Going Gold

Going Gold: Gaming Doublespeak

Christian Ward | 13 Jan 2010 21:00
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Digital distribution

You might think it means... "Convenient new way to buy games."

It actually means... "Convenient new way to make you buy games they way we want you to."

The talk these days is all about digital distribution and DLC, because some publishers hate secondhand gaming, and live in the same fantasyland as record label executives do. To wit, they believe that gamers would spend more money on gaming if only we could make them, rather than recognize the reality that gamers are spending what they can on gaming, and that trading-in and swapping games is a very large part of our core audience's (again, see above) game budget.

Our solution to this is to rush into a world where swaps, trade-ins and rentals will be impossible. Where there will be one store per platform and competition will be a thing of the past. iTunes has no DRM because the market forced to them to - who is going to compete with Microsoft, Nintendo or Sony on their own platform?

It's strange how backwards our thinking - and complaining - on the digital realm can be. We bitch about DLC and wanting everything "on the disc" (when nobody boycotts movie Director's Cuts or the "deleted scenes" you often get on the disc release of TV series - what's the difference exactly?). But we have no problem with there being almost no competition in the realm of digital games, doubly so for platform-exclusive games like Flower or Shadow Complex, where there is literally only one place in the world legally entitled to sell it. The only competition is amongst publishers themselves, who are mostly more than happy to silently agree on a price point and maintain it. And right now, most of them are undervaluing their produce. Isn't anybody upset about where this is going? Not everybody's going to be as generous as Valve is. Shouldn't we have figured that out by now?

Speaking of which...

Boycott

You might think it means... "A principled stand to speak truth to power! This'll show the bastards!"

It actually means... "Sweet, free publicity!"

Consider the UK "Rage Against the Machine for Christmas Number One" campaign, a pointless-but-amusing moment of consumer "activism" that began on Facebook as a backlash to Simon Cowell's pop domination of the music charts (er, at least I think that's what it was about). That's a piece of mischief done through the Internet correctly.

In gaming? Let's see, we had the Modern Warfare 2 server backlash... wait, that didn't work out so well. How did that Left 4 Dead 2 one come along? Oh wait... In fact, the only correlation I can see between boycotts and sales is that boycotts actually help.

At least the Rage Against the Machine lot helped raise some money for the homeless. With countless millions dying of hunger, wars raging in nations around the world, and many more in your own neighborhood unemployed and in need of help than this time two years ago, gamers choose to put their effort into half-heartedly "boycotting" a videogame until it's made the way they want it. 30,000 people signed up to the Left 4 Dead 2 boycott group on Steam alone. Well done, guys. Gandhi would be proud. How about putting your time into Child's Play, or something more productive? Choosing not to purchase a product is your right. What annoys me is that people like Valve actually have to take time out of their schedule to humor you.

Every one of these boycotts should be filed as further proof that people on the Internet talking about games and people in the shops actually buying games have only a passing correlation - if even that.

Say what you mean, mean what you say - what gaming jargon annoys you?

Christian Ward works for a major publisher. Guess what game he's most looking forward to this year?

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