Have Video Games Created the Perfect Consumer?

How deep can publishers reach into the gamers pocket before the populace wakes up?

By , Contributor

Has the video game industry created the perfect consumer? Most industries can only imagine a customer base willing to put up with increasing financial pressure, yet still take a beating at the register.

Somehow, we've arrived at an impasse, about a 50/50 split between those that support the recent inclusion of an “online pass” in new release games, and others who don't. This is of course based on a wildly unscientific, impromptu study of a Kotaku post on the topic that has ballooned to nearly 900 comments.

Gamers stick to their guns. It's what we do. In most cases, that's fine. Browsing those topical threads though reveals a familiar round of support, people complaining that the complainers are suffering from entitlement, or you need to support game developers by buying new. Or, the best one, it's about being “cheap.”

The problem with this logic is that it happens every time. Games used to retail for a standard $50. This generation, it went to $60. Of course, if you can't afford it, get a job, right? Then that $60 purchase expanded, the likes of downloadable content in the form of map packs, new characters, fancy costumes, etc. That $60 game suddenly began reaching plateaus of $80, $90, or $100. That's one game. Maybe we should just get a second job?

Then, Microsoft enters the fray, upping the price of Xbox Live. Suddenly, the online experience went from $50 to $60 a year, another chunk of change stripped from the wallet of the gamers. If that's too much, as they say, we have entitlement issues. This stuff is expensive to develop, and the $250-$300 for the console was nothing in the scheme of things.

Suddenly, someone in a corporate office had a brainstorm. “Let's cut content from the game and only sell it to those who pre-order!” That's right, unless you show your undying devotion to company A for a game you've never played before, you can't get items B, C, or D. Or, maybe you can months down the road when they slap it online for an additional price. In the meantime, they began chopping paper manuals from the case “for the environment,” because surely the savings of selling the game without instructions have nothing to do with it.

It's not that the game companies keep doing these things. It's that they get away with it. When you apply all of these together, it seems too ridiculous to be true, yet some products utilize all of these methods together. There doesn't seem to be an end point, each new flourish bringing with it the same supporters, and millions of people willing to hand over money. Apply any of these principals to any other portion of the entertainment industry and watch what happens.

Book publishers cut out epilogues or side stories unless you pre-order. DVD and Blu-ray manufactures charge extra for bonus features. Music makers require a yearly fee on top of song costs just to access them. Online Facebook games charge for purple sheep... err, wait. That last one happened. Scratch that.

None of it would work (except for Farmville), but then again, none of them have apparently created something so infallible as video games.

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Matt Paprocki is a 13-year veteran of the video game, movie, and home media scene. He has written thousands of reviews, has been published on a variety of websites, and contributes his thoughts daily on a diverse range of topics.

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