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David Serrano, Blogger

March 30, 2011

4 Min Read

I came across the textbook example this morning of how and why many core developers and publishers are fueling GameStop's used game business. Let's take a look at Arcania: Gothic 4.

Here are the stats (I'm using the PC stats, console stats were N/A):

Released - Oct. 2010
Metacritic Score 63
User Score - 4.9
Sales - 31,304 copies in first month 46,729 to date.

Yet, as of today Arcania is priced as follows:

  • GameStop: New - $49.99 (PC), $59.99 (360) 

  • Walmart: New - $49.82 (PC), 360 Out of Stock

  • Best Buy: New - $29.99 (PC), $39.99 (360)

So both consumers and critics agreed Arcania was a bad game. Walmart no longer stocks the 360 version. But despite the low metacritic score, horrible user reviews and dismal sales, after nearly 24 weeks on the market the price of Arcania has only decreased by 17% at two of the three largest game retailers in the US. Amazingly, Best Buy is the only chain who had the good sense to discount the game by an additional 16%.

Now, Arcania hasn't officially reached the 6 month mark yet so GameStop's used price is still too high at $49.99. But in the next 4 to 6 weeks, they'll lower their price down to the $19 to $29 range. At which point JoWooD Entertainment and DreamCatcher Interactive will lose virtually every sale of the 360 version that follows.

And frankly, they have no one to blame but themselves. Because the game never should have released for $60 to begin with. Then after the bad reviews and sales nose dive by week two, the price should have been immediately been lowered to $29.99. Where it should have been from the start.

The fact that the price of a new copy of Arcania: Gothic 4 is still so high is absolutely ridiculous. It also highlights why many AAA developers and publishers actually fuel used game sales and why are doomed if they don't change. This includes giants like EA, Activision and Ubisoft.

Corporations insist the free market will always determine prices by separating good products from bad products through competition. That is, until the market works against them at which point they turn to lawyers, lobbyists, ad agencies and threats.

Like it or not, GameStop and other used game retailers are the free market in action. They represent the invisible hand that conservatism claims will cure all the world's ills. So the game industry needs to collectively stop playing games (no pun intended) and own it! Time to actually compete for those "stolen" profits instead of crying foul and treating the people who pay your bills like thieves.

The solution is very simple: consumers will start buying new games instead of used only when the price of new titles (and DLC) reflects the true value of the content, the actual quality of the content and the total volume or quantity of the content.

This means games like Arcania: Gothic 4, Naughty Bears, Venetica, IL-2: Birds of Prey, Sniper: Ghost Warrior, Splinter Cell Double Agent, and Mercenaries 2 to name just a few, must be priced accordingly. These simply are not $60 games.

When games like these release, they should be priced between $30 to $35. If the developer or publisher can't turn a profit in this price range, then don't make the game! Because the long term affect of selling low quality games like these for the very same price as higher quality titles like Red Dead Redemption, Dragon Age: Origins or Mass Effect 1 is it destroys consumer confidence in the industry as a whole.

Each time a consumer gets burned paying $60 for a low quality game, it hurts the entire industry, not just the publisher or developer responsible. This drives the consumer to GameStop for used copies of the games because dollar for dollar, it's the better value. 

Or... all of these developers and publishers can continue to flood the market with low quality junk and the industry can collectively keep working towards forcing the exploitative pricing on consumers through EULA's and the legal system. Which ultimately will put all of them out of business and honestly, that may be best possible outcome for consumers and the industry as a whole.

Seems like a pretty clear choice but then, I'm not one of Ayn Rand's elite "thinkers" so my opinion is irrelevant. According to some people. 

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