Back in December on www.joelcouture.com, I wrote about the expectations I had of the next big Capcom fighting game. I said that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a sales flop, with Capcom’s customers having been burned several times by these ‘Complete Editions’ that they’d been releasing for all of their big-budget games. While not being right on the mark, Street Fighter X Tekken‘s disappointing sales shows me that I’m not far off. While releasing a new version of the game loaded with DLC a few months down the road might seem like an easy way to hook new players, it’s doing much more to erode the confidence of the people who bought the games to begin with.
With Capcom’s policy of reliably releasing a better edition of its games a little under a year later, can you blame people for wanting to wait? It’s not the only company to blame either, as recent versions of Batman: Arkham City and Dead Island (I don’t think ‘Game of the Year’ Edition could possibly be more of a misnomer for this game) have been announced, promising all DLC and other little goodies. Now, these games haven’t even been out a year yet, but already people are getting more game-play for less money. It’s probably making the handful of people who held off on the game pretty happy, but what about those people who already have a $100 worth of Collector’s Editions sitting at home? How do you think they feel?
I understand the idea behind these new versions. If you’ve got a completed game and a bunch of new content for it, why not just ship it out to stores? It’ll probably draw a bunch of new people to the game, since word of mouth has spread the news for ages. If these people were considering buying it used for cheaper, then this curtails used sales, since you can get a cheap and better version just by buying it new. Those people who bought it before might want in on the action, too. Since the price is set so low, maybe a few of them will grab it just to see the new content, especially those guys who love fighting games. It’ll make some quick, easy money for the company without a lot of working needing to be paid for.
I’m sure those things are all well and good for the company, but when this sort of behavior becomes a pattern, gamers start to get annoyed. If you’re into Capcom fighters, or even Capcom games in general, you know what I’m talking about. Street Fighter IV had two separate new editions come out. Dead Rising 2 was followed by Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 had Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 nipping at its heels not too long afterwards. When your company is notorious for releasing a better edition of a game shortly after the initial release, what do you think that tells your customers?
It tells them to wait. Why on earth would you spend $60 on a broken version of something when you can just wait a little bit longer to get a better version for only $40? Not only are you telling your buyers that they’re wasting their money on buying the first run of your game, you’re actually giving them $20, just for waiting. Hold-outs are being rewarded for not supporting the game to begin with.
I just don’t see how franchises can hope to gain any traction when they’re actively sabotaging their own releases. New buyers are given a lackluster game with no extra content, and they’re asked to pay more money for it. These funds are then channelled into making a better product for the people who didn’t support the game to begin with. The people who didn’t care enough about the franchise to buy it full price are being rewarded, and the people who love and support it are being punished. Does no one at Capcom see the problem with this? Do any of the other developers?
Complete editions are a slap in the face to the people who waited in lines at midnight to buy the game. The most rabid and loyal among the fan base of any game are penalized, time and again, for their support. This isn’t something that goes unnoticed, either. Those die-hard fans will eventually realize they’re screwing themselves by buying the game right out of the gate, and maybe a few of them will hold off on the next game. Maybe they aren’t in as big of a hurry to pick up the next game, since nothing but good things will happen to them if they hold out. I do wonder if Street Fighter X Tekken‘s lost sales are a result of this attitude coming to bear.
This isn’t something a couple of stupid pre-order bonuses are going to fix, either. I believe that any game that is even considering a complete edition down the road needs to put a code in the initial release of their game, one that gives permanent free DLC to the owner of the game. It doesn’t have to be every little costume and palette swap, but it should give out every character, level, and item you ever intend to make for the game. These people, out of anyone else, deserve to be rewarded.
Someone who buys your game within the first week is a supporter, someone who actively cares if your game does well. They’re the only reason why you’re in the business of making games at all, since they’re the ones who write your paycheck. Without the people buying games on day one, there would be no gaming industry. These are the men and women who make it so these games happen, and their continued belief in your franchises means they’ll keep going. Without these initial buyers, there is no DLC, no future planned content, nothing. They make everything happen by taking a chance with their wallets, and it’s about time that they were rewarded for it.
It’s an expensive plan, I won’t argue that. Providing new content for people post-release is going to cost a lot of money, but it’s still content that was going to be made anyway. Not every game is going to be bought during that initial release period, so there’s money to be made selling DLC to those guys. Also, it will give you something you can make some money on from used game sales, so you’ll at least be gaining some cash from every copy of the game out there. You guys lose a little bit in DLC sales to the starting buyers, but you make up a whole lot more when people scramble to get your next game on release day, knowing they’ll be getting the most value for the game at that time.
If complete editions are going to keep coming out, developers like Capcom are going to have to take a hard look at the message they’re sending the buyers. Do you want your most valuable customers to feel like they’re constantly being cheated for buying the games on release day, or do you want them to be excited for it? Do you really want your most important customers feeling like they’re making a bad decision when they buy your game?
If making people regret buying your games is your tactic, how long do you expect to stay around?