Video games biz hits back at rip-off claims
Fair Play or Foul
"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the very first quote offered by the group - from game design luminary Peter Molyneux - being no less than six years out of date, being taken from an article in CTW published at that time.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.
"It's the 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."
Sports Interactive 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.
Jacobson 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."