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GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 12: Flower, Second Chances and Used Games

Tim Spaeth's picture

Is your mind on your money? Is your money on your mind? As the world teeters on the brink of an economic apocalypse we tackle an even bigger problem--the price of games! Plus, we give some failed franchises a second chance, and the games as art camp gets some new ammunition with the PS3’s Flower. With Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, Mike Bracken, and Tim Spaeth.

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Platform(s): PS3  
Developer(s): thatgamecompany  
Genre(s): Arcade  
Articles: Best Work   Podcasts  

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Podcast Post-Mortem

I hope everyone is enjoying the new episode. Here's my post-mortem -- think of it as the video game podcast version of "Oprah: After the Show."

Technical Trauma
The podcast you're listening to is actually the SECOND version of Episode 12. My laptop ate the original, nearly complete edit, wiping out hours of work and sending me into a psychotic rage on Twitter. That's why the show features limited music, all of which is recycled from old shows. I couldn't bear to listen to my prattling any further, so I slummed it on the second go-around. We'll get back to more exotic tunes next time.

Things I Wish I Said During the Recording

  • Some devil's advocate stuff I should I brought up: Theoretically, publishers benefit from used games in that the money a gamer gets from selling back games can (again, theoretically) go toward the purchase of a new game. And even though a publisher/developer doesn't see any direct money from the purchase of a used game, at least a gamer is playing their game when they otherwise might not have. This strengthens the IP, builds brand loyalty, might inspire them to purchase other games in the franchise, etc. I have no statistical data to back up any of that (as Mike said on the show, we aren't economists) but I think it plays a role.

  • What bearing does the $50 price point of new Wii games vs. the $60 price point of "next gen" games have on the Wii's success? Some, I think, and I wish I'd raised the question. Also, the Wii features more "budget" priced titles that the other consoles. Looking over my nephew's Wii game collection, it's clear that his family is far more concerned with price and quantity that quality. I wonder how true that is for other Wii-only families.
  • The Lost and Damned is $20 for an eight-to-ten hour experience. Mirror's Edge, Tomb Raider Underworld, and The Force Unleashed are each $60 for an eight-to-ten hour experience. Something is wrong here.

Don't Forget
Send us your ideas for failed game resurrections! Don't worry, we don't expect them to exceed the brilliance of "Bruce Lee's Typing of the Pectorals" or whatever the hell I was talking about in that segment. We'll read the best suggestions on a future podcast.

Thanks again for listening, folks!

I'm glad you posted that,

I'm glad you posted that, Tim, because there were a few things that I wish I had remembered to mention when we were talking about the pricing issue.

Looking back at other media, people who are old enough will remember that movies (way back in the VHS/BetaMax days) were generally sold for $50 - $75 or so. What was the first thing to pop up after that? Video rental stores… which, of course, ended up selling used movies at a great discount. It didn't take the filmmakers long to realize that nobody was going to regularly pony up that much money for movie, and I think they have found that by lowering the price their overall profit is much greater. Look at the current trends with DVD sales… even the biggest films come out for $20 or $30, and the sell-through is incredible.

On the other side of the fence, we have the music industry. Physical CD prices have generally remained constant, and the industry's sales have been flagging for quite some time. Electronic sales are up, and although there is the convenience/iPod factor, I think a large part of that is that the costs for electronic copies are much lower. Going further, people can simply buy one song, reducing their cost even more. For people like me, I would absolutely buy more physical CDs if the price is lower, but I simply can't justify paying $20-$25 for one CD.

Although games are not movies or music, I think there is a very clear parallel in terms of consumer economics here, and at the moment the games industry is hewing very closely to the Music industry's model, but where they really need to be (in my opinion) is on the Movie side.

Make a blockbuster, sell it at a price that people can impulse-buy, and the profits will be greater than if you try to push the product at $60. Fewer people buy at that price, and when they eventually pick up the game at a cheaper price on sale, you get no profit whatsoever.

Just yesterday I went to GameStop and picked up three games for $15. One of those was Gears of War 1, which I had rented when it first came out. Although I had fun with it, I didn't think the game was worth $60 and I ended up just renting it. The publishers and developers make no money from me there. Now, I went out and bought a copy of it for a fraction of a fraction of the original sale price. The publishers and developers didn't make any money from me there, either. However, if the game had originally debuted at, say, $30, I would most likely have purchased it new.

I bet a lot of other people feel (and shop) the same way that I do, and it seems to me that the only way the publishers and developers can capture that lost profit is to get more in line with the reality of retail these days. They're missing the boat.

Second Chance Game

One game I would like to see receive a second chance is the classic Ninja Golf for the Atari. I like the golf sim aspects (as much as was possible on the Atari) and the fact that you have to venture down the fairway to get your ball. All the while you have to fend of rival ninjas and other creatures who don't want to see you under par. The greens are a little odd, facing dragons and not actually putting, but with a second chance that could be reworked. Reworked in 3D and with real golf physics, throw in a solid fighting engine and quality course designs, and I think you could have a real winner.

Money

I generally don't buy used games at all unless they are old/hard to find games (Ebay). Voting with my wallet is something I really feel strongly about, and I make sure to support a developer or platform if I see them doing something I like/enjoy. It's one of the reasons i'm gonna go pick up MadWorld new, to support those type of games on the Wii.

Re: Post-Mortem

"The Lost and Damned is $20 for an eight-to-ten hour experience. Mirror's Edge, Tomb Raider Underworld, and The Force Unleashed are each $60 for an eight-to-ten hour experience. Something is wrong here."

No, there's not. The L&D was built using many existing resources, an engine that had already been tweaked and tested and a guaranteed install base that had already purchased the original disc. The other two examples you cited did not have either of those things. It's not so cut and dry.

EDIT: Not to mention it already had millions in capital from Microsoft from the get-go. It's easy to set a lower price when you're already +$50 million from launch day.

LatD at $20

David - I meant that as more of a hilarious commentary on TFU, TRU, and ME being lousy experiences compared to LatD. I just forgot the hilarious part. Of course you are correct in your statement.

Regarding G.I. Joe

I hate being the walking encyclopedia here, but there was actually one G.I. Joe game that didn't come to the NES, but was on the arcades. It played a bit like Cabal and was in 3rd person perspective. The characters pretty much walks forward all the time while blasting their enemies and avoiding being shot. A pretty fun game, and I even finished it once.

http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?game_id=7872

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