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Activision's Kotick Discounts Downloadable Games 62

kukyfrope writes "In a recent interview with the New York Times, Activision Chief Executive Bobby Kotick claims to be optimistic about the future of gaming and the potential revenue of new gamers as many traditional gamers hit their 30's and 40's and are introducing their kids to the world of gaming. While Kotick has a bright outlook, he sees 'full downloadable games' as being 'so far in the future that it's almost incomprehensible.' This would seem to be contradicted by the success of online avenues such as Valve's Steam system, Xbox Live and Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console."
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Activision's Kotick Discounts Downloadable Games

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  • The Wii? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xaroth ( 67516 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @05:44PM (#15565147) Homepage
    I'm sorry, but the success of the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console? Has /. suddenly turned time in reverse, and is now duping stories from the future?
    • Also even if this is from the future, Nintendo doesn't have plans to offer full on Wii games as a download, only older games read smaller games from their back catalog. So even if Wii is a success, it doesn't mean anything.
    • Re:The Wii? (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Has /. suddenly turned time in reverse, and is now duping stories from the future?

      Of course not; it's the Wii that's turned time in reverse, and sent back to us news about how wonderful it is.

  • by skreeech ( 221390 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @05:45PM (#15565152)
    can't read the actual article.

    Digital distribition is weak because of a lack of a physical product. That will always be the weak point. For consoles full games for download won't take off for a long time because of storage space. PS3s harddrive is barely big enough for one blueray disc. Highspeed internet can't deliver full games that fast either.
    • Exactly--and I thought when I read the article header that Activision was going to address that by giving a discount on download-only product--a move which would have made sense. Damned if I'm going to pay $50 and install Steam spyware, (and sometimes on top of that a monthly fee--Gawd, what are people thinking???) in order to play a game.
      • I was thinking about buying Half-Life 2, but then I tried to register a copy of Half-Life that was purchased at a thrift store with Steam, and it had already been registered. So how do I get them to clear up the CD Key? Why, I pay them $10.00, of course. I was kind of bummed, since Half-Life only cost $1.00. Registering new products is fair, but removing functionality from already-purchased old products... that's just low.
        • Registering new products is fair, but removing functionality from already-purchased old products... that's just low.

          Just to play devil's advocate here, what they're doing is perfectly fair. Since you said that you wanted to buy Half-Life used at a thrift store means that you were not the original owner. So your choices were as follows:

          1. Buy a new copy for 20-50 dollars in store (if we are talking a few years ago here).

          2. Buy a used copy for 1 dollar, re-register it for 10.

          Excluding sales tax, yo

          • by Snover ( 469130 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @02:42AM (#15567226) Homepage
            Before Steam, you could connect to World Opponents Network without registering. All it required was that your CD-key that wasn't being used at the same time as someone else.

            Once Valve introduced Steam, you were forced to link your CD-key to a login username and there is no way to unlink it except by paying what basically sums up to being an extortion fee to Valve.

            The guy purchased the game, at the store. It was a transfer of property from one person to another. He is having to re-register something he already owns. And that's a big, big problem.
            • The guy purchased the game, at the store. It was a transfer of property from one person to another. He is having to re-register something he already owns. And that's a big, big problem.

              Minor objection: You don't have to register HL1 but it gives a few nice boni. Valve didn't force him to use Steam at all, he decided to do so in order to access additional material like all those free addons.
          • So your choices were as follows:

            1. Buy a new copy for 20-50 dollars in store (if we are talking a few years ago here).

            2. Buy a used copy for 1 dollar, re-register it for 10.


            3. Buy a new copy of a game that Steam recognizes as HL1 but that has dropped in price due to lacking sales. Gunman Chronicles is such a game, it's usually sold for less than HL1 or CS and the key will be recognized as HL1.
    • I agree if I buy games I like the manual, dvd copy, and extras (maps, etc).

      But xbox live has already demonstrated that you can download small games and be sucessful. Geometry Wars is what, ~20MB, and it is the funnest game I've played in years. /just waiting until the 360 gets more live games, then I'm going to pick one up.
  • Define "Full Game" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 19, 2006 @05:52PM (#15565205)
    It all depends on how you define "Full Game." If the only definition you have is that of a bleeding edge PS3/XBox 360 game that requires 5GB to download then (obviously) the market is too small to really make much money with it; on the other hand if you produce higher-resolution SNES games (say 800x600) you should be able to make tons of games that require less than 16MB to dowload and there is a huge market for that.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Exactly. If you have a 512 MB SD card, and, assuming a full 16 MB per SNES game, that's thirty-two games right there. If five of those games are, say, "Final Fantasy II," "Final Fantasy III," "Chrono Trigger," "Super Mario RPG," and "Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past," well, you've got yourself hours of play right there, and then twenty-seven more games after that. Whoever doesn't think there's a market for this stuff is insane.
    • if you produce higher-resolution SNES games (say 800x600) you should be able to make tons of games that require less than 16MB to dowload and there is a huge market for that.

      I would agree, even if they just stuck to re-releases of already exisiting SNES games for the moment - Playing some of the old games via emulator [wikipedia.org], it's amazing how nice they can be with sharper [hiend3d.com] graphics, better sound, and high framerate.
  • While Kotick has a bright outlook, he sees 'full downloadable games' as being 'so far in the future that it's almost incomprehensible.' This would seem to be contradicted by the success of online avenues such as Valve's Steam system, Xbox Live and Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console."

    It's not only incomprehensible, but quite ignorant as well. After all, it's only a matter of time before owners can download illegal copies of games using the very console they're going to play them with.

    If I were Activision's
  • Direct2drive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amazon10x ( 737466 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @05:55PM (#15565218)
    While Kotick has a bright outlook, he sees 'full downloadable games' as being 'so far in the future that it's almost incomprehensible.'
    Hmm, I guess he has not heard of Direct2Drive [direct2drive.com]?
  • by Jare ( 790431 )
    He obviously doesn't agree: http://dukenukem.typepad.com/game_matters/2006/06/ activisions_ceo.html [typepad.com] He pimps Triton, which is being used for Prey.
  • Taken out of context (Score:4, Informative)

    by rabiddeity ( 941737 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @06:02PM (#15565267) Homepage

    The original NYT article has the following quote (emphasis mine):

    "The idea of full downloadable games is so far in the future that it's almost incomprehensible as an opportunity," Mr. Kotick said. But he added that there were more immediately plausible revenue opportunities from selling downloads of supplemental game levels or "characters, new weapons, new missions, or auctioning off places" in a virtual world.

    So, as you can see, his words were taken a bit out of context. His opinion is that small downloadable content like expansions will sell, but not an entire 5GB game. Still a bit misguided, considering the success of Steam, but not as bad as the article makes it out to be.

  • by VGfort ( 963346 )
    but for PCs it will become somewhat more common. I think Ive seen a few places online where you can download when you buy a game, I know Id Software does this. Although some people like paper manuals and hardcopies of the serial keys and such.
  • by BortQ ( 468164 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @06:05PM (#15565290) Homepage Journal
    Haha, these guys are so clueless. They're so stuck in their rut that they can't see a changing paradigm coming up to bite them in the ass. Here's my paraphrasing of his genius quote:

    "The idea of full downloadable games using our current bloated development practices is so far in the future that it's almost incomprehensible as an opportunity. I really can't imagine any new developers producing games targeted for digital distribution. The fact that they could produce games with a tighter art pipeline (or increased code-generated art) on a much smaller budget would mean they would eat our profitability for lunch. ('small' is a relative term here, most people would say $1 million dollars is a pretty big amount of money, but for activision that's a very small budget). Hmmm.... you say that's already started to happen in the PC and XBOX Live space? I'm just going to pretend I never heard about that and continue working my army of devs like the wage slaves I know they love to be."
    • What he is saying, he doesn't think that a Phantom console kind of model will work, where you play a game and then download additional levels as you play along. He is saying he doesn't think its worth time to code in that way because for most people waiting 5 seconds to play a game or change levels is too much of a hassle. I bought Half Life 2 from Steam. I could play it again but that means I would have to download it again, which would be like 6 hours or so on my connection. Yes, you can download full gam
    • Code-generated art is a really good idea. I played a concept demo of a 96k FPS [theprodukkt.com] that generated its textures by emulating how artists make textures for games. A smart game engine could be designed that "creates" the art in the background while you are playing, and then caches it for later use.
  • about you ... but BitTorrent seems to be working pretty well.
    • I just deleted another 15 gigs of warez.
      Most games are such a waste of bandwith and generally boring.

      I really can't believe people pay for that crap.

  • I've fallen away from the computer gaming world, but while travelling last week I paid a visit to an old college roommate who showed me "Geometry Wars", a $5 download for the XBox 360 that clearly so vividly captured the spirit of the great arcade games of my youth that when I returned to the home of the relatives I was visiting I downloaded it and spent half the weekend playing round after round with my equally-captivated nephew.

    Perhaps Kotick is correct that the games which his company are producing are not yet suited for download, but that doesn't mean that nobody's games are suited for download.

    Here's the key quote from the article, in my opinion:
    However, because costs of development on next-gen platforms are going to hit $10 - $15 million or more, Kotick also sees the industry focusing on games with hit potential (those that could sell a million or more copies) rather than pumping out many more titles that may not perform as well commercially. He's previously spoken about how Activision specifically will focus on proven franchises.

    This is exactly the strategy which has, at times, nearly destroyed the music and film industries -- focus only on copying the last big thing and don't spend any effort at all looking for the next big thing. I truly hope a bunch of net-aware $5-per-game upstarts eat their $50-per-megatitle business for lunch. It'd be the best thing to happen to gaming since I don't know when..
  • Good! They have declared we don't exist so we can continue to do business in peace.
    • I wanted to ask you a few questions.

      I see on your site that most of your games tend to sell for $19.95. I'm sure you've done the research, but have you considered lowering the price for your games to something more reasonable, like $5-10? If you were to do that, do you think you could make 2-4 times the sales? I'm wondering because I don't think a game like Geometry Wars would have sold well at $19.95. I've wanted a few indie games (Gish), but the relatively steep prices have kept me away (when you consi
      • Price point : I haven't done research but according to most people who have, $19.95 is the sweet spot. More than $20, you lose the impulse purchase factor. Less than $20 and the customer perceives the product as "low value". Or so I've heard ;)

        Piracy : it's inevitable, and it's always a balance between making it hard for pirates and not making it painful for legit users (see Starfox!). In the end we do what we can to stop casual piracy but determined crackers and warez operators will pirate your games no
        • Less than $20 and the customer perceives the product as "low value".

          I think to most people an indie game is inherently perceived as "low value". 20$ is outside of the impulse buy range for me but perhaps that differs for other people. Also I have a feeling that the upper limit for indie games is more the number of people who know about them than the number of people who like the price.

          Piracy : it's inevitable, and it's always a balance between making it hard for pirates and not making it painful for legit u
    • yup, you and me both. Im always amazed at just how clueless the big devs with their 5 gig games and their teams of 100 depressed workaholic college kids are.
      Stay away from the download market activision, you have absolutely no idea how it works. Keep churning out the 'triple a' crap.
  • by modemboy ( 233342 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @07:46PM (#15565762)
    Man, from the title of this article I thought it was going to be about Activision discounting downloadable games to a price less than a box copy, as obviously their costs would be lower, passing the savings on. I'm still waiting for a company to do this, although I guess Steam sometimes is cheaper online.
    So stop using homonyms in the article titles, especially confusing ones. I get dissapointed enough with the shit going on in our world, I don't need slashdot making me think I can get my games cheaper and then dashing my hopes with an opposite story...

    P.S. this Kotick guy is an idiot.
  • I glanced at the headline and thought finally someone is going to discount downloadable games instead of having to pay the same price as the retail version with it's packaging and retail distribution costs. Then I saw that wasn't what the article was about at all. Halflife 2 was a better deal on Steam than retail - you got the older versions of Valve's software as an added bonus and you didn't need to have the CD in the drive (though the cd check was removed later). The software I have seen on Direct2Drive
  • Scared much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AudioEfex ( 637163 ) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @06:09AM (#15567822)
    The only reason companies are afraid of downloads is because they know it's going to cut into their sixty-dollar off-the-shelf-games.

    Just like articles where some publishers/companies discount so-called "retro-gaming" as being insignifigant in their eyes.

    Well, I spent about an hour yesterday playing "Super Mario Brothers 3", and it was just as fun now as it was fifteen years ago. All of the suits making comments like this are so out of touch it's almost comical. They keep going after that shrinking "gotta have the newest, bestest, prettiest game NOW!" market and fail to realize there are tens of millions of us who gave up on gaming years ago because we were sick of all the "shitty but pretty" games where pretty pictures rank far above gameplay.

    If only these guys would realize that spending enough to make a feature film on a game just isn't necessary, that paying 50 artists for every 1 actual game mechanics programmer is silly.

    They need to look outside the box. Problem is, they created the box, and seem so lost in it that I don't know if anything is going to demonstrate otherwise for them until the box just busts apart and disintergrates.

    AE
    • Follow the value train:

      1) The company which actually codes the game provides most of the value to the customer. They get a teeny tiny sliver of the profits. (~10% of retail price is a number I've heard batted about)
      2) The company which publishes the game absorbs much of the risk of the venture from the developer, does marketing, and perhaps help secure the big-name license that sells a zillion boxes. They get a pretty decent section of the profits. (~30% of the retail price)
      3) The retail store provides
  • Savage 2 (Score:2, Informative)

    by skavj_binsk ( 595517 )
    Upcoming Savage 2 [s2games.com] will be downloads, not retail. Coming out this summer. It's a team-based fps where each team has a commander who's playing a rts; commander researches weapons, starts buildings which the fps-style players build, etc. First one came out maybe 3 years ago, and people are still playing and modding. I can't stop playing because of the melee system, which makes it way different from a bunnyhop orgy like cs, and the team-oriented goals, where it actually pays off to use teamwork.

    -Skavj "s
  • Game Company Which Makes It's Money Selling Physical Discs Says Downloads Are Stupid.

    Welcome to obvious land. Oh wait, it's slashdot. Or Digg. I can't really tell anymore.

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