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Microsoft has received quite a bit of flak over its Games On Demand pricing, both in the U.S. and overseas.  Mass Effect in particular is priced at nearly $100 in Australia, and the American titles are at or above the hard copy prices.

This is not good business.  This is not OK.

But I have a solution.  Read on to find out what it is.

Simply, change the Games On Demand prices to match GameStop’s used game prices.

This fix will actually help alleviate two distinct problems.  A) The Games on Demand will leave people feeling less ripped off, and B) the money made on used games at GameStop will instead be made by the game’s original creators.  And isn’t that the point of making and distributing games in the first place?

It would take a bit of programming know-how to link GameStop’s prices to correlate with Xbox Live Marketplace, but I’m sure it’s doable.  Of course, there is always the chance that GameStop will completely undercut their own prices to bring down Microsoft’s master plan ($0.99 for Prey?  Yes please.), but the solution to that is simple as well: business deal with the enemy!  Microsoft tells GameStop not to lower their prices too low, and GameStop gets free in-dashboard advertising or some such thing.  Brilliant!

Why would Microsoft feel obligated to do this?  First, most of these first-generation Xbox 360 games are no longer worth the current Games On Demand asking prices.  Example: Call of Duty 2.  Games on Demand price: $29.99.  GameStop used price: $12.99.  It is over double the price, you don’t get a hard copy, it takes up five gigabytes of hard drive space and there’s no instruction manual (although you can download one off Xbox.com, but it’s just not the same).  Where’s the upside to this?

Microsoft did try to defend their pricing model.  “It’s convenient!” they say, much like how delivered pizza is twice the price of the carryout special.  It’s a weak argument to be sure.  Many of the games featured on the service are in fact first- and second-party Microsoft titles, meaning that MS already owns the rights to them.  Distributing them is free. And, with no actual tangible product to store, ship, sell, or advertise, costs on the games above extra server space should be nonexistent.

Then why are the prices so high?  One word: greed.

Publishers love squeezing every last drop of revenue out of old franchises.  Look at Sega.  Their Genesis and Master System remake collections account for a sizable chunk of their new releases every year.  Why go through the trouble of creating something new when you can simply repackage and resell something you already have?

Nintendo has mastered this as well.  Their entire online strategy is based around the idea of re-selling retro games to people who probably already own the originals.  But for me, a $20 Link to the Past SNES cartridge with no instructions or box is infinitely better than a $8 digital copy that will simply disappear when my Wii finally has a meltdown.

Sony jumped on the bandwagon as well and brought back some of their classic original PlayStation games on the PlayStation Network in the form of “PSOne Classics.”  They are priced between $5.99 and $9.99, and many of them (most notably Final Fantasy VII and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night) really are classics.  Also, they can be played on either your PS3 or PSP.  Affordable and portable?  Good job, Sony.

Microsoft has Xbox Originals.  For a mere 1200 Microsoft Points ($15), you can download classic original Xbox titles like Zapper and Grabbed by the Ghoulies.  This program has been discontinued, but the games are still available for download and have been added to the Games On Demand section alongside their 360 brethren.  Unfortunately, the high price of these Originals is keeping the 360 games prohibitively expensive, because nobody will pay more for an older game when you can download a newer one for cheaper.

The Xbox Originals can be dropped to used GameStop prices too while Microsoft is at it.  Sure, that means Crimson Skies will go for $2.99 and even Jade Empire, a whopper of a game, will retail virtually for only $5.99, but it will get people downloading.  It will keep them out of used game stores, preventing things like this from happening.  Most importantly, it will give the money earned from a game back to the people that created it.

Also, a small Steam-esque incentive to cut the prices, thus allowing even more people to experience their game; developers and publishers will know where their games are being downloaded and played.  Regionally, by state, by city – yes, it’s creepy that they can spy on the downloads, but it aids in future marketing and let’s them know exactly how many units are being sold.  That’s some handy information for developers when deciding what game to release next.  And when they do, they’ll have more money from the Games On Demand sales to (hopefully) produce something truly spectacular.

So how can we, as gamers, expect to enact such a change?  Simple: vote with our wallets.  Just like we did with Bionic Commando, Madworld, and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.  Don’t buy the games, and the prices will be slashed.  Microsoft is a business, and when they stop making money, changes will have to occur.

Conversely, we can let companies like Activision charge whatever they want for Modern Warfare 2 and buy it anyway, setting a dangerous precedent for the future.  It’s your call, world.

  1. avatar TheScottishHero

    Excellent article.

    Spot on.

  2. I think the main problem is that it only takes one poor AU shmuck to buy Mass Effect at their crazy price to make their money for ten people to buy it at a reasonable price, so as long as they’re getting moderate sales they’ll most likely keep it this way.

    Completely agree with this article, however, any sensible person can nab any of these games off eBay for about 30% of their Demand asking price, they’d just suffer the apparent catacylsmic inconvenience of having to wait for it to arrive in the post :P

  3. avatar Norvek

    Like i always say, if your happy to pay rip off prices.

    they’ll let you :.)

    in other words, when idiots stop paying these rip off prices, they will afto drop the cost

  4. avatar squirrel tacos

    I have an xbox 360, and when the update came around with the games on demand thing, honestly, I thought it was kind of stupid. Most games are cheaper or the same price at Gamestop or Best Buy, which is where I get My games from. With games on demand, it is saved to your hard drive, but if you get the red ring of death, like I did last year, you will lose a lot of money. I say go buy a hard copy of the game, and save it to your hard drive if you want to. Logically, Games on Demand makes NO sense.

  5. @ squirrel tacos:

    A RROD won’t scrub your hard drive, you’ll just have to wait a month for your 360 to get back and pop your old hard drive with all your saves/data/games/etc. into the new one. Of course, if you’re not on Xbox Live at all times, you’ll have to transfer over your licenses using your computer in a still incredibly tedious process if you ever intend to play the games while not signed into Xbox Live.

    It’s a nice idea to let us download full games (especially if bigger hard drives ever become cheaper, Microsoft!), but, at these prices, it’s just not justifiable. I hope they don’t sell a single copy.

    Unfortunately, Microsoft may just use it as a new opportunity for Gold Member’s Deals of the Week… they’ll cut the prices on these overpriced games, guaranteeing some sales, and neglect some XBLA gems and DLC that didn’t get as much attention as they deserved.

  6. avatar r4 kaart

    Hi..
    I like to play the games and mostly find some info about gaming…
    Because i am fond of gaming so this article is really helpful for me…

    r4 kaart

  7. avatar Smoke

    Agreed, i doubt they will ever do this though.Like everyone said if people keep buying them why would they stop? Thirty dollars for Call of Duty 2 is F**** crazy but if you look at the most downloaded titles it was #6 last week,i couldnt believe how many people are buying that game for that price.

  8. avatar the people.

    M$ are a greedy bunch of cunts. They are in the console business to make money. They want your money and they will do anything to get it. They will rip you off, lie to you, cheat you, steal from you, con you, deceive you, blackmail you and finally murder you to get your money. (all these have been done by the company to get your money. It is true. Just search the web for the answers).

  9. avatar ryan

    12.99 for a used cod2 at gamestop? That doesn’t even factor in what it would be on ebay. 2.99 please.

    Their pricing is ridiculous and i won’t even consider making a purchase, until they lower their shit.

  10. avatar Anonymous

    Why would gamestop do that? Getting advertisements on xbox marketplace wouldn’t make up for the loss they would take for selling fewer used titles. Which is where they make the majority of their money.

  11. avatar Anonymous

    Good point, Anonymous.

    Also, it seems legit that Activision raised their price in the UK, at least from what I read in the linked article. I wonder why the author of this article linked an apparently justified article in an attack of a sensible business practice. Sure, Activision could afford to keep the price the same; they’re going to sell boatloads of copies of that game. It’s still not a charity. It’s a business.

    What Microsoft is doing is trying to sell these games at an inflated price for the convenience. To a lot of people, apparently, it is worth it. For those of us who are more thrifty, it’s not a cool move. We’d love to be able to play these games without having to go out and buy a used copy, or get up off our lazy asses and throw the disc in, but hey- at least we do have other options.

  12. avatar Tyler

    ^ That was my comment. Forgot the name, and the placement is awkward..

  13. avatar Kris

    It seems like the game industry is afraid of reactions of the retailers. The market is not ready yet to go full digital and the game industry still depends on the retailers.
    They are preparing the move to games on demand, but they can’t put lower prices on digital downloads than on retail prices due to the contracts with the retailers which are in place…
    Eventually things will start to shift, it’s just a matter of time when retailers will only be selling the hardware.

    It’s not a matter of greed, it’s political…

  14. avatar ME!

    Brilliant article. 100% correct. Well written. Well done.

  15. avatar name

    i realised that yesterday, i went into EB to buy the new wolfenstien game and put my pre order for the ps3 slim down when i saw mas effect in the sales bin for 30 AUD.
    30 AUD V 90 AUD (i think haven’t checked for a while)
    30 AUD or 90 AUD which one would you choose?
    no wonder M$ got sued so many times in europe for monopolizing the market.
    i dont understand how they can get away with this, i thought price gouging was illegal.
    whats stopping them from charging so much for everything else, besides customers wont buy it……….. or will they, wifi and HDDs seem to be selling well.
    thats why i hate M$.
    there a complete total rip off.
    and they have no freaking idea how to support there systems.
    windows vista is a PERFECT example, the company i work for has over 10000 computers, june this year we bought 6000 new comps and ALL with XP instead of vista because all the programs we need to use wont work with vista.
    great organization M$ release a OS and have 90% of PC software incompatible with it fu***ng brilliant!

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