I am happy to announce that, effective immediately, WordPress is once again the primary home for Consoleation. This is the fourth– and likely final– version of this blog, which I started nearly two years ago. As readers, you likely will not see much in the way of changes. Blog entries will still be done through Posterous, so that site will obviously continue to be updated; however, after comparing traffic reports and seeing which of the two sites attracts more readers, WordPress has performed consistently well.
You will start seeing more content on a regular basis, and it won’t be limited to sales and business discussion… although you can still expect to see a healthy dose of sales analysis and reaction. As I mentioned earlier this week, I am going to be returning to my roots as a review writer and will be posting more game impressions and reviews as I attempt to work my way back into a reviewing position somewhere. This is a decision that I’ve thought about for some time, and I’m eager to settle back into talking more about games and my impressions of them. I invite all of you to continue leaving comments and feedback; feel free to talk about any of the content that I post. If you think I’m off base about a certain game, tell me. If you believe that there’s something about a game or topic that I am leaving out, please bring it up. I’d really like to stir up some discussions between you and I, or even between yourselves, about the variety of topics that Consoleation will be touching on in the weeks, months, and years to come. WordPress also has a rating system, so you can rate blog entries. I promise to be a big boy if someone gives me a poor rating… but ratings can be good ways of indicating whether you enjoy the subject matter being discussed and can help to shape the course that Consoleation takes going forward.
Lastly, I would like to thank all of you who have been visiting Consoleation– whether you’re brand new or have been reading for a while now. My primary motivation for writing is not to get paid or to necessarily turn this into a full-time job (although I wouldn’t complain if that happened). I write to be read and to see what readers think about my views, opinions, and observations. Knowing that people read Consoleation is a big deal to me, and nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than seeing that someone has left a comment or that a certain entry has attracted more than a couple of visitors. While it does take time to write these entries, it’s tougher for you to find time to read what a regular guy like me who loves the industry and enjoys video games immensely has to say.
A new beginning seems appropriate with my birthday on the horizon. I hope that you all will come along for the ride.
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has been a huge success. The game has sold millions of copies across multiple platforms within less than six months, it continues to be the most-played game on Xbox LIVE, and over a million users bought the Stimulus Package map pack within the first 24 hours of release– and over 2.5 million bought it within the first week. Sure, it can be argued that five new maps would have been better than three new ones and a couple of retreads, but the sales numbers don’t lie: Gamers want more Modern Warfare 2, even if you and I don’t.
Jesse Divnich, an analyst from Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR), recently remarked to IGN that Activision could have moved the price point for the Stimulus Package higher than $15. As the story has spread across gaming websites, commenters have been less than kind to Divnich and his thoughts. I challenge you to read the comments under the IGN story alone. It’s pathetic. Divnich needs to be fired? This ain’t the stock market? Indeed, internet commenters can be an intelligence-shy bunch. Much like Modern Warfare 2, you don’t have to like what Divnich says to understand that he’s right: Activision could have very well inflated the price of the Stimulus Package by $5 and it still likely would have sold almost as well, if not the same. If you multiply the extra $5 by 2.5 million, that’s an extra $12.5 million that Activision could have made.
I’m not always on board with DLC. I’m certainly not a fan of higher prices. Nevertheless, I can look at this topic both ways. Activision is in business to make money. Sure, we can debate the methods that they try to accomplish that goal, but that’s what Bobby Kotick and company are shooting for. While a commenter may claim that “this ain’t the stock market”, the truth is that shareholders and investors want to see returns on the millions of dollars that they’ve poured into Activision to make it go. When Activision makes money, more investors want in… but if revenues fall off or are limited, it doesn’t seem like such a good investment. Activision knows that Modern Warfare 2 is a hit, and they know that people who own the game are thirsty for more content. DLC sales results for past Call of Duty games showed that gamers were willing to pay for additional maps… so the question revolves around how much they can charge to increase profits and still maintain interest. Sure, Activision could charge $5 for new maps, or even lobby to make them free– but then investors can point out that Activision is missing a money-making opportunity and begin to question leadership. $10 has been a sweet spot in the past… but Modern Warfare 2 has been such a big success that it’s foolish not to boost the asking price this time around. The move to $15 didn’t hurt sales at all… and so Divnich’s assertion that Activision could have made even more money makes sense.
There are going to be huge games and IPs that can command higher prices. Call of Duty is one. Final Fantasy could be another (although the series’ reputation has taken a bit of a hit after the mixed reactions from Final Fantasy XIII). You could argue that Gears of War could also belong on this list. Halo, as well. Halo fans were willing to pay top dollar for special editions of Halo 3, so if Microsoft decided to sell Halo: Reach for $70, it’s tough to argue that millions wouldn’t pay the extra $10. The same could have been said for Final Fantasy XIII, but with a bit less certainty. I’m not saying that games like these should be sold at higher prices, but if you look at things from a business standpoint instead of a gaming standpoint… it’s a situation that’s hard to argue against.
It’s fine not to approve of higher prices. As much as I believe that these higher prices will hurt the industry, seeing a $15 map pack move 2.5 million units reminds me that there are certain products that consumers will pay top dollar for. $60 games haven’t been as damaging as I thought they would in some instances. Even in a recession, where some consumers will buy a handful of games in a year, there are going to be “must-own” titles that consumers will save money to buy and then snap up whatever extra content is offered. These games have earned their higher price tags. Meanwhile, I can’t help but to think that new IPs– such as Dead Space or Mirror’s Edge back in 2008– would benefit from lower introductory pricing (like $50) to get out there and be noticed. Sequels, if warranted based on sales, can sell for higher amounts… but they have to have proven track records in order to have a chance of success.
I do understand why some gamers are vocal about the cost of the Stimulus Package and what it contains. If I still owned Modern Warfare 2, it’d have been a tough sell for me. $15 is not exactly chump change, and it’s possible that the higher price could set a precedent for future map packs and DLC. I don’t disagree with this. Conversely, we all need to remember that not only is video gaming a business, first and foremost… but also that the vocal internet community represents a minority of consumers. It doesn’t matter if you, me, and a few other people complain and write compelling arguments about the possible ramifications of higher prices and the quality of the content; hundreds and thousands of consumers are going to buy what they want to buy and there’s nothing we can– or should– do about it.