Piracy’s a crime, and crime doesn’t pay. However the laws regarding piracy are so scarcely enforced that everyone and their mother is doing it anyway. In this climate, one can wonder why many publishers do everything they can to seemingly ENCOURAGE the piracy of their games instead of simply listening to the consumer.
Most guilty of this is the publisher I hate the most, Electronic Arts, the biggest company around. These guys have developed milking their consumers to an artform. By appealing mostly to a more casual crowd(this calls , they have a net so wide of an audience so submissive that they can charge more than usual for less content than others publishers could get away with. Their DLC practices, especially in the Sims series, and the whole EA Sports division are the best examples of this. Consider that The Sims 3 is still 40€ on Steam, which is unacceptable for a game of that age, and buying all of the DLC costs 550€ on top of this. Even considering taking only the major DLC (the expansion packs, which contain the better content) costs 340€, which added to the base cost of the game is a grand total of 380€. Even on sale, the whole package goes for more than 200€.This is unacceptably expensive for a game this old.
Here’s the main thing. Most gamers I know (and I’ll have to do a survey at one point) say they would not spend more than 40€ on a game. I personally think carefully before buying a game over 20€, which is why I buy so many games on Steam during sales. Charging 60 bucks for a game, which is standard price for a triple-A publisher, is making it a purchase that most people will not be willing to make often. In fact, the reason why Call of Duty used to sell so well and make so much money is because this was the one and only game a whole category of younger gamers bought for an entire year, and they played nothing but that. Now, when you are Activision and you own the biggest FPS franchise of all time, this is great. When you are another major publisher and you want to get to this public, you need to find your audience. EA chose the casual crowd, Ubisoft the open-world fans. And both charge 60 bucks a piece.
But you don’t want the consumer to buy a single game a year. You want a steady income. So how do you make pirates, the other large gamer category, buy games legally ? Most publishers use DRM and other methods that make the game tougher to crack, but these measures are rarely effective, and often anti-consumer. (I’ll try and research more reasons than that I already know and compile them in an article later on). The only game I wanted to really crack and coudn’t find a torrent of was Total War : Warhammer. (In case you’re wondering, I ended up buying it via Humble Bundle for 12 dollars, which is a much more reasonable price than the current 60, fell in love with it, and bought the DLCs during a sale. What do you want, I’m a Warhammer fan.) The constant is that pirates will always be smarter than you.
The other way to go is to keep gamers attached with a good deal, which I think Paradox does pretty well. Take the example of Crusader Kings II : the base game costs 40 bucks, with regular, 15-20 bucks large DLC that add a number of new mechanics to the game, and additional, 3-10 bucks small DLC, most of which is situational (Europa Universalis 4 converter, for example⁾ or aesthetic (skins, portraits, music…) The ultimate price is close to a -50 % sale on the whole Sims 3 package, but there is more content for way less, and the regular updates keep the gamer playing.
Another way to do it is what Rockstar did with GTA Online, with regular, free updates. The game is still at 60 bucks, at least at my local gamestore, but it is updated regularly with new features that kind of resemble a DLC, except they’re free when Rockstar would have gotten away with charging 10-15 bucks each. Perhaps.
Finally, the older model is still the best. The Witcher 3, the latest game to come out with an old-school business model, delivers a standard-priced core game that is worth its cost (and is even 10 bucks less here, 50 bucks) and two, old-style massive expansion packs for 20 bucks each, which are also worth their price. Plus, they did give a bunch of smaller, mostly cosmetic DLC for free when the game came out. Plus, they also refuse DRM on their platform, GOG.com, which is a serious contender to Steam when it comes to older games. That, to me (and I swear I’m not being payed by CD Projeckt Red) is worth supporting.