The etymology of the idiomatic phrase "to have one's cake, and eat it too" can be traced all the way back to 1546 and English writer John Heywood, who, in his multi-volume work A dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue, wrote, "wolde you bothe eate your cake, and have your cake?" The meaning, of course, pertains to the notion of one wishing to consume one's cake, while hoping to maintain the steady ownership of the aforementioned cake, post-consumption, a scolding question posed to those who, when faced with a one-or-the-other choice, demand to have things both ways.
A number of variations on this phrase have appeared over the years, from the Italian expression "vuoi la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca" ("you want your bottle full of wine and your wife drunk"), to the famous YouTube philosopher Debbie whose love of felines spawned the phrase "You can't hug every cat," and now Quantic Dream developer Guillaume de Fondaumiere, with his own spin on the old idiom that goes, "Video games are too expensive, but I want people to buy my expensive video games new."
I'm paraphrasing, of course. Specifically, I'm paraphrasing de Fondaumiere's comments to GameIndustry.biz (quoted accordingly in non-registered form by Eurogamer), in which he laments the fact that out of the roughly three million players who registered online trophies in his company's PS3-exclusive mystery thriller Heavy Rain, only two million of them actually bought the game new.
"We basically sold to date approximately two million units. We know from the Trophy system that probably more than three million people bought this game and played it.
On my small level it's a million people playing my game without giving me one cent. And my calculation is, as Quantic Dream, I lost between €5 and €10 million worth of royalties because of second-hand gaming."
While de Fondaumiere's math seems a bit...fuzzy, he is probably not incorrect in assuming that a number of players did opt to pick up used copies of Heavy Rain, or borrow copies from friends. Story-based games unfocused on multiplayer have traditionally been the biggest sellers in the used market, given most players' reluctance to hold onto games that don't contain traditional methods of replay value.
Ultimately, de Fondaumiere believes the issue is that games are simply too expensive, thus driving players to the used market, like poverty stricken peasants desperate to attain the luxuries afforded the upper class.
"I've always said that games are probably too expensive, so there's probably a right level here to find, and we need to discuss this all together and try to find a way to reconcile consumer expectations, retail expectations and also the expectations of the publisher and the developers to make this business a worthwhile business."
But, at the moment, "we're basically all shooting ourselves in the foot", he declared.
"Because when developers and publishers alike are going to see that they can't make a living out of producing games that are sold through retail channels, because of second-hand gaming, they will simply stop making these games," he said, or move exclusively online.
The basic idea of what de Fondaumiere is suggesting is not balls-out ludicrous or anything. Yes, games being overly expensive is probably what is driving players to pick up used titles, and perhaps an open discussion among publishers and console-makers to figure that situation out is a good idea. That said, the notion that developers will simply stop making games sold at retail because they aren't making enough money strikes as slightly insane, given the fact that games are still selling, including Heavy Rain, which apparently sold over two million copies new. That's a huge number for any game, a number that any studio would kill for.
Also, talking about the move to online sales over retail as though it were some kind of coming apocalypse seems more than a bit Chicken Little-ian, given that plenty of developers have been thriving via the various downloadable channels on consoles and the PC, and many publishers have found reasonable success pushing both retail and downloadable games.
Furthermore, de Fondaumiere is essentially complaining that two million copies of a game sold is somehow detrimental to his studio's health. Using his own math, that means that Quantic Dream earned between €10 and €20 million in royalty profits alone. Of course every company's goal is to make more money, to devour every remaining penny it could possibly squeeze out of its consumer base for the sake of continued success. But still, complaining in this fashion doesn't engender much sympathy.
In effect, de Fondaumiere has declared his annoyance with the fact that games are too expensive, and simultaneously complained about a million players not paying retail price for his game. When he figures out how to reconcile that one, maybe he can then work on the formula for self-replenishing cake.