A Necessary Higher Price?

Whenever you visit a craftsman’s workshop, be it an artisan, wood craftsman or whatever else, their shops usually have a decent range of items from something that may cost five to fifteen euros to the proper items costing from fifty euros up. It should not be any surprise that the most selling items are the little trinkets and jewellery, as their price most often are from the bottom up. The price is nevertheless higher compared to the production costs than on anything else in the workshop, and that is due to necessity.

Wait, isn’t this blog supposed to be pro-consumer? Is this a hundredth post? No, and this is pro-consumer. The more information the consumer has the better. Nevertheless, we must consider reality as well. The big item orders and their several hundred or thousand production costs and installation may not bring in large income in the end. Maximising profit is any business’ main goal, and an absolutely necessity for smaller companies or individual entrepreneurs. By minimising some production costs and maximising the price the consumers are willing to pay, a person can maybe gain a living.

For example, small full metal jewellery, like crosses and such, are of one or two millimetre thick steel. Their shape usually is either something slightly original or from the general consensus of what looks. When mass-produced, their production costs tend to me low, as you can get them laser or water cut at a very low price. Adding some of your own flavour, like hammering the surface and painting it black, often produces a look that looks like the jewellery was hand-made in a forge from a piece of steel. Production costs for an individual piece might be something like to two euros (perhaps five with modern cost of material, though I know cases laser cut jewellery has cost as low as 20 cents) and the final price tag on the item might be either fifteen or twenty euros.

An example of a hammered product with a failed paint application

The reason why small items of relatively high price in comparison to their production costs exists is because they sell the most. These trinkets are often gifts that fit in the pocket and might look a bit special, especially if they have some local flavour to them. They’re also great for impulse purchases, as the low-cost seems almost insignificant compared to a hundred euro candelabra next to it. If all the work is done locally, the price won’t even have big chunk of logistics in it.

Of course, the price wouldn’t be that high if people weren’t willing to pay. The consumer rarely considers the end-price their willing to pay in terms of logistics, raw materials and work put into the product. The perceived value of a product weighs more in the end over more practical and solid information. The fact is that we as consumers pay what we consider to be valuable to use (or to others depending how much you want to impression people with your new shit) and modify our purchasing behaviour accordingly. Trading card games are great example of this. While the cards themselves are practically worthless pieces of cardboard and ink, the perceived value of their rarity within their specific games or their usability in a given deck gives them a high market price. Rarely you see a card being high in price because it has exceptional artwork or the like. The value of these cards also tend to shift rather quick as formats change, something that yours truly is not keen on.

Another though a bit different example of maximising profits while cutting away production costs is the lack of headphone jack in smartphones. Even when some phones nowadays lack the jack for traditional headphone gear in favour of wireless pieces (that frankly tend to outright suck in utility), the end price of the phone is still the same. The Wirelesness doesn’t excuse the same price, as Bluetooth is a standard in modern phones across the board. In cases like this we can question whether or not it’s just or acceptable for big companies to keep the same sales price for their phones when their production costs have seen a cut. After all, we’re not talking about a trinket here, but a several hundreds of euros worth of money.

The question whether or not upping the price like this is ethical towards the consumer is somewhat a moot question. On one hand it is true that in an ideal world products wouldn’t cost much more than what their production costs, personnel salary included. In reality this doesn’t really work due to how life tends to kick us in the balls. Profit is also necessary in order to gather money for industry related projects, additional raw materials, new equipment and so on. Profit doesn’t magically end up in a bank account as a plus mark. I’m sure all of know the feeling of wanting, needing to expand on something that you directly need, but simply lack the budget for it.

This can turn into purchasing politics very easily. While voting with your wallet is essentially the best way to hurt a provider (even a 10-15% drop in sales with video game sequels sounds alarms in companies) but is also used as a way to show support for whatever reason. DLC, especially visual flavour DLC and the like, is like these trinkets. Producing them doesn’t cost much at all while their pricetag can be surprisingly high. Again, this is just minimising costs while maximising profits. A consumer may buy these trinkets just for such perceived values as they’re just cool to have within a game as options, or that the user has a “complete” game in their collection with all the extra stuff and thus feel satisfaction through this, or just because they happen to like the developers and wish to show some support by providing them with further sales. Not really sure how much I can personally encourage buying any DLC to a game,  but that’s something any and all individuals have to decide for themselves. It is a question of opinion in the end, and all of us have the right for our own.

Region free 3DS?

Two generations ago region circumvention was enough. Very few games supported any sort of patching on the sixth generation of video game consoles. Nowadays the story is different with each platforms from this and previous generation supporting large scale updating and patching.
Simple region circumvention isn’t cutting it anymore as the online functionality comes into way. For Pokémon it’s easy to see; people without certain patches won’t be able to trade or fight online. Second one would be Monster Hunter, where multiplayer patches could be highly important.
Secondly, there’s the problem of the consumer inability to access the possible DLC. While I’m not a huge fan of DLC myself, I know that there are those who wish to purchase so-called complete game every bit of colour variations and alternative outfits.

As such, regionthree for the 3DS is one limited little thing.
regionthree has been hailed as the loader that defeated the 3DS’ region locking. This, of course, is not the case. Wii’s region locking was defeated and humiliated harshly with sofmods, 3DS’ locking still applies. Be it the paranoid attitude of the 3DS hacking and homebrew scene towards piracy, or the fact that GateWay holds extremely harsh monopoly over both scenes, the 3DS users don’t benefit all too much from this launcher.
There exists a handful of games that regionthree allows to shine at their fullest potential. These games are single player and have seen no updates or DLC. One could argue that certain games that have more or less useless DLC belong to this category too with games that have something one wouldn’t purchase anyway. For example, Super Robot Wars UX is a complete game on itself and DLC stages only offer what one could call puzzle stages. These stand alone stages don’t add anything to the main game, but could be a nice extra if they had a cheaper price.
In order to defeat the current region locking 3DS now has would mean similar set of tools that a softmodded Wii has. I would argue that SONY’s take on the whole region locking has been rather good in comparison. There are problems that need to be faced before one can access the other region stores, but patches and other similarities are completely universal, independent from the region the system is in when it comes to physical games.

regionthree also requires you to be online during start up due to it using GateWay’s site. While I don’t have any problems with this, this is extremely bad design. There is an Android application to circumvent this problem, but otherwise the whole deal is just pretty damn bad. Even for a flashcard product this is something unforgivable and I have no idea why anyone would spent their money on a product that could brick both the console and the flashcard.

It’s like intentionally being an ass to the customer.

regionthree also raised a good question; what games are actually worthwhile importing from other regions? As this only applies to physical games, all the digital content is thrown out the window without any remorse. A lot of games are still being localised and I doubt most 3DS’ users have enough language skills to play something like New Love+. Speaking of New Love+, I’m divided if I should just throw my social life away and get one.

There are numerous games I would like purchase from local stores, but seeing how limited the launcher ultimately is there’s no way in hell I’d purchase a game I know I wouldn’t be able to take full potential out of. Then again, now people can get that 3D Sega compilation on cartridge rather than purchase them all separately from the eShop.
Anyways, regionthree shows that there really isn’t anything worth importing across regions that is not extremely niche, localised or getting a localisation. At least this is better than with PSVita, which has barely any original games. I’m extremely surprised that there is no sequel for Gravity Rush on the system already. I remember it being one of the most advertised games for the system, but now there is no advertisement for the system. It’s PSVita’s failing miserably or something. The system had promise and looked interesting, but nobody was actually making any good games for it. I can’t even collect those minimum of seven original games for the system to warrant a purchase. The list consists exactly one PSVita original game and even that is the aforementioned Gravity Rush. The rest are ports, sequels or remakes.

In that sense the PSVita shows a prevailing problem in the industry at large. Not only same stuff is recycled into new boxers, but there’s no chances taken. Of course I can’t deny that there is a very damn good reason to keep repeating the same thing over and over again, but an industry needs to renew itself at times in order to keep itself fresh. I guess the jump to 3D is a good example, despite 3D Mario historically having lower sales than 2D ones.

Perhaps people just want more 2D than 3D.

Back to 3DS and its region locking. I doubt Nintendo can just free it. This is because they most likely have a certain legal grounds that prevents them from just flipping the flag from 1 to 0 and allow the region freedom. This wouldn’t be enough. As with regionthree, the player would be unable to access any of the functions that would require different region eShop. I highly doubt that Nintendo would be willing to change their eShop system to support any kind of region freedom. It is more or less integrated to how the console functions. It would take somewhat massive reconstruction how their online store model would work. There would be a need to implement similar system that Sony already has. It just ain’t happening, but I hope I’m wrong.

I could see Nintendo releasing the region coding so that the eShop in itself, the application on the console, would still be regionally locked, but any and all physical games could fetch update and patch datas. Games that rely purchasing DLC via eShop would be screwed, but that’s something that could be slightly gotten around by patching the DLC functionality directly into the games.

I really hope I didn’t ramble too much, I was slightly under influence of brewed drink. For that, music time!

They’re doing it almost right with Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus

Guilty Gear Accent Core Plus is hitting PSN and 360Live on late October. This is much later than I anticipated and I can’t but feel that the new BlazBlue has been reason for this. It’s stupid; why to push BB onwards when GG is the superior of two products and has already larger customer base? Well, the answer might be that BB has also a solid customer base, but these two overlap greatly. Persona 4 Arena most likely took out resources as well, and I’m not completely with that game either.

I find it extremely good that they’re releasing AC+ before updating it to R version. Whatever the R version brings in, be it character balances and s forth, it’s good to show the base product and then evolve it. It doesn’t detract anything from the game, but I can see problems arising when people state that they need to re-learn some things. There’s also the question whether or not the update will be an actual update or will it be DLC. If it will be DLC, then they’re doing it wrong.

I see ArcSys testing Guilty Gear with this game again in and out of arcades. If it succeeds, then I can see ArcSys actually starting to put effort into the next Guilty Gear, which I hope will be Guilty Gear X3 rather than just 3. ArcSys needs to give Guilty Gear same class of budget as they have given to BlazBlue, much like Nintendo needs to give same amount of budget to 2D Marios as 3D Marios have. There’s no reason to treat your most selling franchise like a third class product.

Now, what could they do more right with GGAC+R? Add all the stages from previous games as well as all the musics, as well as characters. There’s no reason to take anything out. All of these do not take anything from the game and only stack on the content. What this kind of release needs is content, and GG does have content that could be used.

In general we could ask why the hell are developers taking out content from their games and not adding them?

But I have to say, that I do love how they added the R into the logo. It stands out, uses good colour choice and most of all does signal a change of sorts.

But seriously ArcSys, it’s a time for a completely new Guilty Gear fighting gamer after this.

Bioware, we’re the gods to listen

Bioware has proudly again that the industry, and they themselves especially, need to change. According to them the fans want Day 1 DLC.

So. Bioware ignores what the whole possible customer base says and concentrates either on their own opinion, or towards their own small customer base. Do people want Day 1 DLC? No, people want content to be on the disc that the game should already have. In Mass Effect’s case I have to question who the hell was stupid enough to say Let’s put the real ending into DLC format? Why would have they wanted to remove this from their game? They were selling an incomplete game to a full price, because if the game doesn’t its ending, then it’s incomplete. Nobody buys a book, then buy an extra magazine that has the last chapter of the book.

“In our case, when we look at completion rates for our games, consistently less than half of our players actually finish even once.”

Why should it matter to Bioware if the players finish the game? When you’ve made a sale, you’ve got their money. There’s no reason to follow how your product is used afterwards. If players do not finish the game, then it’s their matter, not the company’s. Is the ego of Bioware so huge that every player has to finish their game on their watch?

What Bioware is essentially doing here is that they’re telling their customers’ what they want. Bioware, you’re the peasant. We, the customers, are the gods. If you want your fields to give food, then worship us. Otherwise we’re going to nothing by harsh sun and sandstorms, ravaging your wineyards and killing your stock. We’re the one’s that have the power to say what we want and what we do not want.

Day 1 DLC, or on-disc DLC, is clearly something that the gods do not want.

DLC has always been publisher and developer friendly, and hostile to customers. I have to ask this once more; what makes you get STEAM or Origin, where you have no power over your games? Why would you screw yourself?

Some time ago I got in a debate with a friend about whether or not it was right that STEAM was in complete control of its users’ games. Ultimately he said that he didn’t care. A PC gamer didn’t care. What have we come to when a PC gamer didn’t care whether or not he could access his games tomorrow?

When customer loses his will to care about the product, shit’s going down and in the good way. It’s a downhill road that moment onwards.

If Bioware fans want the DLC so hard, why not putting it in the game and make it complete? DLC nowadays is completely stupid anyway, they don’t add anything to games, the give parts that should already be there. It’s like a puzzle to which you need to buy the missing parts just because.

I’ve bought DLC once and I regret it.

Right now, the problem is multi-fold and extremely complex.

But, it isn’t. Why are used games sales so high? Because people want to get rid of their games. If they would make games that have higher value to the customer, they would stay on their shelves. And to be honest, the used games sales do not cut their revenues, as the product in question has been already sold. The best way to ensure that people buy your product new is to make it worth the purchase by making it a good damn game.

I ask you this; do you want the game industry to take the turn for the better, or for the worse. If you want it to get better, start voting with your wallet and stop purchasing their products until the industry manages to get their heads for their assess.




Review; Castlevania Lords of Shadow DLC packs

You might want to read the review of the main game before entering this one. All there said applies here.

The DLC packs come in two sets; Reverie and Resurrection. These two packs are pretty short and cost 800 MS Points, thou I have no idea or desire to check what the price is on PSN. The reason is quite simple; both of the DLC packs are pretty bad.
Let’s talk about Reverie first. Reverie consist mostly of re-used castle designs from the main game for battle areas, but then has few new areas with puzzles in it. Nothing more. No really, the first DLC is just there to further the plot and waste of money.
The second DLC is a series of timed platforming at its worst and two boss battles, that are meant to be hard, but are just frustrating because the boss is designed to take advantage of the controls’ shortcomings. The fight against the Forgotten One could’ve been a good optional high difficulty end boss, but it’s so counterintuitive that it hurts my head just thinking about it.

The two packs, in all essence, are waste of money and time. You can watch the story scenes from Youtube and receive better experience that way. All that the weaknesses are present in the DLC more than any of the strenghts. The DLC for CLoS is half-assed at best. At best they were like a bad ripoff of Crash Bandicoot, but that’s not saying much when the game’s called Castlevania.
The thing is, these packs are essential for continuity obsessive people; the DLC storyline sets between the final battle of the main game and the ending cinema after the credits.

Does the DLC packs ruin the game? No, but they do bring down the overall quality. After finishing them there’s no value in them, no replay value or similar. Personally, I feel that I could play CLoS through again in the upacoming season, but not the DLC. It would have been decent in price whether they had put the packs together, but 1400 MS Points for this carbage is way too much. No wonder they never released these packs in Japan.