"Videogames are a rip off", loudly proclaims the front
of the FairPlay Campaign website, which is devoted to forcing
publishers to reduce the price of games through a series of consumer
pressure actions - including an all-out boycott of games purchasing
in the first week of December.
The site goes on to boldly
claim that "there isn't a single reason that games couldn't be sold
at £20, or even less", and accuses the games industry of gross
financial incompetence and of seriously damaging itself by
overpricing its products. The campaign proceeds to point the finger
squarely at the license fee charged by the platform holders for
producing games, and at the publishers themselves, for perpetuating
"rip-off" prices for consumers.
Fighting words indeed - and
the organisers of the campaign, which is the brainchild of freelance
games journalist Stuart Campbell, have collected an
impressive-looking set of quotes alleging to support their
arguments. All here is not what it seems, however, with the very
first quote offered by the group - from game design luminary Peter
Molyneux - being no less than six years out of date, being taken
from an article in CTW published at that time. Other quotes on the
site attributed to defunct trade magazine CTW are taken from
articles originally written by Stuart Campbell himself, a fact that
is not alluded to at any point.
"The quote from me that
appears on the FairPlay site was given in 1996," Molyneux told
GamesIndustry.biz yesterday afternoon, "when software had just
increased in price - and in actual fact led to the production of
some amazing games… Whilst most people, even the IDSA, are
anticipating a gradual decrease in the cost of games, we don't know
of any major price drop in the near future - year on year the cost
of making games has gone up by £1 million since 1996, when this
quote was given."
Indeed, scratch the surface at any point,
and it would seem that the much of the rhetoric of the FairPlay
campaign is based on some completely unfounded assertions that have
never been backed up by facts or research. "It's Fair Play's core
belief that if the price of games were cut in half, sales would - at
least - double," the site boldly proclaims at one point, although no
evidence is ever presented to support this claim.
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
FairPlay site announces - despite all evidence to the contrary "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."
managing director Miles Jacobson can't be accused of losing the
industry either money or jobs in the past few years, with his
company riding high on the list of the top-performing technical
companies in the UK in this week's Sunday Times TechTrack 100. "It's
not realistic", he says bluntly of the FairPlay campaigns aims.
"To me, the arguments of the FairPlay campaign do not add
up," he told GI.biz. "The organisers have made one good point - 'the
price of games is too expensive, and if they were cheaper we'd buy
more of them'. That's true. But the economies of scale are not - how
many people do you know who want to own 50 console titles? I've
bought just about every console since the NES, and have never owned
50 games on one (even with the ability to get the games for free!)"
Jacobson continues, "They have also interpreted their
results in a very journalistic way, rather than a business way -
huge costs have been missed out from their equations, and they've
given no proof that their equations work, just subjective comments.
Without conclusive proof, they won't change a thing."
Overall, FairPlay comes across as an ill-researched and
bitter broadside against the games industry as opposed to a consumer
campaign, even going so far as to criticise ELSPA's efforts to
secure tax breaks for the industry similar to those enjoyed by the
film industry as "asking for huge subsidies of taxpayers' money" so
that they can continue to "rip off" the consumers.
agrees that the tone of the campaign is all wrong. "If the
organisers had actually done their research properly, they might
have come up with something interesting, but the tone of the
campaign will do nothing to help their cause at all - people in this
industry have just as much right to eat as anyone else, and the
stars of the industry have just as much right to be "rich" as
actors, musicians, authors or anyone else who works in a creative
industry for the hard work they put in and the entertainment they
give to people."
"What the campaign seems to be promoting is
better value for the consumer without giving any factual reasons of
where the shortfall of revenue would come from, and at a time when
developers and publishers are in (dire) financial straits all over
the world, if the campaign works it's more likely to make more of
the smaller companies go under and leave us with a non-creative
software industry. And that would suck, big time."
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