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The gaming industry seems to be at a crossroads these days, enabling gamers to purchase from a wide variety of on-the-shelf titles that includes experiences about on par to what most people would get from a trip to the cinema to catch the latest $200 million dollar Hollywood blockbuster, while at the same time enabling them to try out high-quality titles without a price tag and paying for what they feel suits their value's worth.
Nexon, one of the top three publishers in the world right now, believes that the former (shopping around through shelves full of $60 games) is becoming a trend that needs to change based on providing a product with variable content that needs to suit the tastes of the gamer. In other words, the $60 model needs to go.
According to Game Industry, Nexon's CEO Daniel Kim expressed to them that...
"I think at some point the console makers have to make a decision about how closed or open they're going to be to the different models that are going to be emerging,"... "Today it's free-to-play, and I'm convinced that that one is going to continue to flourish and expand into other genres and other categories, but there may be something else completely and entirely different that comes out that again changes the industry."
Some companies have been experimenting with microtransaction DLC for recently released titles. The best example is EA and BioWare with the day-one DLC "From Ashes" which kicked up a firestorm of criticism and debate about whether or not it was completed and stripped from the game, or if it really was designed post-certification. Unfortunately we'll never know the full truth of the scenario and at worst the reputation and image of BioWare has been tainted, but at best EA has a game that will make them hundreds of millions of dollars with tens of millions being made off the microtransaction DLC that accompanies the game.
I tend to doubt that this is the sort of change Kim is talking about, as it doesn't do much to increase consumer confidence, nor does Capcom's tactic of completely storing more than 30% of a game's content behind a pay-wall and calling it "downloadable content". Paying $60 and then an additional $5 - $10 to slowly unlock 12 extra characters, additional stages, music, gems, combos and colors easily has gamers who want the complete experience paying for the full retail price of the game over and over again to access content already complete and locked away on the disc. Again, this kind of alternative countermands both the $60 price point and the free-to-play model.
While some sectors of game development costs are rising and becoming increasingly bloated, other sectors (like the indie market) is offering gamers affordable content with appealing prices, proving you don't need a $100 million dollar budget to make a good game.
I wish Kim would have given a good in-between example that benefits all parties. Right now, however, the $60 price-point works entirely in favor of console manufacturers and publishers, leaving gamers feeling a little iffy about the 6-hour single player campaigns and tacked-on multiplayer, as well as developers who feel as if they're being short-changed when their game ends up in the used-game bargain bin at the local retailer a week or two after release.
I can't completely agree that the free-to-play model is as good an alternative to the upfront retail prices (especially given that you can never own a free-to-play game), I hope that some publisher out there can come to terms of finding a good middle ground for console gaming the way Valve has with PC gaming and the Steam platform, where gamers feel like they're getting a complete product and developers reap the benefits of their labors.