We here at the Department of Electronic Entertainment possess vast pools of intel about the gaming industry. We deal with situations every day that would leave most Americans cowering in terror. But some secrets don’t require a team of espionage specialists; some secrets about the gaming industry are widely understood by long-time gamers yet unknown by most of the population. While the following revelations may seem obvious to most gamers, the financial security of the industry is based on uninformed consumers not being able to catch on. If the mainstream media, and hordes of gift-buying relatives were to ever learn the following five secrets, it could spell disaster for the major video game publishers:
1) The Hot New Game Will Cost $20 Soon: Most games release at a cost of 60 dollars, and some of them can retain that price for a while, but just about every game will see a price cut of around 25 percent two months after launch. The price cuts will keep coming and it is very common for a 60 dollar game to hit 20 after a year on the market. Only top-tier franchises like Call of Duty or Halo can hold onto launch prices for more than a few months, and even hits like this year’s Bulletstorm and Portal 2 are already selling at half of their original prices. Buyers with even a modicum of patience can see their gaming dollar go much farther, and savvy shoppers can have the three biggest games of last year for the same price as this week’s new game.
2) The New Console Isn’t As Good As The Old One: Gamers know to never buy a console at launch. There are always hardware problems, the line-up of launch games is lackluster at best, and it will take several revisions of both the hardware and software before the manufacturers get it right. This has never more apparent than with the Nintendo 3DS, which saw a significant price break after a few months on the market, and is getting a joystick add-on peripheral after less than a year on the market. But Nintendo isn’t the only company that had launch problems; it took years for the Xbox 360 to end the “Red Ring Of Death” problem, and the PS3 was first released with a controller that didn’t even have Sony’s trademark Dualshock vibration feature. All of these troubles in the last generation have been worked out, but the next generation of Wii-U’s and Playstation Vitas will come with brand new set of problems at launch. The Xbox 360 in its seventh year on the market will be a better product than the Xbox 720 in its first year.
3) Pre-Order Bonuses Aren’t Worth It: In order to temp buyers into paying those launch prices for games, most retail chains now offer exclusive pre-order bonuses. Buy the game from a particular store and you’ll get a unique weapon to use in the game. Pay for it before it even comes out, and you’ll get yet more free goodies! It sounds like a great deal, but the bonus items are essentially costing the buyer 20 or more dollars. Is having a special gun from a pre-order worth the amount of money that would be saved by buying the game two months later? Probably not, especially since the people who make the game have spent plenty of time trying to find the perfect balance of difficulty, and wouldn’t want to give away anything that unbalances the gameplay.
4) There Will Be A GOTY: The hot new game just keeps getting better as three or four packs of Downloadable Content are released in the months that follow. Costing a mere 10-15 dollars each, these DLC morsels are highly tempting impulse buys. Yet all of these DLC packs, plus the original game will be compiled in a Game Of The Year Edition. This GOTY Edition, or “Ultimate Edition” will be carefully priced at the exact amount of all the DLC put together. It will also include all of the pre-order bonuses, making the pre-orders even less appealing. That modicum of patience mentioned above can go even further with games from genres that typically have loads of DLC. Shooters and any title that boasts of “Open World” gameplay fall into this category. GOTY Editions have been appearing earlier and earlier, with the L.A. Noire “Complete Edition” appearing on PC less than six months after launch.
5) Most Games Are Terrible: The one painful secret that impulse buyers, casual gamers and gift-giving grandmothers will never catch on to is the fact that any particular game is most likely awful. Game developers make tons of great games every year, but for every Skyrim, there are dozens of shameless rip offs, movie adaptations, and unnecessary sequels. These are bought by the unwary, the excessively-optimistic, and well intended relatives who just know that their niece “Likes Barbie and has a Nintendo”. There are also mountains of casual, cheap games that are marketed at uninformed consumers who play Whateverville simply because they don’t realize the caliber of game available to them if only they weren’t intimidated by the number of buttons an a Dualshock controller.
If game buyers exhibited a bit more patience, and if the public were slightly more informed about the patterns game publishers have demonstrated in the past, the industry would be in serious trouble.