Cliff Bleszinski Backs Xbox One's Used Games DRM

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News Posted: Fri, Jun 14 2013 2:59 PM

A couple of months ago, while a lot of people were up in arms over the Xbox One's potential "always on" requirement, Gears of War creator and former Epic Games developer Cliff Bleszinski said, quite simply, "#dealwithit". Unlike so many others, he simply didn't see the reason why an "always on" console was a bad thing, insinuating that it's the "world we live in".

Given this, it should come as no surprise that Cliffy B is also in favor of Xbox One's used game DRM - that is, where a disc-based game can be traded only once. On Twitter, and via Computer and Videogames, he defends the scheme by saying, "You cannot have game and marketing budgets this high while also having used and rental games existing. The numbers do NOT work people."


Gears of War Creator Cliff Bleszinski

That's an argument that's hard to disagree with, but the fact of the matter is, games like Gears of War, which have massive budgets, do still work out fine revenue-wise for the developer / publisher. What doesn't help, though, is that the number of people required to create such masterpiece games is constantly increasing. He goes on to state that, "The visual fidelity and feature sets we expect from games now come with sky high costs. Assasins Creed games are made by thousands of devs."

It'd be easy to counter this with "just lower the budgets", but Cliff would like to remind you of just "how silly you sound".

As for the once-per-24 hour Internet requirement, he of course has an opinion there, too. "If you can afford high speed internet and you can't get it where you live direct your rage at who is responsible for pipe blocking you"

As someone who moved at the beginning of May and went three weeks without home Internet due to an ISP screw-up, comments like that drive me bonkers. No sane person can expect to have Internet 24/7/365 without potential issue - things happen. People move, people bring their consoles to places where Internet access isn't that accessible, and so forth. Want to bring your Xbox One to the summer trailer for some gametime after smores? You better hope to have Internet there.

I can understand where Cliff is coming from with some points, but there's been nothing said so far that proves to me that used game sales are a bad thing. I think it boils down to one thing... if someone can't afford to buy a game at a new price, then they are simply not going to likely play it under this new scheme. Limiting how people can acquire their games doesn't suddenly give them more money to spend on them. If there's one thing that it does increase, however, it's piracy - though the Xbox One (and PlayStation 4) are likely going to be safe from that for a little while.

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Joel H replied on Fri, Jun 14 2013 3:55 PM

He's not just wrong, he's ludicrously wrong.

You want to talk about numbers not working? Think on this: We know how much GameStop made in 2012 off used games: $2.6 billion. Boxed game sales work out to $7.06 billion for the same period. Since GS doesn't really carry any PC software anymore, and NPD only tracks retail, the figures should be comparable.

Now, $2.6 billion is a hefty chunk of 7.06 billion -- 35%. But you can't count on converting that figure to sales. Gamestop doesn't disclose its price points, but if you're a heavy gamer, the company's trade-in deals and offers *are* a good deal. You can buy several games knowing you'll get titles you really want for free later. You can wait and take advantage of specific deals on hardware.

Some percentage of that $2.6 billion represents gamers who simply *won't* buy the game at $59.95.

Then there's another problem -- which games are generating that revenue? How many times are they sold? If GS sells a used copy of CoD for $55 the week after launch, $40 six weeks later, and $15 nine months down the line, they recognize revenue on that product 3x. It goes into the $2.6B pot. But that inflates the total value of GS's gaming revenue.

Finally, there's this: If publishers didn't think they could make great games without locking off the used market forever, the PS4 would be just as locked as the Xbox. It isn't.

Cliffy B. is masquerading personal opinion and a sense of entitlement as "the way things are."

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RWilliams replied on Fri, Jun 14 2013 4:09 PM

Fantastic insight. I admit I didn't realize the used game market accounted for -that- much of the pot... that's unbelievable. It's almost no wonder why these companies are trying to change things, even if their logic doesn't make sense.

I used to idolize Cliffy B when I was growing up - now he just makes my stomach clench with his anti-consumer statements.

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Joel H replied on Fri, Jun 14 2013 4:41 PM

There's another problem with this: You don't know which games are selling big in used numbers, so you can't just say "Oh hey, we get X% of that pot."

Example: We can pretty safely assume Call of Duty did big figures in used gaming. So now we abolish used gaming. Some additional percentage of money flows to CoD. CoD makes more money. Hurrah! But CoD was already a hugely successful franchise. The funds don't really change much.

Now, imagine you put out a decent, but flawed game. At $59.95, it's kind of a non-starter. For $30, people will buy. We know this happens quite frequently, Steam has released survey data demonstrating that sharp discounts can really kick game sales upwards.

Abolishing the used game market and keeping your game at $60 may prevent GameStop from making any money, but it doesn't help YOU at all. Your game isn't worth $60. No one buys it.

There's this assumption that: 1) High developer costs = better games 2) Gamers are going to be buy tons more of the high dev cost games and therefore pump revenue into them and 3). That this somehow makes certain everyone gets a more equitable piece of the pie.

But there's no guarantee of that. If Microsoft was talking about steep sales and big discounts, I think they'd have gotten a different reaction from people. If publishers were saying: "This will let us use more sensitive price models," I think they'd get a different reaction. But based on what we've got, it's a giant FU.

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MMaddox replied on Fri, Jun 14 2013 7:19 PM

If the game development industry is in such dire financial straits, they should stop producing 100 terrible games for every 1 that's great. Flinging things at a wall in an attempt to see if it sticks should generally not be the way things are run in a profitable venture. The end consumers shouldn't have to suffer because of your business model.

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