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Nickeled and Dimed
by Joshua Sterns on 06/02/11 09:28:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


The source of my rant:

EA is attempting to make some extra cash from the used-game market. Customers are required to enter a one time code to access multiplayer content. For those who don't have the code they must pay to play. Why does this bug me? I rent. Specifically I rent from Gamefly. I happen to enjoy their services, and have had no major issues. I was most displeased when I discovered Bulletstorm's MP was not accessible. I pay for Xbox Live (well not lately I've been using up the free passes from old games). I pay for Gamefly, and all the other items necessary to play games. Why do I have to pay for multiplayer in EA tittles? 

I continue to find the overall cost of games rising steadily. Buy new hardware to experience motion controls, 3D, and music like gaming. These new features can sky rocket the price of modern home entertainment system, but they are only the big ticket items. 

DLC content continues to change the landscape of released titles. Map packs in FPS tittles take precedent in on-line play, and divide the have's from the have-not's. Ranging from $10 to $15 per DLC the cost of a game can go up to $100 fast. For RPG's, story arcs are expanded, and players are encouraged to buy expansion packs.

If they don't, then they'll be behind once the next full game is released. These additions can cost up to $40, and this doesn't include any in-game items you choose to buy. All of this must have merchandise does add/enhance the gaming experience, but the price of admission is often not worth it. 

If studios and publishers are so desperate for cash, then why don't they look towards advertising. There is vast amounts of empty space in games that can be utilized for ads. Load screens are the easy example. Do you really need the hints?

Especially for long running franchises like Halo and Call of Duty--grenades kill, cover protects, bad guys die from taking damage etc. etc. etc. Throw up a quick 7-11 or McDonald's logo next to the hints, or go all the way with a quick commercial. Load screens are usually fifteen to thirty seconds long, which is plenty of time for a fast word from our sponsors. Tittle updates can replace the commercials if needed. This idea can also be applied to intro and tittle screens. 

Games are already seeing advertisements slip into certain genres. Billboards in racing games are a great reference for expanding ads in other areas. The key is to make the ads noticeable, but not overbearing. Gamers will be hesitant to accept advertisements and it is important not to distract from the entertainment factor. Ads should be in areas that do not inhibit gameplay, or ruin a cinematic moment. This is why I suggest load screens, or other areas that are not in-game.

Will there be backlash? Yes of course there will. People also dislike ads in movies and television, yet they still exist. People will not stop buying games because of advertisement. Just like they won't stop buying games because of the price of DLC or multiplayer. 

Ideally I would love to see two options develop--ads or bills. Gamers can be billed and see no ads like many internet subscriptions. Or they can tolerate advertisements in their games. Both are granted full access to a game, which after-all is what this rant was originally all about. 

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Lennard Feddersen
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Not nearly enough money in advertising.

Joshua Sterns
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What's enough money? Facebook seems to be rolling in cash thanks to advertisements. News networks stay afloat because of their ad revenue. Product placement in films and television earn extra bucks. Sports earn tons of cash from all sorts of advertisement.

I don't understand how earning additional income from unused space would not be welcomed, or considered not enough. Ad revenue would not replace traditional sources of income. Just supplement it.

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This is a zero sum game. Advertisements would supplement the costs of games and then game companies would continue to push the boarders of price limits. Advertisements or any other sort of relief isn't going to create an environment of inexpensive quality games. Technology for example is constantly improving, becoming smaller, more advanced, inexpensive - has this made gaming any cheaper as a hobby? What do companies do if not push their consoles as far as they can, adopting new technology, barely established technology, and then unashamedly forcing it onto the consumer? A financially comfortable plateau is not being pursued.

The answer I think is a restructure of the pricing system, where 60 dollars is not the inexplicable standard, and games that don't need a campaign can cut it out and be released at half price. Individual prices to fit individual games. Games that have only as much content as they need, be it 10, 30, or 60 dollars worth.

Advertisements I think would only cement existing conventions, prolonging the status quo, becoming another part of the complete, bloated package that all games must adhere to. Adding one more step into releasing a game, complicating things further. Not to mention all the other baggage that that level of intrusive advertising would bring.

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This is also an issue of the market in general creating wants instead of meeting them. Did anyone ask for 3D gaming or televisions? No. But the expensive technology is there, waiting to be turned into a new product, and like it or not the market insists that you be enamored with this next new thing.

Could we take a step back from the most expensive most difficult to create graphics? Were graphics ten years ago so bad that games were unplayable? Or were we happy then and would be just as happy now playing slightly less than visually perfect games.

DanielThomas MacInnes
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If you're angry about being nickel-n-dimed, then don't pony up the cash. Simple as that. These greedy companies have to learn their lesson one way or another. If you continue to allow yourselves to be strung along, and pay for subscriptions, online, DLC, used game penalties, etc., then nothing will change.

And the retail prices are outrageous. $60 is unacceptable. I can buy kitchen appliances for less money than that. When I was a kid, we played state-of-the-art video games for a quarter a play; discs and cassettes were dirt cheap, and used Atari and NES carts could be found for a fiver. Nobody put a gun to the heads of game company executives and told them to gamble $50-$100 million on a single video game. If production costs are killing this business, then fer crying out loud, bring down the production costs.

If you're paying $100 for a video game, between retail and DLC, then you're a sucker. Period. Stop being played for a sucker. Stand up for yourselves. Demand some rights. You're the one with the money; you get to dictate the terms.

Great blog article, btw. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it's always appreciated.

J Brian Smith
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Most of the comments here amount to "the industry shouldn't make games that cost $50 million to make." Well, I happen to like games that cost that much to make. I don't understand the complaining about them, as there is no shortage of 99 cent games or $10 games out there. If you don't want to pay $60 for the latest AAA title, don't. But don't tell developers not to make them or try to find ways to charge enough to cover the costs.

Honestly I'd just prefer to pay $80 or $90 for the latest really big-budget blockbuster rather than pay it in chunks via DLC/subscriptions or have to sit through ads. But $80 games would cause an even bigger uproar than that stuff does.