Scribblenauts Dev: The Retail Model is "Broken"

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Scribblenauts Dev: The Retail Model is "Broken"

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Another developer steps forward to criticise the classic retail model: this time it's Scribblenauts creative director Jeremiah Slaczka.

In an interview with Game Informer, Slaczka explained that rising game budgets are making the traditional $60 price-point untenable for most developers. He argues that during the last console generation, development costs were low enough to allow games that don't sell amazingly well to make money, but now we're in the age of HDR lighting, fancy shader effects and bump-mapped everything, games have to sell millions to make back their vastly inflated budgets.

"It's just insane. If you aren't going to be a mega hit at $60, you might as well give up before you even try, because it's tens of millions down the hole," he said.

Slaczka reckons that a game that doesn't sell at $60, might just sell at $40 and that making a sale at a reduced price trumps not making a sale at all. He uses THQ's recent FPS flop Homefront as an example, claiming that the game failed to meet THQ's sales projections not because it was terrible, but because the completion at the full retail price point was too fierce. "As a consumer, why would I want to play an okay FPS when I can play a bunch of great FPS titles for the same price? And that's what the consumers did," he said.

"But what if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console?" he continued. What if Homefront was only $30 dollars upfront for the single player and if you liked it you could buy the multiplayer for an additional $30?"

"All of the sudden it's not a binary purchase option anymore."

Source: Game Informer

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I see where he is coming from, but I myself really want to know how much of the budget these AAA game devote to advertising and hiring not professional voice actors but in some cases high profile actors to voice over their games. The current retail model is broken because the production costs are inflated, but I think the costs are inflated on purpose.

He has the right ideas but his logic is backwards as all hell.

"But what if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console?

Have video game rental stores gone out of business? I'm pretty sure they still exist, at least in Canada, Rogers Plus still does game rentals.

What if Homefront was only $30 dollars upfront for the single player and if you liked it you could buy the multiplayer for an additional $30?"

Then this would lead us into another broken retail scheme where the single player content gets washed down to all fuck and the multiplayer content gets bombarded with overpriced DLC because it is the content that the players are going to us over and over again. Thus it will also lead to single player content being mediocre and wait .... seems we are already there.

It's a nice idea. I don't agree that it's broken, it's just not based in reality. Not every game is going to be worth the maximum price for everyone. I like his idea though.

Ok, now we are supposed to sit in awe of this right, like he has his finger on the pulse of society? People did the exact same thing for Bill Gates interviews, as if his success was because he was some sort of super guru and not a guy who randomly got lucky with MS-DOS and IBM being stupid.

Shame, I was with him right up until he said Homefront didn't fail because it was terrible. Single player was NOT worth $30

Grey Carter:
"But what if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console?"

But what if Homefront had actually been ANYTHING like Red Dawn?

Grey Carter:
That they do, but currently game rentals in no way benefit game developers, in fact, kind of the opposite as they take away from actual sales. He's suggesting publisher cut out of the 3rd party and offer rentals themselves.

Now THAT makes sense!

robert01:

"But what if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console?

robert01:
Have video game rental stores gone out of business? I'm pretty sure they still exist, at least in Canada, Rogers Plus still does game rentals.

That they do, but currently game rentals in no way benefit game developers, in fact, kind of the opposite as they take away from actual sales. He's suggesting publisher cut out of the 3rd party and offer rentals themselves.

robert01:

Have video game rental stores gone out of business? I'm pretty sure they still exist, at least in Canada, Rogers Plus still does game rentals.

That's certainly a valid point, but personally, I have no idea what the business model is for game rentals and what developers ever see from it. In other words, do devs get profit from every rental, or do they only make money on the initial sales to the game outlet?

And on topic, my opinion is generally that if you're not making a AAA game, don't use a AAA budget. Focus on game design, cut out all the bells and whistles that are multiplying development costs. A good game will still sell if it's not the prettiest thing around.

Grey Carter:

robert01:

"But what if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console?

robert01:
Have video game rental stores gone out of business? I'm pretty sure they still exist, at least in Canada, Rogers Plus still does game rentals.

That they do, but currently game rentals in no way benefit game developers, in fact, kind of the opposite as they take away from actual sales. He's suggesting publisher cut out of the 3rd party and offer rentals themselves.

I was under the impression that stores that offered rentals had to pay heave royalties to offer the service. But even still I don't feel that skipping the middle man and dealing with digital rentals themselves would really increase profit for them, because then they have to pay for the hardware, the distribution service itself, and fleshies to man the battle stations when things go wrong(and they do)

Grey Carter:

robert01:

"But what if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console?

robert01:
Have video game rental stores gone out of business? I'm pretty sure they still exist, at least in Canada, Rogers Plus still does game rentals.

That they do, but currently game rentals in no way benefit game developers, in fact, kind of the opposite as they take away from actual sales. He's suggesting publisher cut out of the 3rd party and offer rentals themselves.

Video game rentals help and hurt video game publishers. It helps them because if the person like the game and there's still stuff to do afterward or there's replay value etc. Then the person is probably going to buy the full game. That person might buy it used but that's a whole different issue. It also hurts them because if somebody played through all the content or didn't like the game, that could POSSIBLY be one lost purchase. Rentals help gamers like me decide whether or not to buy the game.

Hey, this guy stole my idea of selling single player separately!

It's okay, run with it, you have my blessing.

He does have a point. You know the saying, "Sixty dollars is not curiosity money". That's why so much weight is put on reviews and the like, people have to play it safe with such extraordinary sums of money.

This is one of those situations where both the customer and the businessman agree that the model is broken.

60 dollars is an unreasonable price for what you get most of the time. And the millions of dollars it takes to create a single 60 dollar title is an unreasonable price for what is being produced.

We need to figure something out. I agree with Yahtzee. We should go back a generation. Because then we had a balance of graphical fidelity and low cost.

Either that or we're going to have to find new ways to produce games. Cheaper ways preferably.

EverythingIncredible:
This is one of those situations where both the customer and the businessman agree that the model is broken.

60 dollars is an unreasonable price for what you get most of the time. And the millions of dollars it takes to create a single 60 dollar title is an unreasonable price for what is being produced.

We need to figure something out. I agree with Yahtzee. We should go back a generation. Because then we had a balance of graphical fidelity and low cost.

Either that or we're going to have to find new ways to produce games. Cheaper ways preferably.

I don't remember Yahtzee saying anything along those lines (Not saying he didn't, just that I don't remember it), so I can't go 'I AGREE!'

However, I would rather see graphics get scaled back significantly in favor of content. Graphics have the heaviest production costs anyway, if I remember correctly.

I think this is a good thing. We need more price flexibility in general

robert01:
I see where he is coming from, but I myself really want to know how much of the budget these AAA game devote to advertising and hiring not professional voice actors but in some cases high profile actors to voice over their games. The current retail model is broken because the production costs are inflated, but I think the costs are inflated on purpose.

He has the right ideas but his logic is backwards as all hell.

"But what if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console?

Have video game rental stores gone out of business? I'm pretty sure they still exist, at least in Canada, Rogers Plus still does game rentals.

Well considering the publishers don't make money off that, how does it help? Even when they do make money, isn't it normally a straight up one-off fee or a fraction of the money? Neither of those are going to fund a game.

However I can see deals being made with people like LoveFilm and Netflix (maybe they already happen?) and that could be a profitable model if pushed further. Tho' LoveFilms rates are way below that price even before the dev gets a cut.

The other thing is, I'm pretty sure studies prove marketing is in all but extreme cases a very worthwhile reward on money spent to money earned. Detach yourself for a minute and think about the really big selling games this year, the thing about all of them is that they made a ridiculous percentage of their sales before the game was even released and people knew had good they were. There are two reasons 1)Previous reputation 2)Hype. Now even previous reputations requires marketing remember that thing where 50% of people who played CoD4 didn't even realise that MW2 was a CoD game until they put the CoD back in front of it? We're unusually knowledgable and it's safe to say if half of CoD fans didn't even know that, they won't really know the next games coming out without a nice big marketing campaign.

Hype is mostly marketing but with other factors thrown in. Reviews and forum opinions can change the marketing story around sometimes. There's quite a cool review/forum/marketing feedback loop. Because if someone states an opinion at you, regardless of whether you agree with it, it normally changes your stance slightly. Even if it changes the stance from 'most people say this but I think this'. For example, I moderately disliked ME2 however constantly talking to people who like it and taking up the other side of the argument made me dwell on the negatives more and now I really can't stand the game.

Marketing has the same affect on people's opinions. It makes them have an opinion whether they agree with it or not and then they spread those opinions and alter the opinions of those around them until a stable state is formed. Equally we all know that most reviewers are biased by expectations coming in, try as they hard not to. What reviewer couldn't avoid the fact they were hoping that Duke Nukem would be good for 12 years? What CoD review can ignore how successful the previous games were and how gamers think of them?

It'd actually be quite interesting to study. I bet the constant reevaluating creates quite a mathematical pattern with stable areas and attractors where people kind of group up and then fringe people who don't bounce around opinions quite so much strewn in between.

Marketing won't save a bad game but it will sell a good game. Skyrim broke records before many people had played the game. It did that on the back of Oblivion (although peoples reaction to Oblivion wasn't nearly so awestruck as that of Skyrim), reviews and the cool concepts and ideas the game promises. Marketing ensures that we receive all three of those, that we keep talking about Skyrim to each other and that if we're the sort of people who like it, that we're motivated to go out there and buy it.

There have been plenty of good games that didn't make the cut because they didn't have enough marketing behind them. Things like ICO and Psychonauts

EDIT: Sorry I know you weren't really bashing marketing, just questioning the percentage of budgets. I just think there might be some evidence to suggest that marketing is money that makes more money (unless again, you've got a really bad game, in which case it's a way to throw away even more money)

Kopikatsu:

EverythingIncredible:
This is one of those situations where both the customer and the businessman agree that the model is broken.

60 dollars is an unreasonable price for what you get most of the time. And the millions of dollars it takes to create a single 60 dollar title is an unreasonable price for what is being produced.

We need to figure something out. I agree with Yahtzee. We should go back a generation. Because then we had a balance of graphical fidelity and low cost.

Either that or we're going to have to find new ways to produce games. Cheaper ways preferably.

I don't remember Yahtzee saying anything along those lines (Not saying he didn't, just that I don't remember it), so I can't go 'I AGREE!'

However, I would rather see graphics get scaled back significantly in favor of content. Graphics have the heaviest production costs anyway, if I remember correctly.

He said it an extra punctuation. I forget which.

I dont get what this guy is getting at. Games like Homefront are the exception, not the rule. Most AAA games are backed by AAA budget and AAA market and make AAA money.....lot of As....
And those that arent, still can make their money back, because theyre cheaper(for devs and customers) and more accessible.

Grey Carter:

That they do, but currently game rentals in no way benefit game developers, in fact, kind of the opposite as they take away from actual sales. He's suggesting publisher cut out of the 3rd party and offer rentals themselves.

Game rental stores pay higher prices and licensing, do they not? If not, I have trouble imagining how this one slipped through.

Kopikatsu:

EverythingIncredible:
This is one of those situations where both the customer and the businessman agree that the model is broken.

60 dollars is an unreasonable price for what you get most of the time. And the millions of dollars it takes to create a single 60 dollar title is an unreasonable price for what is being produced.

We need to figure something out. I agree with Yahtzee. We should go back a generation. Because then we had a balance of graphical fidelity and low cost.

Either that or we're going to have to find new ways to produce games. Cheaper ways preferably.

I don't remember Yahtzee saying anything along those lines (Not saying he didn't, just that I don't remember it), so I can't go 'I AGREE!'

However, I would rather see graphics get scaled back significantly in favor of content. Graphics have the heaviest production costs anyway, if I remember correctly.

Graphical optimization is coming a long way now, and is plateauing, the problem now will be with more CPU power, more subroutines for AI and complexity in game, will be the hard fought battle. Also animation.

Homefront's single player isn't worth $30.

I would argue that it probably isn't worth $10.

robert01:
I see where he is coming from, but I myself really want to know how much of the budget these AAA game devote to advertising and hiring not professional voice actors but in some cases high profile actors to voice over their games. The current retail model is broken because the production costs are inflated, but I think the costs are inflated on purpose.

He has the right ideas but his logic is backwards as all hell.

"But what if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console?

Have video game rental stores gone out of business? I'm pretty sure they still exist, at least in Canada, Rogers Plus still does game rentals.

What if Homefront was only $30 dollars upfront for the single player and if you liked it you could buy the multiplayer for an additional $30?"

Then this would lead us into another broken retail scheme where the single player content gets washed down to all fuck and the multiplayer content gets bombarded with overpriced DLC because it is the content that the players are going to us over and over again. Thus it will also lead to single player content being mediocre and wait .... seems we are already there.

Yeah, although if there were singleplayer games they would all be Deus Ex HR, Red Dead Redemption, Portal 2 quality. Basicly the guys that are capable of doing single player would do it while the ones who cant (DICE) would just do multiplayer and leave the poor SP out of it.

Danceofmasks:
Homefront's single player isn't worth $30.

I would argue that it probably isn't worth $10.

I go father than that already. Homefront wasn't $10, that's right, the whole thing.

he had me until i saw $30 for multi player, on top of a $40 for single player. yeah um. no, that's even more retarded then the set up now, NO multi player mode is worth $30. way i see it, $15 AT MOST.

Grey Carter:

robert01:

"But what if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console?

robert01:
Have video game rental stores gone out of business? I'm pretty sure they still exist, at least in Canada, Rogers Plus still does game rentals.

That they do, but currently game rentals in no way benefit game developers, in fact, kind of the opposite as they take away from actual sales. He's suggesting publisher cut out of the 3rd party and offer rentals themselves.

isn't that basically 'cloud gaming' though. >.> and while i hardly admit to knowing all about it, i know enough to know cloud gaming is a horrible idea

Great idea Mr. Slaczka. Now do it. Don't talk about it, price your next game significantly cheaper than the average.

A lot of prominent game developers are talking about how games are too expensive, but nobody is doing anything about it because, of course, their games are totally worth the $60, which might be accurate in Skyrim's case, but that's the exception. Sorry David Jaffe, I've played every Twisted Metal game, and there's nothing you could do to that series to make it worth $60, which Jaffe himself called ridiculous.

You, the developers, feel that the price is ridiculous? The power to change it is in your hands. Now, as they say, either shit or get off the pot.

Grey Carter:
That they do, but currently game rentals in no way benefit game developers, in fact, kind of the opposite as they take away from actual sales. He's suggesting publisher cut out of the 3rd party and offer rentals themselves.

With PS Stone and XBLA this would be possible, of course, who would want to download 8 gb of info for a game that will last 24 hours, unless you buy it.

Speaking of Homefront, I still play the Online Demo on PSN, I have to say it's not bad, too bad no one said the same thing for the single player campaign... and my country still overprices the game, last time I checked it was 55 u$d...

Back on retail tactics, I've been thinking something like he said, that games costs more money to make, and while I welcome the technologies used to make awesome pieces like L.A. Noire, Batman AA/AC, Battlefield 3 and such, I think it not only affects prices, but also content. Nowadays, the only way to make a game perpetual is through Multiplayer, I still remember how long it took me to finish Medal of Honour Allied Assault, and soon after finishing it, I started over again. Morrowind was a huge game in comparison to Oblivion, Oblivion was huge compared to Fallout 3; New Vegas and Skyrim pretty much raised the bar a little, still, none of them are Morrowind.

With these issues who would want to pay 60$ for a game that might be good, good beeing 6 hours of SP campaing?

I'm waiting for a new sales model, that make sure yearly Maddens and CoDs sell the same, while less popular IPs are accessible to people who doesn't want to take riskes.

As I have said before in many threads:

If I KNOW I want a game, I will buy it new.

If I think I want a game, I will buy it used at GameStop, try it for 7 days, and if I like it, pay the extra $5 and get it new. If I don't, I'll put that money to a different game I might like, or pay off a game I KNOW I'll like.

Simple as that.

More like the AAA model is broken and the normal retail model works just fine.

NameIsRobertPaulson:
As I have said before in many threads:

If I KNOW I want a game, I will buy it new.

If I think I want a game, I will buy it used at GameStop, try it for 7 days, and if I like it, pay the extra $5 and get it new. If I don't, I'll put that money to a different game I might like, or pay off a game I KNOW I'll like.

Simple as that.

I have no idea why people continue to shop at Gamestop for used games. $5 off a new sticker price is not a deal.
There are many used game stores within a few miles of where I live, and my favourite one always gives me great deals because I shop there often. I would sooner support a local business than a monster like GS, not to mention it's cheaper and they give better service.

I mean c'mon, $5? That's not a deal man!

The idea is sound, but the execution was lacking.

Pay 30 bucks for only the single player, and then 30 to buy the multiplayer? That's stupid.

Um how about just the multiplayer? Or maybe just 35 dollars for the entire game.

I got the 5 days free of Homefront. I only played an hour, I feel sorry for the poor souls who did buy this game. It was horrendous.

BlindMessiah94:

NameIsRobertPaulson:
As I have said before in many threads:

If I KNOW I want a game, I will buy it new.

If I think I want a game, I will buy it used at GameStop, try it for 7 days, and if I like it, pay the extra $5 and get it new. If I don't, I'll put that money to a different game I might like, or pay off a game I KNOW I'll like.

Simple as that.

I have no idea why people continue to shop at Gamestop for used games. $5 off a new sticker price is not a deal.
There are many used game stores within a few miles of where I live, and my favourite one always gives me great deals because I shop there often. I would sooner support a local business than a monster like GS, not to mention it's cheaper and they give better service.

I mean c'mon, $5? That's not a deal man!

Because I can try the game out, I've never had problems with GameStop, and I have a rewards card that I've used to get free games.

He kinda lost any credit when saying that Homefront didn't do well because of the retail system is broken instead of it being a HORRIBLE GAME. Bad games deserve to lose money and nothing can or should change that.

What does need to change is that more niche games and new untested IPs need a safer way to enter the market where they can be profitable without having to move 2 million copies. Digital distribution is going to let that happen and its up the the consumers and the industry to communicate with each other to find means to deliver games to the consumer in a way that consumers get a good value while the developers get a fair share of the sale.

Didn't Homefront sell, like 3,000,000 copies in the first month or something?

I know it broke the millions.

If you sell millions and still can't turn a profit, I think something's wrong with your business model.

NameIsRobertPaulson:

BlindMessiah94:

NameIsRobertPaulson:
As I have said before in many threads:

If I KNOW I want a game, I will buy it new.

If I think I want a game, I will buy it used at GameStop, try it for 7 days, and if I like it, pay the extra $5 and get it new. If I don't, I'll put that money to a different game I might like, or pay off a game I KNOW I'll like.

Simple as that.

I have no idea why people continue to shop at Gamestop for used games. $5 off a new sticker price is not a deal.
There are many used game stores within a few miles of where I live, and my favourite one always gives me great deals because I shop there often. I would sooner support a local business than a monster like GS, not to mention it's cheaper and they give better service.

I mean c'mon, $5? That's not a deal man!

Because I can try the game out, I've never had problems with GameStop, and I have a rewards card that I've used to get free games.

All the things you've mentioned exist at other game stores, but to boot the prices are waaaaay cheaper and you don't get as much entitled douchey staff who think they know everything about games.

I find the $5 off the sticker price for used games to be rather insulting. They take their used games from kids for virtually nothing and then turn around and sell them for basically the same price as the new game. I've been in GS before where I see them offer kids $2 a game when they trade them in. You can get better deals on Craigsist or Ebay. Or hell at a garage sale.

I would much rather support a local business that is doing their business better and in a less insulting manner than support a sleazy company like GS.

Hell, I'm sure if you even went into a local game store they would beat most of GS prices just to get your sale instead. The thing about local shops is they actually need and want your business, and are more willing to earn your patronage.

My idea is that games today waste too much budget on stuff which isn't gameplay, which in turns harms longevity. I'm talking about cutscenes, movies, orchestral soundtrack, non-gaming levels, to an extreme even voice acting.

BlindMessiah94:

NameIsRobertPaulson:

BlindMessiah94:

I have no idea why people continue to shop at Gamestop for used games. $5 off a new sticker price is not a deal.
There are many used game stores within a few miles of where I live, and my favourite one always gives me great deals because I shop there often. I would sooner support a local business than a monster like GS, not to mention it's cheaper and they give better service.

I mean c'mon, $5? That's not a deal man!

Because I can try the game out, I've never had problems with GameStop, and I have a rewards card that I've used to get free games.

All the things you've mentioned exist at other game stores, but to boot the prices are waaaaay cheaper and you don't get as much entitled douchey staff who think they know everything about games.

I find the $5 off the sticker price for used games to be rather insulting. They take their used games from kids for virtually nothing and then turn around and sell them for basically the same price as the new game. I've been in GS before where I see them offer kids $2 a game when they trade them in. You can get better deals on Craigsist or Ebay. Or hell at a garage sale.

I would much rather support a local business that is doing their business better and in a less insulting manner than support a sleazy company like GS.

Hell, I'm sure if you even went into a local game store they would beat most of GS prices just to get your sale instead. The thing about local shops is they actually need and want your business, and are more willing to earn your patronage.

Maybe they've "ripped you off" a few times, but my business has never been bad with them. Then again, I'm not one of the people who try and trade in Madden 2006 in 2010 and expect $20, or trade in a great game like Final Fantasy X... in 2010 and expect $20. When I returned Final Fantasy XIII 4 days after buying it, they gave me $32, plus my card for a grand total return of $35.20. Then they sold it for $55.

Now when I sold a game like Bulletstorm, that had been out a while, I got $14.50. They sold it for $30.

Both these practices seem fair to me. They turn a 15-25 dollar profit on each trade, pay their employees, and move on.

And, unless you happen to deal with the rare "I'm a douchebag" employee that happens in all sections of the service industry, if you are trying to trade in a game that would fetch you much more on ebay, they'll tell you. When I was 12, I tried to trade in Tactics Ogre for the PS1. Employee took one look at it, and handed it back saying that I would get far more on Ebay then I would get from them.

"But what if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console?" he continued. What if Homefront was only $30 dollars upfront for the single player and if you liked it you could buy the multiplayer for an additional $30?"

THIS IS CALLED AN ONLINE PASS. WE DISLIKE ONLINE PASSES. PLEASE FUCK OFF AND STOP SUGGESTING ONLINE PASSES.

You know one thing that would stop me buying something that's a reasonable price? Half of it locked out and i need to buy an online pass.

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