By Eelcire 22 Comments
Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?
No, says the pirate: it belongs to the everyone.
No, says the used game market: we want the profit.
Well maybe, says the consumer: how much sweat are we talking here?
I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible.
A new take on old sales methods.
Two questions arise with the sales of games, and they're fundamentally the same. "Is it worth the price?" and "Was it worth the price?" These two questions are what publishers must look into before putting a game onto the market, likely when the first budget for the game is being outlined.
The current gaming market is based on a pretty set pricing structure; usually with consoles games at $60, with the occasional console game coming out at $40. PC games usually start a bit lower between $30 and $50. With higher budgets, shrinking sales, and the ever-looming issue of piracy, how is a publisher to survive which still offering quality games?
Looking into the issue of piracy, one of the top reasons is the 'try before you buy'. Many games do not have demos available, and for those that do the demos usually don't represent the game well.
So here are a couple of questions:
1. How many would be willing to pay an initial low cost for a full, time-limited game on the premise that afterwards you had the option to pay more based on your own value?
2. How many would be willing to pay an initial low cost for a full, time-limited game on the premise that afterwards you had to pay based on a set range of amounts (+$10 more, +$15 more...)?
or maybe a bit of both.
For example, lets say you buy Modern Warfare 2 for $15; it is the full game, fully featured but is time-limited to 30 days. Once 30 days has been reached, the game no longer functions but you do have the option to pay a one-time extra amount to unlock the time-limit permanently. Would you?
For those that just wanted to play though the game once, the low-cost entry will hopefully be of enough value and kept someone from just pirating the game. The publisher may not see much money out of this consumer, but at least it is not money lost due to piracy.
For those that play through the game several times, what is it worth to be able to do so? The game was $15 up front, but there is more value to that game in that you want to play it more. For this consumer, there is an added value to playing through the game multiple times (usually due to a multiplayer component). From here comes the next part, let the consumer decide the value, or let the consumer choose from a set amount of values.
Based of questions above, a couple of business models already exist: shareware and the rental market. What if these two markets were to me merged? The consumer pays an upfront cost to play the full game for a time period (the rental), but at the end of that time has the option to unlock the full game for a little bit more (shareware).
Going back to the example above, Modern Warfare 2 was purchased for $15 up front and at the end of the time period the option arises: +$10 more, +$20 more, +30 more, +$XX. Any amount will unlock the game permanently, and you only need to pay it this one time. You choose the fate of the game and publisher.
There are three categories here from the publisher perspective, and it would likely follow the bell curve. Some consumers will pay the least amount of money available, no matter the quality experience or value. Most consumers would likely fall into the middle category, paying a moderate amount extra ($20, $30). Finally, the third category of people would feel that the game is worth more to them for the amount of time spent on it, and would likely give the publisher extra. Whatever category these consumers fall into though, money went to the publisher.
There are still questions to this model though. How many extra consumers would this model bring in, especially those who are on the fence with piracy? Does the bell curve (if accurate) balance out profitability? Where would this model be best placed in the market? While not having answers to all questions, the best test bed for where to implement such a system would be in the direct download market; places such as Steam.
While the numbers in the examples may not be accurate, nor the idea that consumers would fall under the bell curve, I find the premise interesting. From a publisher standpoint, more people are likely to buy into a game at a low cost entry. Even if they don't capture all of the consumers, the publisher still sees some money out of it. From a consumer standpoint, the saying 'vote with your wallet' holds more direct weight. The consumer would be able to pay for a game based on what they feel is it's value. Games with more effort behind them will get a better following of consumers who will be more likely to spend more on them. How much sweat would this model be worth?
Piracy hurts, how to cope? Would a merging of the rental and shareware business models work?