG and Humble than I ever spent on “big” games.
I imagined that a large percentage of gamers was going to react that way, alas they did not (wwaaaaake uuup, sheeeeple!). So really, I don’t quite understand why gamers had no real problems with the one thing but now they have one with the other. I’m not too worried though, because these days it’s not like there weren’t enough different games around (and being made) to keep both me and everyone else entertained. I’d probably get a lot more excited if there was no alternative to putting up with EA’s antics.
I don’t play a lot of games (because I have no time or money), and I don’t think I’ve played one with “loot boxes” like this, especially ones that you can get *either* from in-game currency or with cash. But there’s this thing I just don’t get.
It takes 40 hours of gameplay to get Darth Vader. The question is, is an hour of playing the game *without Darth Vader* actually *fun*? Is the 40th hour of gameplay still fun? If it is, then it feels like saying “you have to have X amount of fun before you can have more fun, or you can take the other option of paying us money to let you have less fun.”
If it’s *not* fun to play, and playing it for 40 hours is an unpleasant chore, then it’s not a fun game, and why would anyone want to pay for something unpleasant?
The only thing I can think is that “novelty” makes the first hour or two (maybe 10) of gameplay fun, but it gets old fast. At that point, it really seems like you should consider the “vanilla” game and the “Darth Vader” game as separate games that share some things in common. Is 10 hours of fun worth $60? Not for me, but sure, for some people (For me it’s not necessarily the fun:$ ratio that’s a deal-breaker, I need games that are fun for hundreds or thousands of hours, and I’m willing to pay a pretty large sum for ones that are. Fortunately, I don’t have to, because the hundreds of hours of fun I got from KSP cost me, what, $25? So I came out way ahead on that). Is however-much additional hours of fun from Darth Vader worth the cost of him (either in $ or in “wasted” time playing a game that’s no longer enjoyable)?
Maybe I really *do* understand. Maybe this is just the first game where the ratios are so heavily skewed that people are starting to realize, before they buy it, that this game isn’t going to be fun, because the publisher has a perverse incentive to make the game actively unpleasant, so that you’ll be willing to pay more to have to play less of it. I can only hope that it serves to make people more conscious of these sorts of things in their future game-buying choices.
Meanwhile, I’ve got to get to Hollywood and pitch my idea for a great movie. It’s a 4-hour movie filled with unconnected scenes of paint drying, people slowly dipping oreos in orange juice and eating them, rambling nonsensical dialog with the sound a half second offset from the video, and people being mean to kittens, followed by the Henry V St. Crispin’s Day speech. And the best part is that after you buy your ticket, you can pay extra to be allowed to show up late to the screening.
Orange juice and Oreos? Is that something you’ve done, or is it an avante garde genius thing?
I’ve never heard such a combo. If you have done it, is it good?
I think part of the issue is that this a competitive game. To some degree, how fun it is depends on how fair the matches are which, when you have to play 40 hours or pay $20 to unlock assets that affect the gameplay in those matches makes the unlocks more of a dick move IMO.
This is why I’m tolerant of the “pay/play to unlock loot boxes for content” in, say Overwatch or Shadow Mordor than in SWB2. In the former case the unlocks don’t give an unfair advantage in a match, and in the latter it’s a single player game
Shadow of war has a multiplayer mode FYI. So it’s still just as unfair as BF2 IMO. (And shadow of mordor is the first one that didn’t have loot boxes.)
That’s a good point, but there’s an interesting aspect to this: If the game’s matchmaking algorithm isn’t terrible, then most players should be winning matches around 50% of the time, no matter what their gear and/or skill level is. Which means that getting gear/loot/whatever just means that you now have access to getting your ass kicked by a higher class of player.
But my guess would be that the matchmaking algorithm is either terrible on accident, or terrible by design.
david lynch on twenty sided confirmed
The CNBC article fails at basic economics as well. They are assuming every hour of entertainment contains the same amount of value. That’s like comparing buying a $5,000 car every year for 4 years or buying a $20,000 car once for 4 years. When you do real accounting, the value of the $20,000 car is not at $20,000 every year. The value of the car drops for each year/use it goes through. In fact, if you are purchasing these vehicles for a business, you can report the loss of value on your taxes.
That being said, just because you can pay $60 for a 100 hour game, which is SO MUCH MORE than paying $20 for a 3 hour movie, it doesn’t mean you’re getting 100 valuable hours. You have to compare value/hour to price.
My thought process generally aligns with theirs, meaning that video games are generally a more efficient use of my entertainment dollars than buying a movie, but they miss one important point: this means that I don’t like to buy movies because they aren’t as good a use of my entertainment dollars. If games raise their prices, then that might mean that I buy them less too and move on to forms of entertainment with better efficiency, or if they are indeed equal then spread the dollars that I put into games around into other forms of entertainment.
Good article. If this is indeed a war, it’s one in which EA’s greatest enemy isn’t us, but itself.
EA have lost sales, but more importantly, they’ve lost the most lucrative period of loot box revenue which was the very prize for implementing all of this in the first place. Every day that the boxes are switched off during the post-launch window, while player count is at its highest, engagement is at its highest, and the hype surrounding the imminent film is at its peak, executives at EA will be literally losing sleep. Frankly I relish the thought of it.
So while everything you write is true, Shamus, this was an important battle nevertheless. In the future, when publishers or developers consider which business model they want to pursue for (shudders) post-purchase monetisation, they will think of the fallout from this episode and wince. It’s impossible to say how many games will ultimately be effected or in what way, but I strongly suspect that without this significant bump in the road the loot box would have been much more readily embraced as standard industry practice.
Oh how I loathe restaurants and cafes that charge for condiments.
With your comments about Netflix I wonder if we’ll ever see them charging a MMO style subscription to their multiplayer. Relative to paying $200 for the ‘full’ game, it doesn’t even see like a horrendous idea. Certainly less exploitative than thriving off of’whales’.
Does anyone know how to talk to the current CEO of EA? I understand he’s being an artlessly greedy jerk here, but I doubt he’s getting/hearing decent feedback as to why everyone is in an uproar.
While I feel the uproar is well deserved, I’m with Shamus: He’s probably not going to learn anything from this, and implement something further stupid down the road.
It’s not just the CEO. As Shamus said, this is the result of years and years of a corporate culture that has no understanding of its audience and no interest in remedying that issue. It extends throughout the entire company, from the top all the way down through lower management.
Contrast EA’s business practices with a company like Blizzard. Say what you want about modern Blizzard, but that is a company that understands what its audience wants. Did anyone really know they wanted Overwatch, a themed twitch shooter like Counterstrike with hero abilities like League of Legends that also plays like a dream? Probably not, but Blizzard knew.
EA is an entirely reactive company. They respond to market research and trends without understanding the behavior behind the numbers. They inject predatory microtransactions into every game with zero consideration as to how it might negatively affect the overall experience. They’re so focused on the cynical minutiae of customer “engagement” that they have completely, almost willfully ignored the power of customer loyalty of the kind Blizzard commands.
It’s this kind of sheer disdain for their audience that will land them in hot water like this over and over again, that forces them to keep eating up and then closing studios because they have no idea how to do anything other than attempt to clone success (with more microtransactions thrown in), and that gives us games with a fraction of their actual potential.
So there is a twist to the “publishers should just increase prices” argument. Specifically the AAA publishers are at a point where they NEED to either increase prices or look for supplemental income, such as lootboxes, and it’s because of something you mentioned before: they keep increasing costs of development, especially in pursuit of better graphics but also with things like server upkeep, balancing and maintenance costs for all the online features they keep shoving into everything.
I’m honestly not sure what can be done at this point as AAA industry has driven itself into such a corner. I don’t think I’ve bought a triple A game earlier than 3 years after release for, well, years (anecdotal evidence, I know, but still). Financially I’d much prefer buying 3 to 6 mid range or indie titles for the same money. I could justify a purchase like that if I was super into some title but they’re mostly various levels of “okay”. Finally, even if I had the money and the will to spend it I couldn’t even run a lot of these games on my machine and I’m sure as hell not going to upgrade my graphics card twice a year (which I believe is a shockingly slight exaggeration at this point).
And as other people mentioned it’s not the way it used to be when the triple A industry was all but the only source of new games. Yes, a lot of the current deluge of games are poor quality, or asset flips, or genres that a lot of people don’t like (JRPGs, visual novels, walking simulators) but every day a lot of people are still discovering the ridiculous wealth of titles available to them at way lower prices. I’d go so far as to say that the amount of “white noise” in the release lists is one of the things that keep the giants of the industry going as most people can’t afford the time investment required to monitor anything but frontpage releases. With better tools a big chunk of that customer base would find that they can get their video game entertainment on the cheap.
I stumbled across Warframe a couple days before the Destiny 2 release. DE isn’t exactly an indie studio, but they’re far from the huge megalith that Bungie/Activision are, and… I’ve spent 20 dollars and 400 hours on the game, and am (critically) still having fun. Interest in the AAA equivalent? Roughly nil.
As I mentioned earlier I’m not really into multiplayer shooters but one of my old housemates played Warframe and I’m told it improved a lot over the years, I seem to recall reading on the internet it got a lot of windfall from Destiny 2’s playerbase for some reason.
I’m not into multiplayer shooters, but this is a) pretty much 100% PvE, and b) very solo-friendly, moreso than some nominally singleplayer games (*glares at BL2*).
I do find unlocks a little hard to judge. Invisible Inc, possibly my game of the year for last year [when I first played it] unlocks new stuff with each playthrough (assuming you do well enough). I appreciated that, even though the game is locking away content that I’ve paid for, because it gradually increases the number of decisions to make – if the game started by offering me all the options (e.g. like old-school character generation in CRPGs) I would be overwhelmed by choices that I didn’t yet fully understand.
On the other hand, Invisible Inc doesn’t offer you the option to pay to unlock stuff more quickly, and it probably takes less than 40 hours’ play to unlock everything possible.
It’s a good comparison. A few things I can come up with:
-It doesn’t take an unreasonable amount of time to unlock anything in Invisible Inc.
-The gameplay is fun, fast-paced and deliberately designed to make repetition less boring.
-Losing your first few games due to limited options is explicitly the point of that type of game You are told this when you start.
-It’s not cutting out an integral part of a much larger, well known franchise, like removing Darth Frickin’ Vader from a Star Wars game and putting him behind a paywall.
-No bullshit PR-babble.
I’m not sure Invisible Inc is the best example, the two agents you start with are pretty darn good.
Well, one of them is pretty darn good. The other one is very stylish looking trash (sorry Decker).
This made me pull my Amused Agreement face! :)
I first played Invisible, Inc. in….. 2015? And I bloody LOVED it – and mean to go back soon. I did manage to play through in my first game, but in doing so it gave me one of the most nailbiting and challenging come-back scenarios I think I’ve ever played. I completely goofed a raid on some high-security joint and lost my entire team bar one (Internationale, thank fuck). Of all the people to have retained, she was probably the most useful and over the next few levels I babied her through everything, rebuilt my team, and finished the game. Although I dearly wanted a do-over after that catastrophic level, in the end I really appreciated the way the game made me play on anyway.
I remain fairly convinced that while this stings for EA’s short term revenue, the entire thing is a long term strategy. The same thing was done in Need for Speed and EA has been outspoken about their intent to increase monetization in their games. EA is employing the classical negotiation strategy of making an outrageous offer, then slowly walking it back to see where the outer limit is. They’ve been doing this for a while and this is really the first time that the other party (us consumers) have really bitten back and told EA off about it. In the end, Disney decided to pull on the leash to put EA back in line, but it means little more then that EA gets to go back to the drawing board to find other ways to make us part with our money.
This is not a victory anymore then temporarily fending off a pack of hungry dogs is a victory. Sooner or later they will be back to try and bite your leg off again and just chasing them off is not a permanent solution. The problem is that Wingren is essentially right, in that there’s a lot of money making potential in games and that prices probably are “too low” compared to what they could be with smart monetization schemes. EA is, as Shamus points out, just being stupid about their ideas for monetization. Look at Rainbow Six Siege, which seems to be making money over fist with premium currencies and a gazillion cosmetic options, where the cosmetics are “added value” instead of “gated content”. There are smart ways to extract more money from gamers, which is essentially the point Wingren is making.
To me, the most interesting thing about Battlefront II is that there is so much anger and outrage over a game that not only doesn’t seem to be all that good but–or so it seems to me–had very little chance of being all that good in the first place. I have to assume that it’s the combination of AAA production and marketing and the Star Wars license. My guess is that the Star Wars theme serves as a draw for a group of people who would not otherwise be interested in a game with a short single-player FPS campaign with a lackluster story and a multi-player mode in which they can be sniped by invisible opponents over and over again. To such a person–for whom the whole point of the game is to play as his favorite Star Wars characters–the baffling unlock system must seem like a terrible insult. (To make matters worse, my understanding is that even once you’ve unlocked, say, Darth Vader, you will only be able to spend a fraction of each match playing as Darth Vader.)
That’s pretty much exactly what this is. When the game first came out, I myself was a bit excited for it but didn’t have any way to play it, my friends did and most of them got it. About a week into release, the game basically was never talked about again until EA had all of their games from the last 3 years available to play for free as part of their EA access promo a few months ago. I played the game for the first time with one of my friends and you spend more time playing as the henchman than the named characters, and they were also much weaker. That short time I did play the game killed any interest I had for the sequel.
To be fair, which is more than EA deserves, Battlefront never had a good campaign, and anybody who says otherwise is kidding themselves. Know what the campaign in SW:B2 was? Playing through most of the multiplayer maps once with custom-scripted objectives, with a voiceover before and after each match against the backdrop of ingame footage made fuzzy to hide the fact that it’s just ingame footage. Sure, I still had fun with it, but this isn’t exactly a high bar to pass. It’s a bar low enough to be cut off just fine.
I agree with your assessment (which agrees with the CNBC article) that the combination of star wars and the practices of EA had resulted in the massive backlash.
However, I would also add that fans of sci-fi and sci-fantasy really have limited options when I comes to good entertainment. I’m lucky, because I like most settings for games, but apart from Portal and Prey (2017) I’m struggling to recall any games that I considered “good” (to be fair, that’s down to personal opinion) since 2004.
Maybe that’s why I played Destiny for so long… just enjoying a really nice sci-environment, even if it was padded to hell and back.
This bugs me, because the blatant lie EA is telling is actually a perfectly reasonable perspective to have. The problem is that EA clearly does not actually have that perspective, otherwise there would be no way to pay your way into Vader early (and I’m also really skeptical of the idea that Luke needs anything close to an unlock time that steep, but that one’s way less clear cut). Having Darth Vader be a difficult-to-unlock character who serves as the mark of a veteran with lots of experience with the game would be perfectly acceptable to me if that was actually the system EA had implemented, rather than it being a laughably transparent facade for their pay-to-win system in which Darth Vader is the mark of someone who shelled out an extra $20 for their favorite character. It takes playing Darth Vader from “look at that guy, he’s been doing this long enough to get Vader” to “look at that guy, he’s a sucker.”
That is precisely what I was thinking too.
I’d say that for amusing analogy’s sake, this goes beyond nickel-and-diming consumers on utensils and napkins.
Imagine a fast food chain which has started charging full price on a new combo that replaced the old, containing a hamburger with nothing on it, a cup you can only fill with water unless you pay extra, and three solitary french fries. Past this point, you’re expected to either bring your own condiments or shell out extra for a mystery box that could contain ketchup, or lettuce, or iced tea… but will most likely be stuffed with french fry “filler”.
Ironically, I suspect the novelty of a “loot box” fast food joint would actually serve it pretty well for the two weeks it’d take to convince people they were paying for artificial inconvenience.
I realize this is completely beyond your original point, but I would totally take a “feed me something random from your menu” option if it was offered at a (probably more sit-down than fast food) restaurant. As it is, when I go someplace unfamiliar I usually scan the menu for whatever they call their “signature” dish and order that.
A friend of mine calls ordering at a Taiwanese restaurant (it only shows numbers for the prices of stuff, otherwise you just have to guess unless you can actually read Traditional Chinese) the “Chinese Lottery”: you just pick stuff that seems reasonably priced and hope you aren’t just ordering a bunch of different drinks.
I had this experience at GDC in San Francisco, where a bomb threat (alarming) and San Francisco prices (far more alarming) found us eating at a genuine Italian-style pizza joint… with a menu in Italian to match.
A fellow Supergiant Games fan and I just rolled a d20 on two different pizzas, traded halves, and went with it!
I’m reminded of the time I was in Siberia, and my friend and I played “Food 20 Questions” with the waitress (she spoke very little English, our Russian was similarly limited) so as to order supper. I still have no clue what we had, but it was tasty.
But if you eat at the restaurant a hundred times, you unlock the right to eat one dish whenever you want.
Ah yes, can’t forget this part. Unlocking the ingredient you liked wouldn’t prevent you from finding more of it in the boxes, however!
Have to agree with the central point: This is, sadly, just EA being EA.
They don’t respect you, and they can’t be bothered to even pretend they do. At least, not believably.
Something that was brought up in the last This Dumb Industry column (‘A New Golden Age?’) was Steam, and how it’s bad for consumers in lots of ways. I could make a list, but Ian said it better.
Now Origin is probably more-or-less comparable sales platform to Steam in terms of features. But it’s the EA version of Steam; the platform by the Day One DLC Guys, the ‘Your Mom Hates This Game’ Guys, the Microtransaction Merchant In Your In-Game Camp Guys.
Valve don’t respect me, I’m sure, but I use Steam a lot, because I bought lots of games in a convenient, cheap way and it’s relatively unobstrusive. The bad is mixed with quite a lot of good.
And I want as little to do with Origin as I can, because Fuck EA. Do they give away free games? I don’t care, I’m still not going to log in, because I know exactly what that company thinks of me.
At least valve understand they need to appear to care.
Origin had a great refund policy way before Steam, though. I use Origin from time to time, actually. My biggest issue with it is probably the lack of discount notifications. And I think that competition is always good. I’am actually not really sure if Steam would have introduced refunds were it not for Origin. GOG helped too, of course.
I’m pretty sure that Steam only introduced refunds because they were found to be in violation of EU law. And then they found an (actually fairly valid) loophole where you have to waive said right to refund in order to buy the game.
Anyway, it just baffles/saddens me that EA has been blatantly showing for years that they don’t know/care about/understand their customers (unlike Valve, who put in a bit of effort with their greed) and are still making money.
…and, I don’t really have a point beyond that. Only a kind of depressed ‘See you next time this happens. It’ll probably be loot boxes with a different name, like Opportunity Crates.’
Forcing customers to sign a “contract” that says they immediately lose all their legally protected rights open purchase has been looked at VERY unfavorably by the courts. It’s such an obvious “eff you, pay us” back door attempt that many judges have just said “no, this isn’t a valid contract, point of sale is not an okay time to try to get people to give up their rights to class action lawsuits before they’ve even used the product.”
Im pretty sure (the only reason) Steam introduced refunds due to the ACCC suing them…
“Quantitative analysis shows that video game publishers are actually charging gamers at a relatively inexpensive rate, and should probably raise prices.”
That’s an interesting way of saying “I have absolutely no understanding of economics, am completely unqualified for my job as an analyst, and KeyBanc Capital Markets should fire me immediately.”
People do not sit around calculating fun-hours per dollar. (Well, I might have a spreadsheet, but I’m weird!) Am a fool for spending $30 for an hour of entertainment at an escape room this weekend? Am I a fool for buying a AAA shooter at $60, when I could get many more hours of entertainment spending that on some combination of used books and board games? Am I am even bigger fool for spending money on entertainment at all when I have a high quality library within walking distance of my home?
Then there is that whole pesky free market thing. The free market should be driving prices downward, pinching margins ever tighter. Whining that you’re not making enough money isn’t an argument for higher prices, it’s an argument for socialism. Or maybe we need a freer market; let’s try getting rid of that pesky government granted monopoly that video game creators and other media creators enjoy. Let’s see if that helps profits.
This is how the CEO culture has polluted free market capitalism. “Waaaa I’m not making enough money for my 16th yacht, time to raise prices, lower wages, and lay-off staff.”
As someone who has worked for various corporations of various sizes, that’s not really how it works. It’s generally more like “Our stock price is going down because we aren’t making enough money! Quick, do SOMETHING to make it look like we’re still okay!”. Corporations depend way too much on stock price for too many things, and stock price can be pretty mercurial.
During the internet company boom, I worked for a telecom company. When those small companies would see surges in stock price because they were losing a few less million dollars than they had the previous quarter, we’d lose stock price because we made a few million less dollars, while still making millions of dollars. This caused the company to have to take drastic steps to recover. It was a strange time.
Most CEOs, knowing this, pretty much get paid no matter WHAT happens. It’s too common for them to have a bad couple of quarters for various reasons and get tossed out, so they want to make sure that if they get tossed by higher ups trying to do something visible to please the stockholders they still get paid.
Please check your information before posting it on your blog- Battlefront II sales are not down 60%. Physical copies in the UK are down by 60%, and that is a huge difference.
Edited for clarity.
“Physical sales” is also an important caveat, since sales are believed to be heavily and increasingly digital, but unfortunately we don’t actually have hard numbers. Though I don’t think it’s gotten a much bigger slice of the market since Battlefront 1.
“And finally, I take issue with the idea that AAA games are a particularly cheap form of entertainment.”
I have Amazon Prime for $99/year, and JUST THE VIDEO part of it gives me UNLIMITED entertainment for LESS than your Netflix subscription (I have no limits of any kind on how much I can watch the “included with Prime” shows and movies).
AND I get free 2-day shipping. AND I can listen to LITERALLY MILLIONS of songs via Amazon Music. And I get thousands of books I can borrow and read for free.
So, yeah, entertainment in general is pretty cheap these days. Now, if you’re talking about premium stuff like release-day movies viewed in the theater, yeah, that’s more expensive.
I didn’t really “get” the controversy of this whole thing because I was under the impression that EVERYONE had to unlock the iconic characters–that NOBODY could buy them and THAT’S what people were complaining about. But if you can just pony up cash to buy the characters that apparently everyone WANTS to play, 40 hours is an immense grind for a pickup PVP game. Now, in the games that I generally play, 40 hours of grind isn’t much to unlock something big. For instance, in DDO 40 hours is about what you can expect if you decide you want to unlock the Favored Soul class the long way instead of just paying for it. Depending on your playstyle, that’s probably around the amount of time it’ll take you to go from 1-20 on your first character.
It does sound like a lot, until you realize that this is a game where people like me will have done that 1-20 on A SINGLE CHARACTER sometimes upwards of 60 times. I think if you take all my characters into account I’m probably pushing 200x on that “cycle”.
But DDO isn’t remotely the same kind of game.
And you can give a streamer on Twitch $5/month for “free” with the subscription. This is one of my favorite all-time incentives I’ve ever seen from a subscription service
It’s actually a bit worse than that. You can’t pony up money to directly buy Darth Vader, you can pony up money for a random chance to possibly get Darth Vader. You might get, say, Jar Jar instead. But that’s okay – you can spend more money to try again.
Now, this might sound like gambling, but according to EA’s legal advice (responding to players threatening to take it before the EU courts, which frown on encouraging children to gamble), it’s not actually gambling, because you will always get some form of prize. Even if it is Jar Jar.
(Note that this statement is almost justified, in that it is parroting the official stance of the ESRB.)
Oh, gag, it IS worse than I thought.
I very nearly did a spit-take at that. That’s frickin’ hilarious! (and awful)
In a different game, released by a better company, for an in-game currency you earn by playing (paying real money would rob the expericence of all fun) that would be epic trolling, on a truly artistic level.
Just imagine Jar Jar bursting out of that loot box you’ve earned, waving his arms and shouting “Yousa wanted better but instead yousa got meeeeeee!”
Like an earn-one-every-five-matches-played loot box system. It’d be great.
Sadly,this is where the industry as a whole is going,so this includes multiple companies.Its just that ea did it worst(so far),while others(like blizzard)are reaping the rewards from this shitty system.
Wait! Does Jar Jar have a light saber?
Jar Jar Sith would actually be a badass unlock.
If its regular Jar Jar then I agree with the outrage.
Jar Jar doesn’t appear to actually be an unlock.
Jar Jar would actually be an incredibly powerful unlock. He can take down battletanks for goodness sake :-)
This is actually inaccurate. The lootboxes don’t contain heroes – they contain equippable upgrades, some kind of currency you can use on upgrades, and credits, which you can also earn (slowly) through gameplay and which you use to buy heroes (or more lootboxes).
So, you couldn’t pay for a random chance at a hero. You could pay for a bunch of random stuff and some amount of progress towards the hero you’re after. I’m not sure how much that amount of progress varies box-to-box, or how many boxes you get at a time. (I imagine it’s fairly predictable – $X gets you Y boxes which’ll amount to roughly Z credits, but I don’t know if anyone’s done the numbers, and I think the amount of credits you get goes up as the amount of other stuff you’ve got left to get goes down.)
That said: *getting* the hero you want isn’t random, just time-or-money consuming, but the heroes also have upgrades you can get from the boxes, and getting those really is random. You can get upgrades for heroes you haven’t actually unlocked yet, too. :/
Oh, okay. Good. The Vader-Jar Jar switcheroo sounded like a step too far, even for EA. Even for them that would be tone-deaf and self-defeating.
Not sure if it’s an indictment of EA track record, or of my gullibility that I’d believe that they actually introduce hero-lootboxes. Probably both.
I’ll call it the chance to link another relevant Critical Miss comic effect.
Still, the loot boxes sound believable in their shitness. Upgrades for a hero you haven’t unlocked yet? Sounds about right.
This is a really bad year for EA. Sales on Battlefront II are down. Sales on Need For Speed Payback are down. Sales for Madden are down. (I don’t know about the FIFA sales) And all because one thing: Loot Boxes
Random shit attached to gameplay progress. Shit that is presented as cards. As Angry Joe said in his NFS Review – Every car mechanic want’s to put cards in his car to increase its power/looks.
3 games crash landed for the same reason. It’s not impossible that EA will learn from this fiasco. Perhaps the competitors will learn. Activition has the same shitstorm for CoD WWII loot-box cards. Warner Brothers with Shadows of War.
If not: So be it! There are more than enough indy/kickstarter titles with complete gameplay.
Call of Duty WW2 did much better than the last year’s version. As did Destiny 2 do better than D1. Activision will learn nothing.
Wow, that NBC article about Discord is just…wow. Like, holy shit that’s such a terrible piece of journalism.
Every time I see a “mainstream media” story about gaming, I get that horrible uncertainty where you wonder if they’re as clueless about the stuff you’re not familiar with, and if so what horrible falsehoods you may have accepted.
That and I just want to yell “SURELY SOMEBODY WHO WORKS THERE HAS PLAYED A DANG COMPUTER GAME AT SOME POINT!!!!”
Ask any scientist what they think of reporting about their field of study…
(Spoilers: Oh god, is reporting on health and science bad…)
Yeah, I know that, it’s so bad that if you were to actually take the advice in most articles, you’d probably be making yourself WORSE off.
I’m pretty sure their knowledge has nothing to do with it. These days a journalists job is to generate clicks as efficiently as possible. Outrage is a good way to get clicks, so trolling gamers (or whoever) is a good business strategy.
No, it generally really is that bad. I’ve known quite a few journalists and political ‘insiders’ (think, lobbyists etc) and they really are clueless about basic things.
Unfortunately, a lot of the world is superficial in nature: It’s about who you know, how you look and what you own. Ultimately, it’s self destructive…
Now, for my morning pick-me-up cappuccino!
Well, I view lying as worse than ignorance, so I think your view is a bit more optimistic than mine, but that’s more of a personal value judgement than a hard fact.
Ignorance is not bad.Being proud of your ignorance and never wanting to actually learn,that is bad.
I do think ignorance is bad for journalists who are supposed to know stuff and then report it. I just rank lying on purpose as worse.
Is there any other to lie than on purpose?
I also see lying as the worst of the two (ignorance and lies), and in the case of “specialists” that are ignorant, that just means they lie about being specialists.
NBC are just trying to link their new scapegoat with their old one.
It boils down to “people who disagree with us are horrible, don’t listen to them”. They show 5 bad people out of a million and brand the million with the same label. Only thing that changes is the label itself.
EA screwed up royally, that’s for sure. That said, I don’t think that the “gamers are overreacting” idea is wrong either. But we really do need some new vocabulary here. See, there is your average consumer, like a driver. And then there is your uber-enthusiast. To use the driving analogy, the kind of guys who would organise a fricking rally because the local authorities reduced the speed limit on some stretch of road, or introduced paid public parking or whatever. There is a difference between what we can call a game consumer – which these days can be practically anyone – and the guys in the midst of the scandal, the Reddit gamers, the people who would write huge essays instead of questions during an AMA. Now, regardless of how wrong EA’s policy was in this case, I really don’t think it would be wrong to call that sort of behavior “overreacting”.
The fact is, there are way too many games today. I believe that the vast majority of those complaining about Battlefront II have backlogs the length of my arm, or, more likely, at least Kobe Bryant’s arm. While this wasn’t always the case, now is the very best time to vote with our wallets. Maybe that’s what really makes a Golden age. The abundance. Just forget this broken mess of a game, go play something else. We’ve had a number of huge releases just last month, for goodness sake!
I think I could have understood the reaction if this pay-to-win bullshit happened with the previous Battlefront, which came out at the peak of Star Wars revival fever. But now? “Overreaction” seems to be a fair assessment, even if CNBC comes to it for entirely the wrong reasons.
Are you suggesting that Star Wars is less popular now? The Last Jedi is going to be a huge movie. Rogue One was a huge movie. They just announced a new TRILOGY of movies.
Of course Star Wars is still hugely popular. But the crazy nostalgia fever has gone down a bit. In another year it will be just another huge Disney franchise, like the MCU. That’s still immensely popular, but not even close to the craziness of the lead-up to The Force Awakens. An I mean it in the best possible way – I love Star Wars and loved the craze back then.
No.Just because you have lots of options about what you pick to entertain you does not mean you must shut up if what interests you the most is being ruined by dickheads in charge.If you are a long time fan of a franchise and a new entry to it does something wrong you are not overreacting if you voice your complaints.You should not just move on to the next thing.
The only time you can say that someone is overreacting is if they something illegal to show their displeasure.
First of all, overreacting has nothing to do with legality. Second of all, there are a number of ways to voice complaints, some mature, some immature. Third, as we-ve discussed below, I don’t believe in the power of outrage if it’s not supported by actual economic behavior.
Voice your complaints all you like, but I can’t take you seriously if you’re being immature about it. And also if I already have your money.
This puts EA at 0-2 for PR. Have we already forgotten Mass Effect Andromeda’s nightmare launch? If Madden 18 had not gotten the frostbite engine and a single player mode, this would have been the nail in EA’s coffin. Lets hope Bioware’s new IP saves this idiotic group of corporate assholes, otherwise I see new deals with Activision and other, smaller third parties.
I disagree with the characterization of pressure from Disney as mere conjecture. Polygon wasn’t the only media outlet that said so. The wall street journal also reported that Disney sent EA a letter about brand mismanagement the night before the game was publicly released. Disney is a publicly traded company, meaning that if they lied about sending the letter, it could be actionable as securities fraud (manipulating price of stock by lying). I’m Pretty inclined to take polygon’s report at face value.
While I agree that Disney probably played a big part in this, it’s worth pointing out that Disney never officially told anyone about any letter. That was WSJ reporting based on an anonymous source, so not really an argument. But, yeah, knowing Disney, the pieces seem to fit. They can afford to pressure EA or anyone into doing pretty much anything. No amount of short-term losses is worse than pissing off Bob Iger for someone working in entertainment.
Relax, it only takes 4,500 hours of gameplay to unlock everything on the $60 game you bought, and besides, you can speed things up and buy all of that for the low prices of $2,100!
And don’t forget that warm sense of acheivement you’ll get after playing 4,500 hours worth of repetitive PvP matches!
I’m not really all that into PVP multiplayer, but isn’t it all about repetitive multiplayer matches for the sake of repetitive multiplayer matches, with the unlocks being a bonus? It feels like saying that, I dunno, beating Devil May Cry is just a grind required to unlock what you really paid for – the Sparda skin. Sounds weird, doesn’t it?
Accept they weren’t skins, per se. It’s sorta like trying to play Left4Dead, but the Tank will only spawn for players who paid out twenty extra bucks, and in the meantime you’ll have to make due with being the waves of normal infected, and maybe occasionally the Jockey.
Until you grind out enough infected matches to unlock all the Special Infected.
Does that clear it up for you?
No, no, I get that, I was making a slightly different point. I meant that when I was, for example, playing Titanfall 2, it took me quite some time to unlock, say a specific pilot ability. But that wasn’t my goal, that wasn’t what I came for. I came for the shooting and the wall-running, etc. The unlocks were a byproduct of that. Now, if Battlefront II’s gunplay and moment-to-moment gameplay is so drab and boring that the only exciting thing is unlocking new characters, then that is the main problem, and not the unlock system. If a multiplayer game is fun you can have tons of fun with just a single class. And, again, it always seems to me that PVP shooters are repetitive by design. At least that’s how they seem to me. Even though I had tons of fun with Titanfall 2, which is rare for me.
It’s a valid enough point…but it’s a matter of degree/and or perception.
40 hours to unlock one of the most iconic Star Wars characters ever, in a Star Wars game?
And that’s only one of them? Even MORE hours to get someone else? That’s excessive.
…or, of course, just pay extra on top of your $60 game.
EA consciously chose to cut out an iconic part of a Star Wars game (several, in fact), in the hopes of squeezing more money out of people who have already paid them. Then they responded to complaints with an insulting statement about a sense of achievment.
Yes, it is technically possible to do it without paying, and yes, someone might genuinely enjoy those 40/4500 hours of gameplay. That doesn’t change the fact that EA cynically chose to cut out part of their game in order to make even more money, and then were insulting about it.
No argument there. Although, if one were to remove microtransactions, I’d actually want Vader to be an unlockable, and a pretty high level one at that. It just makes sense. As long as there is no option of just speeding up the unlock with cash.
I think it’s important to contrast this with a system that “works” (i.e. nobody complains about):
In battlefront 2 you play as an unknown, nobody solider in different class flavours to gain ‘points’ that you can spend only in the same match to unlock special ‘lives’. E.g. pick a super character like Darth Vader or fly an X-wing until you are killed in that incarnation and go back to the unknown nobody.
To even get that extra content (there are some given ‘for free’ with the game) you have to grind or pay to gamble for it. Also, I don’t know how it is in 2 but in battlefront 1 I’m pretty sure the number of super characters on the field was limited at any one time to stop the game from breaking.
In modern warfare, you are an unknown nobody and accrue points in-match to unlock special abilities like a nuke or drone, etc. for a limited time. These add to your points so you can get more abilities in-match.
Nobody is going to be running around as Darth Vader for an entire match so it’s not like you’re really even grinding/playing to play as Darth Vader but the chance to, if you’re good enough and your team is good enough…
I think it’s entirely possible that there are a lot of people where “kill people as Darth Vader” was what they came for. Having to play for 40 hours in order to play as an interesting character – and then only having that one character, unless they’re willing to sink in even more time – would be a pretty huge hassle to those who just wanted to play their favorite Star Wars character. The fact that they can pay several hundred dollars instead changes it from being “well, I guess I need to work hard to get those guys” to being a pretty obvious attempt to milk people out of their money.
When everyone has to grind in order to gets those unlocks,however,the game is balanced* so that the players dont get bored before they unlock the new thing.But when those unlocks can be bought by real money,the game is balanced* so that the players DO get bored and finally succumb to coughing up the dough.
*At least thats the goal of the developer.It doesnt always succeed.
That’s not how these games are balanced (at least for multiplayer games, when they know what they’re doing).
Players who get bored or frustrated with your game mostly don’t spend money to feel better. They quit, go play something else, and complain about your game to their friends. If too many players do that, you stop having a population for the players who *are* spending money to play against, so they quit too.
You want players to be happy they’ve spent money. If they feel like you’ve forced or manipulated them into it, they’ll feel bad about it, and they won’t do it again. On top of that, most players just aren’t going to spend any money ever anyway. You want to balance your game so the whole audience has fun, whether or not they spend money.
The point of a high time-to-unlock-everything isn’t to get people to pay to skip it. It’s to get people to feel like they’ve got goals to aim for and are making progress towards something, so they’ll keep playing your game and not switch to something else.
Nope,the point of these long wait times IS to force the players to skip it.That IS how this things are balanced.But you are correct that you dont want the players to be frustrated from the start,which happens if you front load the wait times.So you actually make very short wait times in the beginning,and then gradually increase them over the tolerance limit.That way players will sink a lot of their time into the beginning of the game,have the desire to see it through to the end,and then either have the will to endure the increasingly long wait times,or money to skip it.
Freemium games have already polished this model to its limit,and if you check the most profitable ones,youll see that this is exactly how they are doing it.Heck,this is the same thing overwatch did with its loot boxes,having them drop fast at first,but then slow down more and more.
EA were just being idiots here,just like with dungeon keeper.If they were to give everyone vader after they sink in a couple of hours,but make him weak at first,people wouldve been hooked.
No, because you’re playing with a handicap. Anyone who is further through the grind than you is objectively more powerful than you – they don’t just have more options, they’ve got more powerful versions of the same options.
Wow. I cannot believe you think the fact that games still only cost $60 since 2005 is not important. I guess your cost of living hasn’t gone up? Or the human beings who create our games make and should make what they made in 2005? How do you rationalize that equation? You mentioned Netflix. The cost of Netflix has gone up too since 2005. But games shouldn’t? Why because they exist in another plane of reality? Think about what you are saying. Everything has gone up in price except for AAA games. And why? Because gamers believe games are still made in a basement by a couple of dudes. My suggestion would be we go back to 2005 graphics and performance. Then we don’t need a $400 PS4/Xbox one X and we can have our $60 and no microtransactions.
If we, video game consumer community, want to be taken seriously we have to do things like defend positions with math. Like the fact that video games are really cheaper than movies as entertainment. By the time I’m done, it costs me $60 for a movie for a family of 5. I can play weeks of a video game and I am out the cost of the game and some electricity. Yet people still go to the movies. And those prices went up too since 2005.
You have to discuss the fact that AAA games have not moved in price to have a real discussion about this. Everything else is hyperbole.
This. Personally, I would welcome an across the board price increase if it meant fewer attempts at additional post-release monetization. On the other hand, I’ve personally experinced a number of price increases for games. See, in my country console game prices have increased by about 2000% over the last decade or so, so for me it’s all par for the course.
Lots of technology has in fact gotten cheaper over the same time period. Smart phones, graphics engines, graphics cards, 3D printers. There’s no law saying prices MUST go up. In fact, prices often go down due to cheaper production methods and economies of scale.
More importantly, the price of an item is whatever the buyer is willing to pay for it, and the market is flooded with cheap titles right now. You can scold people and say they should be happy to pay more, but that doesn’t change the economic reality that these $60 games are sharing virtual shelf space with games that are $50, $30, or even $10. Some of them are AAA titles from a few years ago.
I might pay more for something unique to my interests. If the industry wants to make more niche immersive sim titles like Prey or System Shock 2 then I’d be on board with higher prices. But often the games trying to extract more from the consumer are broad titles operating in a crowded market. MAYBE prices need to go up, but maybe the losers need to stop trying and leave the market to the people who can keep their income above costs.
Also your comparison with movies is unreasonable. You’re comparing entertaining 5 people at a movie with entertaining 1 person with a game. You talk about using math, but you’ve already perpetrated a pretty big foul there. Compare 5 people at a movie with 5 people playing Battlefront and see what you get.
But doesn’t game development get more expensive? What with bigger teams needed and inflation demanding bigger salaries for developers? I still think that this fixation on the 60$ price point for an “AAA” game is hurting everyone. The way I see it, The Order 1886 might as well sell for 30$ at launch, while The Witcher 3 or, indeed, Skyrim, might go for 70 or 80$. Making the base price more malleable, as long as it goes both ways, seems like a preferable alternative to microtransactions and smaller DLC.
Also, since we are doing (bad) movie industry comparisons, the videogame industry could really benefit from more transparency. At least at the same level as the movie industry, which isn’t really as transparent as you’d think. But if we had reliable and comparable budget and sales info, we could have much better discussions.
I’m not the kind of person who likes to drop hyperlinks in a comment thread and walk away assuming the argument has been won, but this video makes some interesting points in rebuttal to the notion that game development costs and inflation have backed publishers into a corner where they had no choice but to turn on the microtransaction firehose. It’s worth checking out.
Yeah, DM posted that in a previous thread, and I will just copypaste my comment from back then:
This video is pretty weird. His argument is based around the decrease in cost of goods sold, which he says is actually the production of physical copies and maybe licensing fees and digital storefronts' overhead. So, not actual development. And I'm not actually sure whether logistics are included in COGS, that varies from company to company. Long story short, the industry really needs some transparency. At this point we are practically guessing.
Now, I really want to point out that I’m not blaming the video’s author, at least he’s trying to actually analyze something. But his handling of data is very loose and in the end doesn’t make for a good argument.
Making a game by itself is more expensive, but they’ve countered that by having much better sales figures than they once would. Cost per game is up, but cost per unit sold is down.
But the video itself mentions that official cost per unit sold data doesn’t include development costs, unless I misunderstood something.
True, but this isn’t the sole source of focus. He spends significant time looking at other data, such as publisher spend on R&D and marketing.
I assume the ‘cost per unit sold’ actually means revenue per unit sold. (Equivalently, it’s a cost to the buyer, not the seller.) So development costs go in the opposite column.
The video refers to ‘Cost of Goods Sold’, which means how much you spend to create all your sellable products. I think he later uses it when he means price people will pay for the game, but the chart will show expenses if he’s taking it from where he says.
Research and Development Costs is in the video, it’s the second chart.
He included his Excel sheet in the video description, if anyone can make sense of it.
(Tried to link it and failed. Check the video description.)
Huh, so I dug around in the spreadsheets a bit. It’s interesting, actually. So around 2009-2011 development costs were pretty high, then took a big dip, and are growing a bit in the last few years. Administrative costs are on the rise, though. But, more importantly, in the years of really high development costs the spreadsheets are showing negative income, with a sharp rise in income in the last few years, after the advent of additional monetization. So you can still make the argument that the reason for additional monetization was the old business model becoming less viable.
Another thing is the number of games developed. I think I’ve heard somewhere that the number of releases per publisher has actually dropped in the last few years, which would mean that development costs per game are still higher than they used to be. Which makes sense.
Look, personally, I’d love for game budgets to go down. I’m an old gamer, I don’t really care about graphics. The way I see it, we could stop at Kojima’s FOX Engine, which was completely amazing. I hate that modern graphics are forcing developers to make smaller and simpler games. I think a lot of the people here agree. But, well, we are in the minority here, aren’t we? Everyone wants pretty pictures. See the Mass Effect Andromeda debacle for proof.
Id really love to see the cost of development for the recent nintendo games,which all got stellar reviews and sold quite well,and comparatively the development cost for the recent shitfests like battlefront 2.I dont know for sure,but I suspect that nintendo games are cheaper,even though they were made for a new system.
I’am pretty sure they are. They aren’t really graphics-intensive, and mostly just don’t seem to be all that complex in terms of tech. No mo-cap, no expensive voice acting, no celebrities, not even that much writing, if we are talking about Mario or Legend of Zelda. But that’s part of Nintendo’s thing, the power of their franchises allows them to focus on style and basic gameplay over looks and bells and whistles. That’s a very rare and particular thing that you can’t really replicate. Even other venerable japanes franchises, like, say, Final Fantasy, have to go all modern and photorealistic.
What I’m saying is, you can’t really project Nintendo’s experience on the industry. No one can replicate it, only envy it.
Sure you can replicate it.Nintendo didnt just suddenly pop into existence.Heck,its last console,the wiiu,did not do that good.They did good with their products before and they are doing good with their products now because they are making good stuff*.
And no,final fantasy does not have to go all modern and photorealistic.Heck,I dont remember anyone saying anything about the graphics fidelity of the last one,but I did hear a bunch about how great the sexy boys are.People simply arent playing any of these games because of ZOMG PIXULZ,but because of the gameplay and art style.And those you definitely can replicate if you focus on it and hire some talented artists instead of constantly replacing your programmers with a fresh batch straight from college.
Heck,you can even see it in the western games.Which characters were the most praised ones in mass effect?Wrex and mordin,the unique looking great sounding ones.Was tom braider praised for the amazing new hair tech they did for lara,or her constant self supporting banter and mannerisms?Did the new doom do so good because of the updated graphics or the fast and brutal gameplay?
Dumping all your money into chasing the new tech will give you some token mentions here and there**,but if you want your game to be well received and have a long staying power,you need to do something distinct about it,you need to have some unique art style and good gameplay.You need to make a good game,not a cutting edge one.
*And Im saying that as someone who doesnt really like nintendo.I dont have any nostalgia for any of their games,seeing how I was a computer kid,not a console one.And I find their stance towards youtube creators really despicable.
**If you actually do it well.If you do it poorly,well then youll be remembered for a long time as “That game with the hilarious bug”.
Square is a bad example, they’ve been chasing the cutting edge for about the life of the company. Spirits Within is 16 years old now.
Look, a lot of people are really into graphics. Nintendo thrives on nostalgia and the milking of its iconic characters. That’s the Nintendo way, and the make underpowered quirky consoles to support their quirky games. Which is fine. And a lot of games can work with stylised graphics. Cel-shading is pretty cool, etc.
But that wouldn’t really work for Mass Effect. Or Uncharted. Or the Witcher 3. Unfortunately, these days you need both design AND cool graphics to impress and sell. Like, say, Horizon Zero Dawn. Great monster design, great graphics, hysterically positive reviews. I mean. the gameplay probably played a part too, didn’t play it myself, but I’ve seen a huge share of articles praising the visuals alone.
Daemian Lucifer makes a good point about graphics. The Tales of series are a great example of this. They settled on a cell shaded look as far back as the Gamecube and PS2. Ever since it’s been much the same look with minor steps in graphical quality. The steps in quality weren’t as much to make things “ZOMG GRAPHIX!” but just little steps like carving out detail they previously couldn’t computationally afford to put on the screen. The bulk of the increase in quality is simply things like better lighting models which really seem like they took the lighting model of the previous game, did some refining they didn’t have time to do during the previous game and shipped it. In other words just run of the mill incremental upgrades without blowing the budget on massive upgrades.
The quality of those games as a whole however has remained much the same. They still tell stories that center around some form of personal conflict while incorporating a “save the world” end game. The writing has for the most part maintained the same level of quality. The characters have had their ups and downs but easily dismissable as trying something new or something old in a new way and it not working out. The games overall are just as enjoyable to play each generation and instead of focusing on updates to graphical fidelity focused on updates to core game play like the combat system you spent the bulk of the game playing.
OK, so I basically got fooled by the mention of units. Heh heh heh … units.
You are correct that if development costs increase then the total sales income also needs to increase. However as Shamus said a product is worth what the customer will pay for it, if the unit price increase then quantity sold will go down so raising the price doesn’t necessarily increase total income.
What the companies are really doing here is market segmentation. Maximum profit occurs when you can sell to each customer at the maximum price that particular customer is willing to pay. The industry has always done this to a degree: Collector’s Editions, GOTY Editions and Steam Sales are all examples of market segmentation that have been used in the past.
Micro-transactions are basically an extreme form of this, creating a situation where customers are enabled and encouraged to spend as much as they are willing to on a game. The problem is that market segmentation tends to generate ill-feeling among your customers and the more extreme or blatant the segmentation is the more upset people get. People get upset that someone paid less and/or had a better experience than they did. It can work if your customer has a lack of other options (air travel is an excellent example of this) but this isn’t really the case with games. There are plenty of lower price games out there (both indie games and discounted AAA games) so if AAA companies push to hard customers will go elsewhere.
At the end of the day AAA companies need to figure out how to make development profitable. Raising prices and extreme market segmentation might work in the short term but in the long term it’s likely to push customers away.
Or you reduce prices as time goes on, a very simple and common form of segmentation in our case.
I like how the $60 thing is even an argument when the reality is it’s not $60 for the full game for starters. We also know that publishers do not charge everyone $60 for a game, only the US market. Some aspects of game dev have increased in costs and others have decreased. If you can’t sell the game for more than $60 and have the same or better ROI than why do it? If costs increase beyond this price point being profitable than you have made a poor business decision.
The price of the game doesn’t really matter. What matters is the ROI, you can kick and scream all you want about the prices being sticky and therefore counter-productive, but the reality is games businesses succeed regardless of the recommended retail price; if they make a good product and it gets enough attention and their costs didn’t burn them into the ground before reaching that point they can make a bank whether is $10, $30, $60, $120.
There is no reason to spend more and more on games except if you think it will net you greater returns and or some other strategic benefit (i.e. pricing everyone else out of the market with your bankrolled graphics). The price is clearly more flexible than people also want to accept. It just seems to be a crutch argument for justifying certain business strategies.
Five people playing Battlefront in a household costs about 5 times as much as those same five people watching movies. The fixed cost of the five platforms, five displays… compared to the cost of the single DVD player and display makes the difference in cost of the digital media laughable.
Gaming hardware is often time-shared, while passive entertainment hardware is easier to multiplex.
These kinds of comparisons usually fail. Look at what Shamus said. He has Netflix, so he can have family movie night every single night FOR A MONTH for 1/5 the price of your “family movie night”. Yeah, he’s not watching it on a huge screen in a theater–but many people DISLIKE the “theater experience”. Yeah, he’s not watching the latest blockbuster the day it comes out. But a lot of people actually don’t CARE about that any more.
Heck, I have Amazon Prime which is CHEAPER month-to-month than Netflix AND has a huge number of other values depending on which other Amazon services you might use.
You can’t COMPARE cross-platform this way. There is no “correct” price point for ANYTHING apart from “what are people willing to pay”. Games broadly haven’t gone up in price because for the most part people just aren’t willing to PAY that much even for a AAA game.
I spend a lot of money on gaming, but it’s almost all on ONE GAME. There are a few more select games that I’ll willingly buy expensive collectors pre-orders for–that’s my short list. I almost don’t even SHOP outside that list.
For the rest, my limit is more like $40 for a game rather than $60. It has been probably TEN YEARS since I paid $60 for a new game that wasn’t on the short list (Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age, Diablo).
It’s not because the games aren’t worth the MONEY. It’s because they’re often not worth the TIME. I don’t mind spending $20 on a movie that I may not love because, hey, worst case scenario I waste a couple of hours and then I can enjoy bitching about it on Facebook. I’m not going to be pleased if I put 20 hours into a game struggling to get to the “fun part” only to discover that there isn’t one. (That’s about the length of time it takes for me to settle in to most games and really get into the groove–and most AAA titles AREN’T EVEN THAT LONG ANY MORE.)
So, yeah, $60 price point in many cases is just too high for me to be willing to buy it.
I agree, the issue is the gambling of time on a game. With no returns, no demos, and untrustworthy reviews, and previous buggy releases, I would rather buy 3x $20 games and have one of them be worth spending 50 hours with and tossing the other two after 5 hours, rather than spend $60 on a single game that I may play for 100 hours or may toss after 10 hours.
Humble Monthly is an extension of that strategy – sure, half to three-quarters of the games I won’t play at all; but there’s about one game in there each month that I wouldn’t have bought otherwise and will happily sink dozens of hours into. And if that seems like a good deal to you, please see my referrer link! >;)
I too have not bought a game for more than $30 in the last ten years. Raising prices would get them nothing; there’s cheaper good games to play, and okay free ones.
Average income increase has also been frozen since around 2007ish. So with you saying that average costs of living have gone up, while average incomes have not, you’re also saying that people have less disposable income to spend on videogames. Therefore an increase in prices would reflect a loss of sales, at best no net gain in revenue and at worst losing it.
As Shamus points out, different markets play by different rules. Nobody who has seen an end game credits list thinks that games are “still made by two dudes in a garage.” The market simply doesn’t support paying more than $60 for a game. Regardless of such things as trying to quantify value by dollars spent per hour of game, most people just don’t think that way. The subjective value of a game in the mind of the everyman is the same as a movie or a good meal; paying grossly more for gaming feels wrong, and most people will make their decisions on a mix of analysis and feelings.
Further, gaming has an absurb upfront cost compared to other forms of entertainment. You don’t spend several hundreds of dollars for a Blu-ray player (anymore, at least). You don’t buy a several hundred dollar membership to McDonald’s in order to pay for meals. And we have in fact seen a gradual increase in the price of consoles over the decades.
In short, you’re argument is basically completely wrong, both on its own and in how it doesn’t take into account other relevant factors.
Maybe production cost for games have gone up. Other people say it hasn’t; I’m not sure.
Let’s say it has.
Okay, why? Is it for features I want? Like better graphics that my computer can’t run? A shorter campaign than older games because the software involved is too new/expensive/complicated? Less development time because of a bigger team? A bigger marketing push?
What am *I* getting for the extra money these companies are putting in, and do I want it?
It isn’t MY fault that games production is more expensive. I didn’t ask for a lot of what they’ve put in that AAA game, so why should I pay for it?
$60 per game is already a lot of money for what is, when all’s said and done, a hobby. I don’t NEED that game; if it’s too expensive, I just won’t buy it. For the same reason I don’t collect precious gemstones.
Also. Does the fact that games are more expensive to make justify the cynical use of microtransactions to make up the difference? Is it okay to just cut bits out of the game and stick them behind a paywall, because the company needs more money?
Indeed. As it happens, optimal pricing (the pricing strategy that maximizes total revenue) has nothing to do with production costs.
Where the per-unit production costs are very small, that’s true. If your per-unit production cost is higher, and especially if it isn’t constant with volume, you get into some advanced math.
But I don’t think EA needs to round off to an even number of shipping containers of DLC.
Yeah, in a highly competitive market of virtually identical products the competition pressure generally drives prices *toward* production costs–but there is no such thing in real life as the kind of magical “perfect market” you see in economics textbooks.
In the end, the price is what people are willing to pay. Even if your costs are MORE than what people are wiling to pay, you still can’t sell for more than people are willing to pay–you either lower your production costs or you go out of business.
I think it works like this:
The price is whatever they can get away with charging.
If production costs go up, people aren’t willing to pay more, and the size of the market hasn’t grown, games will become less profitable.
This means that more games companies will go out of business.
This will reduce competition.
…which means the surviving companies will have more sales, and balance will be restored.
The relationship between production costs and purchase costs for digital media is extremely loose. Similarly, $200 million superhero movies don’t charge 100 times as much for tickets as $2 million indie movies.
Game companies are competing inefficiently. With some moderate market research and targeting smaller groups (say, the set of people who recognize two references in Fahrenheit 0451) instead of “Males 19-30”, developers could make games that sold at $60 far cheaper than by making the next Shoot Guy.
Cyberpunk and transhumanist are genre/themes that are barely tapped so far; making a game that appeals to the fans of those themes requires writers that are intimately familiar with them.
Except that games these days,at least the aaa ones,DONT still cost $60.Oh sure,the price to download the game is that,but what you are downloading is:
1)Cheaper to distribute than in 2005
2)Unlimited in supply
3)Despite the first two points STILL does not include pre-order bonuses(which are purely digital now)
4)Offering less content than in 2005
5)Does not include the plethora of (usually already made cosmetic) dlcs being sold
6)Does not include the season pass for all the dlc(that is probably not even planned yet)
7)Does not include micro transactions
8)Does not include loot boxes
Also,lets not forget that there are plethora of games costing LESS than $60 that:
1)DO offer more content
2)DONT sucker you into buying useless preorders
3)DONT sucker you into buying a plethora of (usually already made cosmetic) dlcs
4)DONT include the season pass for stuff that isnt even thought of
5)ARENT balanced around micro transactions
6)ARENT balanced around gambling
7)ARE WAAAAAAY cheaper to make
8)Can be even more beautiful and artistically pleasing
The mere fact that these smaller games exist shows how bloated the aaa industry is and how its sinking money into useless bullshit.Games should not only not cost more than $60 these days,they should cost less.
Now if only everybody stopped buying those terrible, terrible AAA games. Oh wait, they can’t. Must be that gambling addiction settling in. The free market is ruthless, but very much demand-driven. Now, the fact that a gem like, say Divinity: Original Sin 2 sells for less than Battlefront II is a disgrace. But that’s on the consumers, who wouldn’t pay 60 dollars for an isometric RPG, no matter how brilliant, but would gladly spend that amount and then some on some slog like Destiny.
Preorders still exist for one reason only – people keep paying for them, for whatever reason. Same with microtransactions. Same with cosmetic DLC. Whether pay-to-win in multiplayer lives or dies is, once again, up to the consumer. Well, that and Bob Iger, in this particular case.
You joke,but you are kind of right.Its not the gambling addiction,but it is inertia.These things are popular because everyone is buying them,and everyone is buying them because they are popular.Its a vicious cycle thats extremely hard to break.But thats human nature.
However,that doesnt mean it should be accepted as “just human nature”,because human nature can be overcome.Its extremely hard,and we are rarely doing it,but its possible.
True enough. But that’s on the consumers to do. We vote with our wallets, that’s the only way.
There is a saying in my country, roughly translated it goes something like: “The mice were crying, they were hurting, they were getting pricked, but they kept on eating the cactus”. That’s the gaming community in a nutshell.
Not quite.Yes there are people who constantly preorder and then bitch about how they hate preorders.But mostly its people like me who dont preorder and are constantly trying to convince others to stop doing it as well.
You see,it doesnt really matter if one person stops doing a bad thing if 10000 others will do it anyway.But if that one person not only stops doing a bad thing but also manages to convince 1% of those 10000 to stop as well,then that makes a difference.Thats why its important for people with big audiences to continue complaining about bad practices even when their core audience gets sick of it.
The problem is that I rarely see the argument formulated as “Stop preordering” or “Don’t buy Battlefront II”. It’s more often “Waaaah! EA bad! Evil corporations bad! I don’t wanna pay! Gimme, gimme, gimme!”. I’m all for an anti-microtransaction movement, but one that’s aimed at the consumers, at propagating better and healthier consumer behavior. That’s what Jim Sterling once did, what TotalBiscuit does from time to time. But what we mostly get these days is entitled whining and adolescent anti-corporate rants. Present company excluded, of course. Twenty Sided is a pretty special place on the web in terms of quality of discussion.
Well most of the noise comes from people who are just reacting to the news. There are plenty of people out there who have talked about how fucked the games industry is beyond “waah the season pass is the same price as the game now”. But of course if you go to a high intensity issue full of people talking back and forth there’s going to be a lot of less informed opinions who feel the same thing but aren’t as able to express it.
You must not be looking very closely, because I’ve seen that argument made over and over again while the shitstorm unfolds on Reddit. Before that it was a common sentiment in certain other communities I frequent.
I’m sure it is. But it’s getting lost behind all the gnashing of teeth. Most people prefer whining to actually doing something, even when doing something actually means NOT doing something – like not spending your money on a piece of crap.
It all sort of folds back into itself. It’s very much a consolidation thing: publishers want to release less games to streamline the process of getting people onto the recurring revenue treadmill. This isn’t just conjecture, you have CEOs at the big publishers talking publicly about these objectives.
When you release less games, you need them to have as broad an appeal as possible, so you spend more money on graphics, more money on cinematics, more money on marketing. The surface level of attraction is key.
Games media has a stronger financial incentive to review your products favourably: not by way of naked corruption and the exchange of brown envelopes, but because the continued existence of those publications depends on staying sweet with the people who make decisions about access (in review/preview/interview terms) and advertising spend. As the calendar of release events shrinks in number and diversity, each release only swells in financial significance, making the act of calling out shitty behaviour and marking games down much harder.
So in that sense, the argument that games needed microtransactions to make up the deficit for rising development costs outstripping a static price point is putting the cart before the horse. Of course publishers would want to hold the price of entry low, because to do otherwise would narrow the funnel of manipulable minds being sucked onto the recurring revenue treadmill. A doesn’t justify B; B justifies A.
As Shamus points out, though, EA have done greed in a stupid way. They wanted it all: box sales at $60, box sales at $100, AND the most nakedly greedy microtransactions implemented in a full-priced game to date.
With an open goal in front of them, they still managed to come up with a strategy that was off-putting even to disengaged consumers, and that games sites had no choice but to excoriate or sacrifice all credibility. This generated a noxious cloud of publicity and forced them into full retreat on their precious loot crates. It’s hurting them doubly because the consolidation strategy that was designed to extract maximum value from this whole process means all their eggs are in a historically tiny number of baskets. It’s staggering how completely they managed to fuck everything up.
Change human nature, huh?
…good luck with that. I do actually mean it. I’d love to see human nature change. But I’ll believe it when I do see it…
I’m with Redrock: the value of articles like this is to inform customers. Whatever the industry, there will ALWAYS be someone willing to take advantage and sell you somethng crappy. Particuarly for a non-essential item like games.
It’s people’s decision to hand over their money, or not.
It’s not really inertia, it’s marketing. If you throw masses amount of money at marketing something you can create a “must buy this” effect. The actually quality of what you’re promoting is mostly irrelevant. (Well, it’s not irrelevant – it just needs to meet a certain bar so it doesn’t get utterly savaged by mainstream reviewers.)
I should point out that I am still prone to being affected by this, even though I am aware its happening.
Every human is.The only difference is to what degree.
The geneva convention.Theres a pretty major,pretty recent change in the human nature.
Hmmm, this could well turn into Politics, which would be bad & against the rules…
The Geneva Convention is a great piece of legislation (series of them) that have been used to prevent and punish some terrible things, as a result of other terrible things. But has it actually changed people?
Laws curtail behavior, they don’t change the root causes of it. Other countries that don’t adhere to the Geneva Convention (and some that do) are more than capable of genocide or other things it bans…
Or the TL:DR version: making theft illegal hasn’t stopped humans wanting to steal from each other. Or finding legal loopholes to do it within the law.
You are looking at it backwards.Its not that a law has changed people,its that people have changed so much that they decided to actually make and try and enforce such a law.
Well, until it became inconvenient for them. They’re more than capable of deciding they don’t need to obey them all the time if they don’t want to…
But yes, it is a good sign that people actually bother with such laws, which they didn’t do in the past. Fair enough.
If you want to look at a way to change the way people interact with an unhealthy and addictive substance, a good place to start would be tobacco. The popularity of cigarettes looked intractable in the 70s and 80s, but today the numbers of children taking up the habit are at an historical low.
To get to here, the problem needed to be attacked from both sides – the public had to be educated as to the negative health consequences of smoking by sustained and prominent public awareness campaigns, but regulatory intervention was also needed to protect people from the wider damage that smoking caused – especially with regard to things like cigarettes being marketed specifically to children and the dangers of second-hand smoke.
It had to be acknowledged that there was a real problem that exceeded the ability of individually responsible consumers to confront, and that fatalistically allowing the market to play out as it may wasn’t a sufficient solution, all of which naturally ran contrary to the go-to arguments of the tobacco industry.
Smartphones still cost the same as they did since the iPhone came out – and the capabilities of said phones are vastly greater.
I have a series of tv’s going back a decade and a half, each one cost me $600 (because that’s my sweet-spot for price-to-performance for tv’s) and each one is larger, better resolution, and more capabilities than the previous.
Cars are getting better while their prices are rising only IAW inflation – meaning you’re getting more car per dollar.
There’s *tons* of stuff that is either cheaper than it was in the past or the same price but more capable. Once you discount for inflation itself you’ll find that we are doing better than our parents were and every year we do better than the year before.
I was going to write “Hurray for more stuff!” on the other article, but all the comments were closed due to the end of the Gamer Gate discussion (not just the thread).
So, more stuff, yay!
On topic, Heroes and Generals and War Thunder seem to have a worse grind, but they come free. No need to pay 60 dollars-or-euros.
Looking at the current state of the videogame industry, I think I’m starting to understand how European Christians felt in the last days before the Reformation.
“You don’t have to buy indulgences, you know. It’s completely optional, you can always just earn salvation by saying 3000 Hail Marys.”
Indulgences were about lessening time in purgatory, not salvation per se. This means you’re comparing playing the game to spending time in purgatory. Which, in the case of SWB2, I can’t speak to, having never spent time in purgatory.
As I understand it, salvation was explicitly promised by at least Johann Tetzel (one who seemingly drove Luther to act):
“Wenn das Geld im Kasten klingt, die Seele in den Himmel springt.” [When the coin rings in the collection box, the soul will leap to heaven.]
It may have technically been about shortening purgatory, but it was heavily implied to also be actual salvation. After all, Luther didn’t act until Tetzel massively expanded the indulgence trade.
Fun (or possibly sad) aside: You can buy souvenir indulgences in Martin Luther’s home town today.
Do they power said town by using his spinning corpse to run a generator?
If so, that wasn’t part of the tour.
The meme are strong in this article! But since they are good, on point and relevant to the article, I’m not complaining, you’re doing the best of a non-ideal situation.
I actually have to disagree with you there, Shamus. It would be true under most similar circumstances, but The Mouse is in the equation here and you’re vastly underestimating The Mouse’s value in it.
Let’s look at the original EA deal. The Mouse doesn’t want to produce games inhouse. It has tried in the past, without enough returns on the result. So The Mouse wants a contractor, and only one, to maintain the control The Mouse likes to hold over its properties. As a comment mentions above, the list of companies able to produce a AAA game, let alone a whole suite of them, is a short one. What does EA have that the others don’t? The aforementioned comment lists several great reasons, but here’s a couple more relevant ones that it missed:
-EA produced The Old Republic, the Star Wars MMO that’s still… going strong is perhaps too, well, strong for how its doing, but it exists and probably turns a profit. Its an existing relationship.
-EA has Battlefield, along with everything it needs to make more of them. And what is Battlefield? A multiplayer focused FPS, a market difficult to break into (as evidenced by the troubles of the Titanfall franchise, whose creators have been bought out by EA after the release of a mere 2 titles), yet highly lucrative. It’s an essential genre point on the checklist of anybody wanting to make a suite of games for a particular brand (others would be an MMO, check, a mobile game, which EA is probably the most successful AAA publisher at producing, check…). And the cherry on top is that Star Wars already has a multiplayer focused FPS franchise in Battlefront, which even when originally released was clearly derived from Battlefield. Checkaroony.
Without a doubt, EA making a Battlefield with a Star Wars skin was probably the lynchpin of the Disney/EA Star Wars agreement. I mean, look at it. The biggest IP of all time, with as perfect a match in a videogame producer as possible. This is something worth betting the farm on. This is as sure a bet as POSSIBLE in this industry.
And EA. Fucking. Bombed.
You know how many units Battlefield 3 sold? 15 mil. Know how many Battlefront moved? 7 mil, from what I hear.
How in the fuck do you take an extremely popular game, put on the skin of freaking STAR WARS, and somehow manage to FUCKING SELL HALF OF THE COPIES?! HOW?!?!
EA found a way. EA always does.
As can probably be guessed from my connotation, I am personally horrified/enraged by the sheer incompetence such a thing entails. Now put yourself in the shoes of the people who lost the surest marketing bet that may have ever been made. Now, put yourself in those same shoes, but they’re owned by The Mouse.
There are not enough pants in the world to hold all the shit that was lost the day that bet was lost.
The only possible reason The Mouse didn’t personally take the heads of everyone involved in that debacle was if those heads promised the bet would get paid off on the second go around, and even better with all this monetization stuff we are throwing in there so that even if the number of copies isn’t ideal we’ll still print money. And that second go around is right here, and you tell me here and now how that bet is looking?
You don’t make a fool of The Mouse once. You don’t survive making a fool of The Mouse twice. Heads are gonna roll. Either with The Mouse’s hand on the axe, or the shareholders’ when EA goes to tell them that they’ve lost their exclusive hold on the biggest franchise in the world.
I wonder if it’s possible that Disney might put pressure on EA to close SWTOR, too. Last I heard the content release schedule for SWTOR was a joke, it was hemorrhaging players. My housemate’s guild quit en masse and went back to WoW.
TOR has recently done server consolidation, so it might be on its way out. Which for me would suck, because that’s the only MMO I still play, now that City of Heroes is gone.
I’d suggest giving DDO or LOTRO a try if you’re interested. DDO is not everyone’s piece of pie, it’s EXTREMELY different from pretty much every other MMO I’ve seen. LOTRO is a bit more conventional.
I actually tried LOTRO and wasn’t that impressed by it, and the only reason I still play TOR is because of the varied class stories and how the level progression is pretty simple and neat at the moment. I never really had any interest in DDO.
Yeah, wasn’t that impressed by LOTRO either (starter planets…pardon, locations were alright, but as soon as you’re out of them it’s twenty bear arses all the way down) and would be sad to see SWTOR go. Which is not the fact it will do soon since it got slapped with ‘Tortanic’ nickname and predictions of imminent death basically as soon as it left the wharf and look at it now, still happily threading them viscous, polluted MMO waters.
That said, between EA’s habit to slay their cash cows and game’s own indecisiveness which customer group — story-oriented or endgame-oriented — to cater to, yeah…there is reason to be worried about.
I’d suggest giving DDO a try–it’s WILDLY different from any other MMO I’ve played, and it’s not readily apparent from the game descriptions/marketing just HOW different. I know that I waited years to even try it because I was like, eh, it sounds dumb.
Then I tried it.
An MMO being different isn’t really a big sell for me. The things that most sell me on an MMO are:
1) The ability to solo (I don’t really like playing in groups).
2) The story and/or the setting.
3) A variety of class combinations and character customization that lets me create different characters that can take different paths through the game without getting bored.
Dark Age of Camelot had the best combinations of settings and was really good at having differing classes, but was a bit hard to solo. The Old Republic now has pretty much all of this, although the class and character customization is a bit thin. City of Heroes was the best at all of these, although at times soloing got tough, depending on class.
I’m not sure how DDO fits in here, although I’m not a huge fan of most D&D settings, and have the Gold Box games for stories in those settings if I do.
How so?Ive heard that about loads of other mmos,but usually what it ends up being is a slightly different combat mechanic.This game lets you dodge stuff more actively,that one allows you to jump into large scale battles instead of small skirmishes,etc.But all of them still do the same social stuff.You find a guild,do stuff for the guild,invest time to help the guild grow.
The only one that actually does not rely on that exact same mold is diablo 3,where you can perpetually just play with randos,or alone,even in end game.And that is achieved only because the game is always limited to parties of no more than 4.
I think EA is going to lose their license real soon.
Chris Lee’s speech alone is enough embarrassment for Disney. There’s no way they’re going to let EA hurt the Star Wars brand any further.
Anyone play the same game for 2.5 hours per day for an entire year? Wouldn’t that get stale REALLY damn fast?
Nah, the advantage of multiplayer is no two games are exactly the same. There’s always a different opponent. Some people have played League of Legends every day for over 5 years now.
League is an EXTREMELY in depth multiplayer game though, it can support those hours. Battlefront 2 is an edges-sanded off casual game in many, many ways.
…You can replace League of Legends in my sentence with “CoD’s annual installment” and it’d still be true. The only difference is that CoD makes you pay $60 annually for their next major patch.
Despite my dislike for Call of Duty, I still don’t think it’s “the same game” every year. Like anything else, a fan could tell you the major differences between each one, and they’d have a favorite, and a least favorite, and so on.
That’s… 900 hours?
I may have hit that for Chess before. Nothing else. Maybe there’d be others if I played more competitive games.
I actually ran into a chart on hours played:
and average time played can hit 100 hours for multiplayer shooters, in-depth simulations, and MMOs, but even for those it stays below 200 hours. 900 hours is the mark of someone who hasn’t checked their math. Redo the math with the assumption a generic game will give you 60 hours of playtime, and things look different.
(To be fair, I am very glad Minecraft doesn’t track hours played.)
I have a steam friend who right now has logged more than 800 hours with Europa Universalis IV. And that’s his second most played game.
I was actually thinking that 900 hours sounds more like a Paradox Interactive number than a typical shooter number. Then again, Paradox Interactive games tend to be much more expensive after all the DLC, so that doesn’t help the cost per hour argument too much.
There are a few games I could easily imagine playing that much, although they’re strategy/building games, so I’m not sure if that really counts.
The wrong way to increase the price of a game: Add big microtransactions to unlock the whole game (EA).
One right way: DLC and expansion packs to unlock the whole game..
The difference? War of The Chosen got some flak for being a high price, but I bought it and am generally happy with that choice. And when I play Multiplayer, I don’t have to worry about playing against someone who bought gameplay advantages. The Fallout 3+ games each have expansion DLC that follow the Tribunal model (teleport the player to and from a new area, so that integration of the content is easier).
Multiplayer map packs and skin unlocks are the equivalent; you just have to find the Laffer curve for those.
Absolutely. Nothing wrong with microtransactions per se; it’s how you do them.
Sadly, the crappy practices of EA or other companies actually do make money, so we’ll probably be seeing more of them. As I said above, I fully expect Loot Boxes to disappear after an outcry, only for ‘Opportunity Crates’ to start appearing a few months later.
Hey, if it worked for paid mods…
There is a very thorny problem with multiplayer map packs, though, which is that they fragment the player base. Taking one big pool of players available for matchmaking and splitting it into two or three smaller ones does throw up a whole bunch of issues. But it’s worth remembering that this was the model for multiplayer games from 1999’s Quake 3 and all the way to FIFA Ultimate Team in 2012, and it didn’t stop those games from being financially viable, nor widely beloved by gamers.
I think one of the best strategies (not only from a customer satisfaction viewpoint, but a business one) is to just release your post-release expansions for free and treat them as publicity generators to prop up a long tail of sales. If you look at the pre-f2p years of TF2, or a game like Splatoon (which sold an insane amount of copies considering the Wii U’s install base), this model can do very nicely indeed.
Failing that, if you absolutely HAVE to do post game monetisation for your multiplayer-focused game, the least shitty thing to charge for is cosmetics. Not content, not upgrades, not ‘sidegrades’. That’s why Blizzard have taken far less reputational damage over Overwatch loot boxes than EA have for Battlefront 2. Withholding skins behind a gacha system is still pretty manipulative and gross though.
I could see doing something like putting an xpac out in six months to a year, selling it at the fair price, and then also selling a “game+xpac” bundle at the correct price point for that. I don’t think giving away the content for free would drive more total revenue, but I would welcome being proven wrong- has a major update that could have been sold been given away and driven a sales spike larger than the sales not pursed?
While I believe that Disney might be pushing to for a step back to avoid bad press, it’s just as possible that they’ve been pushing to make the step forward in the first place.
Our local budget cinema had to raise prices for Disney movies specifically a couple years back because Disney had simply decided to demand a bigger cut from each ticket.
The way I see it, there are two contradictory positions:
A. Everyone hates microtransactions
B. Microtransactions make a shit ton of money
So which is it? If A is true, no game should have microtransactions and games that do have them should fail. But if B is true, every game WILL have microtransactions, for the same reason every fast food place has combo meals. You can’t afford NOT to do what your competition is doing.
I’m not defending EA here, but like it or not, microtransactions are going to stay as long as they make money, which they seem to do. I despise them with a passion but apparently there are enough people with deep pockets who are willing to pay. Maybe game developers just don’t want my business anymore; maybe they don’t NEED it anymore.
What if 90% of people hate microtransactions coupled to full-priced games, and 10% of people find them strangely addictive? Is that contradictory?
You’re probably thinking about lootboxes. But everyone hates microtransactions too, and microtransactions aren’t addictive by definition. Also, could it be the other way around? That the “everyone” in “everyone hates” is a vocal minority?
Its not that everyone hates microtransactions,but rather people who like them are playing freemium games and people who dont like them are paying for full priced games and are increasingly annoyed by having to pay for stuff on top of that.
Also,even with microtransactions,there is a difference between a new cool hat and a weapon that has double the damage of any regular one.People are much more tolerant towards cosmetic stuff.
The finance models for games with microtransactions are not dependent on many people liking microtransactions. They don’t make their money from people who refuse to buy anything or who might occasionally drop ten bucks on something interesting, they make their money on the people who will spend literally thousands of dollars on them.
Nah, the “whales” are statistically too small a proportion of players. The Long Tail is a real phenomenon. The aggregate purchases in the tail vastly outweigh all the “whales” that could ever exist.
You can even see this on Kickstarter. Yeah, that One Guy might drop $10,000 on Pillars of Eternity. That’s 0.2% of what was funded. You can’t fund ANYTHING out of whales. That’s the whole reason WHY the transactions ARE “micro” in the first place. If they were able to fund comfortably just off whales, the game would cost $500. They make WAY more money getting a few bucks off a LOT of people than a LOT of bucks off a FEW people. (Multiplayer games actually monetize the REAL cheapskates who refuse to spend any money whatsoever because they are basically PART OF THE PRODUCT–they give the players who spend money something to DO).
The whining comes from people who spend $60 and think they’re a whale. Honey, you’re a basic bitch. You bought a coach ticket. Stop expecting first class treatment, especially since you’re on the same damn plane and the stuff the “first class” passengers get is stuff that YOU said was DUMB and you WOULDN’T SPEND MONEY FOR ANYWAY.
Hence why bitching about microtransactions sui generis never gets anywhere. The result isn’t “I actually get all the first class stuff on my coach ticket”. The result is “there IS no first class, and probably no sequel, either”.
You can bitch about certain TYPES of microtransactions and ya might even have a leg to stand on–a coach ticket should still be a coach ticket, sure, and not “oh, sorry, you have to pay more not to sit in the barbed wire seat cushion section”. But let’s remember that the granddaddy of “microntransactions” is . . . iTunes. Do we REALLY want to go back to the days of having to pay $20 for a CD in order to get the ONE good song on the dang thing?
…what’s that about Sui Generis? That looked super promising on Kickstarter, but it’s been a few years now, I just check on the project about once a year.
In Free-To-Play games, whales provide about 70% of income.
This is unlikely ever to be the case for $60 games.
I see no contradiction.
A SERMON ON ETHICS AND LOVE
One day Mal-2 asked the messenger spirit Saint Gulik to approach the Goddess and request Her presence for some desperate advice. Shortly afterwards the radio came on by itself, and an ethereal female Voice said YES?
“O! Eris! Blessed Mother of Man! Queen of Chaos! Daughter of Discord! Concubine of Confusion! O! Exquisite Lady, I beseech You to lift a heavy burden from my heart!”
WHAT BOTHERS YOU, MAL? YOU DON’T SOUND WELL.
“I am filled with fear and tormented with terrible visions of pain. Everywhere people are hurting one another, the planet is rampant with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war. O, woe.”
WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THAT, IF IT IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO?
“But nobody wants it! Everybody hates it.”
OH. WELL, THEN STOP.
At which moment She turned herself into an aspirin commercial and left The Polyfather stranded alone with his species.
From the Principa Discordia, and further explored in SSCs Meditations On Moloch
I think this all misses the point anyway.
If they make a pvp game where one side has access to powerups and the other does not, the result is unbalanced gameplay. It doesn’t matter if Person A got his upgrades from time in game or spending cash. The result is the same. If anything, I would defend microtransactions in that case because it gives latecomers a chance to catch up instead of being perpetually doomed.
“Sense of achievement” and microtransactions both work when what’s received are sidegrades, collectibles, or cosmetics. I might be envious that you have Darth Vader and I’m stuck on Brace Marko, Gold 6 Rebel Pilot. But if my guy has equal power to yours then we have a perfectly good game until I can acquire the title character of my choice. Microtransactions are thus pay-to-skip not pay-to-win, and have long been considered an acceptable alternative.
SWB2 doesn’t sound like something I want to play, not because there are lots of things to buy, but because when the guy across from me not only has more experience but a card that says “10% bonus damage”, I’m not anxious to sign up for that.
I’ve seen a few people make this mistake about that meme, I just want to correct it. That’s not LeVar Burton, it’s actually Kayode Ewumi.
Huh. All this time, and I’ve always assumed that was a young Burton.
BREAKING NEWS: Actually, we did beat EA. In fact, the entire in-game microtransaction house of cards is crashing down hard. Because it’s finally going to be illegal.
SidAlpha’s video covers quite a bit, but more news is breaking hourly about legislators in various states, the EU, and elsewhere finally taking action against the entire industry. Things were moving ahead already, but Battlefront II was the catalyst to kick things into high gear.
While thats excellent news,ea was shit much before this,and theyll continue to be shit in the future.As long as their annual sportsball games are successful,which they will forever be,ea is free to be shit as much as they want.
I’ll bet their lawyers are already hard at work looking for the next loophole they can exploit, or designing the replacement microtransaction system.
Still, it’s better than not doing anything. Maybe now EA et al will try to make their money by just producing a game that’s good with no annoying bullshit tacked on…
“We didn’t allow Joe Camel to encourage your kids to smoke cigarettes , we shouldn’t allow Star Wars to encourage your kids to gamble”
Well done Hawaii.Well done.
The analysts numbers are crap. He forgot to take into consideration he cost of a gaming PC (and the constant upgrade of such), or the cost of a “new” console. And the bandwidth caps that in particular US (and Australian?) citizens suffer, those 60GB patches and downloads ain’t cheap.
It may take days for stuff to download, the servers may be down the one day you took a day off to game so now you’r screwed.
These are issues that you won’t have to worry about when going to the cinema. With the head of the FCC in the US trying to get rid of net neutrality the chance of even more costly datacaps is a real possibility.
One interesting thing because of all this is that Belgium are looking into possibly banning games that let kids (and adults) pay for random loot/rewards. Netherland is also rumored to look into it. So are a territory in Australia. And on Hawaii senators have gone out strongly and declared Battlefront 2 as a Star Wars online casino praying on kids. Outch.
In Norway the re-selling of skins is already illegal. And any form of gambling is strictly regulated. Per Norwegian criteria Battlefront 2’s lootcrates falls under that classification.
It’ll be interesting to see what the fallout of this is going to be.
I’m not really sure what all the fuss is about; I’ve been playing Battlefront II for years, and I’ve always been able to play as Luke or Vader…
(Yes, this is a jab at the ridiculous and repetitive naming convention. Seriously, what is it about Star Wars that makes people unable to count?!?)
So that CNBC”analyst” is an EA and Comcast investor analyst, what a surprise…
That’s factually true, but even if he wasn’t, videogame industry “analysts” are entirely useless. To this day, I haven’t seen any of them saying something even remotely right about the industry. The only other analyst I can name right now is Michael Pachter, and everything that comes out of that man’s mouth regarding the industry is pure idiocy. Even the couple of times he managed to be right about one of his predictions has to be explained by the broken clock analogy.
I honestly don’t know how does one get this title, but it’s certainly not because they know what they’re doing.
Sean Malstrom has been pretty spot on with his market analysis. But he mostly sticks to nintendo and disruption in the console industry.
Is he the guy who wrote about Nintendo’s Blue Ocean strategy when the Wii was new? Because that was fascinating.
that’s the one.
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