Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
01 May 2007
Will Tomb Raider Anniversary be the first big business model deathmatch?
So GameTap's PR contacted me regarding this post (which I've hopefully corrected) and pointed out that GameTap will offer Tomb Raider Anniversary through its subscription service and, apparently, the new online retail service. That's certainly an important distinction, and I regret that I missed it originally because it makes the situation even more interesting.

Now, we don't know for sure that Steam will have Tomb Raider Anniversary concurrently with GameTap's subscription service and brick-and-mortar stores, but just suppose for the moment that it will. Then Tomb Raider Anniversary could well offer a comparison of business models we've never seen before:
  1. Boxed sales at brick-and-mortar stores
  2. Virtual game sales through Steam and GameTap
  3. On-demand play through GameTap
I would truly love to know the outcome of such an experiment, but I suspect that none of the players involved -- Eidos/SCi, retailers, Valve, Turner -- will give us that data. We might be able to infer which was better by what model or models are chosen when Tomb Raider 8 launches next year.

For average Joe User with broadband access, I get the feeling that GameTap's on-demand play offers the best deal. You can sign up for a single month, play the game, and then drop the service (or switch to the free ad-driven version). If you take two months to finish it because you have a life outside games, then you end up dropping $20 on it, maximum. If owners of the boxed Windows version can get away with spending as little as $10 even after they play and sell the used game, I'd be surprised. I don't think Steam will be pricing this kind of brand new game at $10, although they should be offering it at a discounted price if they know what's good for them.

It pains me to say that GameTap offers a better value, mind you, but there you go. For Joe User, mind you, but not for me.

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--Matt Matthews at 16:13
Comment [ 2 ]

Comments on this post:

I still don't like this whole digital distribution thing. I want my discs in my cases with awesome artwork.

By Blogger QueenKatofTypos, at 01 May, 2007 20:34  

Isn't Gametap's on-demand model more analogous to game _rental_, rather than game _purchase_? In fact, isn't it the all-network version of Gamefly?

Maybe I'm more "typical" than I thought, but it seems to me that the Gamefly/Gametap model might appeal to more than just Joe User.

Oldmanmurray wannabees (and I think there's scores of 'em), or other game bloggers who don't get demo copies sent to them, could find Gamefly tremendously handy for reviewing and commenting on lots of games without having to pony up the dough for many games they won't like or play later.

In that case, I'd think Gamefly would appeal to reviewers, since it uses your original hardware and you don't run into "is it the game, or is it the emulator?" questions.

On the other hand, Gametap's platformless model hopes to hit the casual gamers. They're hoping there's an untapped market who won't pay hundreds of bucks for a system, but who have a computer with spare flops and pixels burning a hole in its pocket. ("Untapped"...ah, I start to understand the clever name...)

This might sound like I'm agreeing with jvm, so let me explicate curmudgeonwise:

I think "average Joe User" is a mirage, and one that jvm (and all of us) misuse and miscomprehend. I suspect that anyone who actively wants to play a bunch of retro games doesn't qualify as "average" in anyone's book.

Gametap is specifically targeting the portal/"casual gamer" field, with a spectrum of games from old and therefore 2d with simple interfaces, all the way to Tomb Raider (which has a lot of "everyone talked about that, maybe I should check it out" appeal). That's a potentially lucrative niche, but exactly none of them read CG to hear what their best deal is. If that's the sort of demographic you're thinking about as "Joe User", then fine, but even if Gametap offers the best deal for them, Gametap won't thrive unless it can communicate its existence and value to them.

The people Gametap is least likely to appeal to are those who have a console, who I'd think of as "Joe Gamer". For them, gaming belongs on the TV, which is in front of the couch, using the hardware (including controllers that came free!) they've already paid for. I think Gamefly might well appeal to some of these people, but not Gametap. So surely these aren't the "average Joe Users" you're talking about, or if you are, you're wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. :)

By Blogger Bob, at 04 May, 2007 15:02  

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