An interview with Jens Uwe Intat, senior VP and general manager for European publishing at EA, was recently published on gamesindustry.biz. In the interview, Intat made some comments that annoyed me a bit as a consumer of the product his company produces (i.e. video games).
I’d actually make the point that for us second-hand sales is a very critical situation, because people are selling multiple times intellectual property.
Okay, you’ve just gotta know I’ve got something to say about this. My comments, and more quotes, after the break…
The first part of his statement could be true. Retail video games can cost millions to produce, and the developer/publisher does not see a dime from the used market. However, the whole quote comes off as a bit melodramatic. More concerning is that it smacks of the same type of statement software companies use when discussing piracy. Replace “second-hand sales” with piracy and “selling” with “stealing” and you’ve got an anti-piracy rant. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but I doubt a VP would provide such a soundbite without realizing the connotation.
What we’re trying to do is build business models that are more and more online-supported with additional services and additional content that you get online. So people will see the value in not just getting that physical disc to play at home alone, but actually playing those games online and paying for them.
So what they’re trying to do is create a business model where you buy the game and then keep buying downloadable content for said game. Nice. I wish I could develop a business model where I could get someone to keep paying me for the same thing over and over again.
In our understanding of the business model we are actually giving away the rights to play, and if you just pass it on, pass it on, pass it on, that is not comparable to second-hand sales in the normal physical goods area where you have physical wear-out – second-hand cars, second-hand clothes, second-hand books… they’re all physically wearing out, so you have an inferior quality product.
Just so consumer’s aren’t confused, when you shell out your $60 you’re not actually buying the piece of physical media on which the game resides, you’re buying the “rights to play” the game. Apparently the publisher still owns the media.
As for not being comparable to other second-hand sales, I call bulls**t. Yes, some products (like clothing and cars) do wear out over time. However, while a book can become dog-eared and torn, as long as the contents are complete and legible it provides every bit of the intellectual property as the day it was printed. Also notice how he conveniently omitted CDs and DVDs from his little rant. Those industries have learned to cope with a second-hand market. For years the gaming industry has wanted to be respected and treated like other entertainment industries (like music and movies), and now that it is they don’t like it so much.
It’s clear the ’solution’, as viewed by the industry, is to move towards digital distribution. The problem with that solution is that it is, in my opinion, pro-industry and anti-consumer. It’s the easy fix. If people are buying and selling the product in the aftermarket, simply get rid of the physical media. Problem solved, right! If you buy something via download and you tire of it or don’t like it, tough, we’ve got our money.
It would be nice if the industry really questioned why second-hand sales is such a burgeoning market. Here are some thoughts…
In an era where gas is $4.00 a gallon and food prices have risen over 20% in some cases (milk is up 26% over a year ago), a $60 luxury item like a video game isn’t high on the priority list. I make decent money, but I try to watch what I spend. I got GTA:IV for $30 off eBay three months after it was released. If I can wait two or three months and get two used games for the price of one new one, heck yeah I’m gonna do that.
The video game industry seems to be reaching a point of saturation. The average age of gamers is going up. That means people who have jobs, families, and other hobbies. I’m lucky if I find four or five hours a week to play games, and I don’t have any kids. I’ve got probably 40 or 50 hours worth of unplayed games sitting around. If I had kept the games I was finished with, what would I do with them? As much as I’d like to play through Ratchet & Clank again, when am I going to find the time with Mass Effect, GTA:IV, Lego Star Wars, and Saints Row sitting there unfinished? I simply don’t have time to go back to them and play them again, so why not generate some income so I can buy new games in the future? Maybe the industry should actually think about cutting back on the amount of product they’re pumping out.
I’ve ranted long enough. What do you think?