Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Not Greedy, Just Clueless

Shamus Young | 12 Mar 2013 13:00
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When someone is contemplating spending sixty USD, the last thing you want is for them to hesitate over concerns with side transactions: Microsoft points, online passes, account creation, activation keys, privacy concerns, server availability, pay-to-win items, DRM, or any of the other stupid crap that creates stress and keeps games from being fun. It's not about the ten bucks or about the quality of the item being offered. In the end, it's about the customer feeling like they are going to get a whole and complete product when they put their money down. They don't want to worry about buying DLC (or not) on day one and wondering how much of this extra content will be missed or how it fits into the product as a whole.

This is also why the whole "online games broken at launch" issue is so powerful. The botched launch of SimCity is just the latest in a long line of similar debacles. Sure, these outages are "temporary" and "only impact some users", but these are incredibly inconvenient. Not just inconvenient for the people who can't play, but for people considering buying and game and worrying if they will face similar problems. Online, your company can live or die on the convenience of your service.

People will pay for convenience. This is doubly true of digital transactions. This is what makes EA businesses practices so awful. They're not just making the product more expensive, but also making it far less convenient to use. This is a brain-dead and tone-deaf way to engage with their audience, and it helps explain why EA is so reviled by their own customers. They're trying to turn games from a product to a service, and their service is so bad it borders on sabotage.

Valve's Steam sales are the videogame equivalent of a combo meal: A system designed to get you to spend more, while somehow leaving you with the impression that you saved money. I have an embarrassing number of games that I've never even installed, but I bought them because the price was low and I didn't want to miss out. I allow the Steam update window to appear at launch, so that I can see if more deals show up. I know from reading what others have said that I am not alone in this behavior. Steam has not only sold us games we never intended to buy, but they've trained us to treat their advertisements like a reward. Steam didn't do this by accident. They did it because it makes money. And people love them for it. .

The problem isn't greed. Valve is "greedy", but they're good at it. After handing over my money I feel like I've won. EA isn't more greedy than Valve, they're just inept and clueless. When I buy from EA (or heck, even when I get something free from Origin) I walk away with the feeling like I've been unduly hassled and disrespected.

Shamus Young is a programmer, a novelist, and he HATES typing in activation codes. You have no idea.

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