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Desperate THQ Firesale Launched

Submitted by kmeisthax on Sat, 12/01/2012 - 01:02 in Rants

Something ticked over the last few days. It could have been some [TW] Maddox videos which hit /r/anticonsumption. Or it could have been long-term memories of the "Mathematically Annoying Advertising" xkcd strip surfacing from my subconcious. Or it could have been THQ and the Humble Bundle guys deciding to devalue both their brands at once* by having a Humble Not-Indie Bundle missing practically all of the things that made the Humble Bundles a good idea.

For those wondering, the Humble THQ Bundle isn't a very good idea. First off, there's no Linux clients, the games only redeem on Steam, and strangely enough the EFF isn't even one of the listed charities anymore. I'm not even sure if it's because THQ didn't want to be seen next to the EFF's anti-DRM efforts or the EFF realizing that it was a massive devaluation of the original concept. It also makes THQ look incredibly desparate. The Indie Bundles were designed particularly to promote games made by independent, self-publishing developers, available without DRM and on multiple platforms, including and especially the drastically underserved GNU/Linux platform, while at the same time helping the EFF, Red Cross, and Child's Play, all worthy charities.

THQ stands for precisely none of these things. They're a major publisher. They have large development budgets to protect, so they demand their games be wrapped in DRM and they don't bother porting to platforms without large companies backing them. Whereas previous bundles gave you the game on both Windows, Mac OSX, GNU/Linux, AND Android, with optional Steam and Desura keys, this bundle just hands you a Steam key for a bunch of games with no Mac or Linux ports. I wish they could have at least convinced THQ to provide Linux or OSX binaries. If THQ was following the "Humble Bundle Rules" it would feel more like a validation of the concept rather than undermining it.

More importantly I don't see where THQ comes out ahead in all of this. The games in previous Humble Bundles were all small independent projects that would come out ahead no matter how little the bundle made in total. And while previous Bundles did make a lot of money for almost everybody involved, it was a lot of money for an indie developer. These THQ games are titles which all launched for the "standard AAA price" of $60 and nominally still cost $40 or more "normally". The average Humble Bundle purchase is about $5, and that's after big donors trying to get to the Top Contributors list have been averaged in. And yes, most of them are about a year old and have sequels coming out soon, so you can say it's at least a good marketing move. But at the end of the day let's call it what it is. Less Humble Bundle and more Desperate Firesale.


Incidentally I'm also getting kind of annoyed at the amount of times Steam has had a sale. It had one last week and I'm already hearing people preparing for the next one and making tired jokes about how broke they are by "saving" money. Steam sales - or at the very least, the concept of a sale - is also very devalued.

The thing is, the whole reason why Steam sales work is that most games don't deserve full price. At least, not the AAA definition of full price, which is $60 and we'll sell $15 map pack DLC alongside it and maybe tack on $20 for a deluxe edition and you have to preorder for one of four retailer-exclusive DLC packs and blarrgh. Most games don't deserve more than $40 and a lot of them make more sense even cheaper. I mean, we live in a post-MW2 world where six-hour 'campaigns' (strings of set-piece moments and explosions) are hurredly wrapped together as an excuse to sell multiplayer games as full-price. After all, publishers have got it in their head that games without multiplayer don't sell, which is why they decide to keep slapping on inconsequential multiplayer onto projects that developers have to spend extra time and money to do. If anything, it lets them stick more stupid online pass codes on everywhere just to make used gamers feel bad.

Here's what a real sale qualifies as: I just bought Spec Ops: The Line for $5 off of Amazon. This game originally retailed at $60... for some odd reason. Again, because 2K wanted to tack on multiplayer or what have you. The current list price on Amazon is roughly $28-$38. Keep in mind this game came out five months ago, and the various game price charts are showing that the game fell to this price point, at least as a used copy, in July. That's less than a month after the game came out. All the used game price sharts show similar patterns for other games, even big blockbuster kajillion sellers like Call of Duty or Battlefield. The price settles down around $30 or $35 which is much more reasonable for everyone... except the developers, who spend billions to make these games and expect a return on investment.

So putting all of this data together we can easily see that buying games at launch is a complete ripoff. Just ignoring all the patches that you have to normally wait for as a day-one buyer, very rarely is a game worth a full $60. Sure, yes, you may convince yourself it was worth $60, because you've now personally invested yourself in the game and you want it to be worth full price. And we have a name for people like you: Fanboy. You're the kind of person who endlessly argues over sales charts. It validates your choices. I saw so many people arguing the technical merits of PS3 or Xbox 360 - two equally powerful big boxes of overheating plastic - by spouting manufacturer-provided talking points just because they owned the console in question.

Likewise, Steam sales aren't bargains. Here's a better term: reasonable price. Naturally developers see huge sales spikes for Steam sales because reasonable prices are much better sales propositions than charging full price! The last step is that we just need AAA developers to cut the bullshit and release games at $30 or $40. Hell, all these spunkgargleweewee games out there like Call of Duty or Battlefield - their campaigns are completely vestigial anyway, so they could probably take the first step with a reasonably priced multiplayer-only game.

*Link not permenant. Take my word for it that there was a Humble THQ bundle at one point.

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