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A factor of 40
October 24, 2011 9:48 PM   Subscribe

How Valve experiments with the economics of video games
posted by Artw (80 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read that earlier today (linked from RPS) and thought it was fascinating. In part though I also think it's funny that it's even a question. The people buying the games are just people - surely we can ask ourselves whether one thing or another would influence us to buy something?

But of course, the answers that Mr. Newell gives to those questions are apparently different from the answers given by thousands of customers, and in a repeatable way as well. I wonder if Valve have any sociologists on staff?
posted by kavasa at 9:56 PM on October 24, 2011


Valve - the Pixar of the video game world?

(obligatory reference to Half Life's third episode)
posted by to sir with millipedes at 9:58 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every live service in the world is grappling with similar kinds of data swarms - sometimes with no other product at hand (like when "you're the product") - this kind of data is some of the most commercially valuable goo that's out there. It's pretty freakin' refreshing to see Newell out there just spilling it like that...
posted by victors at 10:06 PM on October 24, 2011


This is what I've been arguing for since the late 90s -- that music and movie industries could have made kickass services very early on that offered good downloads for a cheap price and beat piracy before it even got going. Music got it only because of Apple, the film industry still doesn't get it.
posted by mathowie at 10:19 PM on October 24, 2011 [13 favorites]


I wouldn't have even bothered downloading Steam if it weren't for Team Fortress 2 being free, and the fact that Civ V was cheaper through them than it was in an actual store. And once I was there, I got Left 4 Dead 2 for a couple of bucks, and since then I guess I've spent a couple of hundred on Steam games (as well as, to my eternal shame, a few more dollars on TF2 microtransactions, which was kind of stupid spending since I don't bother with that game any more). Terraria was five bucks and I would have to estimate I sank about 20 or 30 hours into that thing.

But now I'm kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. Whereas before I was spending $100 apiece on Xbox titles, I pumped a few hundred into upgrading my PC, on a whim, so it would run relatively modern stuff. Problem is that has put me right back in the infinite upgrade cycle, which is just a massive black hole of wasted money and squandered resources. And I'm not sure I'm willing to pay $50 for, I dunno, Arkham City on the PC when it's going to necessitate a $200+ upgrade (say, a new graphics card, or a SSD) in order to get it running nicely. But I want to play the game, so I'm going to shell out $100 for the Xbox version when I get around to it.

PC gaming is great because you have things like Steam and Good Old Games and can, indeed, find some good old games for minuscule prices, and there are a lot of good old games I love to play and will spend $5 on without even thinking about it. But there are also brand new shiny games I want to play and PC games, these days, are very lazily programmed, because you can upgrade your PC and developers like id think they are such amazingly hot shit that rubes are going to overhaul their machines because they want to play Rage (and, from what I'm hearing, good luck getting that thing to run on your ATI card, no matter how much you paid for it or how recent it is).

But then you go back to your 360 or PS3, which is just archaic technology, and you can run the games because they have been properly programmed (or cross-ported) because there are only so many variables with a 360 or PS3 and developers can concentrate on optimising the engine to run and look as good as possible without worrying if it will work with sound card Brand X model #1112. But no matter how good a job they do Arkham City is never going to look as good or run as smooth on a 360 as it is on a new PC. And there's no 720 or PS4 on the immediate horizon, so we either experience a less-optimal version of a game because we don't have a PC or don't want to upgrade it (and because there is no decent content delivery on the 360 or PS3, we pay through the nose for a boxed version); or we constantly pour money into our PCs.

So no matter how "good" things might be, we are still getting screwed in one way or another. No I don't have a point, it's just gaming annoys me severely and at the same time I love it to bits and it sucks to have to hate the thing you love, it doesn't make sense at all.
posted by tumid dahlia at 10:21 PM on October 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


So… is Valve doing this good, or is it bad like when Amazon or airlines do it?
posted by Pinback at 10:26 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're doing it to gather price elasticity data, I think that's fair. People have been doing that for ages in certain markets; it just took a MUCH longer time to manage. If you're doing it to extract higher prices from suckers, though...


Overall, this is an amazing interview. If he's telling the truth, it's both astounding and somewhat vindicating.
posted by introp at 10:32 PM on October 24, 2011



I can tell you that steam has completely changed the way I buy games. It used to be I'd buy games when they first came out, play the hell out of them and then sell them used - so this way I wasn't spending full price for the games. Also, this guaranteed that I could play them, since some games just disappear from shelves after a while, or won't change much in price even though the used market dries up.

But with Steam, the game is pretty much always going to be available. So, I just wait for a good sale, and boom, there it is.

Plus, I love love love that the games are always available.

The downsides however are that there is no consistent way to handle mods, and/or addons. Some use the /User/Mydocuments folder. Some use the game folder. It would be nice if the steam API handled that better. I don't care about that friend shit, fix this!

The worse are those require getting a code from steam, registering on some other website, and doing some validation there (EA Games are particularly obnoxious on this point). and then sacrificing a goat and standing on your head to enable.

That being said, Steam has worked out so much better than I thought it would or could when it started way back when.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:33 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just so everyone is clear on what's being done here: There is not, to the best of my knowledge, any airline ticket-ish gaming of prices on steam. All steam users see the same price for a product at any given time. This isn't some sleazy thing where some users are offered a better price than others and there's some A-B testing being done or anything like that.

When Gabe talks about an "experiment", he means they lowered the price for everyone for a week (or whatever) and watched what happened to sales in that week compared to previous weeks.
posted by jcreigh at 10:40 PM on October 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


tumid, I've been building boxes from sale stuff and used hardware for years and years. You really, really do not have to spend a lot of money to play pretty recent stuff. Especially with all the indie stuff.
posted by kavasa at 10:42 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The downsides however are that there is no consistent way to handle mods, and/or addons. Some use the /User/Mydocuments folder. Some use the game folder. It would be nice if the steam API handled that better. I don't care about that friend shit, fix this!

Desura does this pretty well, and I can attest it gets along with Steam. The list of supported mods is growing. I downloaded MeFi favorite Dear Esther without incident -- in fact, some mods actually show up in your Steam library.
posted by lumensimus at 11:32 PM on October 24, 2011


The people buying the games are just people - surely we can ask ourselves whether one thing or another would influence us to buy something?

If you've tried this, you'll know that what people say doesn't really bear an especially strong resemblance to what they do. I'm continually surprised at how people don't really understand themselves.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:43 PM on October 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


If you're doing it to extract higher prices from suckers, though...

They were competing against pirates, and they won, by offering a better deal than "free". So yeah, they're doing it to extract higher prices, but as long as the pirates are around, the higher prices come at least partly from offering a better experience, and that's good for everyone.

(Wow it pissed me off when all I wanted to do was spend my $money$ on buying music, but the RIAA was whining "we can't compete with free!" instead of simply giving us a way to buy their shit that didn't suck worse than dredging through malware infested swamps of shittily encoded music files.
Fortunately Steve Jobs wasn't such a moron, and handed them their asses.)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:57 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


But now I'm kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. Whereas before I was spending $100 apiece on Xbox titles, I pumped a few hundred into upgrading my PC, on a whim, so it would run relatively modern stuff. Problem is that has put me right back in the infinite upgrade cycle, which is just a massive black hole of wasted money and squandered resources. And I'm not sure I'm willing to pay $50 for, I dunno, Arkham City on the PC when it's going to necessitate a $200+ upgrade (say, a new graphics card, or a SSD) in order to get it running nicely. But I want to play the game, so I'm going to shell out $100 for the Xbox version when I get around to it.

This is pretty much nonsense. A GTX 460, 2 gig of memory and a cheap dual core will run any game currently in existence at very high settings.

Hell, a 9800 GT (from 2008) will do for 90% of games. The prevalence of console ports has largely ended the upgrade cycle.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:46 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Wow it pissed me off when all I wanted to do was spend my $money$ on buying music, but the RIAA was whining "we can't compete with free!" instead of simply giving us a way to buy their shit that didn't suck worse than dredging through malware infested swamps of shittily encoded music files.
Fortunately Steve Jobs wasn't such a moron, and handed them their asses.)


I know - I wonder how many of those RIAA execs had drunk bottled water?
posted by Sebmojo at 12:47 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


tumid, I've been building boxes from sale stuff and used hardware for years and years.

Understood that it can be done, it's just a massive PITA.

This is pretty much nonsense. A GTX 460, 2 gig of memory and a cheap dual core will run any game currently in existence at very high settings.

Which necessitates what? In my most recent upgrade splurge I bought all the things you mentioned (pretty much the exact things, actually, so at least I'm on the right track, but that lead to requiring: (a) a new motherboard to fit the stuff in (fair enough), (b) a new power supply (grr), and, oh shit, none of this actually fits in the fucking case, so now I need (c) a new case. I guess new cases are something that don't get bought as often as the other stuff (the original box was pretty damn old), but it's just thing after thing. And heaven forbid you reach the magical arbitrary limit where Windows decides you've put in too many new parts and now you need to buy it again.
posted by tumid dahlia at 1:01 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


All steam users see the same price for a product at any given time. This isn't some sleazy thing where some users are offered a better price than others and there's some A-B testing being done or anything like that.

Not true, Australians get slammed for much higher prices than Americans or Europeans - quite often double - a game like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 would display $US40 to a US customer, but instead display AUD 90 to an Australian - at a time when the AUD was trading above parity with the $US.

The way some of us got around it was to get someone who lived in UK or US to buy them for themselves and "gift" it to us over here.

Pissed me off no end. I would say Steam / Valve is even more evil than normal game stores, which already price gouge - at least normal game stores can maybe use the excuse that labour prices and shipping is higher in Australia - for Steam, Valve pays no additional cost to provide the game here, heck, even the download bandwidth for the game is provided by my ISP which hosts the local Steam node to begin with.

So yeah. Fuck Valve, fuck Steam. Viva le piracy.
posted by xdvesper at 1:02 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


xdvesper just reminded me about that. Yeah, that was shitty. GoG was selling Witcher 2 for the same price as Steam because of "restrictions" but they also gave extra credit to their store for Australians, because they knew we were getting severely ripped off by Valve and by retailers.
posted by tumid dahlia at 1:05 AM on October 25, 2011


Hell, a 9800 GT (from 2008) will do for 90% of games. The prevalence of console ports has largely ended the upgrade cycle.

Pretty much this. I checked, and my video card is in fact from 2008, a HD 4850. It runs everything well enough, maybe not fully maxed in DirectX 11 or whatever, but it still looks a heck of a lot nicer than a console port. I haven't tried Rage but I haven't heard great things anyway, but anything that is also releasing on console will run on a 3-5 year old PC just fine. The sad thing is I just realized my warranty ended, better go sacrifice a goat or something.
posted by mek at 1:15 AM on October 25, 2011


This is pretty much nonsense. A GTX 460, 2 gig of memory and a cheap dual core will run any game currently in existence at very high settings.

The nice thing is that you can buy stuff cheap on the second-hand market. My Phenom II 550 was annoyingly loud in the lounge, so I spent NZ$120 on a side-grade to a Core2 E6550, 4 GB of RAM, and a really nice motherboard that probably cost $300 or more new. Guy even threw in an old case. The Phenom's off to a server in a cupboard somewhere, and the Athlon X2 *it's* replacing is off to a co-lo server.
posted by rodgerd at 1:15 AM on October 25, 2011


Which necessitates what? In my most recent upgrade splurge I bought all the things you mentioned (pretty much the exact things, actually, so at least I'm on the right track, but that lead to requiring: (a) a new motherboard to fit the stuff in (fair enough), (b) a new power supply (grr), and, oh shit, none of this actually fits in the fucking case, so now I need (c) a new case. I guess new cases are something that don't get bought as often as the other stuff (the original box was pretty damn old), but it's just thing after thing. And heaven forbid you reach the magical arbitrary limit where Windows decides you've put in too many new parts and now you need to buy it again.

OK, granted. But once you have that you're set in a way that is quite different from if you'd spent a similar amount in say 2006.

Pissed me off no end. I would say Steam / Valve is even more evil than normal game stores, which already price gouge - at least normal game stores can maybe use the excuse that labour prices and shipping is higher in Australia - for Steam, Valve pays no additional cost to provide the game here, heck, even the download bandwidth for the game is provided by my ISP which hosts the local Steam node to begin with.

So yeah. Fuck Valve, fuck Steam. Viva le piracy.


My understanding is that prices are set by publishers. And there's some politics in how willing bricks and mortar stores are to be undercut.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:20 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


On preview, seconding what Sebmojo said.

I wouldn't have even bothered downloading Steam if it weren't for Team Fortress 2 being free, and the fact that Civ V was cheaper through them than it was in an actual store.

Actually, any version of Civ V would have required a download of Steam, because it is Steamworks and requires it to run.
posted by graventy at 1:24 AM on October 25, 2011


Viva le piracy.

Or just Viva le just don't play the damn game if you don't feel like buying it.
posted by dumbland at 1:32 AM on October 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


just!
posted by dumbland at 1:34 AM on October 25, 2011


What second-hand market is that, rodgerd?
posted by Kevin Street at 1:36 AM on October 25, 2011


Kevin: TradeMe. I assume e-bay performs a similar function elsewhere.
posted by rodgerd at 1:53 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


A good guide to current steam pricing: http://www.steamprices.com. Individual publishers set the prices they want to charge for each region. Find where the cheapest price is for the game you want, and get a local friend to purchase and gift it.
posted by kithrater at 1:56 AM on October 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


OK, granted. But once you have that you're set in a way that is quite different from if you'd spent a similar amount in say 2006.

I guess that's true enough. I've been pretty much out of the PC building loop for a good few years now.
posted by tumid dahlia at 1:56 AM on October 25, 2011


The PC I built in 2008 was able to handle Starcraft, and simply upgrading the video card meant I was able to play with the highest graphics settings at about 48 FPS. I hardly play any games, though, so I don't really know how expensive it is to keep up with the upgrade cycle, but if you don't need the absolute best it shouldn't be that expensive (I'm amazed that there are games out there that require SSDs to play well at this point)
posted by delmoi at 2:16 AM on October 25, 2011


I'm amazed that there are games out there that require SSDs to play well at this point)

There aren't - that was Dahlian hyperbole.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:27 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


PC that was on the low end of mid-range when I built it in 2008 represent! Dropped a £150 graphics card and a new PSU into it recently as the 8800GT was starting to feel a little old in stuff like the Witcher 2.

I love Steam. Before Steam I used to "acquire" games if it was possible but usually I'd never play them; they'd sit around eating hard disc space and when I eventually did decide to have a go they'd be out of date (and patching a cracked game is a pain in the face). With Steam I can still buy stuff I'm excited about on day one (HAI SKYRIM) and for anything I'm less into, unsure about, or plain don't have time for I know it'll come up in a sale sooner or later. All three Stalker games were in the summer sale this year so, having seen there were fan patches that fixed all the jankiness that had put me off before, I bought them for a song and a dance and had one of the most memorable gaming experiences of my life.

Steam has got me into indie games, too. XBLA and XBIndie are too much of a pain to use (seriously, you want me to TURN ON THE XBOX and then SIT THROUGH THE LENGTHY LOG-IN SEQUENCE when I could just do stuff on this PC that's already on?) but now there those games are, sat in my favourites list alongside the big stuff.

Basically, I'm lazy. Watching a load of gaming website subs for interesting indie games takes time I could spend playing them; running games out of multiple clients is annoying (although I do now have Origin installed for a bargain on Mass Effect 2); buying games from multiple sources is annoying. I get damn near everything from Steam and I'm really not too bothered that Valve have a near-monopoly because they seem to be doing okay by us so far.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:32 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


There aren't - that was Dahlian hyperbole.

Everyone is saying that the SSD is "the single most important upgrade" you can perform on your PC and since I guarantee it ain't for watching YouTube videos, gaming is the only thing that's left (people who say they do other things on their PC are lying). Also, I enjoy pronouncing "hyperbole" "HYPER-BOWL!" and I hope others feel the same way.
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:33 AM on October 25, 2011


("The single most important upgrade" because HDDs are the only real bottleneck that's left in modern machines.)
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:34 AM on October 25, 2011


("The single most important upgrade" because HDDs are the only real bottleneck that's left in modern machines.)

Everything is a bottleneck. A thing is fast only in comparison with another thing that's slow.
posted by JHarris at 2:47 AM on October 25, 2011


It is the game publishers who are ripping off Australian game buyer, not Valve. The publishers set the prices. This first came to light with COD4. Australians had the option of buying it stores here for $90 or whatever the hell it was, or paying about $50 on Steam. The local distributor kicked up a stink with their bosses back in the US and overnight it went up to $88. It's been like that every since, depending on who is releasing the game.

Note that Valve's own games are the same price here as in the US.
posted by markr at 2:49 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is the game publishers who are ripping off Australian game buyer, not Valve.

I know, but that's why I thought it was super-cool of GoG to throw in some credit towards other games.
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:50 AM on October 25, 2011


tumid dahlia, with all respect, I think you are listening too much to salesmen. SSD is probably the least important upgrade you can make to improve your gaming experience. Gaming is rarely I/O intensive during gameplay.

A proper mousepad, for example, would change your gaming life.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:00 AM on October 25, 2011


Oh, I ain't buying an SSD, don't worry about that. I'm just going off what the gaming websites like Rock Paper Shotgun have been saying.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:09 AM on October 25, 2011


Or just Viva le just don't play the damn game if you don't feel like buying it.

Yeah, that'll happen. Oh, no it won't, because so long as game companies think it's OK to have conversations like this:

"Hello. I would like to buy your bits. I understand that they cost $40.'
"I'm sorry. For you, bits cost more than double that price, because - well, I was going to say something about distance or currency or some shit, but who are we kidding? We don't need a fucking reason."

...some not insignificant portion of the market is going to say 'You know what? I tried to do the right thing, but two people can play the 'fuck you' game.'

We could get all Kantian, but for most people, you can't tell your high horse to fuck people in the arse and ride it too.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:11 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Assuming, perhaps wrongly, that they would know, but it would seem logical that if you've got SLI graphics and a quad-core whatever with 8GB of super-RAM, then a SATA hard drive running at however many rpm's is going to be the problem. Of course, as JHarris says, there's just going to be another problem. And that's the problem: there's always going to be a new problem. I remember when Doom 3 came out and id was all "Oh, the computer that will run this at full settings blah blah hasn't even been invented yet." Like, wtf?)
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:14 AM on October 25, 2011


(Assuming, perhaps wrongly, that they would know, but it would seem logical that if you've got SLI graphics and a quad-core whatever with 8GB of super-RAM, then a SATA hard drive running at however many rpm's is going to be the problem. Of course, as JHarris says, there's just going to be another problem. And that's the problem: there's always going to be a new problem. I remember when Doom 3 came out and id was all "Oh, the computer that will run this at full settings blah blah hasn't even been invented yet." Like, wtf?)

That thing, right there?

That's what we like to call upgrade OCD.

And it will always exist.

But right now it's at a low ebb.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:30 AM on October 25, 2011


Not really. I don't read sales pamphlets disguised as gaming whatever, and as such, I very rarely feel the need to upgrade at all. Just played the Battlefield 3 beta with my old rig and I guess it will be another year without upgrades.

It's no upgrade OCD. It's REMOVE SALESMEN FROM YOUR LIFE.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:35 AM on October 25, 2011


I guess we could choose to take Valve's "Australia tax" as a subtle compliment to the state of our economy compared to the rest of the developed world. But why can't we have jobs and reasonably priced videogames at the same time?
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:41 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Freeman, you fool!
posted by Fizz at 5:09 AM on October 25, 2011


I do like Steam. I mostly only buy games when they are $10 or less on there which generally means that I'm four or five years behind the rest of you but at least I don't have to upgrade my hardware very often.
posted by octothorpe at 5:33 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm amazed that there are games out there that require SSDs to play well at this point)

There aren't - that was Dahlian hyperbole.


Actually, one of the (many) technical problems with Rage is nearly solved if you install it on a SSD: hideously bad texture pop-in.

But, it's still not worth buying and installing, SSD or no, as the game has serious design issues, as well as all the tech bugs (although most of these have been fixed, more or less, with patches and new drivers - I would still argue the game should never have shipped in the condition it did.)

It's certainly the last id game I will buy without a demo or reviews.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:36 AM on October 25, 2011


I'm amazed that there are games out there that require SSDs to play well at this point)

There aren't - that was Dahlian hyperbole.


Surprisingly, World of Warcraft is much improved with an SSD.

It's an MMO that has been out for many years, so there are literally tens of thousands of different item models in the game. The game is seamless, so as much as possible there aren't loading screens, and being an MMO, it doesn't have the luxury that most games have of "ok here's a big ass loading screen where we load all the assets we're going to use from our HDD to our RAM", because the asset list is probably 20 gigs of stuff.

WoW frequently accesses your HDD during the game to pick up textures of stuff it needs to display when new players or NPCs or mobs appear in your field of view. Zone into a bustling city, and even the fastest HDD's struggly mightly trying to pick up a few hundred unique armour textures at once, and will working as new players move in and out. An SSD solves this problem.
posted by xdvesper at 5:44 AM on October 25, 2011


Honest question -- why is it bad for Valve to charge different prices to different customers?

It seems pretty clear from the linked interview that they're pretty devoted to using the data they're collecting on customers to maximize their revenue. In the end, you don't do that by charging everybody the same price; you do that by getting everybody to pay as much as they're willing to for your product. Most companies don't have any way to accomplish that, let alone a way to accomplish that without alienating their customers. But most companies don't have the ability to generate data about their customers that Valve does. Hard to imagine they're not working on it.
posted by escabeche at 6:00 AM on October 25, 2011


I had read most of these sentiments from Gabe before -- though now I figure it was the same event and just a different chronicle of it. He absolutely gets it -- it's the service, it's about making it easier then pirating the game, combined with the sudden sales (Wednesday! 40% off game you sort of wanted but now shit it's FORTY PERCENT OFF!).

The thing about the TF2 free to play, that sort of gets glossed over, is that a) they went F2P after they had already a long retail cycle. It was already a $10 or $5 game. b) Being just a deathmatchy/ clicky shooty game, much of the flavor of the game is totally the aesthetic or item lust of your fellow players. Somebody once aptly described TF2 as a "Hat Simulation Game with bonus shooting content" -- and the hats are $8, $10 sometimes. You can wait patiently for random drops to slowly piece together the set you're looking for in game, or you can go to the store and drop $5 and get it. It's tempting because it's so ingrained with the culture of the game -- it can be fresh and interesting, but in the end, what seperates one player's Scout from another player's Scout besides skill is the puffy wig one of the scouts is sporting.

Anyhoo. Love Valve. Love Gabe. They "get it", and they'll keep "getting it" from my wallet for their efforts.

(Did I mention the part where they had made 119 updates to TF2... and that was when I mentioned it last freakin year? A NEW UPDATE JUST CAME OUT LAST WEEKEND! Whewy)
posted by cavalier at 6:35 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The next thing I want to see is the stat for what percentage of games sold during their big sales (4th of July, Xmas) that their purchasers haven't been played.

Talk about money for nothing.

just want to know I'm not the only one who goes "Oh, that game for $3 is a bargain, and that one, and that one, I'll get to them when I have time"
posted by delfin at 6:54 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I would like to report myself for the WORST GRAMMAR EVER just now. Remind me not to edit the phrasing in a sentence without rereading the rest of it.
posted by delfin at 6:55 AM on October 25, 2011


Yeah, that'll happen. Oh, no it won't, because so long as game companies think it's OK to have conversations like this:

"Hello. I would like to buy your bits. I understand that they cost $40.'
"I'm sorry. For you, bits cost more than double that price, because - well, I was going to say something about distance or currency or some shit, but who are we kidding? We don't need a fucking reason."

...some not insignificant portion of the market is going to say 'You know what? I tried to do the right thing, but two people can play the 'fuck you' game.'


I don't disagree with you that it's shitty for game makers to arbitrarily price gouge based on location, but that by itself doesn't justify piracy. If you tried to draw an equivalent to the same situation played out with physical goods (hey, this game costs $60 in the Best Buy downtown, but is only $50 at the GameStop out in the 'burbs! Those thieving bastards! I will show them, by not paying for it at all!), you wouldn't make it very far. And, more to the point, you not paying those game developers anything is at least as objectionable as them overcharging you for their intellectual property.
posted by Mayor West at 7:05 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone is saying that the SSD is "the single most important upgrade" you can perform on your PC and since I guarantee it ain't for watching YouTube videos, gaming is the only thing that's left

SSD's aren't really for gaming. They're so that when you click on the Firefox icon or the Microsoft Word icon, or a PDF file, the program opens BAM! instantly. Instead of 0.5 - 5 seconds later.

You wouldn't think that would be a noticeable difference, but wow it makes your computer seem godlike. Just try using one for a while and then going back to a regular hard drive.
posted by straight at 7:29 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I remember when Doom 3 came out and id was all "Oh, the computer that will run this at full settings blah blah hasn't even been invented yet." Like, wtf?

People had the same incomprehensible complaint about Crysis when it came out. Why on earth would you object to a game that included super-high graphics settings for use when better hardware came available? Can you really not enjoy a game that looks fantastic if in the back of your head you're thinking, "This sucks, I'm only playing on 'MEDIUM'?"

Honestly, WTF?
posted by straight at 7:34 AM on October 25, 2011


Metafilter: you can't tell your high horse to fuck people in the arse and ride it too.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:37 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Problem is that has put me right back in the infinite upgrade cycle, which is just a massive black hole of wasted money and squandered resources.

That is why I strictly play 20th century arcade games via MAME. They'll run on all of my computers, and the development cycle just makes them work better. :)

But seriously, being perpetually 2 years behind the curve on something like games will save you a fortune. (As long as you can handle being a social pariah)
posted by Theta States at 7:45 AM on October 25, 2011


I'm enjoying the hell out of GTA 3 right now. 10 years! Though my best Steam old game discovery by far was Deus Ex, which proved to be everything people said it was.

They don't, AFAIK, have the early Thief or System Shock games as yet - if they ever crop up I'll be getting those.
posted by Artw at 8:39 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]



If you like old games, find the Tron 2.0 if you can.

Highly recommended, if you can find it and get it to run. It's a shame they didn't market it better, because it was very well done.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:43 AM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sebmojo: "But now I'm kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. Whereas before I was spending $100 apiece on Xbox titles, I pumped a few hundred into upgrading my PC, on a whim, so it would run relatively modern stuff. Problem is that has put me right back in the infinite upgrade cycle, which is just a massive black hole of wasted money and squandered resources. And I'm not sure I'm willing to pay $50 for, I dunno, Arkham City on the PC when it's going to necessitate a $200+ upgrade (say, a new graphics card, or a SSD) in order to get it running nicely. But I want to play the game, so I'm going to shell out $100 for the Xbox version when I get around to it.

This is pretty much nonsense. A GTX 460, 2 gig of memory and a cheap dual core will run any game currently in existence at very high settings.

Hell, a 9800 GT (from 2008) will do for 90% of games. The prevalence of console ports has largely ended the upgrade cycle.
"

Rocking a PCIe 1Gb 9500GT with a dual core Athlon XP and it works really nicely, including things like Crysis 2. If a game is well written, it will run well. If not, it will run like pants.

Although, I must confess, I am a dedicated PC gamer, if for no other reason than I have been poorly adapting to thumbsticks, preferring the mouse/keyboard combo for most things.

I also cite Steam to many people as the way to do DRM right, as Steam is a value add for me. I have, in fact, repurchased many titles I already own physical media for, as the convenience of not having to track a physical disk or manual/serial number for is wonderful. (I have a bunch of games right now I can't play as I have the media, but ,over several moves, have misplaced the cases/manuals for.) I also like the game matching features, and I even support the system data gathering features. I figure Valve (and possibly others) can write more stable games when they know what kind of hardware people ACTUALLY own, as opposed to what the magazines and websites out there think we should own.

Now, I haven't tried Arkham City (for obvious reasons), but I know my box handled Arkham Asylum (or rather the demo) beautifully. In fact I remember remarking to myself how fluid the animation was.
posted by Samizdata at 9:01 AM on October 25, 2011


That thing, right there?

That's what we like to call upgrade OCD.

And it will always exist.

But right now it's at a low ebb.


Until next month when Skyrim ships.

If a game is well written, it will run well. If not, it will run like pants.

That's more important to me than the Minimum and Recommended Requirements on any given PC game box. I've run across too many 'high-end' games that scaled down nicely, and too many games that run in PowerPoint Slideshow Mode on min-req systems. Apparently "Minimum Requirements" means "we tried it on that system and the main menu loaded eventually" to some developers.
posted by delfin at 9:06 AM on October 25, 2011


Australians get slammed for much higher prices than Americans or Europeans - quite often double - a game like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 would display $US40 to a US customer, but instead display AUD 90 to an Australian - at a time when the AUD was trading above parity with the $US.

Yeah, there is that, which definitely does suck.

I've always assumed that was a "third-party publisher being evil" thing, and Valve is going along with it 'cause they want the sales. Do they price their own games that way?
posted by jcreigh at 9:22 AM on October 25, 2011


I bought all seven Grand Theft Auto games for under $13 this weekend. I never would have bought them (probably ever) otherwise. My brother told me I'm "the poster boy for digital game distribution". He's probably right.
posted by Plutor at 11:30 AM on October 25, 2011


All seven? Oh my.

Please remember that you should unseat yourself from the computer at least every 48 hours for nourishment and a shower.
posted by Theta States at 12:01 PM on October 25, 2011


And, more to the point, you not paying those game developers anything is at least as objectionable as them overcharging you for their intellectual property.

That's actually his point - if you're going to be a dick to people, not only are people going to dicks back at you, but they're going to be just as much of a dick about it as you are being (if not moreso).

And when everyone is being a dick to each other, no-one wins, so finger-pointing about it is worthless.

As regards the pice gouging, my guess is that Valve would prefer to charge Australians the lower price - they would undercut the local sellers and take ALL OF THE MARKET PLUS BIGGER MARKUP NOM NOM NOM, (Valve typically gets a lot more money from a steam sale than from a retailer shelf sale) but there will be a contract they're part of that prevents them acting their immediate own best interests in this way.

Maybe there is legal recourse against discriminatory prices under that US-Aus free-trade treaty, but it wouldn't surprise me if that thing wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:51 PM on October 25, 2011


I don't disagree with you that it's shitty for game makers to arbitrarily price gouge based on location, but that by itself doesn't justify piracy.

I'm not claiming it does. I am claiming that, if game companies want to reduce piracy, they should stop treating their legitimate customers like shit. For many customers, goodwill is the only thing keeping them from crossing over to the dark side. They care about the developers, so they're happy to pay for their ga...what's that? You don't care about me, Mr Developer? Well, fuck you too, then. No amount of moral handwringing is going to change that - it's a market reality.

And, more to the point, you not paying those game developers anything is at least as objectionable as them overcharging you for their intellectual property.

That's sort of my point - people see it as a way of evening the score. 'You've set a new standard for bastardry, and I'm happy to meet you down there. Guess who wins? Hint - it's not you.'

But I'll also remember that I'm some sort of moral criminal the next time I buy a game secondhand.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:16 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


(hey, this game costs $60 in the Best Buy downtown, but is only $50 at the GameStop out in the 'burbs! Those thieving bastards! I will show them, by not paying for it at all!)

This isn't a fair analogy, because in the case of Australia, "the burbs" is a separate continent. Moreover, it is one that can be accessed for free with a little consumer ingenuity (the Steam gift method), which demonstrates the explicitly arbitrary nature of the price increase. Australian game pricing is rent-seeking by established publishers, plain and simple. They are literally demanding money for nothing. Fuck 'em.
posted by mek at 7:41 PM on October 25, 2011


They are literally demanding money for nothing. Fuck 'em.

Yes. If I had a computer capable of playing any of the games with a major retail release in the last several years (i.e. the ones that the Australia tax applies to) I would feel almost morally obligated to pirate them, or at least buy them secondhand from a non-chain secondhand shop. So it's probably a good thing that I'm still using this Dell laptop that was bottom of the line when I bought it in 2007. Integrated graphics FTW!
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:35 AM on October 26, 2011


Whereas before I was spending $100 apiece on Xbox titles

Hyperbole for the Steam comparison, or are you really dropping a hundred freaking bucks on xbox titles? Cause I buy em new in the box and never pay close to that, in Canadian dollars. What the heck are you buying?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:39 AM on October 26, 2011


I would feel almost morally obligated to pirate them

Or you could, you know, simply refuse to play them. I'm not sure the word "morally" means what you think it means.
posted by Justinian at 11:51 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure the word "morally" means what you think it means.

That's a particularly silly response given that the obvious lack of a moral consensus on this issue is just one of many examples demonstrating that there's no single generally accepted meaning for the word "morally".
posted by straight at 12:55 PM on October 26, 2011


Hyperbole for the Steam comparison, or are you really dropping a hundred freaking bucks on xbox titles?

Standard price for big releases here. I think Halo: Reach was $110 when it came out, and it's still about $80 used.

Or you could, you know, simply refuse to play them. I'm not sure the word "morally" means what you think it means.

Well, I did say "almost". Instead I just buy most games secondhand, which from the publisher's point of view is financially indistinguishable from piracy.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:51 AM on October 27, 2011


Wow, that's crazy, ATBH. Checking, I see that there are a couple of special editions priced that high -- Diablo III special edition "delivered to your door" for $99; Assassins Creed Revelations Ultimate Edition at $80. I don't recall what Halo Reach went for on release, but used (at Gamestop/EB) it's $38 and the special edition, new, is $50.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:56 AM on October 27, 2011


Actually, that was the collector's edition of DIII. The regular is $60 new.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:57 AM on October 27, 2011


Well, I did say "almost". Instead I just buy most games secondhand, which from the publisher's point of view is financially indistinguishable from piracy.

No, because you're giving money to someone who buys new games from the publisher. Your purchase of used games helps subsidize the people who buy them new, which piracy does not do.
posted by straight at 11:44 AM on October 27, 2011


Wow, that's crazy, ATBH. Checking, I see that there are a couple of special editions priced that high -- Diablo III special edition "delivered to your door" for $99; Assassins Creed Revelations Ultimate Edition at $80. I don't recall what Halo Reach went for on release, but used (at Gamestop/EB) it's $38 and the special edition, new, is $50.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:56 AM on October 27 [+] [!]


Welcome to the widespread practice of price gouging Australians at retail - it's not just games either, retailers groups where having a whinge a while back about people buying things from overseas online store.

While I also love Steam, some of the publishers using it need to have a good hard look at themselves. For instance I have a copy of Fallout: New Vegas sitting unplayed on my shelf, as I had the audacity to purchase it whilst in Singapore, but wait until getting back to Australia to activate it through Steam. Lo and behold - region locking for a fucking PC game. You can bet I'm super keen to give Bethesda even more of my money.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 12:07 AM on October 29, 2011


Oh goddamnit, another sale and I just gave them another $12 on random indie crap. When am I ever going to play this stuff?
posted by Artw at 12:19 AM on October 29, 2011


Welcome to the widespread practice of price gouging Australians at retail

Yeah I have a friend that plays Warhammer 40k there and the Australian tax is outrageous. A miniatures kit that retails for £31 in the UK and $49.50us here is sold at $83aus there. Which at current exchange rates is £55uk and $88us. A lot of Australian Warhammer players used to buy from retailers in the UK and and still come out ahead even with shipping but Games Workshop recently banned their UK partners from shipping outside of the EU.
posted by the_artificer at 4:50 PM on October 29, 2011


Steam Hacked, Valve Investigating Possible Credit Card Theft
posted by homunculus at 8:09 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Recent activity + Steam-oriented fpp = really good idea, homunculus.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:15 PM on November 10, 2011


Steam Guard is looking like a pretty solid idea right now.
posted by Artw at 10:16 PM on November 10, 2011


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