Archive for July 2013

Price Reductions on the XBox One

So the most annoying thing about the Steam Sales last week was the number of people I saw on various message boards who wished that they could get these awesome Steam prices for games on their console.  *sigh*

Some people doubt that Microsoft would reduce prices with the frequency and voraciousness of Steam.  I disagree.  The reason: Steam exists.  Once both are digital and therefore roughly equivalent in terms of all other costs — well, if you have a choice to buy Assassin’s Creed IV on Steam for $30 bucks, or on the XBox One for $60, which would you choose?  If Microsoft One really wants to go fully digital, these kinds of discounts are inevitable.

There is another movement by the fans to get Microsoft to set prices for online games to be $10 dollars cheaper on launch day of a particular game.  This is a good thought but less likely, at least initially.  For the most part, pricing for games is set by the game publishers themselves, not Microsoft, and companies like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft are not willing to screw over Gamestop and Wal*mart in favor of digital until they are sure they don’t need those retail partners anymore, and until Playstation comes onto the digital bandwagon, that’s not going to happen.  It is something Microsoft would be reasonable to try for their first party exclusive titles, since assumedly they’ve already burned that bridge to the ground.

XBox One Regaining Momentum, Contemplating Price Drop?

It’s always hard to know how much stock to put into market analysis of the games industry, especially because so many of the usual suspects are very, very bad at it.  Still, this prediction that the XBox One will outship the Playstation 4 by a 3 to 1 margin is pretty eyebrow raising.

Despite losing the headline battle at E3, Microsoft‘s Xbox One appears to be regaining some momentum, in part due to the used and online policy tweaks. Importantly, our supply chain checks suggest Microsoft may have the benefit of a 2-3x unit advantage at launch compared to Sony’s PS4.

On the flip side, the same article suggests that Microsoft is contemplating reducing their price point of $500 bucks, seeing as Sony has announced a price point of $400.  Not exactly the hallmark of a confident leader, but given that I honestly believe that the winner of the console wars will be the one that comes out of the gate the strongest, and therefore becomes the ‘default’ household console for all of the non-exclusive titles, probably a good call nonetheless.

As an aside, I’ve been replaying my Playstation 3 lately in order to play The Last Of Us, and I can say that the net experience with the console affirmed my XBox love.  I’m now an XBox One preorderer.  I don’t know if I got a bad PS3, but I still hate that machine.

Skill vs. Luck

It turns out that the human mind is not good at interpreting the difference between ‘lucky’ and ‘good’.

Jordi Brandts and colleagues got a group of students to predict a sequence of five coin tosses, and then selected the best and the worst predictor. They then asked other subjects to bet on whether the best and worst predictor could predict another five coin tosses. The subjects were told that they would bet on the worst predictor from the first round, unless they paid to switch to the best predictor.

82% of subjects paid to make the switch….These people weren’t just idiots plucked from the street. They were fourth year finance undergraduates at one of the best universities in Spain.

The human brain is terrible with the concept of randomness.  We desperately want to assign mental patterns to this, which is of course, a game pattern that game designers abuse endlessly.

WoW Considers Joining the Modern Age of Gaming

Congratulations to Rock Paper Scissors for uncovering and confirming that Blizzard may be looking at dipping their toe into the microtransactions pool in some territories.  As someone who has gone through the transition myself, I am completely welcoming and want to tell them from the outset that the water is fine.  That being said, it would be nice if we could get observers and the press to stop equating with evil (‘dark… alchemy’) and ‘panic’.

The article could have just as easily pointed out that WoW’s billing model has remained stubbornly antiquated as the entirety of the industry has moved into a direction that players by all appearances seem to prefer, that allows a greater number of players to play the game, most of them at a lowerprice point, and that still earns more money that can be spent on growing and developing the game.

This is not to criticize Blizzard for NOT switching.  With a large, happy playerbase as WoW still has (and despite the idea of ‘panic’, 8 million subscribers is still bringing home a lot of bacon every month), and that population is by its very nature biased towards subscription.  Messing with that money-printing machine is something that is best done with extreme care.

But for the industry, the writing is on the wall.  Marvel Heroes and Neverwinter Nights will both launch as Free to Play titles.  ESO and Wildstar damn well be thinking about it now – having a plan in place at ship is far better than trying to jimmy one in later.  Entire genres are switching to Free-to-Play – the iOS market has switched over en masse, for example – and the competitive forces will be too strong in any genre that has started that transition.  Can you, for example, imagine shipping a MOBA with a $60 box in this day and age where LoL and DOTA2 can be played for free?  So it will be for online RPGs.

This is not to say that game developers can’t be evil while microtransacting – either intentionally or through stupidity (i.e. ‘learning’).  But as more entrants enter each genre space, the competitive pressure is going to push consumer prices down.  I just wish more journalists were willing and able to talk about the consumer UPSIDES to free-to-play and microtransactions.