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thing about this protest is that it's not just consumers who want
the price of videogames significantly reduced. Many of the
people who actually create the games - the designers, the artists,
the musicians - agree that videogames are overpriced. They're sick of seeing interesting,
innovative, creative game ideas fall by the wayside because people
are scared to take a risk buying something new and different when
it costs 40 pounds. They're tired of having to spend all their time
making the same games over and over again because the high price
means that people will only buy things they already know.
"At £40 for a game people are very cautious. Now films usually
cost £20, and at £20 you're prepared to take a risk and buy a film
that you've heard is good... you're not sure, but you'll take a
chance. But £40 is too much to do that" - Charles Cecil,
head of Revolution Software, creators of games like the popular
Broken Sword series.
"It's just not worth producing original product
any more. Research and development is just so staggeringly
expensive. I'd encourage anyone who's planning on setting up a development
company just to do loads of derivative shit - it's cheaper to produce,
and easier to sell. To succeed with original stuff, you've got to
be good, and you've got to be lucky." -
Jon Hare, director of Sensible Software, producer of the smash
hits Sensible Soccer and Cannon Fodder.
my 17 years of designing games, I've never known publishers to be
so resistant to original game ideas. This creative stagnation is
directly related to the polarized, hit-driven market caused by high
prices. Repositioning games in the impulse-buy
price bracket would make the hobby accessible to a far greater audience
who in turn would be more likely to take chances with new original
games and genres. The Fair Play campaign is exactly what the
industry needs - cheaper games will be good news for gamers,
developers and publishers alike." - John Pickford of Zed
Two, successful developers of games on countless formats for almost
And what about the rest of the videogames
industry? The magazines who cover it, for example?
"Gaming's utterly rigid price structure, where all new
console games cost roughly the same, is harming the industry. It
is harming the industry because casual browsers can't be sure what's
in the DVD box they're buying and because, at over £40 a throw,
it's difficult to justify a purchase with a question mark over it.
Easier to go for a couple of DVDs with pointless featurettes and
unwanted extras. You know exactly what you're getting." - Edge
magazine, October 2002
"The price of games is crippling innovation
- with people buying so few games, they take very few risks, so
publishers play safer and safer, so sales slip further downwards
(how many driving games and beat-'em-ups do you need?), so games
get more expensive to recoup the losses, etc etc." - Computer
It's pretty clear, then, that there is only one section of the videogames
industry that believes prices should be as high as they are now,
and that's the besuited businessmen at the top of the publishing
companies. "Well, fair enough," you might say, "they're
in business to make money and they must know what they're doing,
who are we to tell them they're wrong?" Which would be fine
if they actually did make money. But, as we noted on the front page
of this site, the videogames business is actually a financial disaster
Roughly 95% of all games released actually lose
money, and publishers only survive by raking in massive sums on
the few successful games they manage to produce. Taken as a
whole, the industry loses hundreds of millions of pounds
every single year, which is why its trade body
ELSPA is continually
going cap-in-hand to the government asking for huge subsidies
of taxpayers' money
like those granted to the movie industry.
Yes, not only is the
videogames industry happy to rip you off by charging far more than
videogames ought to cost - and far more than they cost anywhere
else in the world - they actually want you to hand over your tax
money so that they can keep doing it.
So if games lose money, why do we think they should be cheaper?
The truth is, were the price of games to be reduced, a wider spectrum
of software would be successful, people who currently quite rightly
feel ripped off would buy more games instead of resorting to illegal
pirate copies - which the industry insists help to fund terrorism,
drug-dealing and pornography, by the way - and people who currently
don't play games at all because of the prohibitive cost would be
brought into the market. Sales would soar by more than enough to
make up for the price reduction.
Every time the industry has seen significant
price reductions - such as in 1997 when a price war reduced the
nationwide price of Playstation games from £40 to £30 - sales have
rocketed by far more than the relative size of the price cut. Unfortunately,
the fat cats can never resist the temptation to force the price
back up as soon as possible, because they don't want people to get
used to cheap games. (If they did, the next big blockbuster might
make less money, you see. They simply fail to grasp that with lower
prices, the 95% of unsuccessful games they also publish might not
be unsuccessful, so they'd actually make more money overall,
and by not putting all their eggs in one basket they'd be running
a much less risky business.)
Fair Play doesn't want to destroy the videogames companies.
It's the belief of almost everyone in the industry, from consumers
to journalists to game developers, that significantly lower prices
would ultimately bring MORE money and profit into the industry.
The only people who don't believe that, the only people who insist
on the high prices, are the people whose incompetent management
of the industry have caused it to lose billions of pounds and
tens of thousands of jobs in the last few years. So you'll forgive
us if we don't have too much respect for their professional skills.
But these people aren't, sadly, smart enough to listen to simple
arguments.. So we want to persuade them using the only language
they (even vaguely) understand - money. If we hit them in the
pocket, they'll listen.
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