Tag Archive for game

The Secondary Market

It was April 9th of this year.  I went down to the bookstore at the first opportunity I’d had to pick up the latest of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books.  At the store there was a shelf right inside the door with about three or four dozen copies of the hardback.  I picked one up and flipped it over to make sure I had enough cash to buy it when suddenly I saw a second rack of books.  Above it was a sign for “Previously Owned Books” and on that shelf was a copy of the book I had in my hands, only instead of being $26 like the one I was holding, it was $20.  Sure, I had $30 on me and could afford to buy the new copy, but who doesn’t want to save $6?  I put the new copy down and picked up the used copy, bought it, and marched home with my new book to read.

The preceding paragraph isn’t true.  I’m not sure it could be.  Yeah, you can buy used books, but the number of times you’ll have the opportunity to buy a used copy of a hardcover book just three days after release is so small as to be non-existent.  But what am I getting at?

I posted a couple weeks ago about the issue that blew up the gaming sphere of the Internet.  Discussion has continued, and many people keep on trying to equate the sale of used games with the sale of used… well… anything else.  My book example above, I’ve never seen that happen.  I’ve also never seen someone buy a $30,ooo car, drive it for 2 or 3 days and then go sell it to CarMax for half the value so that CarMax can sell it for $28,000 (if anything, they’d return to the dealer and try to undo the sale and get a lot more of their money back).  Now, I’ve seen that happen with music CDs, but that’s because people buy, rip and then resell since they don’t need the CD anymore to enjoy the music, but that is a whole different issue.  We aren’t talking about people making illegal copies of games.  But speaking of games, I’ve known plenty of folks who will buy a game new, play it for 3 days, either finishing it or disliking it, and then sell it to Gamestop or some other used game reseller.  I have walked into a Gamestop just 2 or 3 days after the release of a new game and found used copies $5 to $10 cheaper than the new one sharing shelf space with the new copy.

The fact is, in most products with a healthy secondary market, that secondary market doesn’t have a large impact on the initial release and first month (or two) of sales, and that is really the meat of the matter.  Video games, in some respects, have such a short shelf life (except for the occasional blockbuster that bucks the norm) that anything which hurts that hurts the industry.  To combat that you have companies trying to offer multiplayer experiences that encourage the consumer to retain the game instead of reselling it, and one-time access codes that reduce the value of the game on resale.  And of course you have digital distribution models that prevent reselling altogether.

I think secondary markets are great, even vital, but I also think that the creators of a product need a reasonable amount of time to make their money before the secondary market kicks in and takes that away.  I don’t like the idea that game companies are looking for ways to eliminate or hamstring the used games market, but I also hate seeing places like Gamestop selling used games within that first month of release, knowing that’s it’s contributing to less profits for the creators (and more for the secondary market).

Eventually, I think the game companies will win, and destroy the secondary market with unlock codes and digital distribution.  Imagine a future where you buy a game for $60 and inside is a one-time code that you must enter to play the game.  If you buy the game used, it’s little more than a demo, giving you 30-60 minutes of play unless you buy an unlock code from the marketplace for $60 (perhaps a bit less… $50?  $40?) to open the rest of the game.  Suddenly, the used game would only have a limited value (the disc being needed in the drive to play), which kills the resale value.  Your $60 first purchase becomes a $5 resale that Gamestop can sell for $10… or maybe Gamestop can sell you the disc AND the unlock code for $60.  Who knows…

Luckily for me, I only buy games that I know that I’ll keep, and I don’t buy used games (if I want an older game, I’ll just buy in new when it drops to $20 on Amazon or at BestBuy).  But I do occasionally lend a game to a friend, or borrow one, and whatever they do will impact that as well.  We’ll just have to wait and see what they decide to do…

Dead Rising 2 – Case: 0

Dead Rising 2 drops next week and I’m really looking forward to it.  Three weeks or so ago, the Xbox 360 got a nice little exclusive prequel called Case 0.  If you are familiar with the original Dead Rising, you’ll remember that the story unfolds as a series of cases, unlocking each successive chapter as you complete the one you are in.  This tightly made bonus for the 360 seems to fit in nicely, giving the new hero, Chuck Greene, a path to Las Vegas, the setting of the upcoming DR2.

The one thing I enjoy most about the Dead Rising series is the stark contrast it has with the Left 4 Dead series.  L4D is clearly a high octane shooter.  Sure, you occasionally try to silently tiptoe past a witch, but most of the zombies in that world are charging at you at full speed.  Running is rarely an option, you have to fight to live.  The DR games, on the other hand, are populated with shamblers, zombies that shuffle their feet, walk, and sometimes even *gasp* walk fast!  Running is almost always an option.  This leads to Dead Rising playing more like an RPG, especially given its levels and character development.

Back to Case 0… I bought it last week and I’ve been fooling around in the little road block town of the game and it has me really excited to play the full blown DR2 when it releases, and at the same time it also doesn’t just feel like a teaser.  It feels like a complete game on its own, probably the best $5 I’ve ever spent in the marketplace.  And with the announcement of Case West coming to the 360 sometime after DR2’s launch, I imagine that’ll be a well spent $5 too.  If only all games in the Xbox Live Arcade could be this good.  Hell, if Capcom decided to just release a new mini game as good as Case 0 set in the Dead Rising universe every month, I’d be thrilled.

Anyway… if you liked the original Dead Rising and you still have a 360, I highly recommend Case 0.

Fantasy Fantasy MMO

If I were to set about trying to build yet another fantasy MMORPG, here is what I would do…

I’d start with EVE Online.  There are many reasons for this, the first being that I don’t mind having zones.  Lots of people will tell you that you have to have a giant seamless world, but I always ask them “What seamless worlds are you playing in?”  They always say World of Warcraft.  But they are only half right.  Yes, you can run from one end of a continent to the other without zoning.  You can fly on a griffin or other travel beast and cross no zone lines.  But how do you play the game?  Most people are in instances, dungeons and battlegrounds, and crossing from one continent to another makes you zone.  Warcraft has seams, they’ve just gone a long way to hide them from you.  EVE does too, but thankfully for them their Sci-Fi setting makes it easy to throw up gates and wormholes and faster than light travel and hide them in plain sight.  In my fantasy world, I’d have large sprawling zones.  Some zones would be city zones where a large city rests at the center and is surrounded by farmland and sparse wilderness.  Some zones would be town zones where it is mostly wilderness with a sprinkling of small villages and towns, two to five per zone, just a small cluster of buildings or an inn at a cross roads.  And some zones would be full on wilderness with caves and dungeons and evil.

Players would be able to own and run the small villages and towns, possibly even city blocks in the large cities (but not the whole city – the advantage of controlling part of a city would be in the nearness of so many other people, the disadvantage would be that you have to share the city – think of cities as being the trade hubs of the game).

When you want to leave a zone, you would go to a “crossroads”, of which there might be several on each zone at the edges.  From the crossroads you would use the signpost and it would tell you which zones you could get to from here.  Players would be allowed to choose if their journey was “safe” or “unsafe”.  A “safe” journey would simply zone you directly to your destination.  An “unsafe” journey would randomly generate an adventure zone with one or more encounters that you would need to cross.  These unsafe adventure zones would have two exits, one where you start would be back to where you came from and the one at the other end (not necessarily the opposite side, the path through could wind around and end up anywhere on the zone perimeter) would take you to your destination.

The point here is that there would exist in the game shared content raids (the zones I mentioned earlier with caves and dungeons and evil) with spawn timers and event cycles and so on, and there would exist instanced travel content where a player or group of players (or raid full of players) could go thwart evil unhindered by other players (an added bonus could be that clearing a road of bandits and other nasties could have an impact on the prices of NPC trade goods between the two end points of the journey).  As well there could also be “pocket” zones that would work more like traditional instances in other game – perhaps players, from a village or town, can accept a posted bounty or task that sends them either immediately into their own instance or directs them to a nearby crossroads where they can select their instance from the signpost.

Of course, I’m just spit-balling here.  But I think this sort of thing would be a very interesting idea to pursue.  Another day, I’ll go into how I’d apply EVE’s character design/building to a fantasy game as well…

The abnormal tank & the rogue

Back in the days of EverQuest, the wife and I used to duo when we couldn’t find groups.  This isn’t strange, as I have found most couples do this.  What probably is strange is that she played a rogue and I played a monk.  With monk avoidance, the ability to bandage up to 70% (I think they could even do up to 100% later on), a weapon or item that summoned bandages, items that rooted or snared, and rogue evasion, I could tank experience giving mobs while the wife destroyed them from behind.  We really enjoyed traveling the world and finding places and monsters we could fight in this fashion.

Recently, we’ve started playing EQ2X (EverQuest 2 Extended free-to-play) and as per usual she rolled up a rogue, a brigand to be precise.  Now, I didn’t have the option to roll a monk (you have to pay for them), but I decided to roll up a templar.  As we’ve been playing, I’ve been focusing on aggro generating skills and damage and mitigation.  I’m a tanking cleric, so to speak.  I pull, I debuff and nuke and she destroys them from behind.

We’ve played this way in most of the games that we’ve played.  I play a somewhat versatile class that can semi-tank and survive while she plays a DPS heavy class that focuses on the killing.  I really enjoy it and it makes for interesting game play as we level.  Me trying to find new ways to hold aggro with a class that isn’t supposed to do that, and her trying not to steal aggro with a class practically designed to steal aggro from tanks.  I think the only game we strayed from this was LotRO in which we played a Champion/Minstrel and a Captain/Lore-master.

Do you have a favorite duo in games?

To Stop GameStop

StopGameStopThe Internet exploded last week (in the gaming sphere at least) beginning with an article and a comic.  It was followed by tons of articles…

So, lets talk…  First, the guy from THQ isn’t wrong.  Anytime you buy anything second hand, the original creators see nothing of that sale.  This is true of video games just as it is true of books and DVDs.  I’ve got one friend who is all up in arms about this, that we need to stop second hand video game sales, to help protect the industry, but he’s also a comic book collector.  So I asked, “When you sell a comic, do you sent the author and artist their cut?”  He doesn’t.  I asked him if this needed to change, he didn’t think so.  He couldn’t explain how the two were different.

And of course, no one really bats an eye at second hand DVD sales.  But then, a DVD retails for under $20 in most cases.  Buying it for $10 might be saving you 50% but it’s only saving you $10.  A video game, however, might be $60 new, and $30 used.  Still 50% but now it’s $30 of savings.  Really though, the guys in the industry aren’t upset at the $30 sale of a year old game.  Their ire, which they don’t specifically state, is leveled at games less than a month old that places like GameStop are selling for $55.  In this case, someone bought it for $60, then sold it to GameStop for $20 (might be more, might be less – it varies), and GameStop turns around and sells it for $55.  People are saving $5 here and bilking the game company out of any cut at all.

If THQ really wanted to stop GameStop, you know what they’d do?  Drop their price to $55.  They’d garner a few new customers, the ones willing to pay $55 but not $60.  GameStop would probably drop to $50, and THQ could decide if going to $50 is worth it.  Games that come out for consoles currently tend to retail at $60.  If the same game is available on PC, they tend to retail at $50 or even $40, so clearly there is room to move the price around, especially since the console version often has less packaging than the PC version (who knows… perhaps producing a cardboard box and a jewel case is less expensive than the DVD case console versions get).

Or, they can do what they are planning to do, which is to put a one-time code in the game that unlocks some content (levels, online play, etc).  Their solution is fine, in my opinion, so long as they never hamstring the game so that it is unplayable.  I have no problem with them putting a code on online play since often online play means that they run servers, and they can always sell online play as DLC through the systems their games appear on, so that a player who buys used will still have to pay a small fee if they want online play.

Personally, I’d love to see prices drop.  I know I’d buy more games sooner if I could afford them, but as it is I wait usually six months or more so that I can pick them up for $40 or less (often a year or more later when I can get the Platinum Hits edition for $20).  That is less likely to happen than the one-time code hostage situation that is developing.  Oh well… I’ll just have more time for watching TV and reading books.

Not So Casual

The casual gaming market is filled with games that, in my humble opinion, are more hardcore than even some of the most hardcore games.

Mostly, this comes from how you can play.  Take Farmville for example.  When I was playing, it drove me batty that I would log in and actually run out of things to do.  I tended my crops, dealt with my animals, bought some stuff, visited neighbors and then… I had to wait.  Sure, I could pick short growth crops, but even then I’d still have time where I literally couldn’t play the game.  Then, if I chose a long term crop because I expected to be away from the game for a while, but turned out to have some time a few hours later to play, I couldn’t because I tied up all my crops in growing long term stuff.  I had this same issue with Mafia Matrix when I was playing it.  I’d log in, do all the stuff I could, then be forced to wait to play more.

Coming out of a long term love affair with MMORPGs, this was a shock.  In EQ or WoW or CoH or any other triple A title, when you logged in, you had stuff to do, and you could do it for as long as you wanted.  The game never stopped and said, “You’re done. Go do something else and come back later.”  The only big MMO that skirts this line is EVE Online.  Yes, there are always things to do, but if you’ve chosen to focus on manufacturing and skill training, you might find yourself logging in once or twice a day, checking on things, clicking a few things and then logging out.  Some people do this in WoW with crafting cool downs, but that is such a tiny fraction of the game that I can’t really claim it has much of an impact.

Anyway, back to games like Mafia Matrix being more hardcore… I mean that only in the time intensive way.  You can perform a task every X minutes.  If you are away from the game, you gain no credit.  You come back, you click and have to wait X minutes.  Because of the fixed time limitations, you have no way to grind out advancement to make up for lost time.  Time away from the game is not only time lost, but time you are falling behind as everyone else clicks right past you.  For me, this type of design creates anxiety.  I log in, I play, and have fun, but when I’m away for too long I start to feel like I’m actually losing.  In many triple A MMOs, I don’t get that since I know when I do play I can double up my efforts and get more done, especially since many of them offer bonuses for being “rested” (meaning you haven’t played).

The short of it is, I don’t like this sort of design, especially for things being designated as “casual”.  I mean, Bejeweled Blitz doesn’t only let me play 5 times and then tell me to come back in an hour.  I can play as much as I want every time I’m there, and being away doesn’t penalize me.

Netbooking It

A while back I got a netbook.  An ASUS 1005HA.  Sure, it’s not the graphical monster that the Dell/Alienware MX11 or whatever it’s called is, but it suits my needs just fine.  Those needs?  Browsing the net, email, writing, and the occasional game.  Oh, and it is awesome for traveling.  Much better than lugging around a full laptop with a 15″ or 17″ screen.

Obviously, such a machine is limited in it’s gaming capabilities.  Though, mainly the issue is resolution.  It has a 1024 x 600 desktop.  I can run it at 1024 x 768, but that squishes everything.  The 600 height is native.  Puzzle Pirates runs great on it.  So does Wizard 101.  Free Realms absolutely fails.  Most flash games run, though some websites hosting them expect a larger than 600 height so their ads and layout can make playing an issue.

As you can tell by my list, I’m looking for MMOs that will run on it.  I’ve heard that World of Warcraft will run, though not optimally, plus I’m not playing that game anymore anyway.  But what other MMOs are out there that will run in a 1024 x 600 resolution and run well without needing a super graphics card?  What’s a good MMO On The Go?

Game On!

Do you watch The Guild?  You should.  Last year they made a ridiculously popular music video for “Do You Wanna Date My Avatar?” and this year they’ve released another video, “Game On!

Browsing the Aisles

This month’s Gamer Banter: “How important is cover art to you?”

Back in the day, we’d go to the store as a family, and in the electronics section there would be the wall of Atari games.  The cover art was pretty much always like a million times better than the actual game graphics.  The art mattered, because that’s what got you to pick up the box and flip it over to see a couple of game shots.  Even into the Nintendo and early PC eras this continued.  The art of a King’s Quest box didn’t match the game, but it drew you in.

These days, I almost never go to the store to browse games.  I check websites, I browse Amazon.  I buy games there too, and the only time I ever see the game box is when I’m getting the disc out to put it in the 360 or installing the game on my hard drive… though Steam has pretty much ended the latter.

If I did, though, game box covers are like a movie poster.  It’s art, meant to catch your eye.  And much like movie posters the same layouts get used so often that I have become almost immune to them.  They fail to catch my eye.  And yet, now and then a movie poster comes along that I have to find and buy and I have to put on my wall.  But game boxes are so small.  Perhaps I might display a particularly good one if it was sold in a poster size, but so few are.

So to answer the question, the cover art is unimportant to me.  I barely even notice it.

This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part of this, please email him for details.

Other takes:
Silvercublogger: Don’t Cover The Art, Unless…
The Average Gamer: Cover Art
SnipingMizzy: In the eye of the beholder
Extra Guy: On Books and Covers
Zath: How Important Is A Game’s Cover Art?
carocat.co.uk: Cover art? No, thanks!
Pioneer Project: The game box’s big moment
Man Fat: How Important Is A Game’s Cover Art?

Lifetime Subscription Realms

At launch, I was a big fan of Free Realms.  It was a nice looking, well crafted game, and it was free.  I played it a few hours a week right up until they moved the velvet rope.  Originally, some professions were fully open up to level 20 and other professions were closed unless you paid.  I really liked this because it allowed you to see the game from the bottom to the top, at least in part.  The new model allows you to get up to level 5 in every profession, with further advancement behind the pay wall.  Because of the switch, I quit shortly thereafter, because frankly, even though I was enjoying it, it wasn’t worth $5 a month to play.

Right now and until August 2nd, SOE is running a special, $30 lifetime subscription for Free Realms.  Due to a few freebies and other gifts I’ve gotten over the last year, I had accumulated 2800 Station Cash points, and the store said I could buy the lifetime subscription for 2999 points.  I cracked open the wallet, bought $5 worth of points and bought my lifetime membership.

Sadly, this means that Free Realms technically doesn’t belong in the Freeloading category anymore, so this will be my last post on this game under this heading.

I think the game is totally worth $30.  Especially if you have kids.  Sure, there are still many items in the cash shop, and so your spending days may not be over, but the game will have no fixed costs, which is nice.  And you can always dole out Station Cash as allowance and/or rewards.  Personally, I like the game for the same reason I still like Puzzle Pirates – I like short arcade-style mini-games, but I love that doing them contributes to an overall game and world.  Sure, I could play Bejeweled or other matching games over at Popcap or on Facebook, but they don’t earn me anything.  In Free Realms, when I do well at mining I get ore which I can smith into weapons that I can use in my fighting professions and so on.  Plus, I like running around in huge worlds and seeing stuff.

Now, the only issue I have with Free Realms is their silly 1024 x 768 minimum resolution limitation that prevents me from being able to play on my 1024 x 600 netbook.  Puzzle Pirates is still the winner on that device…