What Is It Worth to You?
In 2007, Radiohead did something relatively ballsy. They put their then newest album, “In Rainbows” up for digital download. And the price was whatever you wanted to pay.
Yes, you could have paid nothing.
But this was not just Radiohead being nice to their fans. No, this was much bigger than that. By letting downloaders pay what they wanted, Radiohead posed the question “What is our music worth to you?”. And you know what? It spoke volumes.
Some paid nothing. Others paid $100+ for the album. Without even hearing it.
The question now is this:
When will a major game developer, say, Activision for example (Call of Duty, anyone?), pull this kind of stunt?
And, more importantly, would it even work? Or would millions of gamers just download it for free, and seriously harm the revenue of one of gaming’s biggest cash-cows?
The question is a lot harder to answer than it might seem at first.
Radiohead managed to make a decent amount of money off of “In Rainbows”. Even though the album was free to download, it still sold extremely well on CD (and vinyl, of course). Even though many people downloaded the whole thing for free, Radiohead still made money of the digital release overall. And it made listeners question their appreciation of the band when it came time to say what the music was worth to them. But gamers are not like music lovers. And there are not many games that are as big as Radiohead (that may be an inaccurate statement).
Gamers, as a whole, are cheap. They are whiney. They do not like to pay for games. And then they wonder why games don’t get sequels, or why games that could have been great end up being awful.
Most gamers, if given the opportunity, would never pay for a single game ever again. It does not make any sense. If you want companies to develop games in the future, don’t you think it would be a good idea to support those companies? How can they afford to make a new game if everyone stole the last one? They can’t. That’s why most developers don’t even bother with the DS. Because of the emulators for it. They’re harmful to the market.
This isn’t to say that games are fairly priced. Because they are not. $60 for a full console release as a standard is absolutely not the way to do things. It causes gamers to skip releases that they otherwise would have been enjoying immediately upon launch. It causes dedicated fans to empty their wallets faster than they can refill them. And it makes GameStop’s used game section sort of worth it. Sort of. No used game should cost $55.
Back on topic, a name your own price full console release would almost certainly be doomed to fail. It would have to be from a trusted series, like Call of Duty, In fact, CoD might be the only series that even has a shot in hell of succeeding with a name your own price release.
It would have to go along the same lines as Radiohead’s digital release alongside it’s physical release. In english, that means release the game online with the “name your price” thing, and release physical copies in the store for the full price. See which sells better.
The only thing that would have to be different is that this would need to happen more than once. That’s why CoD is the best series to do it. There is a new CoD every year. If, for the next 3 years, Activision did a name your own price release, it could potentially speak volumes. Potentially.
Most gamers will get the free version, and keep it free. That’s just the way things are.
But if they didn’t, maybe we would finally learn what games are actually worth to individual gamers. The developers could learn a lot from that. It might actually change the way the market works.
This is all hypothetical. It most likely won’t happen. Gamers will love getting free games way too much to show how much the game is actually worth to them.