The console video gaming industry has successfully trained consumers to expect downloadable content for most new games over the course of this generation. We know it’s coming. It’s rarely a question of if… but when. I’ve talked a good deal over the life of this blog about DLC, its validity, and the effect that it’s had on the medium.
Here’s one thing about DLC that I will never understand, though: Why do publishers feel the need to start talking about DLC before games are released?
It’s not about the game as it ships to retail anymore; we have to hear about all of the content that our $60 purchase doesn’t cover. It sours the experience. Hearing about more maps, extended campaigns, and other DLC before release always begs the same question: Why isn’t this stuff included? Excuses about development timelines and “going gold” only go so far when publishers trumpet announcements of DLC months before launch.
Is there any particular reason that publishers can’t sit on DLC announcements until a couple of weeks after a game ships? Why even present the illusion that incomplete or content-stripped games are hitting stores? Hearing about DLC before a game comes out doesn’t make me want to buy that game at launch; in fact, as a consumer, I’m more likely to wait before buying that game and see if a new SKU with DLC included hits stores for a better value. I don’t care at launch whether you’re going to support the game in a year’s time. I care about getting the most for my money, and touting content that I’m not getting unless I pay an extra premium is not adding value. At all.
I don’t think that the industry even realizes what it’s doing. It’s arguable that it doesn’t care, but that’s not the point. There shouldn’t have to be a need for unpaid industry defenders to leap to the rescue and attempt to justify actions like these. It could have started with responsible decision-making. Why damage the perceived worth of your game at launch by talking about all of the things that won’t be included in the package?
Why is this such a difficult concept to grasp? Is it possible that nobody sees why this could lead to a perception problem?
It’s an unfortunate imbalance. Gone are the days when consumers can look forward to what they’re going to get for their $60. Instead, we’re now forced to ask about what we’re not getting for our $60. It’s a case of putting the cart before the horse, and this standard is one of the growing list of things that has made this console generation so disappointing.
My latest Armchair Analysis piece has been posted at KmartGamer, as I react to Sony‘s move to drop the price of the PlayStation 3 this week. I hope that you’ll give it a read and see what you think, as there are some good and not-so-good ramifications from the decision… which is long-overdue and one that I’d predicted would happen a couple of months ago.
So… my timing is a little late, but I was dead-on with the drop amount. I’ll take batting .500, thanks.
Consumer response to the cut has been favorable so far. IndustryGamers is reporting that Amazon has shown a significant increase in PS3 unit sales, which is a natural occurrence for price drops. August’s NPD report will show improvements for the PS3, which should break the 200,000 mark and has an outside shot at overtaking Xbox 360 unit sales for the month. It’s not a definite, but it’s not impossible, either. What remains to be seen is whether the trend will be sustained through Q4. Multiplatform games seem to go hand-in-hand with Xbox 360 sales, and Gears of War 3 will stem any potential sustained run at the top of the NPD charts by the PS3 in September.
Thanks for following my work on KmartGamer and here at Consoleation. Look for more League of One content on KmartGamer soon, plus some more insights on games gone by for the PSone and PS2 here on my home blog. It’s a really exciting time in my writing tenure, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that more opportunities are coming. In the meantime, feel free to send a shout to me on any of your favorite social networks: Twitter, Google Plus, or Facebook.
My first Armchair Analysis piece has been posted over at KmartGamer, as part of the League of One project. I invite you to take a peek and see what you think. My format hasn’t changed much from what I was posting here, but I’m hoping that it’ll get a little more exposure as I try to fit in with other analysts (who are actually legitimate), such as Michael Pachter and Jesse Divnich.
I think it’s important to note that, while the numbers in July were certainly grim, we have some very active months ahead. The long-overdue PlayStation 3 price cut that was announced today will help a little this month, and then we have over three months of solid game releases. December is in play not only because of residual holiday and game catch-up sales… but Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS could be huge.
The alarm is on silent for now, but the situation bears watching. How will holiday spending be affected as the economy twists and turns? Will too many games lead to confusion at the register? Will consumers react enough to the PS3 and 3DS price cuts? All of these variables could be substantial factors in shaping the success of Q4 this year. I’m cautiously optimistic.
Hope you like the piece, and feel free to drop any comments you wish.
Rage was one of the games that impressed me at E3 back in June. It had a Borderlands vibe to it, but substituted more realistic graphics than the cel-shaded approach that Gearbox Software had taken. The game ran at 60 frames per second, even at an early stage, and was fun to play. My interest level shot up for Rage, and it had been on my wishlist with growing excitement.
Unlike the recent Online Pass trend of locking out multiplayer for used consumers and renters, id Software and Bethesda have decided to target solo players instead. Consumers who buy new will get a one-time use code to unlock secret areas via sewer hatches. Players who don’t buy new will not have access to these areas, and it’s possible that this code will not be available via DLC. These sewer hatches are said to be loot caches and are “outside the main path”.
That quote is from id Software’s Tim Willits. Here’s a gem from the same piece:
We’re not detracting from anything. But I know some consumers, when you can’t avoid it, then you get a little touchy subject.
In other words, he knows that this isn’t going to be a popular move with consumers… but he really doesn’t give a damn. The Industry Defense Force is quick to defend Willits here because, after all, people who buy used or rent games instead of buying new aren’t consumers at all. Those people are basically pirates, but without the whole issue of breaking the law.
Here’s something for you all to chew on, and I sure as hell hope that I’m not right about this: I believe that this move is the continuation and maturation of an assault on solo players. We’ve already seen the first shot fired by Rockstar Games via L.A. Noire with its varied retailer preorder DLC, which didn’t allow users to purchase the full game at the time of initial sale. This move began the process of eliminating single-player content in exchange for more money than the $60 asking price. Electronic Arts took a different approach to ransoming the overall quality of the single-player experience in The Masters: Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 12 by forcing players to make a choice between buying DLC courses for certain events on the PGA Tour schedule or being forced to sit out that week and forfeit the chance to earn any points or money for that week.
Now we have this move by id Software, which may seem like a minor thing to many… but sets the table for more punitive ransomware actions for all but those who buy new. Locking out loot caches is only a start. What will be next? Could publishers lock out replay value by disabling the game after beating it unless you enter a code? Could entire levels be locked away, saved only for those who buy new? How about locking endings if a code is not entered? The Industry Defense Force claims that this isn’t a big deal, but it’s more of a “deal” than it was even a couple of years ago… WHEN IT DIDN’T EVEN EXIST. Now it’s a deal that almost assuredly is going to get bigger as publishers search for more ways to settle the score with GameStop for not getting any kickbacks for used game sales.
That’s the funny thing in this whole mess. The industry either can’t or won’t go after the source of their grievance, so consumers are not only caught in the crossfire… but they’re now the active targets in this War on Used Games. The Industry Defense Force likes to use GameStop as the source of all wrongdoing in the used games market, but they seem to either forget or deny the fact that many other resale destinations exist. When Best Buy opens up their game stores-within-a-store, does anyone think that checks will be cut to game publishers whenever used games are sold? I hope not. Do individual used game sellers on eBay, Craigslist, or auction sites write checks to publishers after a sale? Nope. Does anyone see Amazon making payments to publishers when used game revenue comes in? I didn’t think so. Despite all of this being true, people sure love nailing GameStop to that crucifix of blame. Double standards for the win.
We’ve come to this. The industry apparently has no way of getting its debatable just rewards from the resale of its games, so they’ve decided to punish the consumer instead… and locking multiplayer action was only the start. This is a brand new slippery slope that the industry has begun to descend, and there aren’t the excuses of online maintenance costs to fall back on when you start locking single-player content. It’s now a flat-out “Pay us or screw you” mentality for the industry, and there’s no way that this doesn’t get worse as time goes on. Once you start down that road, there’s no turning back. Just wait until we find out what the Online Pass for Batman: Arkham City– a single-player only game– entails.
I do wonder how long we’ll keep subscribing to the “It’s only…” mentality:
- It’s only multiplayer, so just play by yourself.
- It’s only extra DLC and not part of the main game.
- It’s only loot caches, and doesn’t affect the overall experience.
- It’s only a few challenge maps. Who plays those, anyway?
- It’s only an extra level. You can still beat the game, even if a story element or two is missing.
- It’s only the ending. Who watches those, anyway? That’s what YouTube is for.
- It’s only $20 to renew your license to keep playing for another 6 months. Don’t you care about the industry?
- It’s only $70 for this game. If you account for inflation, you’re getting an awesome deal. I paid $100 for Chrono Trigger.
It’s only entertainment. Maybe there are cheaper alternatives.
I just completed my first Armchair Analysis column for the League of One project over at KmartGamer, and I hope that it will go live in the next few days. I’ll be sure to share the link here when it does.
In the meantime, I have five points of observation that I’d like to mention here since I haven’t updated the blog yet this week.
1. It’s not so bad: Sensationalist headlines could have casual observers running for hills when it comes to how this year’s sales numbers compare with last year. Don’t fall for this. Let’s keep in mind that the newer Xbox 360 models– the Xbox 360 Slim– really flew off of store shelves last July. We’re now a year removed from that and now YOY numbers will bump into that success. Big difference between 443,500 units last year compared with 277,000 units this year. At a bare minimum, that’s a decline of $33.3 million dollars (for the $200 SKU). This should have been expected. Worse yet, Wii sales in July were about only about 190,000 units as compared with 253,900 last year. That’s -25% YOY, but it’s arguable that the Wii is at a point of saturation and is likely in its last 12 months of realistic shelf life. YOY declines for Wii should not be a surprise, either.
2. PS3 price cut needed: It’s been two years since the last PlayStation 3 price cut, and one is long overdue. PlayStation 3 sales have been stagnant to downright disappointing and it’s time for Sony to do something about it. Excuses like worrying that making the PS3 cost less than the upcoming Vita platform or that Sony wants to maintain profitability are just those– excuses. The Vita is at least 7 months away. As for profitability, if Sony hasn’t figured out how to manufacture PS3 hardware more cheaply after two years, there’s something very wrong. Sales are so bad right now that Sony is keying on increases in PlayStation Move and Sharpshooter sales as positives while hiding unit sales of its flagship platform. With great software due over the next few months, Sony could spark new hardware sales with a simple cut. The opportunities have been there, but the window for making the PlayStation 3 more than the red-headed stepchild of this console generation is closing rapidly. Action, Sony. Not spin.
3. Spread the (software) wealth: I discussed this on Twitter on Thursday, and I stand by my viewpoint: Weak results in software sales are at least partially attributable to video game publishers. The bottom line is this: If you don’t release any games in a month, nobody is going to buy any games that month. It’s common sense. The “slow season” mentality doesn’t wash with me because publishers march so many games out in such a tight span between September and November. I want to hear legitimate reasons as to why July is a taboo month, or why better planning for development can’t be carried out to ensure that a few games hit the July window. Spare me that “nobody buys games in the summer” argument, please, because that died when the average age for gaming consumers went over 18 years ago. Now Dad plays games, and he’s not on a 12-week vacation. Why wouldn’t he drop $60 on, say, War in the North if it came out in July? Instead, it’s coming out in November and will likely be forgotten or ignored at retail because there are dozens of other titles that will pique his interest. Why can’t publishers try leveling out their release calendars and maybe save some of these games that will likely fail during the holidays? I don’t get it.
4. Power of the price drop: Two unexpected games on the NPD Top 10 Software chart, Major League Baseball 2K11 and Fallout: New Vegas, enjoyed renewed success due to price cuts. MLB 2K11 dropped to $40 and Fallout: New Vegas went down to $20. The 6th position on the chart is the best that MLB 2K11 has done and also marks the first time it’s made the Top 10. Price cuts matter, especially in this economy. Combine that with a slow release month, and you get instant sales. Other publishers should take notice.
5. Just Dance just sells: Just Dance 2 is a sales monster. It’s consistently been in the Top 10 since its release last October, and this is despite sales on only one platform (Wii), as opposed to multiplatform sellers like Call of Duty: Black Ops and Mortal Kombat. The game has now sold over 5 million copies in the United States alone, which is impressive. While the effect of Just Dance 3 going multiplatform is hard to predict, I think that the IP will have continued success on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3… although the success will be lower due to the requirement of peripherals to play. Wii sales should still be strong, given the size of the Wii’s installed userbase, but it remains to be seen just how much of the Wii’s potential marketshare will be lost to high-definition competition.
I can’t wait to share my in-depth analysis once it’s posted at KmartGamer, but I hope that these five observations are enough to spark some reaction. Feel free to chime in with your own observations and analysis!
My latest piece is up for reading as part of the League of One project over at KmartGamer, and it’s a reaction to the news that the PlayStation Vita is going to miss the crucial Q4 sales period here in the USA.
I do understand the argument from some that the move may have been driven by a lack of software, therefore heeding the lessons taught by the early struggles of the 3DS. I get that, but it’s a double-edged sword for Sony because waiting to release Vita also allows the market for the 3DS to accelerate, possibly in a big way. By the time Vita finally hits American shores, two new Mario games, a new Pokemon game, and potentially Kid Icarus: Uprising all make the 3DS the threat that analysts thought it could be when it launched. Compare the selling power to Uncharted and WipEout, and it’s really no contest: Advantage: Nintendo.
Vita must also now deal with being the expensive kid on the block again, just like PSP was compared to the DS 6 years ago. Unlike 2005, the economy is not in good condition… or even fair condition. Dropping $250 on Vita will be tougher, given that its competition is a full $80 less. That’s equivalent to 2 games, and the average consumer is going to recognize that as risk. Sure, there will still be a market for Vita, given the PSP fanbase and core gamers who might have felt slighted by the 3DS experience, but the mass market will be a much more difficult draw.
Thanks for checking out my work!
After over four years of service, I had to retire my silver slim PlayStation 2 unit this week. It wasn’t broken, really, but a few discs were having trouble being read by the console and DVD movies no longer played on it. I’m now the owner of a brand new black PlayStation 2, in its final hardware iteration. I’m not a fan of how inaccessible that the Power and Eject buttons are, but it runs everything really well and getting a new controller is a nice bonus. The new console also came with a copy of Toy Story 3, which I was happy to add to my collection. I don’t know how much I’ll play it, but free is free.
I’ve spent a good chunk of the last couple of days hunting down more games for the PlayStation 2, and have added somewhere close to 20 games to my collection. I parted with some more current-gen software to afford it, since I’m now officially unemployed, but paid no money out of pocket for either the new PlayStation 2 or for any of the games. I took advantage of some decent trade-in deals to make this happen, so that’s always good news. Here’s the full list of additions:
- .hack//G.U. Vol. 1: Rebirth (with case and manual)
- .hack//G.U. Vol. 2: Reminisce (disc only)
- Blitz: The League (disc only)
- Indigo Prophecy (with case and manual)
- MLB 2K5 (disc only)
- MLB Power Pros (disc only)
- MLB Slugfest 2004 (disc only)
- MLB Slugfest: Loaded (disc only)
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance (with case and manual)
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (original 2-disc SKU with case and manual)
- NBA Ballers (disc only)
- NFL Blitz 2002 (disc only)
- NFL Blitz 2003 (disc only)
- NHL 2K3 (disc only)
- NHL Hitz Pro (disc only)
- Ratchet & Clank (with case, no manual)
- Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (with case and fold-out manual)
- Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (with case and fold-out manual)
- Rumble Roses (disc only)
- SSX 3 (disc only)
- Yakuza 2 (with case, no manual)
I’ll have to do an inventory of my games, but I’m pretty sure that I’ve eclipsed the 150 game mark after these latest additions. The .hack games, Indigo Prophecy, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence are the notable games here. I really want to complete the .hack series (both of them) at some point. I really liked the episodic idea and they’re as close to actual MMOs as I’ll ever want to get. When I do my Top 10 Most Wanted List later this week, those will be up there for sure.
Indigo Prophecy was a nice find. I didn’t know that it was from Quantic Dream, the same development team behind Heavy Rain. I can see the similarities, although the play controls in Indigo Prophecy are a bit frustrating to me. I love the story so far, the interesting relationships illustrated between characters, and some of the cinematics that the game implemented. I do wonder how I would have viewed Heavy Rain had I played Indigo Prophecy first; Heavy Rain feels like an advancement of the ideas that Indigo Prophecy introduced. It’s kind of neat to see that advancement.
I realize that picking up the “extra” versions of Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3 may possibly be redundant, given that the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is coming in a few months. It’s the extras, however, that made me seek them out. The VR and Extra Missions in Substance and the additions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 in Subsistence are attractive features, and Snake vs. Monkey in Subsistence is a blast to play, as a fan of Ape Escape. Both games still look fantastic when played on the GxTV; the intro sequence to Metal Gear Solid 2 is no less amazing than it was 10 years ago and Metal Gear Solid 3 is still a masterwork. Admittedly, I’ve never played Metal Gear Solid 3 to completion; it’s on my list of things to do, though. In fact, it’s the only console-based Metal Gear game that I’ve never beaten.
It’s nice to have the three main Ratchet & Clank games. I’ve played a bit of each in the past, but have never beaten any of them. Their PlayStation 3 counterparts are great, but it’s fulfilling to go back to the start and see how Insomniac built the IP from the ground up. I love the humor and the characters, and have always preferred this series over Jak & Daxter. Not that the Jak IP is bad by any stretch.
Lastly, you’ll notice the large amount of sports games. When building a collection, these games are the least expensive additions… and I’m personally a fan of the genre. I was happy to have found a good number of Midway sports games, which are among my favorites. Although the NFL Blitz games on the PlayStation 2 were no longer based on coin-ops, they still played just as tightly as their arcade cousins and there was more depth with playbooks and gameplay modes. NBA Ballers started out as an interesting IP, as it seemed to borrow from both NBA Showtime and EA Sports‘ NBA Street, and the original was never surpassed in terms of playability or quality. As for NHL Hitz, I adored these games. They felt like natural progressions from Midway’s Open Ice and Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey IPs. The action was fast, there were lots of goals, and the games felt like they could have been played in an arcade. The one weak link in the Midway sports catalog was the MLB Slugfest series. Poor fielding and a sense of tedium in long games tended to hurt the enjoyment of these titles. Still… intentionally beaning a batter and getting into a fight on the mound is strangely satisfying.
I’d like to start cataloging my collection, although I’d love some suggestions on ways to do so. Should I try to learn Excel? Are there websites that I should use? If you have ideas, please share them in the comments below. Once I decide on the best way, I’ll start so that I can share my full collection with you.
In the meantime, look for my Most Wanted list within the next couple of days. Limiting that list to just ten will be a challenge.
As expected, today marked the official rollout of the League of One project. It’s definitely exciting as all of us are seeing our work posted under the KmartGamer banner for the first time.
First, check out the official League of One announcement. This piece introduces all of the writers on the project. Those of you who were following my E3 trip likely remember Amy and Stephen, but the additions of Brittany, Josh, and Jonathan are noteworthy. The introduction also explains the project in a little more detail.
My first League of One piece was also posted today. I posed and answered five big questions about the state of the console gaming industry leading into the last 5 months of the year. This kind of writing represents one of the unique features that I’ll be bringing to the table as part of this project and will hopefully inspire a little bit of conversation about sales trends and topics moving forward.
Be sure to check out the KmartGamer website for more League of One updates, as the other writers are seeing their first work posted. Jonathan has a great piece about the high price of retail games and Josh gives a first look at NCAA Football 12.
After spending the balance of the last three years in storage, I finally set up my Samsung GxTV this past weekend.
It’s here in my office, just to the right of my workstation. Despite literally thousands of hours of use, the GxTV still works. The picture isn’t quite as sharp as it once was, but it’s good enough to make my PlayStation 2 games look great again… as opposed to seeing the graphics so stretched out and muddy on my high-definition set in my living room. I also moved my PlayStation 2 in here, and after spending a few hours playing games on the GxTV over the weekend, I can happily say that what’s old is new again.
Here are some shots of the GxTV:
Perhaps the best part of the GxTV is the sound that this television set produces. As you can see, the speakers fold out and there’s a sub-woofer just behind and above the back of the set. The bass is deep and the volume is impressive; it’s exceptionally loud even when the volume is raised to just 1/4. There are also a couple of simulated surround settings for the sound, which are just different enough to give each a try. No matter which game you play, it sounds fantastic. For late nights, the headphone jack in the front of the set is perfect… and it, too, still works after nearly 15 years.
The GxTV isn’t a total slouch in the picture department. The screen is small, but it’s perfect for a personal-size television. The color is still good, and it displays PlayStation 2 graphics with decent sharpness. A game like Ace Combat Zero goes from looking blurred and stretched on my 48″ Samsung 1080p set to sharp and still impressive on the GxTV. Unfortunately, my personal photography skills and the Droid Incredible camera that I used for the shots above really don’t do the picture justice when it’s in motion. The games look great, and it’s a trip back to the late 1990s and early 2000s for me.
I bought this GxTV from Electronics Boutique back in 1997. I had heard about it in various video game magazines and just had to have one. Since then, it’s followed me wherever I have gone in my travels and has consoles like the original PlayStation, the Nintendo 64, and the SEGA Dreamcast plugged into its AV inputs in the back. Sadly, one of the two AV inputs was damaged and no longer works… so I’m left with one. Thanks to AV splitters, though, that shouldn’t be a problem should I end up adding other classic consoles to my collection in the future. Undoubtedly, this TV is the way to go with my retro consoles, and I’m glad to be putting it to good use once again.
While I’m talking about PlayStation 2 games, here are the games that I added to my collection this weekend after trading in some current-gen games towards them:
- TimeSplitters 2
- Ape Escape 3
- Street Fighter Anniversary Collection
- Virtua Quest
- Viewtiful Joe
- Viewtiful Joe 2
Chulip, Viewtiful Joe, and Viewtiful Joe 2 were still new copies, although they were the display copies and were open. It’s also worth mentioning that the copy of Street Fighter Anniversary Collection that I got was in great shape. Sadly, two other games that I got– Xenosaga: Episode I and Yakuza 2– were scratched and defective, so I’ll have to return them this week and find other games. I still have over $50 in store credit left to spend my building the PS2 collection, as well. All in all, it was a good haul.
Later this week, I’ll be posting a Top 10 list of PS2 games that I’m looking to add to my collection. Sadly, thanks to losing one of my karaoke jobs this past weekend, money is scarce… but it’s still worth posting a list just to share the games that I’m looking up and down for.
That’s all for now… but expect more PlayStation 2 posts here on Consoleation moving forward.