What consoles could learn from the PC

Steam Sale

We’re all aware of the current furor over used games and the restrictions planned for the next generation of Microsoft’s console. Rumors as of late also indicate that Sony will be moving in a same direction, more than likely as a result of publisher pressure. I can’t see them avoiding it either, they’ve been ominously silent and only saying such as “The PS4 will be able to play used games”. Technically speaking so can the Xbox One.

In one respect, I can fully understand that these companies don’t approve of others making a profit from their hard work.I think the used game market is absolutely atrocious at times. Here in the UK Game hold a near monopoly of the used games section and they ring it for every penny they can. One thing I remember is of the last game I traded in, Uncharted: Golden Abyss which I got with my Vita. I was offered £27 for my copy which was unopened. It was selling at a price of £44.99 brand new and the pre-owned copy of the game was selling at £42.99. This is a huge disparity to say the least.

Trade In Game

The other side of the argument is equally valid. We as consumers pay a sizable price for our video games and predictions are that the price rise featured in the previous generation change will also occur here. This will give the top games a price of around £49.99/$69.99.

If we pay such a large amount for the game then of course we will believe that it then should be ours to do with as we please which also includes selling it. What the publishers aren’t paying attention to are the benefits of the used game market. As people trade in games, more often for store credit, they are going to buy other games and often ones that they would have never played otherwise. As people purchase these new games and enjoy them there is a better chance in the future of them buying a new copy of a future game. Sadly the industry has it stuck in it’s head that a used game sales is equal to a lost new sale which is quite simply not the case.

So how can the consoles learn from the PC?

It’s a strange thing to ask because the PC is renowned for being limited when it comes to selling or trading games. I don’t know of a single MMO that allows you to sell your account, nor even share it. The biggest store on the digital market is Steam and it’s owner, Valve, explicitly forbid the selling of accounts and they do not allow the resale of your games. Once they are attached to your account, they are there permanently. Why are we happy to accept this? First, your account can be taken worldwide and used on any PC, you just need to remember your username and password and it doesn’t cost you anything to set it up. Second, Valve are constantly improving Steam and adding more features. Some simply social, the new card collection and profile changes, while others like the workshop are intrinsically linked to improving games. Finally the most important thing is that games on the PC are cheaper. It’s as simple as that.

Steam My Profile

This is the crux of the matter. We pay a large amount of money on a console only to then pay a large amount of money for a disc with a license of a game. This license by the companies policies cannot be traded away unless specifically allowed and can theoretically be taken away at any time. Before they had no real way of preventing this, now they will be able to do so. If they really want to go further down this route then the best option would be to make one simple change, make the games cheaper and in line with PC prices. I understand that consoles have extra costs associated with developing for them but increasing prices while limiting the freedom of the consumer is only breeding anger and discontent.

The publishers aren’t the only ones to blame, although I personally believe they are the driving force. MS and Sony are both guilty of charging extraordinary fees for even the simplest of things which are the extra costs of developing for consoles. Thousands of pounds for a dev kit, of which you have to buy one for every member of your team. The licensing fees then can be rather extreme, depending on the price of the game they can take up a quarter of the price the game is sold for. They also both charge a sizable fee for releasing a patch on their console which if not done can leave a game quite broken. Add this to ever increasing costs in making a new game and you are left with a system where the people who consume are attacked from all sides.

  • Axe99

    Games on console (although in this case mainly the PSN – XBLA and Games on Demand needs a lot of work, and in many cases is daylight robbery) are improving at a good pace, and the sales on PSN now often offer excellent value, on the odd occasion one-upping Steam (the new Tomb Raider was cheapest first on PSN, with a Steam sale that undercut the PSN deal a few weeks alter – both Darksiders games were cheaper on PSN than Steam last time I looked as well, although this was a few months ago). It’s the cheapness and the regular sales that are the key – I’m almost all digital on PSN now, particularly for older titles (for new titles you’ll still often find better deals in store, although not always, and mainly for PS3 rather than PSV).

    Microsoft needs to catch up with its console store and quickly, and last time I had a look at Games for Windows it was a trainwreck. Green Man Games, Good Old Games and Gamersgate sometimes out-do Steam (although I generally stick to Steam as it’s easier to keep track of all your games if you mainly go with one shopfront).

    Will be interesting to see where things go – I’d expect the Steam route of full price at launch (which games on Steam still are), but relatively quick discounting and regular sales (which is well on the way on the PSN, and starting to pick up pace on Microsoft’s platforms. Can’t speak for Ninty, as it’s been a while since I had one of their machines powered on.