Blockbuster Video or Cable TV? Two dangerous roads the gaming console industry is inching toward

firstdayNSBM
First day of work sexy realness.

So I’ve just completed my move to Oxnard, Calif. It was a relatively simple move for someone moving solo and who just took his first job after ten years of the Navy telling me where to be at and when.

About a month prior to the move I called Cox Cable, and similar to the cancellation dance heard ’round the world, I had all my services shut off except for the Internet which I had cut off at the end of the month.

In my “exit interview” with the customer service rep (or retention services rep as I found they are when you are canceling service), I had simply informed that I was moving to a new city where Cox was not the area provider. They accepted that and began to ask me about my service to which I answered in kind:

Well, the service never cut off and the Internet, save for one incident, seemed stable — but the stick you had in my ass for what you were charging me by the end really wasn’t getting me off.

Ok, so I didn’t say that last part…I think it was something more akin to “Well, the pricing wasn’t exactly pleasant, which is what I will tell anyone who asks me what I think of Cox Cable.”

In hindsight I probably should have just stated what was on my mind, but I didn’t because I’m a nice person that way.

I mention this because it’s seems to have been the way of Cable TV service and even more so since everything went digital — you start off at one price point, and after the promo price expires you pay the regular. BUT, then the regular price creeps up and up and up with no end in sight. After my one-year promo price expired I was due to pay around $130 a month for my bundle package which consisted of:

  1. BASIC…YAS, betch, YAS…BASIC digital cable. No premiums, no HBO, no Showtime, or sports bundles. Needless to say I had my remote favorites set to three channels: Logo, Food Network, and Animal Planet (because if I’m going to cook my pet some food I’m going to look fabulous doing it, ok’rrr?).
  2. Only their second highest Internet service package (15mbps) because it was just me in my apartment and I never had a problem with Netflix running and playing things like World of Warcraft while downloading Steam games.
  3. A phone that I never used once. NOT. ONCE. I don’t even know if I wrote down the phone number. Telemarketers knew it though, I should have asked them.

When I called to cancel my service, I realized that over the course of two years after that first year’s pricing, my bill managed to CROSS the $200 threshold. TWO HUNDRED FUCKING DOLLARS and I wasn’t even getting HBO.

I think it’s just pointless at this point to say that just ain’t cool, but there it is: THAT JUST AIN’T COOL.

You’re probably asking, so what does this have to Video Games. I’m glad you brought that up, because if you hadn’t, I would have mentioned it anyway.

This week I got to thinking about two pieces of information concerning the industry, particularly with regards to access of video game libraries.

EA-Access

The first of which was Microsoft’s acquisition of EA Access which will cost Xbox gamers $5 a month to access Netflix-style EA Games’ current and future titles. At first this was interesting news because the deal had originally been offered to Sony. According to Forbes video game contributor Eric Kain, Sony didn’t think “asking our fans to pay an additional $5 a month for this EA-specific program represents good value to the PlayStation gamer.”

I sat there in awe with Sony thinking, “yeah! You tell them Sony!” At first I had thought Sony was championing the gamer especially since a good number of us are customers who buy into the near-$100 a year PlaySation Plus program.

But then all my hopes and dreams were dashed. You see, Sony, was not in fact the champion of the gamer. Oh no. Like Zsa Zsa Gabor’s hand to a police officer’s face, the reality revealed Sony was simply a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A predator out to stalk the livestock in my wallet. Because then the second turn of events last week unfolded…

PlayStation Now beta went live with its limited title offering of current and older games and its complete and utter BULLSHIT pricing model.

I hate to be so crude, but honestly, with Sony I feel completely bipolar; either I’m  on the verge of finding complete and total happiness, or I 180 into a violent Star Road-induced nerd rage because that’s how this last week felt.

So let’s first comment on EA’s catalog plan. $5 a month gets you complete access to current and future titles (and that’s ALL EA games which includes subsidiary studio offerings). It’s clean and simple, you pay fee, find a game, download, play, find, download, pay, new month fee again, and so forth. Literally just like Netflix. Because hey, that’s what people are used to in the digital realm. Clean, simple pricing and unlimited access. But…here’s the rub…

Mineseagulls

If EA charges for premium access, who’s to say that other publishers won’t follow suit? EA is just ONE publisher. There are hundreds of others including biggies like Activision, 2K, Disney, Warner Bros., Capcom, etc… and they all have extensive catalogs…where would it end? $5 a pop for each publisher and you’ve just turned the gaming industry into the Cable TV industry.

Did you not read the fun and exciting adventures of my wallet at the start of this blog entry with regards to the Cable TV industry?

This is not a Chicken Little “the sky is falling” kind of warning, because it is ONLY FAIR to assume that other publishers will want to follow EA’s lead with regards to charging for premium access to their catalogs. So who’s to blame when the snowball becomes an avalanche? Gamers for buying into it? EA for offering? Microsoft for accepting? All I see is everyone on a merry-go-round of spinning knives where everyone is blaming everyone else for the dire state of the gaming industry and in the end, EVERYONE GETS CUT TO SHREDS.

Now let’ talk about Sony….Sony Sony Sony…certainly played me for a fool this week.

Let’s do a quick breakdown for PlayStation Now.

At E3 in June, it wasn’t exactly clear what Now’s model was going to be as the only thing said about it during Sony’s preview conference was that it was going to offer nearly 100 titles at launch from current and back catalogs that could simply be streamed to any PlayStation device, be it a PS3, PS4, or even Vita. No downloads necessary.

Of course access to previous titles going as far back as the early 1990s causes foam to gather around the mouths of gamers. People incorrectly assumed then that such a capability would be offered via a Netflix-like payment plan wherein a simple monthly fee ON TOP OF WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY PAYING FOR THE PLUS PROGRAM would suffice for such amazing access.

Well, hehe, you know what they say when you ASSume things…

datassume

Fast forward to last week and the launch of Now’s beta and we learned so many things we wish would just pack themselves into a minivan and drive off cliff.

  1. Games indeed need only be streamed. Okay, good so far…
  2. Only a few games are available during beta. Okay, makes sense, it’s only beta…
  3. Access to games will be on a rental fee basis with the pricing based on the length of rental time purchased, anywhere from a handful of hours to 90 days max. LOLWUT?!

zackmorriscell

You hear that? Oh, hold on…that’s my parents’ brick cellular phone from 1995 calling…

“Hello?”
“Yes, May I speak to Sony, please?”
“Who may I ask is calling?”
“Blockbuster Video.”
O_o
“…and what is the reason for your call, Blockbuster?”
“We’d like our rental fee model back.”
“I’ll see what I can do…”
“Thanks…be kind, rewind.”

Dearest Sony — I have amorously imbibed your delicious Kool-Aid since, well, as long as you’ve made consoles. But even I was taken aback by this pricing model.

I’m reminded of an age-old adage:

THOSE WHO FORGET HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT.

Did you not learn a lesson from Blockbuster Video’s downfall, Sony? Thanks to Netflix, people saw something simple, easy and FAIR in pricing and latched on to it forsaking something that came with so many hidden fees or pothole traps for the money in our wallets. No one wanted it then, so what makes you think you can bring it back now?

Here’s what’s wrong with Now, and if you’re looking for feedback Sony, here it is:

  1. IF, and I mean a huge IF, you decide to rent out titles for streaming, there should at the very least be a post-lease buying option where a customer can just pay the remaining cost of the game to own it forever.
  2. That being said, the rental fee of the game should not be more than what it is worth (which is where, sadly, a lot of OLDER titles fall).
  3. And because a lot of titles fall into that category, it makes no sense to charge a per-game-per-time-purchased fee. A Netflix-esque model would be more beneficial — please explain to me where your financial gurus failed in figuring that out.
  4. And what kind of financial guru would sit there and think “well, people will pay $50 to rent F1 2013 for 90 days when 2014 is out in less than 2 months where they can spend $10 more to own that one outright.”
  5. Oh, that’s right. It’s not SONY’s financial gurus, it’s the publishers. So, Sony, why can’t you be like Apple was with iTunes for many years and say “if you are going to use OUR service to distribute YOUR titles to OUR customers, WE will charge them THIS fee, no more, no less. You get a majority of the cut, we get a hefty slice, everyone is happy.”
  6. There’s no relationship AT ALL with PlayStation Plus. I’m already spending $100 a year for a handful of free or discounted games. You want to charge me MORE and give me so little? I think I get better value with Plus and as it were, I have NO incentive to buy into Now. So let’s consider a new customer who has not bought into either service. On which service do you think he or she would spend his or her money? The one where he or she gets charged variable prices to only access a game for a small period of time, or the service where you get 2-4 free titles a month (that are owned forever) and discounts on others for a flat annual fee which roughly breaks down to $8.25 a month? Get back to me when you figure that out…

The point is, I’m not saying I wouldn’t buy into Now. I’m happy to give Sony AND the publishers my money if it means they can generate more content and keep me happy as a gamer. It’s a symbiotic relationship, BUT fair is fair. Netflix pricing models are fair. Whatever this current batch of fail is that Sony has derived with Now service is not.

Be SONY. Crusher of console wars. Bringer of entertainment. Champion of the indie developers.

Don’t BE Blockbuster Video.

blockbusterancient

/highhorse

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