Outrage Over Kingdoms of Amalur Content Lock Brings Studio Head Out To Debate

Outrage Over Kingdoms of Amalur Content Lock Brings Studio Head Out To Debate

Studios and publishers are fighting back hard against the used game market, with the upcoming title Kingdoms of Amular, the latest to declare it'll use a content lock. In this case, KoA ups the ante by locking out part of the game that's normally available in single-player mode. Game reviewers found the following inside their copies.



The text reads: "Online pass gives you access to the House of Valor faction quest, featuring seven additional single-player quests" It then gives instructions on how to activate the additional content.

Gamers exploded, with many angry that game content that had shipped on the physical disc was locked away and missing, as well as being angry at the fact that content was withheld from used players. One forum thread asking if the studio fought back against allowing EA to lock the content went on for 49 pages before Curt Shilling, the head of 38 Studios, took to the forums himself. His commentary on the situation is blunt and to the point. (All emphasis and use of capital letters is original)

DAY 1 DLC, to be extremely and VIVIDLY clear, is FREE, 100% totally FREE, to anyone that buys a new copy of Reckoning, ANYONE. If you don't buy new games you buy them used, and in that case you will have to pay for the Day 1 free DLC content the new copy buyers got for free.

It's clear the intent right? To promote early adopters and MUCH MORE IMPORTANT TO ME, REWARD fans and gamers who commit to us with their time and money when it benefits the company... This is not 38 trying to take more of your money, or EA in this case, this is us REWARDING people for HELPING US! If you disagree due to methodology, ok, but that is our intent... companies are still trying to figure out how to receive dollars spent on games they make, when they are bought. Is that wrong? if so please tell me how.
Obviously no one likes being told that buying a game used means not getting access to the full content, but there are several facets to consider.

The Bigger Picture:

In the past, companies like EA have justified an additional charge for multiplayer as a means of recouping money they lose in used game sales as well as covering cost of operating servers. KoA's single-player-only status means this argument isn't applicable.

A number of people have declared this to be simple greed, but the situation isn't that simple. Consider this:  When you buy a used game from Gamestop, the studio gets nothing. Buying a used game and pirating the game outright are identical as far as their impact on the studio's revenue. That's inherently frustrating for developers, and the problem is made substantially worse by Gamestop itself.

The problem, after all, isn't the fact that a used games market exists, but that the used games market is dominated by a single enormous company. Gamestop's monopoly on the used game market gives it the ability to set prices on what a used game should sell for, and the resulting sale is 100% profit for the company. Unlike the MPAA, which prohibits selling new and used games side-by-side, there's no such restriction at GS.



If your idea of "used game sales" means checking Ebay for old copies of hard-to-find titles, it's easy to get upset when companies make this sort of move. It's something altogether different to realize that the "Used" game market is controlled by a company that creates scenarios like the above (a screenshot from Gamestop's own website, taken today).

The current price Gamestop pays for a copy of MW3 is $23. The remaining $31.99? Pure profit -- and that's what's so upsetting. In the eyes of game creators, Gamestop isn't a noble company keeping prices low for users -- it's a leech that controls the market to fatten its own wallet and pays gamers a pittance.

We're with the developers on this one. It would be one thing if GS actually kept its used prices even modestly in line with what it pays for the games in question, but the company exploits its market position to a huge degree. One of the more popular counter-claims is that Ford, for example, doesn't make any money on a used car sale either -- but this ignores the fact that Ford, GM, and other manufacturers earn residual income through manufacturing replacement parts and, in some cases, licensing other companies to do the same.

We dislike the fact that gamers are caught between studios and Gamestop, but the retailer would be wise to see the writing on the wall. Such efforts to entice gamers to buy new are only going to ramp up in the years to come; the company could save itself significant grief by agreeing to pay studios a percentage of profit on its used products. With $3 billion in sales during just this past holiday season,  they can certainly afford it.
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I'm not sure who is upset about this, other than Gamestop (which doesn't seem to be upset over other used games with online passes). Developers deserve the money from new game sales. I don't really like Gamestop. I only use them when they have an exclusive pre-order bonus nobody else does.

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I already have a pre-order for my special edition of Amalur and I'm looking forward to playing the game. In regards to the online pass I can understand where they are coming from.

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The people upset about it are the gamers who feel that buying used should be the same as buying new. I see their point. I'm sympathetic to it, even -- but again, there's a difference in scale.

I would feel more sympathetic towards Gamestop's situation if the company wasn't so clearly ripping people off. Paying less than 50% the markup value of a product is a low blow.

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I see where they are coming from but at the same time see where gamers are coming from, I buy used alot of the time cause I cant afford it any other way. But riddle me this if even 50% is going to gamestop other 50% going to purchaser. It allows them to purchase more games.

Example dude buys game finishes cant afford another so trades in and buys another

Example I buy game guy traded in providing him the money he needed to buy a new game

I dont really see how game developers can be hurting mw3 which was pretty much a mod same engines alot of same textures of previous versions. While good game it realistically couldnt have taken much more than 20 devs working for a year thats being generous. It sold 10million copys first day making 600million first day. So really this we are hurting we are hurting sounds like the guys up top are deciding to warm their houses by stocking the fire with 100 dollar bills.

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DH, you raise good points, but do keep one thing in mind. We don't know how much of that revenue goes back to the development studio (obviously this sort of thing varies from game to game and publisher to publisher). I think developers have more of a leg to stand on here than the publishers do. Just because a game sells like gangbusters doesn't mean the game's actual creators all get new Ferraris.

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selling games back to gamestop is pointless: they dont give you any money for it. I can see why people are getting mad about whats going on. Why not punish gamestop and not the people who want to play the game?

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This is one of the best articles I've read on HotHardware and what I took out of it had nothing to do with the game mentioned in the title.

"Gamers are caught between studios and Gamestop", they have to choose between saving money in order to afford content or supporting the content and its production they enjoy.

"If GS actually kept its used prices even modestly in line with what it pays for the games in question: and didn't "exploits its market position to a huge degree" then it would be a win win situation for gamers and game developers, but Game stop is manipulating its power as a primary game vendor, I'm sure if developers could sell their games without stocking it one Gamestops shelves they would, but they can't at the moment without losing a huge method of distribution and sales

Buying a used game and pirating the game outright are identical as far as their impact on the studio's revenue.

This doesn't mean to say selling a used game is illegal but Gamestop "could save itself significant grief by agreeing to pay studios a percentage of profit on its used products" and still make money off of the resale, support developers and provide more affordability for gamers.

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The idiots posting here, and the moron who wrote the article, have no clue what Gamestop "profits" are.

Sure, they may pay someone $20 for a new release title, and manage to sell it for $31.99 "profit."

Now here's where that profit goes:
- Rent/utilities on the storefront location. Gamestops are in strip malls and actual malls. They don't own their storefront space, they RENT it.
- Paying the staff. Average gamestop worker in my area is at $12/hour. Managers are more plus benefits. You've got to have at least one manager plus one staff at all times. In other words, that $31.99 "profit" barely paid to keep the store open for an hour and a half, maybe.

Now, not every game makes that kind of money. Many games come in and sit around. They start at the $45 price point if GS gave someone $20 for them. Then they drop to $40. Then $35. Then on down. Somewhere between $25 and $20, they turn into a loss for the store.

Ever seen the games sitting in the $5-10 bargain bin? Almost all of them were something GS paid at least $10 if not $15-20 for. That entire bin is a way of Gamestop trying to get what little they can to staunch the bleeding even a bit.

I've known a lot of people who worked at Gamestops at one time or another. I'm friends with several managers. Ask any of them, they'll tell you the same thing: keeping a gamestop location open is HARD. One of my friends manages a store nearby to me. They had 5 out of 8 weeks right before christmas where their sales numbers were in the top 100 stores in the country listing. Gamestop regional management decided to shut the store down anyways - it's a "richer" neighborhood, so the rent is higher than normal. Even posting top-100 sales numbers didn't balance that out to make the store profitable.

What makes it even worse? Lying jerks who pull numbers out of their asses to demonize Gamestop and the people who work there. Are they a "monopoly"? I know other stores that do game resales. I know PLENTY of other stores that sell new games and compete with Gamestop. I know what the numbers look like and what the razor-thin margins ANY used game store has to manage with look like, whether it's a Gamestop or an independent store trying to compete in the used games market. I've had several friends try to start independent stores, to offer "better deals" and "lower prices" than Gamestop. None of them could stay open past the 2 year mark, and the problem wasn't managing to sell "enough" games, the problem was sheer margins - you have to be making a certain amount of business to stay in business, and that's true even if you try to run it as a one-man shop staffing it yourself from 8am to 8pm every single day of the week.

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M1rthful:
- Rent/utilities on the storefront location. Gamestops are in strip malls and actual malls. They don't own their storefront space, they RENT it.

They also "rent" their own online store and operate their own servers, you telling me it doesn't dig deep into their profits. They can stock the latest games and the pre-order bonuses and get loads of money, they can also sell pre-owned games at high prices as well and people will still buy them. There are more people who buy games both in stores and online, just because the stores cost money to operate does not mean they make ungodly amounts of money off it.

M1rthful:
- Paying the staff. Average gamestop worker in my area is at $12/hour. Managers are more plus benefits. You've got to have at least one manager plus one staff at all times. In other words, that $31.99 "profit" barely paid to keep the store open for an hour and a half, maybe.

There is a GameStop store where I live and it's somewhat popular. The benefit of these GameStops are that you can get games that are supposedly not found anywhere else. Granted it only sells Xbox 360/PS3/Wii games but the appeal is there; give something gamers want, they'll come running. There are obscure game stores which are still striving but GameStop seems to be bigger, pull in bigger numbers and that just threatens the competition.

M1rthful:
Ever seen the games sitting in the $5-10 bargain bin? Almost all of them were something GS paid at least $10 if not $15-20 for. That entire bin is a way of Gamestop trying to get what little they can to staunch the bleeding even a bit.

All of those games are usually old games that nobody remembers or games which got trashed critically; there are loads of popular games that offset the bargin bin defecits.

M1rthful:
I've known a lot of people who worked at Gamestops at one time or another. I'm friends with several managers. Ask any of them, they'll tell you the same thing: keeping a gamestop location open is HARD. One of my friends manages a store nearby to me. They had 5 out of 8 weeks right before christmas where their sales numbers were in the top 100 stores in the country listing. Gamestop regional management decided to shut the store down anyways - it's a "richer" neighborhood, so the rent is higher than normal. Even posting top-100 sales numbers didn't balance that out to make the store profitable.

Same could be said for other stores, I mean there could be a similar retail location with similar rent by a similar company; it's not specific to GameStop. The only difference is GameStop has loads of deals and a huge online presence to offset the retail locations downturnings.

Only reason why the retail stores are open is because they need to maintain some sort of presence where people would walk buy, look and buy something or people would rush over to buy the latest games without having to wait. Granted, they are hard to run but if they're using it in tandem with the website to increase the profits then who's to say the situation at GameStop is not worse, in fact it's as good as Best Buy's. (before they eventually go downhill of course) Retail stores are hard to run but they exaggerate the situation a bit too much. It's not like GameStop is a company on the brink of collapse.

M1rthful:

What makes it even worse? Lying jerks who pull numbers out of their asses to demonize Gamestop and the people who work there. Are they a "monopoly"? I know other stores that do game resales. I know PLENTY of other stores that sell new games and compete with Gamestop. I know what the numbers look like and what the razor-thin margins ANY used game store has to manage with look like, whether it's a Gamestop or an independent store trying to compete in the used games market.

Those stores aren't exactly dedicated new stores (most of them are Best Buy or Toys R' Us or more rarely, an independent gaming store) and they're as well known as GameStop; razor-thin margins don't mean anything as long as their stores are profitable and well known enough to pull a profit (the companies behind them are Fortune 500 companies, meaning they're the strongest companies when it comes to presence.)

M1rthful:
I've had several friends try to start independent stores, to offer "better deals" and "lower prices" than Gamestop. None of them could stay open past the 2 year mark, and the problem wasn't managing to sell "enough" games, the problem was sheer margins - you have to be making a certain amount of business to stay in business, and that's true even if you try to run it as a one-man shop staffing it yourself from 8am to 8pm every single day of the week.

That is not exactly it. It's not about selling games at better prices, it's about meeting people who are well versed in games, loved gaming and have games of all types. I mean you can't walk into a GameStop store and talk to someone in a GameStop expecting them to know about games, they're just a teenager working there for the summer just to get a paycheck. Walk into an independent game store and you'll find someone well versed in games; adding to that is the fact that these stores look different, may even include something that GameStop may not have and may even be huge. What do these stores have that GameStop doesn't, wonder. You can walk into an independent gaming store and likely find a fabled Dreamcast laying around or a Game Gear or even an Atari 5200. The gaming stores show you the wonder gaming has, from the early days to the present, there were tons of styles of games, tons of gadgets, tons of characters you may not recognize and even tons of childhood memories. Gamestop has single handedly zapped the wonder out of gaming and made it impossible to start up true gaming shops that don't focus on better deals. It's not about how much you pay, it's the experience and GameStop has ruined that experience with it's monopoly.

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Minor point of fact -- GameStop is a publicly traded company. It's profits, balance sheet, gross margins, and all such financial markers are easily calculated by perusing the company's balance sheets.

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While gamestop is a terrible value other places smaller outlets let me trade in games for either half of what they sell used or, they let me pay 10 and get used game of equal value.

People talk about punishing gamestop, while it will curb their used sales. In the end its completely hosing the gamer. They buy it and cant play all of it.

Its like car companies sick of used cars decided that ac and heater power windows would only work if the car was registered in the original owners name. Or you could pay them a fee to get it reassigned.

Used cars clothes games and movies are product and you paid x for x not well only if you decide to sell it you can only sell half of it.

The used market exist in everything by bullying consumers you will only alienate them. Make the used market work for you. Like car people did yes come sell them your used car they will only give you small chunk if you sell it to them and if you trade in they will work the numbers by tacking more onto car your buying so you still dont get crap for it then they sell for full market value.

Find a system to use that market instead of trying to bully it out of existence. Media companys have tried this tactic again and again. But look at when they finally excepted it and used it like Itunes ect music sales are all time high more money goes to artist with itunes than with cds instead of the guys in nice suits getting 2 dollars for every 1 the artist takes.

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So I buy a used ford and I no longer get to use the radio without paying an activation fee? Same concept, a stupid, naive, greedy one.

I have only bought a few games at gamestop as I know their markup practices, but I don't disagree with a used game market. I use Steam almost exclusively as I can get most games at incredible savings, then I don't feel the need to sell them to recoup on a crappy game.

If game makers are so concerned about this, maybe they should actually make games worth playing for any length of time. Like Skyrim. Then this wouldn't be an issue to the degree it seems to be to the publishers. People play their copy longer, won't put it on the used market for a while, probably sometime after the initial profitable margin of the games release, then used games are available for those that can't afford the ridiculous price of todays games. Seems pretty simple to me.

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Really? Does the G.M., Ford, Toyota or any others make money when a used cars is sold? When it is traded it for a new car and the dealer sells it? Should they require that any car that is sold that is not new off the lot, have features disabled because they do not make money on resale?

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Those of you bringing up the car analogy don't appear to understand how the car business works

Ford builds a car. Ford holds the right to produce parts *for* that car, in perpetuity. When your Ford breaks, if the mechanic uses Ford ports, Ford makes money. Ford *continues* to make money regardless of who owns the car. If the car is on the road, it requires maintenance. If it requires maintenance, Ford makes money.

In at least some cases, aftermarket manufacturers license the right to build parts directly from the OEM (Ford, in this case). In any case, the aftermarket parts exist alongside traditional Ford parts, and the dealers tend to push the latter as more reliable.

So yes. The car market is designed so that Ford makes money off the car, regardless of who owns it.

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The Ford analogy is a specious one at best. Me and my brother frequently make spares for our GM cars in his company workshop. If we think that the price is too high for multiple items, we buy one and after that make copies ourselves.

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Ok then, what about Nike? They don't make a dime when someone buys a used pair of shoes, or Levi, no one pays them when a used pair of jeans are sold.

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Well then ignore the car analogy how about we use one representing the clothes on your back? the shovel in your shed? the painting on your wall? the books in your study? there are thousands of products and works that are sold new and used daily. The only difference is that the entertainment industries are saying that what we are paying for is the right to use their content until we forfeit that right. We don't own our games, our movies, and forbid the thought that we own any songs. Eventually these items will only be found on the "cloud" and we'll have to "lease" the time and the right to access them. Then the used market will be fade away. I refuse to spend money on anything that I do not own or are not allowed the tweak, hack, mod or otherwise mutilate as I see fit.

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I don't care about analogies, and I think they're silly and easily picked apart.

I care about a collection.

I have a massive collection of all the games I've owned over the years. I keep them on hardcopy. I have old DOS games. I regret not having copies of my Atari 8-bit or Atari ST games, especially now that emulators are around.

Games that have activation garbage like this... They're transient entertainment. They will be lost to history like the old films that the studios never bothered to maintain. In search of a quick buck the game publishers are out to destroy the history of the things they make.

Basically, this is a form of DRM. There is no batch of bits I can save and have them work in 20 years. They may not even work in 5 if the company folds.

I think, from now on, I'm only buying indie games from places like the humble bundle. They seem like the only people who are willing to actually give me a game instead of trying to find a way to destroy what I supposedly own after they no longer consider it worth their while to maintain.

Gamestop is a monopoly that basically loots their customers, and the game developers are upset they don't get a slice. Boo hoo. Cry me a river. Next thing you'll be trying to find a way to make sure the mugger down the street is giving you a cut too.

The solution to Gamestop is competition, not some whacked out form of DRM that's an attempt to force them out of business. But, of course, the game developers don't actually want that. They want to get in on the delicious pocket emptying that Gamestop can manage with their monopoly position.

If you're having such a hard time competing with the used version of your own product, maybe you should make something people don't want to return.

When I buy a game, I want a bunch of bits that I can have forever, that I will always be able to play, that I'll be able to put in a museum or show to my grandkids. Instead, I'm going to get a disk that has half the game on it, and is likely designed to completely cease working if the original publisher ever goes out of business or simply decides they can weather the heat for not bothering to keep the servers running anymore.

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This is similar to what movie companies and some music companies did when they percieved file sharing to be a threat. Of course, the threat here is used games but it's somewhat similar. What's different is that Gamespot has a monopoly of the used games market and the smaller markets are essentially shut out. Buying used games can be somewhat good, I mean I bought two for a relatively low price and they turned out to be good. While I may be a part of the problem they assume I'm in, Gamespot (as mentioned in the article) is a huge part of the problem as they're charging loads of money for used games and not getting a profit from it (aside from the tons of special content deals that come from Gamestop.)

I don't think the problem is to restrict content to new games but it's hard to think of an other situation. Competition is an option but there was once competition in the form of EB Games but it got adsorbed by GameSpot and we haven't seen them since. The used games market isn't going to go out without a fight because people find it somewhat convenient to buy games that are used (new or old, what's the difference?) and there is a benefit to having a used games market because you can sell games you think are bad or don't need and you can get games if you trade them in. It's a market that threatens their bottom line but it's a market that's severely needed in the gaming community, there's no easy solution.

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There are conflicting arguments in this article.

Gamestop selling used games is hurting the creators of these games since they do not get a cut of the profit.

Gamestop does not give you much for your used games and then charges a substantial amount more to resell them.

If the second "problem" did not exist and game stop lowered the sales price of their used games, the first problem would get worse. More people would buy the used games because it would be more than just $5 cheaper.

When I look at a scenario where a game is $59.99 new and $54.99 used, i'll gladly pay the extra $5 to get a new copy. If it was $59.99 new and $39.99 used... i'd really consider that used game.

The profit margin on a new game is not that huge for developers and publishers anyway. I think the developer get's $15 per sale and the publisher gets like $20 per sale. If they sale 1million copies and then there are 200,000 used sales to people who can't or wont buy new, then they are making a $15,000,000 profit and only missing $3,000,000

When you have a game like Halo 3 that sell over 8 million copies in a little over a month... that's $120mill to the developers and even more to the publishers and then licensing to microsoft, they will take $80mill from the sales. If they missed out on 2million sales due to used buyers they only missed out on $30 million. Maybe the licensing fees need to be lower?

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I think the biggest issue people seem to be missing when comparing used games sales to pretty much any other used product sale - including used DVD and CD sales is the lifetime of games. An AAA game title like, for instance, MW3 retails for around $60 on day one. How much does MW2 retail for now new - I checked GS and they have it listed new for $20 and who wants to buy last years (or even a 5-year old game)?

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@acarzt: The profit margins you're quoting isn't even close to reality. There's a reason why GameStop would rather you buy the used titles and encourages you to do so. Profit for the studio's probably $10-ish, the publisher's probably 30-ish, and the reseller gets $5-10 for a $50-60 game. In the used case for a recent title, GameStop pockets $20-30 every time instead of $5-10-ish.

THAT is what the studios are bitching about. It's that they're not getting any cut and there's actually a disincentive because GS has an effective monopoly on the sale of used titles such that they collect rapacious profits.

The "solution" is the wrong one, based off of wrong headed thinking. It should always be extra content that's free for new buyers and something like $10-ish for used. But the problem is, the publisher always wants their cut of the deal, which makes it hard to do this or more pricey than it's worth.

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make a better game, something worth the $60-80 that new games usually are. don't make a steaming pile of crap, sprinkle glitter on it and call it new. I personally will rarely buy a game new, mostly because the games that are currently available are so cookie-cutter and over-popularized that it hurts to go shopping for a new game. I'm from the area of Atari 2600 and beyond, I remember going to the store and seeing 40 graphically challenged games that were $15 a pop that were way more fun to play than most games today. So EA......here's my message to you if you're watching --

Stop making shitty games, stop removing content from the game for people who buy used games. Although you never see money from those customers, they are still YOUR customers. Those customers are testing your product to see if they want to buy more, and if the games were good enough they will buy the next one NEW. Just in case you missed it, stop removing content from the game for people who buy used games! In fact, it wouldn't be so bad if you added something new and rare that's usable in game that gives them a competitive edge over the rest of the players for customers who bought new. Stop being a thorn in my side EA, and start working with your consumer base. Listen to your users, they will take you higher. Dev 101 douches.

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Or just wait a year or so, buy the game "new" for half the cost and all the DLC; problem solved! The fewer the people who buy the game when it comes out the faster it will cost less. Wink

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I think this whole concept of used games hurting game developers/publishers is hogwash. And the steps that they are taking to prevent it / entice people to buy new is even more bogus! The fact that I hear in the rumor mill that the new xbox may not even play used games sends me over the deep end....

If I buy a t-shirt from a store the producers of said shirt have already been paid for that shirt by the store...they already have thier money in pocket even before I get out the door.

Now if I decide to have a garage sale at some point and sell the same shirt, that's my perogotive, and I will be damned if I am going to give any of that money back to the orginal manufacturer of that shirt.

All of the used games at Gamestop or any other used games have already been purchased once... the developers/publishers have already been paid. They have no right to come crying and moaning that they need more money. These developers should be happy that there are so many Gamestops out there because those stores also sell NEW games (shocker!!!).

As far as Gamestop fleecing customers, I agree there needs to be more competition so prices are made fair. But until that happens its a free market and Gamestop can set thier prices where they want... if they want to offer me seven cents for my copy of Assasins creed I and turn around and slap a price tag on it for $10.00 they are perfectly in thier right to do so, and I as the consumer and perfectly within my right to tell them where to stick it.

If I buy a game new or used I want all the content on that disc to be available... you want to put out dlc and give me the option to purchase it...fine... but dont put it on the disc and give me a one time code to unlock it, and leave next consumer of my used product out in the cold.

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