The Activision CEO calls out EA’s Project Ten Dollar and says he’s OK with gamers looking for value in old games.
Used game sales are an interesting problem for the videogame industry. On the one hand, games want to be treated like all other works of art like books and movies when it comes to issues like censorship. The catch is that, like book sand movies, once you buy a game, you own it and are free to sell it again for as much or as little as the market determines. The problem is that many gamers only buy used games, and retailers like GameStop sell them for only $5 or so off what the original price is. Publishers earn no money from used game sales and that drives up the cost of making games and the price point at which they can be sold. Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision, doesn’t think that used game sales are a problem that must be dealt with by taking away value from games, and instead argues that game companies should provide more content.
“We’re not doing anything to suppress used games today,” he said. “What we’ve tried to do is to really support our audiences and, you know, when you talk to players, they like the idea of having a currency. They like the idea of being able to take a game they no longer want to play and use it to get a credit to buy new games.
“We can do some of these things that EA and others have done,” said Kotick, referring to EA’s Project Ten Dollar which allowed you to download content only if you have a new copy. “We actually don’t think its in the best interest of the gamer, and so we’ve chosen not to.”
What he has done is provide game content that keeps customers paying money even after they have a game, such as the map packs for Modern Warfare 2. “From a financial perspective you look at [used game sales] and say, ‘Okay, well the retailer is not paying us anything for the privilege of doing it and you know we invest all this capital in making a game and we are not getting any credit, any return on their resale of the game,’ but, you know something, the best way to keep people engaged in your game experience is keep giving them more great content.”
Kotick is also taking a cue from the Blizzard arm of his company, and realizes that a subscription service for Call of Duty may not be feasible given the 2,500 customer service employees that Blizzard employs worldwide. “Because of our Blizzard experience we have an incredible understanding of how important the provision of appropriate customer service is,” Kotick said, but he’s concerned that the increase to Xbox Live subscription fees won’t benefit his company. “What we’d like to ideally see is that the investment in the subscription fees going towards the provision of a higher level of customer service … to see some portion of the subscription fees go towards game enhancement.”
Dissing Project Ten Dollar may have been a cheap dig at Electronic Arts, but I actually understand a lot of what Kotick is saying here. Not that I agree with it, but at least I understand.