(ppppst, it's not because of the used game market)
2011 was a really, really, really huge year across the board for pretty much every genre of videogame. I had a blast with all the games that came out. How about you?
But did you notice all of the online passes? Did you notice all of the DLC add-ons? These things are nothing new, of course. We've complained about (and defended) these things for many years now. The reason for adding these things is clear: the used game market. We keep hearing it again and again and again. "Used games are to blame for the increase of DLC and online passes".
However, I don't think that is true. I think the real reason is much more ominous.
Let's ponder a question together: where did all the PS2 gamers go?
Hmmm. I wonder. It wasn't to the Wii. I mean, sorry for being totally cliche, but we know the Wii sold to "teh casuals and grammas", right? The Wii GREW the market. Sure, the Wii probably snagged some of the people who bought the PS2, but the majority of the Wii's success came from tapping into a new market.
Did the 360 take the PS2 gamers? No, not really. Perhaps in the USA, but nowhere else. Did the PS3 take the PS2 gamers? Nope.
So, where are they?
They're gone. They've exited the console gaming market, or - at best - they're sitting on the sidelines waiting to see something worth buying.
The reality is that the console gaming market is stagnant. Now, please keep in mind that when I say "stagnant", I don't mean "no consoles are selling". What I mean is that the market isn't growing very much. There aren't many completely new customers being made. And when you don't have new customers, there are only a few ways to make more money. One of the best ways to make more money is to sell to your existing customers. Business 101 will tell you that it is more expensive to create a new customer than to maintain an old one.
So, one thing we've seen a lot is HD remakes and remasters. God of War, Sly Cooper, Ocarina, Metal Gear Solid, and many more games on the way have received the "HD remake" treatment. These are the same games we've had for a decade or more, but because we the fans enjoy these games, we buy 'em again.
Another thing we've seen is the rise of online passes. We assume this is because of the used game market, but the used game market has always been around. This generation's highest-selling games somehow managed to obtain high sales without using online passes. Mario Kart Wii, Super Mario Bros 5 (NSMBWii), and Wii Fit didn't use online passes, and before you say "but it's the Wii! Of course it wouldn't use online passes", what about CAPCOM? CAPCOM is well-known for selling us on-the-disc content where your "online pass" or DLC is a mere 4,500 kilobytes. Even the Wii could handle that.
Then of course there's the DLC. I'm not against the idea of DLC. If I like a game, it's fun to buy a bit of extra content. But we're teetering on the edge of games being completely chopped up to sell to us in bits and pieces. And this is because of the used game market? Nope.
Let's go back to what we were talking about: a stagnant console gaming market. In a stagnant market, we have to sell more things to the same number of people, right? Is this starting to make sense yet? The reason we have online passes and DLC isn't because of piracy or used games. Nope. It's because the market isn't growing even though the cost of games keeps skyrocketing. EA's recent MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic supposedly cost $300 million to make, and those are only the start-up costs. With costs like that, it's no wonder publishers jacked the price of games up to $60. They want more money out of the same number of people.
One last example to prove my point: the Wii and the 360's Kinect. You'll notice that the Wii and Kinect are selling to that new market I talked about. People who aren't usually gamers are buying them. Not only does that mean that high sales, but we notice an interesting fact: neither the Wii nor Kinect games have been DLC raped yet. That's because - from a business standpoint - they don't have to resort to re-charging the same stagnant market over and over and over again to make a buck. With new customers, the Wii and Kinect make their money without DLC, without online passes, and despite the looooooooming evil of the used gamer market.
I don't know what all this means. Maybe we need to spend a bit less on AAA games. Maybe we need to wait a bit before the next generation while the cost of making current-gen games continues to drop. I don't know what the solution is. But what I do know is that online passes and DLC aren't because of the used-game market. They're because of the game industry stagnating, and they need full access to YOUR wallet to keep things going.