It should come as no surprise that the respective braintrusts behind Valve Software’s Steam, one of the pioneers of online game distribution, and EA’s Origin, a newer (and frankly, thus far inferior and user-unfriendly) entry into the marketplace, are at odds with one another, both competitively and philosophically. Origin head David DeMartini fired a shot across the bow recently, claiming that Steam’s frequent 65-75% off sales “[cheapen] intellectual property,” and while these sales “certainly [work] for Valve, [they] may not work as well for the publishing partners who take on the majority of that haircut.”
Upon being asked to elaborate, he explained: “If you want to sell a whole bunch of units, that is certainly a way to do that, to sell a whole bunch of stuff at a low price. The gamemakers work incredibly hard to make this intellectual property, and we’re not trying to be Target. We’re trying to be Nordstrom.”
DeMartini believes that there are other ways to maintain and win over a customer base aside from low prices, but will not at this time disclose Origin’s plans in terms of how to do so. Regardless, they face an uphill battle, considering EA trails Steam by a considerable margin so far in both pricing and consumer experience, which may make it difficult for Origin to fulfill their Target/Nordstrom analogy.
What’s interesting is that DeMartini’s perspective may represent an increasingly pervasive viewpoint in the gaming industry, as only last month, GOG.com head Guillaume Rambourg claimed that “heavy discounts are bad for gamers” and “[damage] the long-term value of a game.”
Rambourg elaborates, stating: “If a gamer buys a game he or she doesn’t want just because it’s on sale, they’re being trained to make bad purchases, and they’re also learning that games aren’t valuable.”
While this argument might seem a little hypocritical when GOG.com’s weekend sales are factored in, Lambourg noted that their own sales generally hover around the 40-50% discount range, rather than in the 70% range, although it’s easy to lose sight of the percentages given GOG.com’s extremely low price points to begin with.
The question ultimately seems to boil down to whether it’s better to sell more for less, or less for more. We welcome your consumer (or developer!) perspective, or Steam/Origin experiences, in the comments below.
In other gaming news this week, we touch on the failure of The Old Republic, the latest scuttlebutt from Tamriel, Nintendo’s intentionally (we hope) terrible Wii U commercial, the future of gaming graphics technology, and more.
- Why is BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG failing so badly? This significant drop in subscriber base is undoubedly accelerating the developer’s plans to make the first 15 levels of the game free-to-play, which will happen in July.
- In other MMO news, Shack News came away from E3 with a rather disappointed outlook on The Elder Scrolls Online.
- Speaking of Tamriel, if you are an Xbox owner and applied to beta test Skyrim: Dawnguard last week, keep your eyes peeled to your inbox, as all beta invites have now been sent out. Dawnguard is scheduled for Xbox release on June 26, with all other systems following a month later, thanks to an exclusivity deal.
- Is this Nintendo’s worst commercial ever, or Nintendo’s worst commercial, ever? Words cannot begin to describe the massive quantities of awkward.
- A few weeks ago, we showed you some early screen captures and feedback of Epic’s next-gen Unreal 4 graphics engine. Today, we bring you the actual footage, courtesy of Epic’s team at E3. Picture the CGI cut scenes of modern games, now made playable. For a more detailed look at the technical chops of the engine, check out this video afterward.
- While we’re on the topic of playable cut scenes and next-gen graphics, we would be remiss if we did not also mention Square Enix’s latest graphics engine, Luminous Studio. We’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that the following video is indeed in real-time. Imagine playing the next Final Fantasy with these visuals?
- Crytek, developers of the Crysis series, are looking to create free-to-play games only in the future, after their current boxed game contract runs out.
- 38 Studios, developers of Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning, officially declared bankruptcy last week — a move that was clearly inevitable after word of their recent layoffs.
- Finally, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee HD is getting the full-blown reboot treatment, rather than merely a few upgraded graphics — a move likely designed to nerf the difficulty curb of the magnificent late-90s platformer to accomodate for modern times.