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Evergreen Gamers And EA’s New Marketing Opportunity

July 23, 2013

Lost Garden just posted a fascinating look at “A single game as a life-long hobby“. It is a timely topic for me because I have purchased and gratefully received several games in the past 18 months that I haven’t played as much as I thought I would. I hate waste, and I have made a tentative promise with myself to be more careful in the next generation. At this point, it is my hope that I will be able to focus my energies and money on two or three games (or franchises at least) for the greater part of the next five years. That may sound impossible but it shouldn’t. We played the broke-ass Gears of War game for almost 2 years straight, taking only a short break for MW and a double weekend breather for GTA4. At the very least, I should be able to amuse myself with the staples, BF4 and The Division, until the treats hit the bargain bin.

Digital evergreen hobbies
Into this media-centric ecosystem we’ve seen the reemergence of major games that hew more closely to the traditional games of old. MMOs like World of Warcraft or MOBAs like League of Legends are services. A digital game like Minecraft ties into numerous communities and is often played for years. Some like Halo or Call of Duty cleverly camouflage themselves as traditional consumable boxed products all while deriving long term engagement and retention from their extensive multiplayer services. These games share many of the attributes of older hobbies:

They attempt to be evergreen.
They have high mastery ceilings and robust communities.
Many, especially eSports, replicate the nested yearly loops of a traditional sport.

Each of these games is a hobby onto itself. People predominantly play a single game for years.

On the tangent of games as services, and more to the topic of this post, this is something that developers like DICE and publishers like EA should consider in order to stop the financial bleeding from used games sales.  They could release a free (or up to $20) version of BF4 that includes x number of maps, and then offer everything else including SP campaigns in reasonably priced DLC packages.  People could jump in for a fraction of the price of the current “full game” model and DICE/EA could entice some reluctant gamers to finally give the BF series a try.  The low-priced entry point would also foster goodwill which would compel even unlikely gamers to buy at least one or two map packs. If DICE/EA are serious about increasing their gamer base, it is in their best interest to go broader and shallower to start, and then for those who stay, deeper with long-term continued support.

There are other benefits as well.  High priced games encourage resale because gamers want to recover their money.  If, however, the new disc is only 10 dollars, then there is much less incentive to sell or buy it used.  However, even if the gamer buys it used, most of the potential revenue is still sitting on the servers in DLC form waiting to be paid for.  The developer and publisher miss out on only a fraction of the money that is currently flowing like the Nile into GameStop cash registers.  Furthermore, if a gamer decides to keep the game (Why sell it when you can only get a couple of bucks?), it is possible that at any time, he or she may put it back in the tray increasing the player base and ensuring the game’s long term viability.  Remember, it has been well established that MP-centric games are ensured failure if there is no one playing them.

Now that Microsoft is back supporting used games, I am sure that EA will manage to do something stupid to replace their Project $10.  But they don’t have to.  They could foster community love, and eliminate basically all used sales by offering almost all of the content for each of their games via digital DLC.  All while still maintaining a presence on the store shelves.

I am excited for the marketing opportunities that publishers and developers have before them.  There is no longer any reason or excuse for stakeholders to do anything less than make money hand over fist while simultaneously growing and supporting loyal communities.

Back to Lost Garden, while you are over there, be sure to check out their article Coercive Pay-2-Play Techniques.

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3 Comments
  1. July 23, 2013 4:54 pm

    Again, great post!

  2. FrenkoFrenik permalink
    July 24, 2013 12:29 am

    The real waste is day 1 purchases. Last 4th July deals further proved that if you put a crappy game at rock bottom prices, it can be enjoyable. Even though if you delete it and never play it again. It served it’s less than $5 purpose.

    But here is where we set ourselves up withr these $60 bombs. We hype it up. It’s not the trailers, it’s not the gazillion features that each game has. It’s just chasing the dragon of thathe next bing thing, which will be so awesome for a month or two, and then is just habit forming progression until the next dragon comes.

  3. July 25, 2013 12:50 am

    Ars just reported that EA is finally making more money on digital sales than on physical sales. DUH!

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/07/for-the-first-time-eas-real-life-money-is-mostly-from-digital-sales/

    And yet, how much do you want to bet they won’t implement this kind of system?

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