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The Sleeper Game Phenomena And A Diabolical Way To Use It
Posted on Tuesday, September 4 2012 @ 11:12:01 PST

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.


I was reading the article today about the season pass for Borderlands 2 and perused some of the comments which were as expected, with gamers somewhat frustrated at content being made, marketed, and sold separately yet in tandem with a new game release. “xxmrcyanidexx “ wrote:
 
“But why do you think these companies are doing this? Because they are evil? No. It's because of the used game market. They don't get anything off those sales. Let's be honest, if you ask the average gamer, 'Would you like to pay full retail price for a brand spanking new game, or a discounted price for a slightly used game,' they are going to go for option 2. We see that, see how big that used game market is. The DLC and pre-order bonus phenomenon is a response to that. It's trying to get money back to the studios who actually make the game and not the middle man. Does it suck that they have content that they COULD put in the original game? Yes, but then again, why front load the disc with all this amazing content if it doesn't dissuade the average gamer from buying it used a few weeks after it comes out? We can complain all we want, but in the end, it's about the money.”
 
This statement seems like the common response these day which is to blame the “used game” industry for the increase in cost and the current actions of game companies to push DLC, season passes, online pass keys, etc. I think it’s a bit of a copout, though. Consider what happens with sleeper games. A game gets very little marketing and at release sells like crap. Months after release and price drops the game is reviewed and deemed to have been of high quality and a victim of the “sleeper game phenomena”. Great game, but poor initial sales and marketing lead to price drops and you now have a game which is technically sound at a lower market price and being marketed by review sites and word of mouth, versus EA or Rockstar’s A+ marketing team. At times you may get a sequel from a sleeper hit, but the point is that we as gamers can actually manipulate the pricing models of the EAs, 2Ks, and Rockstars of the world as we are their bread and butter.
 
Video games in their most fundamental aspect are simply luxury items which leaves a great deal of power in the consumers’ hands. Notice the deals you can get on a 4-ton pick-up truck these days. Consumers may have to buy gas regardless of price but not necessarily a specific vehicle, in which case truck manufacturers are forced to modify their pricing models and even branch out into hybrids to adapt to the lack of market demand. Let’s apply this concept to video games.


 
In order to adapt to used game sales (secondary market sales/trading) the video game developers and publishers moved to a system of requiring online passes for multiplayer aspects of games and provided little DLC add-ons initially to test the appetite of the market. We were hungry. With the business model successfully being implemented they increased the pricing of DLC and began segmenting out significant portions of certain games and labeling them as DLC at a higher price point. We went from (over the course of about 12-18 months) the majority of DLC being priced around $2-$3 to $4.99 and $10.00 pricing models.
 
Excuses like “It's because of the used game industry” is not going to incentivize large companies to change their pricing structure. Temporarily boycotting a great game will get noticed, however. I will use GTA V as an example. What do you think would be the course of action if Rockstar did only 1 million dollars in sales in the first 6-week period of release worldwide? Consider a couple of factors: They have spent millions on development, marketing, and other costs. How long can they go with low sales before they need to adjust their pricing model to recoup some of their costs/expenses in game development and marketing?

Now the first time gamers are organized enough to do something of this sort, it will catch them off-guard and hurt their pockets like a mother. They won’t change based just on that single stance in fact they will be incentivized by their peers not to change their business model because it has been so lucrative in recent years. Do it to a GTA, a Call of Duty, and a Metal Gear Solid all in one fiscal year and Boom!, business models impacted and change becomes necessary.
 
I guess my point is that before we simply complain or discount a particular circumstance as industry norm, take a look at what you actually have control over. This is a multi-billion dollar Luxury industry and it only survives because we invest in it.

Also note, I didn't say boycott the games in their entiretysimply delay the purchase. With numerous other video game options available, how soon do you really need the blockbuster. A great game today will typically still be a great game 6-10 weeks from now. However, lack of initial purchase will impact their operating cycle because regardless of if we buy the game at release or not, their bills keep coming in.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. It has been submitted for our monthly $20 Vox Pop prize. ~Ed. Nick
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