Wednesday, 9 November 2011

"Surprising" News - Gamers Swap and Buy Used Games ... A lot

Although it's something that the game industry is likely ripping its hair out over, the predilection of consumers towards used sales is nothing new. What might be somewhat surprising is the sheer number of people who either buy used or don't even buy at all (and no I'm not talking about piracy here).

We've all heard the game industry complaining about how big an impact used games make on its revenues. I've mentioned it on the blog once or twice, talking about how the people behind Heavy Rain and Fable are saying that used gaming is almost as bad as piracy in terms of sales lost: their -- in my assertion ludicrous -- words, not mine. But it's easy to dismiss such things when we don't really have any solid figures to back things up. Certainly we have the studios complaining about how much money they've lost, but what about the actual number of gamers that buy used, what's that percentage look like?

Well, turns it looks like a pretty big chunk of American gamers.

The first and most surprising thing of note in that article is that it mentions that half of the gamers in the US -- that's roughly 41 million people -- don't actually buy games at all. Whether they play the games that their other family members have bought, borrow games from friends, or swap games with people these gamers are playing without paying; that's already 41 million less wallets in the market, something that the gaming companies can't be happy about.

The news only gets bleaker from their perspective when it's further stated that even people who do buy games tend to buy used games often to the tune of 85% of people who pay for games saying that they regularly buy used and for 25% of game buyers over half their budget goes into purchases of used games.

That can't make the industry happy. But what are they to do? It seems the answer they've opted for is heavy usage of DLC, but that isn't without risks of backlash from people that say they've paid for games that aren't even complete in the strictest sense because the "Day One DLC" means that you have to make a purchase on top of the one you just made for content that is often cited as things that should have been on the disc to begin with (and sometimes are...)

More and more companies are turning to things like early and often DLC, and even more invasive measures like locking out parts of the campaign or game modes until a pass is redeemed. Things like the PSN Pass have been met with a lot of skepticism, and things like the disaster that occurred with the Arkham City Catwoman unlocks seem to be pushing people to the point where they're unwilling to buy games new or used that use these tactics.

So, is there a solution? Perhaps, but the game industry probably isn't going to like it. There are options like what RAGE experimented with where the code is for something extra but otherwise unobtrusive, but that's been met with derision as well, since unlike DLC, secondhand gamers so far haven't been able to access it at all, even if they were willing to pay for it via DLC. There's also options like introducing a discount or even releasing DLC for free for those people that bought the game new; surely it's something that the industry would be loathe to adopt, but the attraction of having a lowered price for future goodies, or even getting those goodies free, might attract more people to buying brand new. The most off the wall suggestion though, is also probably the simplest: lower the damn price point on games.

I can imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth from people saying that the profits will be affected. But would you rather have say, 40,000 people buy your game for $60, or 400,000 buy it for $20? Sure, there's no guarantee that people will buy more if the price point is lowered, but you know what is sure in the hell isn't going to hurt. A lower price point would also mean that people might be more inclined to buy reasonably priced DLC when it comes out later, because now instead of paying $30 for two DLC packs on top of the $60 initial purchase, you're paying $10 or $15 on top of the initial $20 or $30. It's not something that the industry wants to do, but it's something they're going to at least have to consider rather than using more and more draconian methods of trying to stop people from buying used and driving away the folks that bought new in the process.

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