Hmm: EA On Steam/Origin Mega-Sales

By Alec Meer on June 6th, 2012 at 8:00 pm.

I wasn't sure how to illustrate this piece, so here are some puppies in a box. Aww.

Having been doing an awful lot of dev interviews for this site and others over the last couple of years, I’ve become increasingly wary of the out of context quote. Not because I believe they’re inaccurate (at least, not usually), because if you say something you should damn well be prepared to stand by it, but because picking out key words or phrases creates a wholly new context. That is, a man stands on top of a building with a megaphone and unexpectedly bellows a forceful proclamation at the world. That’s never how it happens, even in those rare interviews where the subject goes into it with an intention to push a specific agenda. While their opinions are their opinions, the contentious statements that become headlines almost always form part of a larger, calmer conversation where they’re led onto certain topics.

Hence, EA’s Origin boss David DeMartini saying Steam’s mega-sales “cheapen intellectual property” did not involve DeMartini leaning in close to the journalist at GamesIndustry International, raising a clenched fist with fire in his eyes, spittle on his lips and an expression which suggested he hoped everyone at Valve would spontaneously combust. Instead, as you can see if take the time to read the full interview rather than have an immediate reaction to that quote on its own, he offered a considered answer in response to a very specific question, which was itself part of a wider-ranging chat.

So, with apologies to GI for quoting quite so much of their thoughtful interview, here’s the fuller quote.

“We [Origin] won’t be doing that [deep-discounting in sales]. Obviously they think it’s the right thing to do after a certain amount of time. I just think it cheapens your intellectual property. I know both sides of it, I understand it. If you want to sell a whole bunch of units, that is certainly a way to do that, to sell a whole bunch of stuff at a low price. The gamemakers work incredibly hard to make this intellectual property, and we’re not trying to be Target. We’re trying to be Nordstrom. When I say that, I mean good value – we’re trying to give you a fair price point, and occasionally there will be things that are on sale you could look for a discount, just don’t look for 75 percent off going-out-of-business sales.”

And, later:

“Without revealing too much, what I’ll say is one way to deal with aging inventory is you do deep discounts like that. There are other ways, which I can’t really talk about, of dealing with product as it ages over a period of time, where you present a value to the customer and you engage them in your service on a going-forward basis… We’ve got something else that we do believe in that we’ll be rolling out. But I absolutely understand your point, and I’m not not-hearing what you’re saying.”

I presume initiatives like Battlefield Premium and trickle-updates for stuff like Mass Effect 3 are related to the “something else”, but we shall see. Streaming games is another option, I guess, as are ‘ultimate editions’ that contain the increasingly hard-to-track glut of DLC’n'whatnot they push out for their big titles.

The trouble with DeMartini’s comments, for me, is not that he’s saying Steam or the publishers that do embrace mega-sales via it are wrong-headed. It’s that he’s talking about “cheapening intellectual property”, and he works for a company that’s quite happy to disregard Syndicate or Ultima’s heritage/value in favour of chasing the prevailing wind (rote FPS and F2P browser-strategy respectively), to rush out a sub-standard Dragon Age sequel, and to shut down multiplayer servers for games that its staff worked bloody hard to make after just a couple of years. Obviously, that wasn’t the subject or context of the question, and DeMartini is talking about the Origin store specifically rather than the publisher as a whole, but it’s not news to anyone that EA seems to be by and large more about the big fat cash than offering ultimate respect for its own brands. Everything seems to be monetised and spun-off into whatever avenues are available, be it Facebook, Mountain Dew cans or iOS Apps.

On the other side of the coin, I can’t help agree with him somewhat on this point: “ Also what Steam does might be teaching the customer that “I might not want it in the first month, but if I look at it in four or five months, I’ll get one of those weekend sales and I’ll buy it at that time at 75 percent off.”

We do see that time and again in RPS comments. Even you’ve said it, Steve. Yes, it’s completely fair enough in this economically-troubled times that anyone would want to save money where they can, especially on what are essentially luxury items. I can’t promise I wouldn’t do the same. But in an age where studios seem to be getting axed by their bottom line-obsessed overlords every other week, such consumer inertia probably isn’t helping. I honestly don’t have the foggiest if this problem, it it is indeed a problem, is anywhere near widespread enough as yet to have meaningful repercussions, but it does seem the case that a great many people simply take it for granted that they won’t have to wait long to get a videogame they’re only partially interested in much cheaper much later. That said, it might be that without the mega-sale many people would simply never buy a game they aren’t actively anticipating. What the deep discounting can do is lead people to games they might otherwise never have tried, and between that and the bundles quite a few indie devs have seen life-changing results. As Time Gentlemen, Please dev Dan Marshall observed on Twitter earlier, “Steam sales have enhanced my IP beyond what I ever thought possible.”

In conclusion: different companies do different things and that is okay.

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294 Comments »

  1. Stiletto says:

    D’AWWWWWWWWWW! PUPPIES!

  2. ZIGS says:

    I’ll wait for a sale to read this article

    • Timberfox says:

      I just read the pirated copy, and will read again if seen on a sale.

      • ZIGS says:

        I thought the crack wasn’t out yet

        • Milos says:

          Not a true crack, but you can read it with a Meer emulator.

          • Phantoon says:

            The Meer emulator isn’t as fast as the Gillen emulator, though the Gillen hasn’t been updated in years and so isn’t compatible with most new articles.

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            lorddon says:

            I tried to use the Walker emulator but the snuffling and fogginess were too much to put up with.

          • battles_atlas says:

            I went round Jim’s house and stole the hard copy, because I would do that and it is the same thing.

  3. nearly says:

    I’m still interested to see if and what they actually do have coming down the pipes in lieu of mega-sales. I should hope Battlefield Premium and frequent updates aren’t all.

    • mondomau says:

      I have a feeling it’s going to be a subscription service, like the PSN one, where you pay monthly / yearly for a premium content on triple A titles and get older titles for free as long as you keep paying. it fits with the whole ‘games as service’ idea that publishers like EA are pushing.

  4. Captchist says:

    Good piece, and I find it a vaguely interesting topic.

    There is a ticking clock on games in the form of the multiplayer, or sometimes just the social conversation. You need to play the MMO from day 1 so people don’t get ahead of you! If you care about that.
    You need to play Journey now because in 3 months who will care on Twitter?
    But if you don’t care about the “social window” that the game has, then get it in 5 months on steam for 75% off. And don’t feel bad about that!

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I’ve stayed away from “up-front” paid multiplayer-only games for a long while (I think the only one I ever got was Quake 3 Arena).

      F2P stuff like Tribes: Ascend seems like the best way to get someone to try, and then pay into your product. The same thing goes for MMOs.

      MMORPGs have a slightly different in terms of character development requiring time played, compared to other more “pick up and go” gamestyles.

      A dead community means a dead multiplayer game. Something Singleplayer games/campaigns can fully avoid. e.g. People replay Mass Effect 1 while waiting for ME3… but whenever a new Modern shooter game comes out, the previous one’s community almost instantly migrates (especially if the company actually shuts the “locked in” online servers).

      With LAN play “gone” in recent products, you can’t even just have a game amongst local friends.

    • Vorphalack says:

      I’ve always said that if a game isn’t compelling enough to warrant a day one purchase at full price, it’s the games fault. Personally, I still buy some full price games, even though I know I can wait it out on Steam and get it for a song. If the game is good, and not crippled by DRM or DLC, I will get it early and support the developer.

      What Steam sales do is get people onto games that they might never have picked up at all, and more importantly getting people to pay for them rather than just go pirate. It might not make a huge amount of money for the dev in a 75% sale, but the game will make money, and the next game they make will have a larger player base.

      • PaulMorel says:

        @vorphalak: Exactly. I buy plenty of games on day 1. I buy all Valve games on day 1. I buy all the Assassin’s Creed games on day 1, even though they ARE crippled by DRM. I preordered Torchlight 2, and many other games. EA just doesn’t make games that I want on launch day. The end.

        EA is, honestly, a joke to me. Their monopoly license on NFL videogames has destroyed NFL videogames, and outside of Bioware, they have no clue what PC gamers want.

        EA will be back on Steam before January 2013. I’ll take cash bets on this.

        • Phantoon says:

          What? Bioware clearly has no idea what their fans want.

        • Jason Moyer says:

          The EA monopoly on American football not only means we lost the better of the two series (NFL 2k5 still blows every Madden out of the water) but also the possibility of getting a PC version, now that 2K releases their sports games for us.

          Their monopoly on NASCAR also killed the greatest racing game studio ever (Papyrus).

        • Kuraudo says:

          You have more faith in EA’s ability to make sound business decisions than I do – I’d take that bet; after all it will take them at least until 2014!

      • Obc says:

        your argument can also be applied to piracy: if the game is good people will buy it instead of pirating. same goes for movies. The Avengers didn’t shatter box office records because suddenly everyone stopped pirating but because it was a great movie that people wanted to see.

        and also be reasonable with DRM and DLC or else people wont even bother. and in this case for full price.

        paraphrasing Gabe: making something good will keep away the pirates and make people buy your product.

      • CorruptBadger says:

        CD Project Red should start a kickstarter fund to buy-out EA.

        PC GAMING IS SAVED!

      • Ateius says:

        Yeah, Steam sales don’t discourage me from buying games I want on day one. If I’m excited enough for a game (Skyrim, Portal 2, Guild Wars 2, Crusader Kings 2, for a few examples) I will not only pay the day one price, I will even pre-order the thing. If I’m not? I’m certainly not buying day one, I’m waiting for peer and professional reviews, and unless those are outright spectacular, I’m going to wait for a sale.

        EA doesn’t understand that when I buy something on a Steam sale, it’s something I would not have purchased at full price. It’s making the difference between $0 and $20 for the developers. I’m not dropping $60 on a game I’m only mildly interested in.

        • Ragnar says:

          If I had infinite time and income, I’d buy every game on day 1. But I don’t, so I rarely buy games on day 1.

          But, thanks to Steam / Amazon / GoG sales, I buy lots of games at huge discounts. That includes EA published titles such as Dead Space series, Mirror’s Edge, Crysis series, Alice 2, C&C RA3, King’s Bounty series. At least 11 games, of which I’ve so far only played one for a few hours, and that mostly to see if my system could run it.

          So, in effect, huge sales lead me to spend money, a little at a time, on games I don’t even have time to play. Assuming the worst case scenario (for EA) of me buying each of those games for a meager $5 each, or 90% off, that’s $55 spent across 11 games that I would have never bought had they been priced at $25 each.

    • PopeBob says:

      I’d be more interested if it weren’t coming from EA. Weakening Intellectual Property is the core of EA’s business model, it seems. And to claim they plan to counteract lack of sales by offering “quality product” is laughable, at least in the current crop.

  5. VileThings says:

    The one thing Valve did with their Steam sales is combat videogame piracy more effectively than any other gaming company ever did – especially Ubisoft – and they make money while doing so as well as generate positive PR.

    • Grygus says:

      I have wondered how much of a difference there is from the developer’s point of view; how much of that deeply discounted price do they actually see?

      • Zorak says:

        If I recall, Carpe Fulgur and other devs have actually said they saw a huge portion of their profit actually come during sales.

        • Hoaxfish says:

          There was also something about level of buyers after a sale remains higher than before the sale… i.e. there’s a permanent “boost” in buying of that product even after the discount has ended.

          It’s basically underlying marketting… word of mouth etc creates a bigger community that draws in more people.

          • Zorak says:

            Yes, Gaben made a comment that the long term expansion of sales and profit after a sale was massive as part of an interview.

          • Phantoon says:

            He said when they lowered the price of TF2 to that absurdly low cost of something like 3 dollars, they made more than three times what they had in previous sales. The first week of the Mann Co store blew that out of the water to the tune of over fifty times more dosh. It was some insane number like half a million dollars in less than a week, and just kept climbing.

          • TechnicalBen says:

            So basically, EA are killing their own business by deciding that sales “cheapen intellectual property”.
            They are destroying their own business by not putting sales on or looking at better ways for funding the games (in game store, F2P, subscription etc).

            After what they have said they are doing to Sim City 5, I hope they succeed soon enough to have to sell the IP to a proper publisher/dev team. :D

          • Ragnar says:

            EA launched Origin in a pretty crowded market. The only reason anyone has Origin right now is because of the 3 exclusives. Otherwise, there’s absolutely no incentive for anyone to buy games on Origin as opposed to Impulse, Gamefly, GreenManGaming, let alone Steam, Amazon, or GoG. By not running huge sales, they’re giving users even less incentive to adopt Origin.

            Origin is now like GFWL or DRM – nobody wants it in their games, they grudgingly put up with it because they have to, and they avoid it if at all possible.

        • Kestilla says:

          According to several indie companies selling their games on Steam, I can’t remember which, Valve gives them comparatively generous portions of the income from their titles. More than half, if I recall.

          • Ragnar says:

            I’ve heard that 70% of a Steam sale goes to the dev/publisher (as opposed to 50% of a B&M retail sale). And while 70% of $2.50 for an indie title is only $1.75, 100k sales turn it into $175k, which is substantial.

            Look at the current Humble Bundle: Total value – $155, Average sale – $8.19, Discount – ~95%, Dev cut – 65% split 8 ways, Sales so far – 475k, Amount earned per dev so far – $316k.

            Now, there are some great games in that bundle, but $316k is still pretty amazing for an old(er) game that most people already own.

      • Aemony says:

        The rates are still the same, if I’m right, which means that Steam takes a 20-30% cut of the price (meaning the devs gets 70-80%). However the extra units more than makes up for it and Valve’s data shows that a simple midweek or weekend sale is quite profitable.

        It’s also worth mentioning that some developers/publishers actually raises their prices a bit during a sale just to fool their customers into thinking that the discounted price is that much cheaper than the original price…

        • trjp says:

          That would actually be illegal under UK/EU law so I actually doubt that happens…

          I can’t remember it happening – hell I can’t remember ANY game going up in price on Steam pretty much ever! :)

          • Bakuraptor says:

            It’s not exactly illegal under UK law, I don’t think; you’re in violation if your sale is not actually the percentage off its pre-sale price or if your offer is misleading; and the OFT can stamp down quite heavily on that (although supermarkets get away with it all the time). But if you raise your price before a sale begins, that wouldn’t incur any penalties. That said, it’s been ages since I did anything to do with consumer law so I could be wrong, but I think this is the way it works.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            It would be illegal under US law, as well, assuming some evidence. Even we have that basic protection.

          • ItalianPodge says:

            I believe they have to maintain a stable price for a number of weeks before a sale in the EU. That way thereis an established price to be discounted and not simply a percentage.

        • TCM says:

          When talking about economic integrity, it’s best if you actually have any idea what you’re talking about, and not just making up stuff you THINK MAYBE happens.

          A better example would be those games that are on a 10% off sale for eternity after release — it’s technically true, but the sale price is the effective standard price point.

    • Major Seventy Six says:

      Quite frankly, it did another nice thing: allowed me to try franchises I would not have risked my hard earned money on. Would I pay 60$ for Kingdom of Amalur ? not a chance.
      Would I buy the game at 75% (15$), yes; and I bet many many people do the same.

      So, that is either 15$ through Valve at the winter sale or 15$ in the used bin box at GameStop, which one is more profitable in the long run?

      Point is, sell games at a price point millions are willing to pay, not only 1.3 million :)

      • Mistabashi says:

        Indeed, my Steam account contains plenty of games I would never had bought had they not been cheap; sometimes it turns out I was right to let them pass me by, occasionally I find a gem that I’d overlooked, but overall I think it’s a positive effect.

        If you’re really interested in a game you’ll happily consider buying it at full price (provided that price is reasonable). If you’re not so interested, or simply can’t afford it, you wait until it gets cheaper. It’s a win-win situation, especially when you consider the ever-present opportunity of just pirating it.

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          jezcentral says:

          I doubt I’ve played more than 10% of the games I’ve bought for 75% off.

          • arccos says:

            I think most heavy purchasers of PC games are the same way. I personally buy a ton of games at cheap prices, play a couple hours at most, experience a new game, and feel like I got a great deal. Win-win, really.

            I have so, so many games now, there are very few games I would ever buy if they didn’t drop below $10 or $15. I buy a few for full price at launch, but when I can play almost every game ever made, many of which I already own, it’s silly to pay much for a new game I don’t want badly.

          • Ragnar says:

            I just bought 2 games today on GoG for $5 each. Will I play them? Maybe. Did I need more games? Absolutely not. But at $5, I just couldn’t say no.

      • CorruptBadger says:

        a good point, i bought a good few games on sale, which compelled me to buy their sequels at £40 on release. For example, i got Heroes of might and magic 5 for £6, enjoyed it a lot, then bought 6 for £40, £40 the developers would never have seen if i had not bought the previous game in a sale.

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        Drew says:

        Now, if Kingdom of Amalur had been $30 at launch…

        Point being, very few games are “worth $60″ when there are so many great games you’ve yet to play, available for considerably less than $60. As a matter of course, games should not be $60.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I don’t think lower launch prices are the answer in most cases, because launch customers are willing to buy a game that they now very little about.

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            Drew says:

            True enough, and hell,. I’ve wait for games that were $5 at launch to drop to $2.50. But on the flipside, I pre-ordered Quantum Conundrum without hesitation when I found out it was less than $20 for the Most Deluxe Edition Available–whereas I have a mini ethical crisis every time a game I really want has a pre-order price of $60.

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        jrodman says:

        In an effort to combat nonsense corporate speak:

        Please consider “game” or “series” instead of “franchise”.

    • ichigo2862 says:

      Totally agree. I for one bought a truckload of games I had pirated previously last Steam holiday sale, and am working on legitimizing my library one game at a time, thanks to Steam discounts. Still considering whether or not to buy anything further from EA or Ubisoft though, sale or otherwise, they seem to not want my money, since every time they come to the mic, they say something that just offends/horrifies me as a consumer.

      • Ragnar says:

        I like to think that the people who make games at EA, Ubi, Activision, etc, are all good people; hardworking devs that love games and love gamers. I’m not happy that the greedy bigwigs who want to “take all the fun out of making games” end up pocketing most of my money, but I won’t let them keep me from supporting the people who actually make the games.

  6. Hoaxfish says:

    EA… I’m not sure what it’ll take for me to actually believe what they say, and certainly not as some sort of well-meaning opinion. EA is far from saving this industry, and is somewhat known for “cheapening” IP (e.g. Syndicate).

    • Mistabashi says:

      It’s worth bearing in mind that EA is a very big company, so it’s actions as a whole may contradict the views of one of it’s employees, regardless of their position in the company. It’s something that people often forget when talking about big corporations, we tend to assume that when a representative speaks they’re just towing the company line and have been scripted by their PR department but that isn’t always the case.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        It’s sort of a two-way street I think.

        EA has done something, where a lot of their staff “personal opinion” sounds like marketting spin, and all their EA pronouncements (obviously) sound like marketting spin. What little “real opinion” their staff may have as individuals is obscured by the amount of BS pretending to be personal opinion.

        Other companies seem to have managed to keep the line between “business self-promotion” and “personal opinion” much clearer, if not cleaner.

        • Phantoon says:

          I don’t believe it’s that way anymore. The actions of Bioware, once brought into the undulating plague-ridden fat folds of EA, stopped being their own people.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        When you’re taking someone’s money, you have partial responsibility for the actions undertaken by them. The same rule applies when giving someone money for a purpose.

        You don’t get a free pass on “just following orders” simply because you’re not involved in a government organisation.

    • Quarex says:

      “This cheapens intellectual property,” said a legitimately evil human being in charge of a game download service whose name continually mocks the intellectual property of one of the best computer game companies in history.

      • FunkyBadger3 says:

        Genuinely evil?

        Jebus wept, some people.

        • Phantoon says:

          Sorry, are we quantifying evil, which is a concept of morality, based on the fact that the guy probably hasn’t drowned the puppies in that picture at the top?

          Dude would sell you air if he could get away with it.

          • Ragnar says:

            Nah, he’d sell you a monthly subscription to air, with optional extras you could purchase such as a week of fresh air or clean air.

    • Premium User Badge

      Zephro says:

      What’s the real difference here though suddenly for EA?

      Can they complain when Amazon have a big sale or discount pre-orders? No. HMV, No, Game, no. X-Box Live Arcade? No. PlayStation? No.

      If EA pissed them off by complaining about their sales they would risk pissing off their distribution channels. Their channels which know full well EA needs them more than they need EA.

      But EA are now manoeuvring to be their own distribution channel so they can price fix. So fuck them.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        The difference? None of those other retailers are calling out Steam (massively popular and profitable, more so than them) for being “stupid” with “IP”. This is the Valve that practically gives away it’s IP for free, and still makes shed loads of money.

        If any of those other companies, while dying a death through lack of sales, said “Steam is rubbish”, you would do a double take too.

  7. Brun says:

    “I might not want it in the first month, but if I look at it in four or five months, I’ll get one of those weekend sales and I’ll buy it at that time at 75 percent off.”

    I don’t think this will ever be a problem for major releases. A significant majority of people playing things like Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, COD, or Skyrim are going to buy on day one. Most of the “wait 4 or 5 months and then buy on sale” will continue to happen to B games. EA might not like the fact that games that it designed (or at least budgeted) to be AAA fall into that B game category, but until they stop churning out so much garbage they need to get used to it.

    • deenmeister says:

      Agreed, if the game you make isn’t good enough to capture a gamer’s attention at the (often exorbitant) price its initially sold for, you cannot blame them for buying it at the value they deem fair.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        This. Holy fuck, this.

        I didn’t wait until Space Marine was on sale for under $20 because I only had $20 to spend, I did it because that’s the amount of value I perceived. Same applies to other games I’ve waited for, like Deus Ex: How Revolting. I’ll pay full price at launch for a game I feel deserves it. The original Dragon Age, Guild Wars 2, Recettear, etc.

        If they don’t discount games over time they simply won’t get my cash, period.

      • Ragnar says:

        I disagree. I don’t think those games are B games at all. I simply don’t have enough time to play all the great games that come out. What’s the point in me buying a game on day 1 when I won’t get around to playing it for months? My backlog’s so big that I’m buying sequels at 75% off before I ever get around to playing the originals.

    • PopeJamal says:

      This is well worth repeating:

      “EA might not like the fact that games that it designed (or at least budgeted) to be AAA fall into that B game category, but until they stop churning out so much garbage they need to get used to it.”

      Thank you sir!

      More towards the discussion, I’m SICK and GD tired of stuffed shirts, game devs, and anybody else trying to give me a f-ing guilt trip because I don’t want to hand out $50 bills like f-ing valentine cards for their derivative, shit titles and rehashes. They’re just as bad as the movie studios.

      “No, I don’t want to see that movie AGAIN. I saw it in the 90′s and that was enough, thanks.”

      The same goes for games. I’ve already played ManShooter 17, GASP!, 16 times before. I don’t want to play it again. NO, I don’t want to pay $50+ for your product and it doesn’t make me an asshole for feeling that way!

      In fact, you should appreciate the fact that I even bought it for $5 on Steam while sitting in my pajamas at home because I sure as hell wouldn’t waste the $3 in gas and all the effort to drive to GroceryMart for the privilege of plucking it out of the bargain bin.

      99% of all gamers are going to spend the money on the titles that impress them. What the hell do they think sells video card upgrades and game consoles? It’s not because we’re all technophiles, that’s for damn sure.

      Dumb asses. EA seems to be THAT GUY. The one that pisses you off more and more every time he opens his big, greasy pie-hole.

      • beetle says:

        And how! I whole-heatedly concur.

      • Shooop says:

        The problem is those of us who think (properly) like you do are few and far between. There’s so many more “Dude man, dude. Duuuuuuuude” types who see a name brand on a game box and then wet themselves in joy that this way of thinking EA’s (and just about everyone else) embraced is not only possible to get away with, but is bound to make them rich enough to buy moon bases.

      • nutterguy says:

        Totally agreed! Also well put sir. :-)

      • Stromko says:

        Heyhey, that’s not accurate. They don’t want your 50$ for pumping out the same derivative shit every six months. They want your 60$.

        • Kuraudo says:

          And how much longer until $80.00? $100.00?

          Indie games can only benefit from this inevitable journey to 1,000.00 USD AAA titles.

          • Jimbo says:

            I doubt game prices have even matched inflation over the last 10-15 years. It’s arguable that they’re worse value than they used to be, but I don’t think they have become more expensive in real terms.

          • Brun says:

            http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2012/04/opinion-kohler-video-expensive/

            The increase in cost of development roughly matched inflation for most of gaming history. After about 2005, however, the cost started increasing rapidly and have been outpacing inflation ever since.

  8. Bobtree says:

    Current game prices and sales already saturate our playtime. What serious gamer doesn’t have a backlog these days? I now want high quality much more than I want low prices.

    • Tiguh says:

      Hear hear, good sir!

    • trjp says:

      You say that but you don’t actually mean that – not even remotely.

      To mean that, you’d have to suggest that quality has been slipping in the 3-4 years that Steam has been doing really, really cheap sales – and I’d say the evidence suggests the total and complete opposite.

      e.g. you’re talking balls…

      • Shuck says:

        I certainly am now at the point where I skip buying good games at low prices because I will never have the time to play it due to the backlog of great games I already have. My time has become a far, far more scare commodity than the funds in my game-buying budget.

    • woodsey says:

      That statement makes no sense whatsoever. You seem to be linking Steam sales to game quality.

      If you think you’ve got a backlog of shit games, stop buying shit games just because they’ve gone on sale.

      • PaulMorel says:

        I think what Shuck meant is that he doesn’t have time to play all the games he has purchased on sale (whether they are good or not), so the side effect of the steam sales is that he isn’t buying some games simply because he doesn’t have time to play the games he has.

        I have a backlog of games too … but the only thing that prevents me from buying is when I am playing a really awesome game like Skyrim or Dota 2.

      • Ragnar says:

        He’s saying that due to Steam’s great sales, he now has a backlog of great games. He’s now at the point that he has more great games than he has time to play, so he no longer cares about the price of new games as much as their quality.

        In other words, if EA wants him to buy their games, they need to make sure that their new games surpass the quality of existing games, rather than worrying about what price they’ll sell those games.

  9. Mordsung says:

    Interesting trend mostly based on anecdotal evidence from my own memory:

    Big publishers/devs seem to rag on Steam sales, especially those who don’t have their games on Steam.

    Smaller devs seem to love Steam sales, even when their product is being moved for 5 bucks.

    *counts the number of good games from large devs in the last 5 years* Hmm

    *counts the number of amazing games from smaller devs in the last 5 years* HMMM!?

    Carry on Steam. Carry on.

    • Archonsod says:

      Probably because large devs are used to selling three million copies at release, while most smaller devs are more used to shifting thirty copies. I doubt the larger devs see as much benefit from the game being on sale (i.e. most of the target market probably bought it on release) compared to the smaller dev (i.e. more people are willing to pay three quid for an unknown than fifteen quid).

      • Shuck says:

        Also, you also have a lot of small devs who are selling their games new for less than $20, so a $5 sales price isn’t that huge a drop compared to a $60 game being sold for the same amount. That is, their IPs aren’t being devalued in the same way that the AAA games are, if you want to put it in EA-speak.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Absolutely. Massive sales have not led to less money being spent on games, they just have led to a more equitable distribution of the wealth. This is fairly bad for publishers, who use their concentrations of wealth to create and maintain their positions, but better for the industry as a whole and the customer.

  10. djbriandamage says:

    Even in ecommerce you have to compete for shelf presence. You can do this with new releases, expansions and DLC, and with sales.

    What chance is there of a 3-year-old game turning a decent profit without a significant discount? There’s thousands of games on Steam; how else can developers differentiate themselves?

    Thank goodness for 75% Steam sales. I’ve bought so many games I never would have (and indeed, so many games I’ve not yet played, but will on that rainy day I keep saving up for). EA speaks of the health of the industry being at risk as a result of these sales, but I’ve spent far more on games overall as a direct result of this strategy.

    There can only be one leader. Follow, if that’s what you think is best, EA.

    • Brun says:

      The health of the industry EA knows and loves, the one it grew up with is at risk. Despite EA’s wishes to the contrary, that industry is changing. Steam’s sales are disruptive to EA’s (already flawed) business model. So of course they are going to badmouth Steam sales, and paint them as the devil that is destroying the industry.

      • djbriandamage says:

        This is why I love Valve and respect Gabe so very much. They revolutionize the market and then tear down the new standards they just worked so hard to establish. I was floored by their idea to give incentives to players that are enjoyable to spend time with. Valve seems to build their company on the concepts of positive reciprocity.

      • Premium User Badge

        Zephro says:

        This is already true with other media. Films and music have and are suffering through the same problem.

        Why would I bother paying £10 for a cinema ticket when it will be out on DVD for a fiver in a few months on Amazon?
        Why would I buy a full album when only 1 song is good and I can get that for 70p?

        It’s not a new or unique problem. When was the last time any of us paid full price for a DVD or CD? Ever since I was a kid I waited for things to be on sale at HMV, Game and later Amazon before buying things. Steam aren’t even really innovating.

        It’s just EA being EA and desperately clinging to a business model that isn’t fit to survive.

    • iainl says:

      I think EA’s problem is that they want you spending £40 on their new game, not £10 on last year’s one that isn’t discernibly different. So they don’t see it as £10 profit on a game you weren’t going to otherwise buy, but £30 loss because cheap alternatives to their hype monster exist.

      Other companies sometimes solve this by ensuring that their new game is a different game, but that’s often not the EA way.

    • Shuck says:

      “What chance is there of a 3-year-old game turning a decent profit without a significant discount?”
      It’s true* (well, for most games, anyways – there are a few exceptions), and this allows those games to have a “long tale” in sales that they otherwise wouldn’t have (at all). What’s rather shocking is that I’m seeing games being sold in specials on Steam for deep discounts that are only three months old. And it’s here, perhaps, that he has a point about devaluing IPs.

      *Edit: Although it occurs to me that there used to be concrete reasons for this that aren’t true anymore. Once upon a time, a three-year-old game was significantly less complex, technically, than a new game, and previous to internet sales, limited shelf space gave most games a commercial lifespan measured in weeks. So there was no significant competition between old and new games. Now, with cross-platform releases (with PC versions limited by console capabilities) and stagnant console development, a three-year-old game is likely to be identical to a new one (or even better). The sales mindset, however, is still stuck in that previous period where new games were more valuable. There’s no reason for that.

      • Ragnar says:

        It’s not just Steam, console games get that too through Amazon, Best Buy, even Gamestop (I bought Uncharted 3, Gears of War 3, and FFXIII-2 for $20-30 a few months after release). You have to figure that after the first month, everyone who really wants the game already has it. How many games have you bought at full price 2-3 months after release? So then you drop to 25% off, and remind people that your game is out there. Then 50% off, and get everyone who was on the fence about getting your game to buy in. Then 75% and get everyone who was remotely interested in your game to buy it.

        The cycle has always been there, it’s just been accelerated. Now, instead of having to wait 6 months for the 50% drop and 1 year for the 75% drop, you might only have to wait 3 months and 6 months. Those who bought on day 1 before will still buy on day 1, and those who were patient before are still going to be patient. It might shift some of the 50% buyers over to 75% buyers, but the studio now gets its profit from a game in half the time.

    • CorruptBadger says:

      a beautiful example would be ARMA II:Combined Forces, which went on sale a few weeks after the Day Z mod came out, I imagine Bohemia Interactive made a shit ton thanks to the sale, the game itself is a few years old, but because of mod support, something EA regard as heresy because it reduces the chance you’ll swallow that shit they call DLC, it has probably made a tidy profit.

      EA simply don’t seem to grasp the market, they seem to think nickel and dimming the customer is uber profitable, but in actual fact building up customer loyalty, good brands and favourable PR will bring in much more cash and customers in the long run. This idea of ‘Devaluation of IP’ just shows how much EA want to try and inspire hate against their competitors to bring in customers, rather than simply be a better a company and therefore gain customers on their own merits and word of mouth

  11. phelix says:

    I find that EA has no right whatsoever to discuss the “cheapening of intellectual property” without taking proper responsibility for ruining quite the number of promising IPs.

  12. Chmilz says:

    On the other side of the coin, I can’t help agree with him somewhat on this point: “ Also what Steam does might be teaching the customer that “I might not want it in the first month, but if I look at it in four or five months, I’ll get one of those weekend sales and I’ll buy it at that time at 75 percent off.”

    It does teach us that. But gamers have also taught developers that good games get bought up in the millions of copies for full price if they’re good. Maybe EA has a problem making good games worth their day-1 price.

    • Grygus says:

      It does seem like another case of blaming external forces when a game doesn’t sell well. Oh, well our game was… um… pirated! And it went on sale! That’s why people did not wire us their paychecks for our amazing first-person reboot of Frogger.

    • Ragnar says:

      You surely can’t claim that bargain bins filled with console games are in any way related to anything Steam did, or that Steam is responsible for Amazon, Newegg, BestBuy, etc slashing the prices on console games.

      It’s been that way for a long time, for all rapidly evolving technology products with a limited lifespan. Look at computer hardware, cell phones, tablets, video game consoles, headphones, earphones, GPS, etc. The only things that keep their price are things with long life cycles, such as computer cases, power supplies, monitors.

  13. onsamyj says:

    “Piracy is killing industry!” “Used games are killing industry!” “Sales are killing industry!”

    Can I suggest to shoot on sight anyone who throws things like that without real numbers and studies? And I mean anyone: I don’t know how my behaviour affects industry. Maybe preordering and bundles are killing industry.

    • Kresh says:

      It’s hard for them to embrace facts when they’re busy waving their hands in the air to simulate panic. Besides, facts would detract from the narrative and you can’t have that!

      Those darn pesky, always-ruining-a-good-plot facts. Curses!

      As in, you’ll never see them.

      Also, it’s not your job to change your behavior so as to keep from destroying the industry. It’s the industry’s job to adapt to your needs. If they can’t hack it then they deserve to fail. Capitalism baby. It weeds the weak from the strong.

      • onsamyj says:

        I agree, but the thing is we need numbers from “the other side” too. It’s just murky waters, and it is… murky… and wet.

      • djbriandamage says:

        Fantastically well stated. I was going to reward you with a milkbone but I couldn’t resist giving it to the box pups.

    • Amun says:

      The numbers* say that the relation between unit price and total profits is not linear as unit price goes down. When you sell your game at a deep discount, you get vastly more money as the discount gets deeper.

      *(Proponents of big sales put out these numbers.)

    • jhng says:

      The real problem that’s killing the industry is actually people playing the games — after all time spent playing is time that could be spent buying. Unless the industry finds a way to wean consumers off the expectation to spend time playing a game so they can just focus on the buying, I think it’s pretty much dead in the water.

      Movements like (almost)-always-online DRM will help but they really need to push a lot harder and faster if they’re going to get consumers out of the ‘buy-play’ cycle and into a proper ‘buy-buy’ cycle.

      Anyway, that’s my hapenny.

      • onsamyj says:

        So, it’s kinda bad that I spend 240+ hours (yes, 10 days) on just “Skyrim”?.. I’m killing industry.

        • jhng says:

          I was being ironic, but there is a grain of truth. Ultimately 240 hours on Skyrim is also 240 hours where you’re not browsing Steam/Origin/Desura and buying more games. I’m sure that there are some suits in the industry who would genuinely consider this a sup-optimal outcome.

        • Ragnar says:

          Actually, you are. And so is Bethesda. If you had only spent 20 hours on Skyrim, then you would have needed something else to fill in those remaining 220 hours. You would have had to buy 11 20 hour games, which you would have no doubt bought on day 1, to fill in that time. So yes, you and Bethesda are killing the industry.

          But let’s take a step back from there. Let’s look at Activision / Blizzard. How many people have avoided buying new games because they’re still busy playing Call of Duty, WoW, Starcraft 2, or now Diablo 3? Clearly Activision / Blizzard, and the people who play their games, are also killing the industry.

          And let’s take another step back. Let’s look at RPGs. On average, RPGs take at much longer to play through than other games. Even short RPGs take about twice as long. So clearly RPGs are keeping people from playing, and buying, other games and thus are killing the industry too.

          So there we have it. All we need to do is:
          1) Get rid of Bethesda
          2) Get rid of Activision / Blizzard
          3) Abolish RPGs
          and the industry will be saved!

          • Ragnar says:

            But, seriously, I think we all know what’s really killing the industry: hundreds of thousands of people playing games that they didn’t pay for.

            Yes, that’s right, F2P games. I mean, how is anyone supposed to sell a full priced game when other studios are just giving their game away for free? It’s like piracy, only worse, because there’s no way to vilify either the gamers partaking in it or the studios making it possible. And if you try to play F2P games for lost sales, people will just ask why you didn’t go F2P yourself. Ugh, there’s no way around it. F2P is clearly the #1 threat killing the game industry.

            #2 is Martian death rays. Damn death rays. Damn.

    • Bilateralrope says:

      Valve has provided the numbers. 75% discount leads to a massive increase in revenue. Then an increase in sales after the sale ends.

      Valve has also admitted that they are experimenting with the pricing because they don’t fully understand what’s going on.

      • onsamyj says:

        Sales works and they are there almost from beginning of commerce. I know that, you know, even EA know (they do, right?). But DeMartini and co implying other things, like shrinking of day one purchases, for example, longevity of a game, etc.

        That’s right, Valve is trying to figure it out so far. They closer to the truth, or I believe so, but don’t there yet – that’s why we need studies, that is all I’m saying.

  14. stupid_mcgee says:

    Honestly, I probably never would have bought Orcs Must Die or Torchlight if their sale hadn’t piqued my interest. Because I enjoyed their IPs so much, I’ve pre-ordered Torchlight 2 and will likely pre-order OMD2.

    • PodX140 says:

      I did this except not from a sale *wink wink*

      But knowing full well that I can wait a couple months for a 50% off sale, I still purchased TL2 at it’s full pre-order price because I realized it’s a developer/IP I want to support, and I sure as hell am going to support them.

      EA is just trying to justify not reducing prices as it “damages the IP” What, are <30$ games looked upon as beggars and lower class now? Hell no, if you're a good game you're good. Which is what EA seems to be lacking nowadays. So it does explain their complete opposition to the idea of sales.

  15. Kresh says:

    I honestly don’t think the sales are doing anything more than moving games that people were sitting on the fence about. People who want the game buy it right away. People who are interested either buy it right away or wait until the price falls the usual $10 or so within 6 months (as games seem to do, but this is merely my anecdotal observation). People like me, who aren’t really interested in a game, might pick up a game when the sale hits because it’s cheap enough that that I can try it out without feeling cheated if I think the game is terrible (or just not that good).

    Sales hit the sweet spot for people looking for something new but aren’t interested in spending $60 for a AAA title that is outside their normal genre preference.

    Every gamer has games they’ll buy the first day out, games they’ll wait for a drop in price, and games that they’ll buy when Steam bundles them with other gaming curios. EA needs to recognize that gamers aren’t a monolithic block of brain-dead consumers that are stopped from dropping premium prices on every AAA title that comes out merely because Steam has sales. Talk about a disconnect.

    • Brun says:

      EA needs to recognize that gamers aren’t a monolithic block of brain-dead consumers

      After years of focusing its efforts on the Xbox 360, is it really that surprising that this is EA’s perspective?

      • Kresh says:

        Please expand on your premise. How did their experience in the Xbox 360 market teach them this behavior? I’m a PC snob so I probably missed what you’re talking about. Please enlighten me.

        • Brun says:

          Basically I was saying that console players ARE a mindless block of brain-dead consumers.

  16. spleendamage says:

    “The gamemakers work incredibly hard to make this intellectual property, and we’re not trying to be Target. We’re trying to be Nordstrom.”

    I guess I don’t understand this. It isn’t like your production costs are dictating the sale price. The sale price point is established… $60 for a AAA. title The only thing that changes here is the number of units you have to move to make your money back. Thanks to wonderful digital distribution, there is no additional production cost for moving more units. Steam has already established that they hit a sweet spot for profit return at the 75% discount level. So what gives? The publisher doesn’t want MORE money based solely on the fact they don’t want their products to appear cheap?

    So, the logic being espoused is: It’s better to be more price exclusive thus cater to a “higher class” of gamer, than make more money and let more people play the game.

    • Brun says:

      You’re correct, but to clarify, it’s not just about moving units. Very few AAA games made today could recoup their costs by virtue of only units sold at a $60 price point. That’s why you see so many DLCs, Premium editions, etc.

      But yes. It seems that in the console world, at least, having a huge budget is something to brag about, because people will think that means it’s a better game. I think that logic stems from the same mentality.

      • djbriandamage says:

        This seems like the other side of this mobius strip, though. DLC allows customers to pay as much as they want for a product, while sales let them pay as little as they want. It’s a powerful combination for people who bought the game cheap and got such good value that they want to invest further.

        I bought the game Jamestown in an indie bundle, fell in love with it, and felt badly that they only received 75 cents of my donation, so I bought the DLC (which was smartly advertised right in the game).

  17. gorzan says:

    I must say that I have that “if I wait I’ll get it at 75% off” but I’m a broke student. I have 30€ to spend each week. Take the money I spend during social interactions, and notice that I buy comics too, and that’ll make it perfectly understandable.
    In fact, I know, when I end my studies and get a job, I will buy games on day 1 without a worry for possible sales a bunch of months later.

  18. MondSemmel says:

    On the matter of sales: I spend far more money on games than I ever did before (I used to play the same Blizzard games for years – SC:BW, then Diablo II, then WC3:TFT (several years), WoW (2+ years)); now, I own a Steam library of apparently 213 games, almost none of which I have bought at full price. I would be _very_ surprised if I had, on average, spent more than 2,5 € per game on my Steam library.

    So in that case, the deep discounting model has surely made _me_ spend far more money on video games, but of course I’m not representative of all gamers.
    And on the flipside, I own 50++ games I have neither finished nor even tried yet.
    And I still buy new games: Just in the last ~14 days, I bought the latest Humble Bundle, Indie Royale, Build a Bundle, Indie Gala and Game Music Bundle 2. (And while I don’t have the time to play all the games, I always have time for the video game music, and I have never been disappointed by that, so far.)

    But I notice a trend in my case, too – for the first few Humble Bundles, I paid a lot more than average because the games seemed to be worth it, and there was no buyer’s fatigue yet. Now, however, I rarely spend more than average.

  19. Mage says:

    Sorry but having just reinstalled Origin after a fresh windows installation, ending up on the store page and watching the main game slideshow they have going on, I’ve found EA are disconnected from the sale part of their little operation, 80 euro for a digital special edition of Sim City? If that was a bit steep, don’t you worry! The ever popular WoW-killer Star Wars MMO is reduced from 75 euro to 49! And look at that, Crysis 3 a bargain at 55 euro! No special edition at all, seriously? 55 euro? Finishing up with a lovely reduced price for the Crysis Maximum edition at 35 euro. I mean it speaks for itself, 55 euro for a new game? 5 above any other online retailer.. Digital is meant to be cheaper to sell than retail, but EA makes it look like it has to sacrifice seven cattle to the Digital Download Gods to get content onto your computer..

  20. LAB says:

    Why is it that any of the managers of major publishers open their mouth I have the idea they’re talking for shareholders instead of developers or gamers?

  21. NathanH says:

    I have to say, a game has to really excite me or really be cheap for me to buy at anything close to full price these days. Even things I really wanted to play, like Trine 2, I realized it wouldn’t hurt much to wait and buy it for £5 at some point.

    I think I have also changed my habits with regards to Steam sales. A few years ago I would buy things if I thought they might be good if they were cheap enough, whereas now I am much more careful and generally only buy things I definitely want to play. So I’d guess that Steam sales used to make me spend more money but now they make me spend less.

  22. 0011110000110011 says:

    Purely opinion here:

    Pre-Steam, I pirated every game, except those that relied on multiplayer for enjoyment.

    Post-Steam, I buy pretty much all my games, only pirating ones that aren’t on Steam, or I’m not sure I’ll enjoy.

    As others have said, Steam has without doubt increased the amount I spend on games. Developers are happy, Valve is happy, Customers are very happy. EA isn’t.

    Carry on Steam. Carry on.

    • cliffski says:

      Except the developers whose games are rejected by steam, whom you presumably feel happy to still pirate from?
      I know a bunch of developers who make good games who have difficulty getting on steam. Nobody seems to understand that you don’t just click a button and get listed on steam. games are listed at their discretion.

      Pirating a game because steam refused to put it on their site seems incredibly unfair to the developer who probably needed that sale 10x more than a developer who *is* on steam.

      • mr.ioes says:

        Famous example: Unepic.
        Steam rejects it for whatever reason. Game seems pretty good judging by what I read. Haven’t tryed it myself, as it’s not on Steam. Duh.

      • fooga44 says:

        Except most games and gamedevs absolutely suck balls. i.e. devs make games that aren’t very good compared to what already exists.

        • TCM says:

          Without the Mediocre, how would we know what was Good and what was Terrible?

      • TCM says:

        Cliffski, I keep noticing a fundamental misconception you have.

        You believe that pirates play and enjoy all the games they actually pirate, cackling over the poor indie developer who fruitlessly waves his ‘will work for food’ sign.

        The reality of the matter, based on my highly unscientific and anecdotal evidence of a small sample, is that 95% of all pirated games are off the guy’s hard drive in a week. Within two, they can’t even remember the name of the game.

        If you don’t pay for something, it doesn’t have value to you. This is a simple fact. Any sales you believe you or others have lost to piracy was never a sale to start with.

        This hardly justifies piracy, of course — anyone who does get legitimate enjoyment from a game SHOULD be willing to pay for it, and support its developers. And I certainly can understand the frustration of indie devs, who are, more than anyone, in need of funds. But attacking pirates for not supporting the developer is tilting at windmills.

        • Kresh says:

          “But attacking pirates for not supporting the developer is tilting at windmills.”

          …and not just because the pirates don’t give a sh*t.

        • cliffski says:

          “If you don’t pay for something, it doesn’t have value to you. This is a simple fact. Any sales you believe you or others have lost to piracy was never a sale to start with.”

          The poster even says he buys game on steam and pirates them not on steam. So the act of steam approving a game he refers to magically gives it value to him, but the same game, for the same person, in the same universe has zero value because someone at steam didn’t approve it?

          Yeah right…

      • wu wei says:

        I really like Desura. It’s not quite as convenient as Steam but it’s close, and its wealth of free and cheap indie games & mods makes it worth setting up.

        Plus, y’know, it’s the other choice for pretty much all of the recent bundles.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      The next step in your evolution is to not pirate games – if a game you’re interested in doesn’t provide a demo, just don’t get it.

      This, I think, will be win-win in the long run.

  23. Runty McTall says:

    I don’t get very much time to play computer games any more and, with our first kid on the way, I don’t have money to burn. With *very* rare exceptions I won’t pay over a tenner for a game now. Without Steam sales I simply wouldn’t buy many games. The money that they get on the sale is money they wouldn’t get from me otherwise. It’s that simple. Can’t speak to whether this is generally damaging to the industry or not but that’s what the implications are for this buyer.

    P.S – Gabe Newell seemed, in previous interviews, to be implying that their data shows games to be price elastic (ie a cut in price leads to a proportionally greater increase in volume, leading to more win for everyone), which would also shoot down the EA guy’s point.

    • 0011110000110011 says:

      Yep, games are very price elastic, which is why Valve manages to score such high profits whilst keeping every party happy (Consumers, publishers). Except EA.

  24. fenrif says:

    Meanwhile EA continues to spearhead their “games as a service” buisness model where you pay for a game, and then pay even more for the rest of the game at a later date (or the same date, day one DLC whoohoo!). They do this by avoiding making anything new like it’s a plague and running any existing franchises into the ground like it’s going out of style.

    EA doesn’t like any amount of power being on the customer side of the customer/publisher relationship. Any shift in that balance pisses them off because they have less of a chance of nickel and diming you for their “last years game +1″ drivel they shovel out the door like a wet fart.

  25. Premium User Badge

    Monchberter says:

    I can’t remember when, but good ol’ Gabe knocked this one back a while back saying that their mega sales make up in volume what you would potentially lose in individual unit cost. In fact I remember the example being something like a 900% increase in profits or somesuch?

    At the end of the day, people like games, and people love cheap great games. And so should devs if they attract thousands more customers.

    • Salt says:

      There’s no doubt that Steam sales are profitable events, at least in the short term.

      The point in question is whether the existence of such regular and such strong sales make customers less willing to pay full price for games.

      • spleendamage says:

        I guess I would say, what’s the difference?
        If the sales give the same amount of profit margin by virtue of massive volume… who cares?

        Oh wait, I remember… the console market, which is basically tied to this $60 a game model.

        • cliffski says:

          makers of niche games.
          If you make a civilian transport helicopter sim, your target market is pretty small. If the value of games is devalued below the point where

          your target market * acceptable game price < development cost

          Your game cannot be made at a profit (so only by hobbyists).

          Thats bad news, unless you *only* like mass market appeal games.

          • subedii says:

            Railworks is pretty much the definition of hobbyist market, and has a ridiculous amount of DLC to cater to its demographic.

            And despite its low metacritic, low budget, and full price, seems to be continuing to be successful since it released.

            So I’m wondering where that fits into “only mass market” games.

            I mean I don’t necessarily disagree with your point, but if what you’re saying is true, there’s just no way that something like Railworks should even exist, let alone be plausible with its 100+ addons. It’s not cheap, It’s not high budget, and it’s certainly not “mass market” material.

          • BarneyL says:

            I don’t think Railworks is going for the buy everything model, I suspect it’s more a matter of picking out the location and era you’re interested in and spending £30-50 setting up for that. You wouldn’t judge TF2 based on the cost to buy every hat.
            Plus as it’s been pointed out before Railworks isn’t really aimed at the gamer market but at the model railway hobbyist who will happily pay over £100 for a single engine, in that context it’s pretty cheap.

          • jhng says:

            My opinion only, but I would say that is apples and pears — people who are interested in seeking out a niche product will generally be happy to pay a niche price for it and will understand that there is a premium. The fact that mainstream may be heavily discounted is neither here nor there.

            For example, I like some really niche music like early Wagner recordings – I’m not going to listen to Coldplay instead just because it’s £2.99 rather than £22.99. The price point of the Coldplay has no impact on my value assessment for the Wagner. Similarly, I was happy to send $50 to Tarn Adams because I think his work on Dwarf Fortress is exceptional, but £2.50 for Duke Nukem Forever would have felt like a rip off (I got it in a bundle, honest).

          • subedii says:

            That’s kind of my point. Railworks is hobbyist and niche, and no matter what kind of DLC you’re into it’s still going to be expensive (even the base game is still full price).

            It’s not a game that falls into the category of “only mass market” in any sense that I can really think of. But it’s successful, and that’s what’s important. It’s got a niche, but that niche is hardcore and wants to buy games of this sort.

            It’s not going to be “success” for every niche game, but then the same could be said of most games targeted at the “mass market” too.

          • jhng says:

            Ironically, I actually got Railworks for 90% off on Steam. Couldn’t resist trying it out for the sake of £1.90. Turned out to be really boring, I couldn’t even have a proper crash and there weren’t any steam trains. But I take your point.

          • wu wei says:

            But if you’re making a niche game, then you tend to have a niche audience who want it, and people tend to be impatient when it comes to their passions.

            The point of the sale is to make it more appealing to people outside of that niche, who might in turn become a part of it.

          • Premium User Badge

            Devan says:

            @Cliffski
            Just speculating here, but couldn’t sales benefit even niche games as the reduced price would increase sales beyond the target demographic wherein fence-sitters or people with less certainty of liking the game would be willing to buy it?

  26. Salt says:

    As a contrast to the games that get a second wave of support when they drop to absurdly-cheap, I present Minecraft. Its price is now higher than it was for much of its life, and the stats page tells me it sold over 10,000 copies yesterday. Not only are people not “waiting for a sale”, but it’s still attracting new purchasers. Minecraft is still getting free updates, so maybe it’s an exception.

    Steam’s top sellers list shows me that Modern Warfare 3 (and 2!) are still popular sellers despite MW3 still holding a £40 price tag. The Call of Duty games are quite well known for taking ages to go on sale and I suspect that encourages the always quiet “I guess it looks okay” crowd to purchase rather than wait.

    On an anecdotal note, I can’t help but look at the £2.50 price for Far Cry 2 and not reconsider paying an order of magnitude more to preorder the sequel.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Revisor says:

    There is no problem with discounting, even deep discounting. It helps to capture the audience that’s less interested than the hardcore fans.

    What’s important is to find the right pace, to create a smooth curve, not sudden huge price falls. There are some games that get discounted too fast for the value they offer – for example Deus Ex HR that has been going on regular sales for 5 currencies 8-10 months after release.

    Then there are games that are mainstream titles but don’t get any meaningful discounts. Eg Mass Effect 2 DLCs, not available outside the dysfunctional Bioware store and more expensive than whole new games.

    But what ultimately Mr. EA cannot change is the fact that there are a LOT of games competing for our attention. The market on gaming entertainment is pretty saturated, gamers are more picky and often have backlogs.

    High supply of games drives the prices down, of course.

    • NathanH says:

      Speaking of DLC, I think that is potentially quite a good way to deal with the deep sales “problem”. Discounting the main game quite heavily but not ever discounting the DLC too much may work quite well.

    • Salt says:

      To be terribly tiresome, I’ll point out that digital downloads of games are not just in “high supply”, but infinite supply.
      I think what you mean is that there’s a high variety of games. Choice leads to competition, which leads to lower prices.

      But of course games are not soap powder (whatever Kotick may think) so it isn’t as simple as seeing that Half Life 2 is going cheap and so buying that instead of Modern Warfare 3. Although they’re both story-driven first person shooters they’re also considerably different and can’t be substituted nearly as easily as Persil and Daz can.

      You definitely have a point that the resource games are fighting over is often a player’s time rather than their wallet. If you’re too busy playing hundreds of cheap games from Steam you’ll find skipping CODBLOPS to be that bit easier.

  28. wodin says:

    If it’s a game I really want I don’t wait for sales. Games I’d buy in a sale I’d never have bought otherwise. Simple as that, I’m sure many would say the same thing.

  29. GT3000 says:

    He’s right. It does cheapen the product. Looking at my Steam, it’s a glut of games I’ll never get around to because they just keep piling and piling and piling. I feel like my games are worth less because I paid less. Not to say I won’t continue to partake in Steam sales. It’s like attending a buffet as opposed to a high class meal. Lots of cheap titles, some of it delicious and some bland. You don’t savor each bite as much because there’s always more to shovel in.

    • Ultra-Humanite says:

      What the fuck are you talking about?

      • GT3000 says:

        EA’s consistently higher price or at least their refusal to drop their products to pennies on the dollar does make it more valuable as the owner. I’m going to put more time in BF3 than I am Assassin’s Creed because if I want to get a certain value per dollar. Especially if I get Assassin’s Creed on sale. I have to at least put 20 hours into the product to feel I got my money’s worth but if I pick up Assassin’s Creed for 5 bucks, I don’t care if I lose interest after an hour. It’s just 5 bucks. I’ll be far more circumspect in my purchases if the prices are higher.

        • The Dark One says:

          I wouldn’t equate a consumer’s psychological need to retroactively justify the amount of money they’ve spent on something to its actual value. Your example is what leads to fanboys yelling back and forth over the merits of their different $600 consoles.

          If you buy a game and it’s good, then continue playing it. Don’t force yourself through a terrible or even mediocre experience just because you don’t want to admit you’re regretting the purchase.

          • GT3000 says:

            Ultimately that’s why these backlogs exist. We can fool ourselves into thinking there’s a million wonderful games but realistically these sales encourage the pick up of games you’d normally ignore with a limited budget. You’re going to pick up the titles you’re rabid for day one but sales encourage the purchase of titles you’d consider mediocre. You will play it because you do have to justify the price in your mind even if it’s 20 minutes to tell yourself “At least I tried it.” You can bet your sweet ass I’m getting my money’s worth out a title I have to spend 40 or 50 bucks on but I’m going to examine it a helluva a lot closer to make sure I enjoy it before I do.

          • Brun says:

            So what? That’s how you play games. The publishers don’t care if you’re getting value for your money. They just care that they got your money – which would happen more often if they put their games on sale.

    • djbriandamage says:

      You have a very good point. I used to cherish the odd game I’d buy after saving up my babysitting money for a month. Now I can buy the accumulated work of 100 “man years” (as Carmack calls it) with the money I earn on my lunch break.

    • GT3000 says:

      Publishers don’t care if I get value but I do. I’d rather support a publisher that create incredibly high quality games at a high pricepoint than get a flood of cheap games with quality that’s spotty. There are exceptions to the rule but if EA can hone itself into a high quality publisher there position is justified and to be fair, BF3 is one of those titles I’d pay top dollar for because I know it’s good stuff.

      • subedii says:

        So here’s a question for you: Did you really enjoy Portal?

        If so, did you buy Portal 2 immediately, or did you wait half a year because you knew by then Valve were almost certainly going to discount it?

        Either way (and I’m assuming you did get Portal 2), was your experience playing Portal 2 “cheapened” by it having a 50% off sale later on?

        Speaking personally, my answers are “yes”, “immediately”, and “no”.

        • GT3000 says:

          I did in fact get Portal 2 but my girlfriend gave it to me as a gift but I would’ve purchased it knowing full well it’d get a discount. I think I would’ve been less patient with it had I spent less money. I use money to assign things value, not always the best thing but when you’ve got so many games, you have to learn to categorize it some way especially when your tastes are fickle. I never tolerate a terrible game because I spent top dollar on it but boy do I get Buyer’s Remorse. Not so if I spent nothing on it. Likewise I’m less patient with it if I spent nothing.

          • subedii says:

            See, I’ll happily say my tastes are fickle as well. I’ve seen loads of people gushing over countless sales that I couldn’t care less about because no matter how popular the game was, it wasn’t interesting to me.

            The flipside of that though is that being able to buy cheaper on other games that I didn’t know I’d like but was interested in, has allowed them to get sales from me that they ordinarily would never have, and allowed me to find some interesting gems.

            I mean I never thought the Stalker franchise was for me, but it quickly became one of my favourites, and if there’s a next game I’m buying it ASAP. Similar with Mirror’s Edge.

            Psychonauts on the other hand I bought on the heavy recommendation of others that I’d find it awesome. I didn’t, but at least I don’t feel so bad about it since I didn’t pay full price.

            But if I had paid full price for it? Oh you’d better believe I’d be buying far fewer indie or experimental games today. It just wouldn’t be worth it.

    • Lemming says:

      Nah, that doesn’t really work. I’ve got Witcher 2 on my steam library that I splooged £30 on and I can’t see what the fuss is about and regret buying it. Titan Quest, however, I spent a tenner on and have spent 30 hours in it.

  30. Premium User Badge

    RobF says:

    It’s interesting that when it comes to being able to take potshots at Steam, this is all EA and GoG have got.

    Even more interesting when you consider it’s not Steam that put the games on sale. They’re not Amazon, the autonomy lies with the dev/pub not the store. (Obviously, they encourage it massively but I’m with Dan on the value there)

    More time building a better, different service (at least GoG are trying) that people want to use, less pissing in the wind over things they have -absolute- control over.

    • Archonsod says:

      Pretty sure GoG already tore them a new one over the whole compulsory client thing, which in fact they still tend to reference whenever they do their no DRM speil.

      • DrGonzo says:

        Their no DRM thing is starting to annoy me. I would like an (optional of course) Gog Steam like client. I never get around to playing my many gog games and it would be nice to have them all kept in one place, which could download, install and add the necessary mods to the games without any effort on my part.

        But no. Drm is eeeeeevil of course.

        • djbriandamage says:

          I kind of like GOG’s solution to this – they add game icons to Windows’ built-in Games folder which is intended to act as a launcher for all the games on your PC regardless of where you bought them. Because they follow this standard it works equally well no matter what version of Windows you use, and without the need for yet another memory resident launcher.

          • subedii says:

            I used to use the windows game manager, waaaaay back when. But it always was iffy detecting half the games I had (I think it’s just whether a developer supports it or not).

            These days, I just add shortcuts to my GOG games on Steam. Either way, they’re still all in the same place.

          • PopeJamal says:

            This is news, I did not know that. Thanks!

      • Premium User Badge

        RobF says:

        Yeah, point taken on the GoG client stuff and at least that’s an obvious, I won’t say advantage but differentiator between services and competition in the more classic and welcomed sense. I can understand that. You have the choice of trading off convenience for freedom. I can’t fault that.

        I still find any corporate posturing tedious, mind.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      Oh, and how majestically he skirts round saying that it does have a positive result for EA. EA have sales -all the fucking time- on iOS, if someone shits their pants, EA have a “shit your pants sale” and it was only a week or so ago they had a massive discount on Alice on Steam.

      Hence “it devalues IP”. Because that means absolutely nothing whatsoever at all. But it does let the internet fill in their own blanks.

      • djbriandamage says:

        This logic actually flips the argument right on its head – sales VALUE the IP by pinpointing the price consumers respond to.

  31. satsui says:

    He’s still an ignorant dickhead.

    “We’re not trying to be target” is just idiocy. When you compare Nordstroms and Target, who do you think has more sales and brings in more money?

    Is that common sense I hear knocking on the door?

    • Brun says:

      This kind of made me laugh. I think his point was that they want to sell products that belong in Nordstrom rather than Target, i.e. high quality products that carry the associated high price. He seems to think they’re taking the artistic high ground by not “selling out” and churning out cheap goods. But it goes directly against their entire sales-driven business model.

      In the end I think companies like Valve have got the right idea. The best way to be successful is to create a Target (Steam) and use the profits to subsidize your Nordstrom (Valve’s own games).

      • Premium User Badge

        RobF says:

        Oh come on, be fair. There’s only like 500 million dollars difference between the two. I can see why he’d prefer to align himself with the former for the good and benefit of EA’s shareholders. They don’t want moneys anyway.

        Snark aside, unless they start snapping up Origin Exclusives left, right and centre then they’re going to be selling the same stuff everyone else does. Assuming that they’ll try for the former, that’ll be fun if nothing else.

        Either way, good luck with that premium brand there, EA.

  32. Ultra-Humanite says:

    Well 1) A sale by definition cheapens your intellectual property. That’s how this whole “sale” concept works. So I’m not really sure what revelation Captain Obvious is bestowing upon us here. 2) It’s easy to make the argument that the EA’s of the world in fact grossly overvalue their intellectual property. And finally 3) He used a double negative. “Not not-hearing”??? Seriously, go fuck yourself.

  33. Baka says:

    After dozens or even hundreds of hours of comparing statistics, evaluating trends and computing gizmos I come to the conclusion that the RPS-comment “Why do I even buy this, I have no time to play this” outweighs the “I’ll wait for a discount” comment by approx. 4.86 to 1 (rounded). Therefore, even with a discount price of 75%, sales are still economically viable.

  34. Hecktar says:

    It’s looks like the same thought process big game companies have about piracy: Every copy of the game is a copy that could have been sold full price. I wouldn’t have bought most discounted games without the discount. Some were impulse buys motivated by price alone, others were too low on my priority list to spend full price on. Many were too risky to buy full price due to mixed reviews. The games I bought full price are usually the ones that were backed by strong marketing and hype.

  35. DrGonzo says:

    Having just read about all the DLC and Battlefield ‘Premium’ this quote seems extra hilarious – “we’re trying to give you a fair price point”

  36. passengerpigeon says:

    That bit about people saying “Well, I won’t buy it today, but I’ll buy it on sale?” That’s price discrimination — it’s an error to think that all those people would’ve bought it at full price. Price discrimination is a constant goal of corporations, since it lets you sell your product at normal rates to people who will pay normal rates and at low rates to people who will only pay low rates. Since those people wouldn’t buy it otherwise, it’s still a net gain for you. Steam does this for hundreds of games — and gets applause from consumers for doing so! It’s a little concerning that the guy running Origin doesn’t understand this basic economic strategy.

  37. whexican says:

    Many games I buy on sale I would have never bought at full price. Why? I simply didn’t think they were worth it.

    So by all means refuse to have a sale. That just means I won’t buy your over priced games. No biggie since I have a more then large enough backlog as it is.

  38. Spider Jerusalem says:

    pelevin would have a field day with this.

  39. The Dark One says:

    I think part of the issue is that Steam has been built up from its early days to support these kinds of sales. It’s not just the discounts themselves. If you push a bunch of units, people will start seeing those little steam popup boxes telling them their friends have launched your game. Their Community blotters will show all the achievements they’ve earned and screenshots they’ve uploaded while playing your game, and the different groups they’ve joined as a result of their play time.

    Even after the sale is over, the increased player base gives your game more visibility and more word of mouth- assuming it’s good. Maybe that’s the catch EA isn’t so pleased about. ;)

    • subedii says:

      Bingo. Steam sales haven’t prevented me from buying games I ordinarily would have, they’ve let me buy a lot of games that I never would have because £35 is too expensive to freaking well experiment with. Lower pricepoints is precisely what’s allowed me to try more of the “big budget” releases that I had no idea whether I’d be interested in.

      I haven’t spent less money on gaming since I got onto Steam (which as actually relatively late), I’ve been spending more, all because I don’t feel limited to mega-blockbuster-dead-certainly-awesome games only, buying rarely because each is priced at full price.

      That is to EA’s net benefit when it happens, I am buying games of theirs that I would never have considered before because I have to choose between “this game I’ve been waiting AGES for and I really love the franchise”, and “this game that looks really really good, but it’s still slightly more of an unknown to me so it just loses out”. The latter one is a LOST SALE because I never had the opportunity to buy it.

      If EA want’s to keep it priced full price for years on end, then no, I’m not going to spend money on it. It becomes an all or nothing equation where I’m not going to be spending on a “could be great” when there’s always a big budget game that I know “is great” that I’m waiting to release. Doesn’t even matter if I feel like there’s nothing else I’m interested in playing right now and I’d like to try the possibility, full price is too expensive for me to spend on a possibility in those circumstances.

      • PopeJamal says:

        “Steam sales haven’t prevented me from buying games I ordinarily would have, they’ve let me buy a lot of games that I never would have because £35 is too expensive to freaking well experiment with.”

        As an example, I had heard Arkham Asylum was a really good game, but “Meh! Whatever! It’s always “revolutionary” according to the press…”

        Plus it’s a tie-in to an existing IP, so that made me even more dubious. I bought it for like $10 on sale and was blown away. Without the sale, they never would have gotten my money because I’m not really a Batman fan. I don’t see how anyone lost in that equation.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Is it to EA’s net benefit? While some of their titles might make more money than they would have, a lot of it goes to studios outside of publisher control. They’re trading more money in specific instances for a smaller piece of the pie, and they used that to make monolithic, customer unfriendly decisions that were good for the bottom line in the past. Also, the increased supply of games probably means that mediocre ones make less money than they used to, increasing the risk of AAA games. I bet mediocre titles lose a greater portion of their budget now than they used to a few years ago.

      • jhng says:

        I had the same experience with Arkham Asylum, and then ended up buying Arkham City full price as soon as it came out — two purchase that I would never have made if it had not been for the deep discounting of AA originally. Same story for a number of franchises.

        I also agree that the plethora of cheap, older games does make it harder for mediocre new games to cut through. But from EA’s point of view given their back catalogue I would have thought that they could make enough on their long tale (if they got properly stuck into Steam and priced Origin competitively) to compensate for a more challenging environment for new releases.

    • djbriandamage says:

      Yeppers. This is exactly the strategy used by the Amazon App Store which gives a paid smartphone app away for free every day. Word of mouth prompts people to buy the apps enthusiastically shown to them by their friends who got it for free.

      The real key to discounts is to make them last a limited time.

  40. trjp says:

    There’s some interesting proof that EA are talking a lot of crap here – but even if they were right, unilaterally deciding not to discount your games when everyone else does it will leave you stranded and dead anyway…

    That proof? The latest HiB consists of 5 top-class and well-received/popular titles all of which are either very cheap (e.g. Sworcery) or have been discounted deeply before (everything else) – and yet they’ve sold coming-up-to 400,000 HiBs…

    FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND people have bought a bundle which contains games which are both popular and which have been deeply discounted before.

    If deep discounting/cheap games harmed sales – that would never have happened – case closed.

  41. Sehnder says:

    Imagine, if you will, that when you try to buy something from Amazon you see two vendors reselling the exact same product. Same shipping terms, arrival date, etc. etc.

    One is selling it for $25, due to a 75% discount.

    The other is selling it for $100, but has a note saying that it would cheapen the product experience for you if it were sold for less.

    No reasonable consumer would buy the $100 product over the $25 one. When you are buying things digitally, there is very little differentiation between a “Nordstrom” and “Target” experience. If the product is the exact same and I receive it the exact same way, why would I pay four times as much?

    Do you know what the most important rule of buying a car is? He who cares least wins. The buyer who is willing to walk away will always find the best deal. If you don’t provide me the game I want at the price I deem fit, I’ll walk. This is not a threat- this is how markets work. If you provide me a game at a price point I am OK with, you get my $12.50. If you don’t, I will pick another option and you get $0. I can live without your game, you can’t live without my business. The market responds accordingly.

    The good news for developers is that most gamers are highly impatient and will buy things out the gate. That is a good incentive for developers to make astounding games- if you make a product so compelling that I am not willing to wait x months for a price drop, good on you. Take your $50 and run with it. But I am a patient man- I can wait a long time (I wanted Rayman Origins since release, but I was happy to wait for a 50% sale.)

    Cheapening of IP is a moot point. We know we can get games for 75% off eventually, and barring price fixing that is not going to change. The only question is whether or not a company will deal with that reality and profit, or try to justify charging four times more than their competitor out of some bizarre “morality” where the laws of supply and demand don’t apply.

    • djbriandamage says:

      Yes to everything you’ve said, plus the threat of piracy. Piracy is yet another market force that can only be thwarted with aggressive competition.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Absolutely right. Games sales were not really behaving in a supply and demand fashion before. There was little competition at retail, few publishers could successfully release a game, and consoles had fixed the price points.

      He’s whining now because the market is behaving like a market rather than a small country where each publisher could tax a percentage of the population.

  42. nasenbluten says:

    EA as publisher, marketer and distributor just want to cover their ass and make us believe that what they do is valuable. Their job is getting less and less relevant each year it passes, same for music labels. Nowadays they just buy entire developer teams and make them work, destroying them in the process.

    I used to pirate just because it was way more convenient (and cheap) than going to a shop to buy a damn disc, I don’t even have an optical drive anymore. With Steam and thanks to those sales, I have around 400 games having spent (happily) around 1300 €. Isn’t it better to buy games cheap than to not buy anything at all?

  43. woodsey says:

    If game is great, I’ll be too interested to wait and buy it as soon as possible.

    If the game looks OK, I’ll probably wait for a price drop.

    If publishers insist on cramming the same two bloody months at the end of the year full of games that no one in their right mind would be able to afford, then again, I am going to wait.

    I suspect that’s the case for most people. This guy is talking out of his arse.

    What does it matter whether they look like a cheap store like Target or not? They’re the same fucking products and they’re all digital. The ONLY perception I have is that one is cheap and the other isn’t, so guess who my dolla’s gonna go to.

    • DodgyG33za says:

      Also, with the cost of distribution of each unit approaching zero, once they have recouped their costs every additional unit sold is pure profit.

  44. Premium User Badge

    Voice of Majority says:

    It is not a matter of discussion aanymore that people buy a lot more games if the prices are low. My understanding from the developers is that quantity does make up for the reduced price point and they make good money.

    People are buying more games than they have time to play. As a side-note, a similar thing happened with e-books,people bought more books they could read because the prices were low enough and the purchase was made very easy.

    So what’s the problem, really? Isn’t it all good? Companies who own very valuable IP have a problem. They do not want you to buy all the games in the world. They want you to buy the next iteration of “big name IP” that they have marketed with millions of dollars.

    Would you rather pay for IP or for a great game? IP can be owned while great games must be made one by one.

  45. Vinraith says:

    As I’ve said many times before, the current sales model is hilariously unsustainable. Sooner or later you either get a complete collapse (because people stop hoarding) followed by a return to normal pricing (because developers need to be able to turn a profit on far fewer unit sales) or you get a world where every game is $5 but it was developed with that price point in mind (short, cheap fluff). The former is a mess, the latter a nightmare.

    Sectors of the industry that have not been sucked into the Steam whirlwind (ie. many wargame and niche developers) should be able to ride the whole thing out, of course, because their per unit profits already support a slow trickle of sales and aren’t dependent on hoarders (who turn their nose up at such “unreasonable” prices).

    For my part, I’ve long since stopped hording. A game that’s worth my time is also worth real money, so I go out of my way to support games that deserve it. Buying fewer games at higher prices I can’t help but notice that in addition to less overall money spent, far more of my money goes to developers whose continued existence matters to me, so it’s all win-win. Let the fluff, and the fluff-makers, rot.

    • GT3000 says:

      It truly is a crazy world when I agree with Vinraith.

    • subedii says:

      Like you, I can only speak for myself.

      I can’t say I’ve ever really been a “hoarder”. Pretty much every game I’ve bought I’ve played, and if I’ve liked them I’ve beaten almost all of them (unfortunately, everyone recommended me Psychonauts. And guess what? I didn’t like it, so I never completed it. Just how it goes, and I’m not going to force myself to complete a game I don’t like).

      The Steam sale hasn’t made me value big budget and full price titles less. I haven’t somehow stopped buying games I was always really interested in, nor have I stopped supporting indie games “until they’re on sale”.

      What it’s allowed me to do is buy more games that I’ve been interested in but can’t pay full price for. This isn’t lost money to companies, they are making MORE money off of me than they ordinarily would have.

    • PaulMorel says:

      @Vinrath: Your idea that the sales model is unsustainable is predicated on the assumption that the people buying the games are the same people.

      In other words, you’re looking at the problem as an individual buyer. In this sense, you’re right. The sales market IS unsustainable for a single purchaser. Eventually the buyer ends up with more games than he can play, or he never buys full price games. Fine. If there were only 100 millions game buyers, you would be right.

      But you forget that the game-buying market is constantly changing. What we’re talking about here is men between the ages of 18-35 with no children – ie men with large disposable incomes and a fair amount of free time.

      I’m betting that people are entering that demographic at a faster rate than they are leaving it. Hence, even if the sales market is unsustainable for a single buyer, it is quite sustainable for the industry as a whole.

      • Kaira- says:

        But even in that case, the sustainability will reach its limits eventually.

      • Vinraith says:

        I don’t think new individuals entering the demographic are likely to be nearly as susceptible to the “oh my god these games are $3 each I’ll buy a hundred of them!” mentality that has been sustaining this model to date, though. That’s a product of memory, of a time when games were expensive, and a good deal was something to be jumped on because it didn’t happen every week. People growing up on cheap ass games are, I suspect, likely to only buy what they want to play (and buy it at the $5 price point they know will be along a few months after release), rather than fall prey to the hoarding phenomenon.

        You can’t sustain selling 100 hour games for $5 to a population that actually plays those games for 100 hours. Their rate of consumption won’t counteract the low price point.

    • PopeJamal says:

      I can’t say I necessarily disagree, but I will say that I don’t really care.

      The health of the retail market for games is not my problem. I decided a long time ago that I will:
      a) Buy games at full price that I am really interested in
      b) Try to support small devs that I appreciate as efficiently as possible (Funnel as much of my purchase dollars directly into their pockets)
      c) Use this simple formula for purchasing everything else:

      if ($my_interest > $current_game_price)
      then
      Purchase_Game_Now($current_game_price);

      That’s pretty much all I’m willing to do and that seems pretty damn decent to me.

      As an example of “a”, I bought Skyrim 7-9 days after release because it seemed worth it. I did not buy Dead Island. I still haven’t bought it. For $5 even.

      As an example of “b”, I bought “Grimrock” directly from the devs site instead of through GoG because I figured they’d get more of the $$ that way.

      As an example of “c”, I “bought” SuperMeatBoy in a bundle so they got at least a tiny bit of money from me. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t even pay $2.50 for it because I have zero interest in it (not that it’s a bad game, just not my thing).

      So, I’m sorry if that somehow “ruins the market” for games, but at least I’m putting forth an effort to show my appreciation. I got a job, kids, my cholesterol, (and at the moment S.T.A.L.K.E.R, which I had no interest in outside of a sale) to worry about. Someone else will have to “save” games this time around.

      • Vinraith says:

        Actually that sounds totally reasonable. The main thing, to my mind, is to pay real money to the devs you really want to support, and it sounds like you do that.

    • InternetBatman says:

      If it’s unsustainable, doesn’t that mean we should buy all the games on sale while we still can?

      Anyways, I agree that it’s unsustainable for AAA studios and publishers (more risk, less reward), but I think the current model is pretty good for indies.

      • Vinraith says:

        Buying all the cheap games you can is one reasonable reaction, yes. I’d rather concentrate my resources on keeping the studios I care about afloat than I would hoard a bunch of games I’ll never play, but YMMV.

        As to working out for indies, I think it depends on what you mean by “indie.” For studios that make artsy little 5 hour platform games yes, the current situation is just fine. For studios that make massive, sprawling, 100 hour RPG’s and huge, deep strategy games with high replayability it’s obviously not.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I largely agree with you, but I think there’s one more factor that complicates things. It’s less of a risk to try out those huge games now, so it’s easier to get new customers that way. I do think that this factor has been overestimated in some cases, like the paradox pack.

          • Vinraith says:

            Absolutely true. The interplay of a number of factors is very complex, here, and we haven’t even talked about timing (that Paradox pack would have been totally reasonable, IMO, a couple of years down the road). My point is simply that games as a whole are becoming too cheap too quickly for this situation to be sustainable much longer.

  46. mr.ioes says:

    The link at “thoughtful interview” is broken.
    edit: actually, all your links are broken!

  47. PaulMorel says:

    EA executives think that they’re distributing higher quality goods than Valve!!!! BWAHAHAHAAAA!!!!!1 Oh my sides hurt from laughing!!!! HAHAHA!!!1 I’ve got tears in my eyes!!!

    Mass Effect 1 & 2 were good games, but honestly, the Drew Karpyshyn books are what motivated me to play them. And the games weren’t good enough to convince me to use Origin to buy the third installment.

    Ditto with Dead space 1 & 2. Fine games. Not brilliant. I’m not impatient for the next installment.

    Dota 2 is deeper than anything EA has EVER produced. 600 hours into it, and I still can’t put it down. Same thing can be said about TF2 and Portal 1 & 2.

    EA really got the comparison wrong. EA is Walmart, while Valve is … too modern to be compared to an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar store.

  48. Yargh says:

    I have more games than I have time to play them.
    Without the steam sales many of the games I have happily paid for would never have been bought.

    I do think that people who really want a game will pay whatever they need (and can afford) to for it. The sales should (and I would hope, do) cater for those that wouldn’t look at it twice in other circumstances.

  49. crocket21 says:

    For me Steam sales make a lot of sense. I have such an insane backlog of games to play that I will never again buy a game in its first week. I will but more games during a Steam sale even though it increases my backlog however.

  50. Jannakar says:

    I suspect that devs have to recoup their production costs quite quickly. I think for your gen-u-ine AAA games sales are not a problem because they recoup their production costs by virtue of obliterating everything else in that time-frame. Everybody else just gets it in the ass.

    But I wonder what is the effect of being seen to be a bargain in a Steam sale (50% off!) vs having a lower initial cost (cheap and nasty)

    • subedii says:

      I would suggest that the answer to that is another question: “Do you regularly buy nasty games on Steam just because they’re cheap?”

      I mean personally, I don’t buy a game unless I expect I’m going to enjoy it. Doesn’t matter if it’s £30 or £3. Oh look, today’s Daily Deal is the whole Far Cry collection for £3.75. My thought process is basically “Don’t have it, still don’t care, don’t like it, not going to buy it.”