Videogames: Levelling the playing field

Illustration by Josh Rufford www.ruffbat.com

Do you own a computer? Do you also own a gaming console? Do you own more than one gaming console?

For most gamers these days the answer is yes, yes and yes. With technology getting cheaper and cheaper video games becoming more and more accessible, people are able to play the exact same game on their work computer, console and even on their mobile phone.

Multi-platform release games are the norm now with developers looking to have as wide a market as possible. Every salesman knows the first rule of selling is to make your product as easy to buy as possible and it works, sales from videogames are much higher from services such as Steam (PC/MAC), Xbox, PlayStation and iTunes App stores then any physical store.

You can buy a game while walking around during lunch, work, school or at home watching TV, but all this accessibility and great technology is starting to give rise to a new frustration in gamers.

How come when I purchase a game for the Playstation 3 I can’t play that exact same game on my computer without having to fork out another $100? Or why do I have to buy a digital copy of a game when I’ve already bought a physical copy for the same system?

Ten years ago the reason for this was obvious, every computer and console game were worlds apart from each other in hardware and often no two consoles would even have the same game. When deciding on a console you were signing up for all the exclusive titles that particular system would release. If you had told me in a few years Mario and Sonic would be hanging out with each other at the Olympics I would have called you a dirty damn liar, but in reality this is the world we live in now.

With these developments in mind, the future of gaming looks hopeful. Very soon every system will be able to play the same games as each other and they will all have some sort of digital platform for selling their games.

This could mean some very significant developments for the gamer.

Firstly, if you buy a game on one system you would be able to play a digital copy of it on all other major consoles (remember the first rule of selling? Make your product as easy to buy as possible). For instance, if I own Console A and have a long list of games for it, I’m less likely to purchase Console B or even newer models of Console A, because in the current system buying a new console makes you feel redundant if you can’t play games on it you’ve technically already paid for.

Secondly, every digital purchase could be connected to a universal account that could be accessed by every console or computer under that name. This would cause sales to rise astronomically. The reason for this is that developers lose millions of dollars a year because of pre-owned games. They can only make money off selling a physical copy of a videogame once, so if somebody sells that game back to a store or online then the developer will never see another dollar from that sale.

If games were all digital copies then there would be no way to sell or trade them, meaning every copy would see a profit to the developer and the consumer who bought it would get to have this digital copy virtually forever.

This isn’t just one gamer’s pipe dream, recently the Playstation 3 version of Portal 2 contained a free digital copy of the game for use on PC and Mac computers. Not only tha,t but the online co-op was compatible with all systems meaning that someone on a Playstation could play with somebody playing on a PC.

This sort of company cooperation is going to be a hard sell to organisations who believe the future security of their brand is through remaining totally self reliant, but they will soon find that once others begin to do it they wont have any other option as consumers will always opt for this consumer friendly system.

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