Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski has weighed in on the subject of used games in light of the Xbox One's antipathy
towards them. (Of course, much of this has been walked back in recent days -- Microsoft has both taken a step backwards and kicked the can down the road
, stating it won't
be charging a fee for used games, but
third parties are more than welcome to do exactly that. There are still a number of limitations that will make reselling Xbox One games unpalatable, if not close to impossible.)
Bleszinski's argument for killing off the used game market is not unlike Ben Kuchera's
(Penny Arcade): AAA production values aren't sustainable unless everyone's paying full price. Bleszinski delivered his views via Twitter, handily gathered here by Gamepolitics
"You cannot have game and marketing budgets this high while also having used and rental games existing. The numbers do NOT work people," he said.
"The visual fidelity and feature sets we expect from games now come with sky high costs. Assassins Creed games are made by thousands of devs."
"Newsflash. This is why you're seeing free to play and microtransactions everywhere. The disc based day one $60 model is crumbling.
"Those of you telling me 'then just lower game budgets' do understand how silly you sound, right?" said Bleszinski.
To paraphrase Mayor Quimby, I appreciate your passion on behalf of your medium, but I'm afraid you've got this all wrong.
If the current business model is unsustainable, why is that the consumer's fault? More specifically, why
are customers being pushed into giving up their "first sale" rights, along with being asked to plug the holes in the leaky business model with wads of hard-earned cash?
On top of this imposition is the assumption the current model is the only
model [$200m movie, anyone?] and that mankind greatly benefits from "thousands of developers" crafting AAA titles. This is completely backward. The industry exists because
of its customers, not despite
them. AAA studios are not benevolent deities. They're companies that exist because there's a market for their products. If this market dies, so do they. If the prices are too high, customers buy elsewhere. Or not at all.
Jim Sterling of Destructoid has crafted a very powerful response to Cliff's insistence that the gaming industry will die unless consumers pick up the monetary slack
What really infuriates me about the used game debate is that, when people bring up the stratospheric development and marketing costs, it's treated as though they are noble endeavors, too sacred to be compromised. Rather than ask the question, "Do games need to be this expensive to make?" the question instead becomes, "How can we squeeze more money to keep making very expensive games?"
In a good business, the answer to something being too expensive to produce would be to, y'know,make it fucking cheaper to produce. Videogame consoles do this over time -- parts become less costly to manufacture, more efficient to put together. You'll find, with some of the most successful videogames on the market, the same is also very true. It's just that nobody will admit it.
Sterling points out that Call of Duty has been working off the same engine for years, with two studios alternating releases. Every year, a new Call of Duty game, one that grabs huge market share and makes a huge profit, thanks to the developers' willingness to build from its proprietary starting point. Why tear everything down and start from scratch? Why push to be the "visual" leader when it's clear a majority of customers aren't solely interested in purchasing bleeding edge software?
Likewise with the PC market. It's the true graphics leader, often far ahead of current consoles, and yet the biggest selling titles aren't industry showpieces. Sterling points to Minecraft, Terraria and Valve's old-as-hell-but-still-effective Source engine. Smaller studios are taking advantage of available technology to make beautiful games on a budget (The Witcher, Metro: Last Light). [On a personal note, while I do enjoy AAA eye candy now and then, I value the gameplay that much more
. CIP: I've put over 192 hours into Just Cause 2, a game released three years ago
whose gameplay still holds up to this day. That and Hotline: Miami, no one's idea of AAA beauty.]
But according to Bleszinski, the public doesn't want all of that stuff listed above. It only wants the best of the best, crafted by a team of thousands and sold in various deluxe packages at $60-$100 a pop, possibly with a helping of day one DLC on the side. And because Bleszinski believes this, he feels the public
must be made to pay for the excesses of an industry. Back to Sterling for a rebuttal.
If so-called "AAA" games and the used market actually are incompatible, then I say that's a good friggin' thing. Anything to dispossesses publishers of the notion that they need to keep dumping truckloads of cash into games to the point where they need to sell more copies than the laws of reality allow...
It's not our fault games have gotten so expensive, and I resent the implication that it is. The fact this industry seems utterly fucking incapable of taking some damn responsibility for itself continues to disgust me, and I refuse to shoulder the blame for companies that cannot demonstrate one iota of self-reflection. If something you're doing is not working, change what you're doing! Stop trying to bend and break the world around you to try and manufacture an environment where your failed tactics could achieve some perverse form of success.
It's beginning to look like a few members of the industry have been cribbing pages from the disastrous playbook of the recording industry. Raise prices. Blame customers. Bend the world
to your business model. Is it only a matter of time before the gaming industry begins lobbying Congress to shut down secondhand sales?
Oh, and if the above twitrant weren't galling enough, Cliff B. throws in a little something for those who find the online requirements of the Crossbone to be dealbreaker.
"If you can afford high speed internet and you can't get it where you live direct your rage at who is responsible for pipe blocking you," he said.
Really? Maybe I'll direct my rage at the entitled jackass who's supporting a company's decision to effectively limit its own market simply because
it can't live without some sort of DRM infection. And what if you can't afford high speed internet? Well, you must be one of those people who live in the area marked "Whogivesashitland" in Cliffy's mental map. And trust me, plenty of rage has been directed at the "pipe blockers," but they care even less about their customer base than the area of the gaming industry Bleszinski represents.
Those interested in gutting the resale market to protect their margins are turning potential customers into enemies. If you can't adapt, you can't succeed. These moves being made by Microsoft (and supported by industry mouthpieces) are nothing more than attempts to subsidize an unsustainable business model by forcibly extracting the maximum toll from as many transactions as possible. The industry is not a necessity or a public good. If it's going to make the changes it needs to survive, it needs to give up this delusion.