Game Theory

Here at Game Theory, we’ve already discussed the topic of used games and their effect on the industry several times. But with a recent Penny Arcade cartoon and news post bringing the issue to the forefront of discussion yet again, we felt it was worth exploring some of the misconceptions about the market effects of used game sales.

Wednesday’s Penny Arcade comic refers to the used game market as “a kind of parallel economy.” This implies that the used game market and the new game market operate completely independently of each other, never crossing paths. In reality, the two markets are closely tied. In fact, the mere presence of the used game market can help prop up game prices in the new game market.

(full article)

In recent years, there has been no shortage of game developers leaving PC exclusivity behind because of the threat of piracy. It’s not hard to see why, with overall PC game piracy rates north of 70% according to some estimates (and running even higher for some individual games), making it hard for even the biggest games to make money on the platform. Consider that Modern Warfare 2 was both the best-selling game of 2009 on consoles (pushing 11.86 million units worldwide) and the most-pirated game of 2009 on the PC (downloaded 4.1 million times from torrents, with legitimate saleslagging way behind“).

Yet the console market shouldn’t necessarily be any better. The Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 can all be hacked via hardware or software to run pirated copies of games downloaded from torrent sites. So why are download rates for the PC versions of such illegal torrents “often five or ten times higher than the console versions” according to a recent study?

(full article)

Much has been made of the “race to the bottom” pricingon the iPhone App Store, which makes it hard to sell a successful app for more than a dollar or two. But I didn’t really realize how pervasive this problem was until I downloaded The Incident, a simple survival-platformer game that involves dodging and climbing heaps of junk falling from the sky. While I enjoyed the old-school graphics and sound effects, I found the gameplay to be a little dull and shut it off (probably for good) after only half an hour of play. Despite the game’s $1.99 price on the App Store, I still went away from the experience feeling like I had been ripped off.

Believe me, I know how ridiculous it sounds to be complaining about the value of a game that sells for less than $2, especially when there are dozens of worse games retailing for $60 or more on store shelves right now. This kind of impulse purchase isn’t exactly going to put me in the poorhouse, after all. Furthermore, at an adjusted rate of $4/hour, I realize that my short experience with The Incident was a better value than many other things I could do with my time.

Despite this, I can’t help but feel disappointed and a bit regretful with my purchase. Part of the problem, of course, is the structure of the market itself. No matter how good a  game is on the App Store, chances are there’s a free alternative out there that approximates the experience relatively well, or at least provides a comparable distraction for less money. To overcome the huge perceived value gap between free products and even cheap products, the paid version has to be a whole lot better than anything that’s available for no cost.

(full article)

How long should a video game be, exactly? It’s an endlessly-debated topic that got more attention recently when dozens of game developers weighed in with their thoughts. The consensus opinion seems to be that dozens of hours of gameplay are not, in and of themselves, a requirement for a good game, and thus one deserving of your money. Many developers argued that shorter and smaller games like Braid, Portal and Limbo prove you can offer a wholly satisfying gaming experience within the span of only a few hours.

Curiously, Hello Games’ Sean Murray, one of the developers behind PlayStation Network (PSN) downloadable hit Joe Danger, was one of the few that disagreed, arguing that games can indeed feel too short if they’re not designed correctly. To Murray, games are “much more than a beginning, middle and end. It’s about experiences: Learning new skills, exploring, challenges and competition. The longer those last, the deeper the experience.”

(full article)