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Origin Boss Says Steam Sales "Cheapen Intellectual Property"

| 6 Jun 2012 17:30
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EA Vice President David DeMartini says gamers shouldn't hold their breath waiting for deep-discount sales to come to Origin.

Like it or not, there's no arguing that Steam sales don't offer tremendously good deals. If you've got ten bucks and a Steam sale, you're all set; no matter what you're into, you're bound to find something that turns your crank, at a price you can afford. There's also no arguing that Steam isn't far and away the big dog of the PC gaming digital distribution pack, and so it stands to reason that anyone - like, say, Origin - who wants to contend for that top spot would have to offer similar, or perhaps even better, deals to its customers. Right?

Well, no, at least not according to David DeMartini, EA's senior vice president for global e-commerce. "We won't be doing that," he said in an interview with GamesIndustry. "I just think it cheapens your intellectual property. I know both sides of it, I understand it. If you want to sell a whole bunch of units, that is certainly a way to do that, to sell a whole bunch of stuff at a low price. The gamemakers work incredibly hard to make this intellectual property, and we're not trying to be Target... we're trying to give you a fair price point, and occasionally there will be things that are on sale you could look for a discount, just don't look for 75 percent off going-out-of-business sales."

He also suggested that despite giving exposure and huge sales boosts to indie developers and major studios alike, Valve's approach could actually be doing the industry more harm than good. "What Steam does might be teaching the customer that, 'I might not want it in the first month, but if I look at it in four or five months, I'll get one of those weekend sales and I'll buy it at that time at 75 percent off'," he continued. "It's an approach, and I'm not going to say it's not working for Valve. It certainly works for Valve; I don't know if it works as well for the publishing partners who take on the majority of that haircut."

The reaction to DeMartini's comments thus far has been almost universally derisive, and while my initial intent was to play devil's advocate on his behalf, I just can't bring myself to do it. I can't even figure out how to do it, really; the drive to bottom-line pricing can be damaging to conventional retail markets, where big-box stores can use their clout to muscle out smaller, independent outfits, but the digital marketplace, with virtual product and effectively zero distribution costs, is something entirely different. I can see the rationale behind his desire to maintain a price point, but expecting gamers to pay a higher price because it's "better" for the industry is a pure pipe dream.

Even though Steam-style sales are off the table, DeMartini said EA has "got something else that we do believe in that we'll be rolling out" to attract customers. I can't imagine what it could possibly offer as an effective substitute for ridiculously cheap games, but I sure am looking forward to finding out.

Source: GamesIndustry International

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