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David Jaffe: Consumers feel "they're getting the shaft"

David Jaffe: Consumers feel "they're getting the shaft"

Mon 05 Mar 2012 6:37pm GMT / 1:37pm EST / 10:37am PST
BusinessDevelopment

The Twisted Metal developer warns that the industry must listen to consumers' pleas on price

God of War creator and Twisted Metal developer David Jaffe never hesitates to speak his mind, and in a recent interview with GamesIndustry International, the outspoken designer weighed in on the economics of the games business and how high price points are driving away consumers from the traditional space.

When we asked Jaffe about the impact of the used games business, he replied, "The retailers, the publishers/developers, and the consumers - I think they're all unhappy. They all have a valid point and I think digital distribution is going to go a long way when it becomes a bigger thing like it is on Steam. I think we'll see that bigger in the next gen and we'll keep seeing it until, ultimately, the brick and mortar retailers do become like the record stores became."

The customer is basically saying they're cynical, they think we're greedy, and they think they're not getting value for their dollar.

David Jaffe

He continued, "I think, ultimately, that's the good news. But in the meantime, I think it's going to be a lot of pushing and pulling and changing to find something that feels fair and respectful. But I think the big thing that we have to listen to - it doesn't matter how this gets solved or what Sony does or Microsoft does - what does matter is that we need to listen to what the customer is saying. The customer is basically saying they're cynical, they think we're greedy, and they think they're not getting value for their dollar."

Consumers are migrating more and more towards smartphones and tablets because the games are cheap and are still entertaining. The retail environment, on the other hand, is becoming quite difficult to succeed in.

"Consumers feel games are too expensive.... and they shouldn't have to care about the machine behind the scenes of how they get their games. They should feel that they're getting great value for what they spend. They should feel that they're being respected by the people who make the games and that they're being entertained well beyond what they paid for their entertainment," Jaffe stated.

He believes that the current economic environment and purchasing patterns ought to be a warning call heeded by developers and publishers.

"However the specifics of this get worked out, I think we really need to hear - it's like, wow. The customers aren't happy. And there are going to be customers that just aren't happy unless they can just get shit for free and it's like, you know what, sorry. It's a business. What are you going to do? But I do think some of them who are complaining about pricing, we should listen. It's at our peril that we ignore that part of the conversation. We can disagree with their solution while still fully embracing the emotional component, which is that they feel that they're getting the shaft more often than they should, which really should be never."

23 Comments

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,473 1,241 0.8
Indeed. Some pirates will always pirate, no matter what. But the consumer who paid 40 for 6 hours of Need For Speed: The Run, and (rightly) feels hard-done-by? That's the person you've got to listen to.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 5th March 2012 7:09pm

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Christopher Bowen
Editor in Chief

400 518 1.3
But yet, Twisted Metal contains an online pass, does it not? That's the problem right there. David Jaffe's opinion is largely irrelevant to the people who make these decisions - the publishers - because if they cared about what he had to say, Twisted Metal wouldn't have that abominable pass.

Gamers aren't happy, but until they start voting with their wallets en masse - meaning, more than a few guys on message boards - no one's going to care. Sixty dollars given angrily with gritted teeth is just the same to publishers as sixty dollars given happily, with a smile.

Posted:2 years ago

#2

Andrew Goodchild
Studying development

1,223 385 0.3
Surely the online pass is to do with second hand sales, where Jaffe is talking here about the prices games are sold for new? Bearing in mind Jaffe has constantly spoke against second hand sales where no money goes to developers, I doubt the online pass is his biggest issue.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Private
Industry

1,176 182 0.2
In regards to new games, while everything got more and more expensive but that didnt with games while development got a lot more expensive. Pre PS1 games where more expensive than games now. There is nothing wrong with 60 bucks for AAA games, but smaller games sell for the same that are far cheaper to produce. Outside of the AAA games it would be interesting to have a price model where the price depends on development costs.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,017 893 0.9
Advertising drives sales, but it also creates uninformed buyers who might not get what they think they bargained for. Don't buy what is advertised, play demos, read magazines.

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,473 1,241 0.8
Yes, 60 bucks for AAA games would be fine. But there's a difference between a AAA quality game, and a game that has the budget of a AAA game, that isn't very good. Yes, game quality is subjective, but I am of the opinion that the games industry has to recognise that not every game it produces is very good, even if it costs a fortune. It's at that point that the consumer starts to feel a bit ripped off.

(comment above deleted, due to my not noticing the "reply" button, and wondering how the new site stacks replies. :) ) Edit: Interesting. The reply button doesn't work? Or doesn't work how I imagined it, anyways)

@ Klaus

That would be a fine idea, but the state of reviewing is awful (as I think we've mentioned in the past). I dread to think how many Day 1 impulse purchasers are going to be disappointed with Mass Effect 3, due to the lack of any reviews before the release. And the ME3 demo isn't representative of the final game, so...

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 5th March 2012 10:22pm

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Private
Industry

1,176 182 0.2
Quality is subjective indeed. I remember getting Dragon Age 1 and I was very disappointed that I spend full price on it for several reasons, but many people loved it. And I'm well informed when it comes to what games I buy :)

Posted:2 years ago

#7

Preet D Bass
student

92 13 0.1
Respect to devs that work hard like Jaffe, but none to publishers that will rip of customers eg Capcom's DLC on disc with SF X Tekken. Its things like this that customers doubt the integrity of the quality of the product, as this Gen highly lacks it.

Posted:2 years ago

#8

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,017 893 0.9
@Morville

with reviews becoming more and more letters of application of interns wanting to become press release writers and box-cover texters, it is no surprise people are getting bummed out.

PR is promising more and more with every release, while games have increasingly more and more problems to retain the level of quality from one sequel (/knock-off) to the next, or at least match the level of quality increase a sequel promises.

PR can always make ME3 sound better than ME2, they know exactly what to say to make people believe Homeland is the next big step up from Modern Warfare. In the current gaming magazine structure there is nobody who could ever stop them. Because even the readers want the press to merely confirm their belief of a game, without realizing it is pre-shaped by PR and not based on reality.

Posted:2 years ago

#9

Peter Dwyer
Games Designer/Developer

480 290 0.6
Not sure how pirates got into the conversation. As for pricing I think a lot of the feeling of being shafted is down to DLC. We are being asked to pay for parts of a game we KNOW should have been in the intial release no questions asked.

A good example of this is the Prothean day one ME3 content for the special edition. No way was that ever meant to be an extra. Some greedy (agreeing with Jaff here) corporate guy or manager saw this as a way to get a pay rise.

With each new so called AAA release we are seeing more and more of this nonsense and I and many of my ellow gamers are becoming more and more annoyed with it. If it isn't a super hyped and journalist gushing game that turns out to be full of bugs like Skyrim then it's a spamming of DLC that clearly should be unlockable through playing the standard game. If only to reward and garner loyalty from customers.

If this continues then the EA'a and Activisions may soon find that their core audience really is just that a small core.

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,473 1,241 0.8
@ Peter

"And there are going to be customers that just aren't happy unless they can just get shit for free and it's like, you know what, sorry. It's a business."

Seemed like a reference to pirates to me.

Re: DLC. I don't have that much of a problem with DLC. Yes, Day 1 DLC that should've been in the game sucks, but it is a business. To me, the issue is more the fact that it's so expensive - 10 bucks for something that'll last an hour? Or two? Or alternate appearances that cost 2 quid? Why? Surely the developers time could be better spent on something more fleshed out? By contrast, look at the Missing Link DLC for Deus Ex: HR. 7.50 for something that lasted me 6 hours, with multiple choices. Or the Shogun: Rise of the Samurai DLC. Again, it's a pricing/quality issue, which isn't a black-and-white thing.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 6th March 2012 2:22pm

Posted:2 years ago

#11

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
I'm not really sure why people throw "greed" around so much. Any product, games or otherwise, is worth precisely as much as people are willing to pay for it. If no one bought it, they would have to rethink their strategy. It's just business. Games are a luxury, no one's forcing anyone to buy anything. It's this strange sense of entitlement gamers seem to have that they believe games are made out of some 'duty' to keep them entertained. Publishers own the content, it's entirely their right to decide how much to give for what price, and it's entirely the customer's right to say "that's too much" and not buy it. Personally I do think games should be cheaper, but that's why I don't bother buying the majority of games on release day. 40 is just a premium you pay for having it first, if you're really that desperate to play it.

Posted:2 years ago

#12

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,473 1,241 0.8
@ Dave

I don't know any people (personally, or on the internet) who believe that they are entitled to a game. I do, however, know many people who believe that the game that they pay 30 for should be worth that. That it should entertain them for at least their money's worth, if not considerably longer. To me, that is where "greed" comes in - because no publisher would look at, say, Superman 64 (non-contentious example) and honestly believe it was worth the 30 that it was selling for on release day. And, oh, I'm sure people bought Superman 64; parents who wanted something for their kids... A few clueless comics fans... People who didn't read reviews of it. You know, the casual market.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 6th March 2012 5:07pm

Posted:2 years ago

#13

Peter Dwyer
Games Designer/Developer

480 290 0.6
@Morville

"And there are going to be customers that just aren't happy unless they can just get shit for free and it's like, you know what, sorry. It's a business."

Sounded more like people wanting free add on modules not pirates. A key point here is he says customers in the sentence. Others here have just decided he meant pirates.

As for DLC. I have a huge issue with removing content in order to then charge extra for it later. That's not a business decision that's a greed decision. The publisher/developer are deliberately choosing to deminish the quality and content in order to make more money. Something that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago.

This industry is clearly changing due to people realising that they can get good quality fun games for a few pounds instead of the AAA price of 60 dollars/40 pounds. In that context, the counter argument that these AAA games cost much more to develop washes away. Consumers see the quality titles in the app stores like angry birds and ask how come it's costing them so much more to buy something that is arguably less fun to play that a bedroom coders or small indies efforts.

Finally a lot of previously AAA company staff are leaving to join or start up these small indie studios with small indie budgets because they are disillusioned with the main industry, which is slowly destroying itself with clones and constant rehashes franchises (assasins creed 3 anyone!).

Posted:2 years ago

#14

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,473 1,241 0.8
@ Peter

Ah, yes. I took the "customers" to be short-hand for "people who play games", but there's no doubt it can be read a couple of ways.

As for the rest of your comment, I generally agree... I will add that it's a pity the 360 indie store got hidden in the recent dashboard update, since I think Steam and the MS/Sony digital stores are a good place for consumers to find titles that are different and not a small-fortune. Stacking, for example, definitely seems like the kind of title that would appeal to the consumer who wants something cheap and fun.

Posted:2 years ago

#15

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
@Morville - The sense of entitlement I'm talking about is how the option of "don't buy the game" doesn't even seem to be an option in some people's minds. People can go on internet forums and rant and whine away about online passes or prices all they like but it's the act of not handing over your money that's going to hurt publishers into taking notice of your objections. Like the "boycott MW2" group, all playing MW2 on the day of release. Why would Activision take them seriously with such a demonstration of lack of conviction? Same with the price. If no one's buying it, they won't have any option but to lower the price, or next time, make the game better.

As for people who buy something expensive without any knowledge whatsoever of what it is they're buying... that's their risk, as long as the game's advertisement isn't telling blatant lies. If it were falsely advertised they could get a refund.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dave Herod on 7th March 2012 12:48pm

Posted:2 years ago

#16

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,473 1,241 0.8
Mmm... I see what you mean about entitlement. But to say that if people don't buy it, they'll lower the price or make the next one better seems naive to me. People buy lots of games when they hit a certain price in a retailer, but all the publisher sees is a sale, so they don't (can't?) acknowledge any problems with the product. A good example is Sword of the Stars 2 - I just bought it on Amazon for 10. Will the publisher care that I bought it so low? Unlikely. They just saw another sale come through from Amazon; that's money in the bank for them, so what do they care? And proof that even a broken game will sell, if the price is low enough.

As for your argument about people buying without knowledge, that's again naive. A bad game at 30 (bought, I stress again, by a parent as a present, or someone who doesn't know what reviews to trust) is the first step to a lost consumer. To elaborate, I've worked in retail - the first thing you're taught is to be nice to the customer, since repeat business is the lifeblood of the company. What repeat business is there when someone buys a piece-of-trash game that costs 30? The customer feels burned, and will be less inclined to impulse purchase something in the future. It may be legally allowable, but it's shockingly poor tactics for an industry that relies on repeat business.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 7th March 2012 1:39pm

Posted:2 years ago

#17

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
I think it's a bit more naive to assume publishers only look at one figure, sales, when making decisions, rather than looking at all sorts of data about price points, timing of sales, which retailers, spikes around promotions etc. Like when Activision added 5 to the RRP of CoD, I'm sure they didn't just do that on a whim, there was probably a significant amount of market research into what gamers would be willing to pay for it. Not really sure that talking about repeat purchases from impulse buyers makes much sense, though, it sounds slightly contradictory. My original point was that saying "greed" in business is mostly pointless when talking about consumer items the customer doesn't *need* to buy.

Posted:2 years ago

#18

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,473 1,241 0.8
Okay. Your last point is the crux? Then let's put this down to brass-tacks. :)

People complain about the price of cinema tickets, books, and games. All these things are luxuries, yes. And all have a value set in the mind of the consumer that is in relation to the cost. Cinema tickets costing 30 would be laughed at, because a movie lasts 3 or 4 hours maximum. A 150 page novella costing 30 would similarly be laughed at, for the cost vs value ratio is so disproporionate. So, why are games the exception? Why is it, when gamers complain about a 30 game lasting 6 hours, and why publishers are so greedy because it isn't worth 30, they're regarded as "entitled", and not treated as though they have a valid point?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 8th March 2012 5:52pm

Posted:2 years ago

#19

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
I'm not sure play-time is even that good a measure of worth anyway. One of the first titles on the Xbox 360, Condemned, probably took me less than 8 hours to finish yet those were perhaps some of the most entertaining 8 hours I've played on the Xbox to date. While not the most hardcore of players, I still racked up days of playing time on World of Warcraft, and at best it was "something to do", a meaningless grind dragged out to keep you playing by being just moreish enough. For me, Condemned was worth far more. At the end of the day, it's just about quality, and no one deliberately sets out to make a bad game. You might not think you've got your money's worth, but I've been to see movies at the cinema that were utterly terrible, and I don't think the makers of the film were "greedy" because they made something that sucked. If the director was stood outside the cinema when I came out offering to refund my money because I didn't like it, I wouldn't even take it, because it was my decision to go see it.

Posted:2 years ago

#20

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,473 1,241 0.8
Yeah... I get what you mean. Value is very subjective, especially with games, and especially again with games which have, say, multiplayer, even if some people don't play it. It all adds to the value of the product being shipped, and it's down to choice to play or not.

But...

It's your decision to see a movie that may be bad. Do you inform yourself of how good or bad it is beforehand? Do you have an idea of how interesting it might be? Do you read reviews? Obviously, word-of-mouth from friends is a good barometer of if you'll like something, but what if only the trade/press have seen it? What do you do then? Ignore it completely until a review you trust comes out?

These seem weird things to ask, but to me, the question of value and price is wrapped up in informed decision making. But with how... Questionable, shall we say(?), reviews are for some games, and how reviews only come out on (or very near to) release day, people who purchase at time of release may not be informed. Which leads to people feeling burned by a product that they've bought, which in turn leads to thoughts of "greedy greedy games companies", even if that's incorrect.

Not sure if you catch my meaning here, but I'm quite enjoying the discussion. :)

Posted:2 years ago

#21

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
The more money something costs, the more research I'll do before diving in and buying it. Hence why I have any games at all on my phone. None of them are any good, but when they cost under a pound it's not much loss to give things a go just in case I stumble across an absolute gem. Movies again are cheap (especially with Orange Weds) so I don't really feel too hard done by if it turns out no good. 30-40 is a more significant investment and I wouldn't impulse buy at this price, whether it's a game or anything else. If there's not much information about it, then sure, I'll wait till more surfaces. A game's not going to get any worse if I buy it in a few weeks rather than on release day. So yeah, I see your point, but I just think people should put a bit more thought into what they're spending their money on rather than just blaming it on the makers of the game.

When games companies, even huge ones like EA are reporting losses each year, I don't see how greed comes into it. If they don't make more money on what they're selling they'll eventually go out of business. Games haven't become any more expensive to buy than they were 15 years ago and yet cost orders of magnitude more money to create. On the other hand, I'd prefer to see games cheaper but selling more copies.

Posted:2 years ago

#22

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