Last night I tweeted something mostly to mock the “free culture” movement that doesn’t want to pay for anything. Since I mostly play the multiplayer versions of video games, and rarely spend any time at all with the storyline, I made the following comment:
A la carte for video games! Why should I have to buy the storyline just to get the multiplayer?
Since then, it occurred to me that there is a larger point to be made from that idea. Everyone agrees that a disk based video game industry is on the way out. As next generation consoles include more drive capacity, broadband speeds continue to rise; and optical drives fall aside in favor of downloadable content, the idea of a straight download model makes sense.
As delivery changes, the options for sales grow. Services like OnLive, Steam and the Xbox Live Arcade clearly illustrates that streaming or direct to drive game delivery are models that work. Given the removal of physical constraints that accompany disks, there is little reason game companies couldn’t provide three versions of a game – multiplayer, storyline, and a combo pack.
If they did, people like me would never buy the storyline again. I simply don’t find the storyline game all that interesting. Linear games are boring affairs and open-world can get just as tedious. Multiplayer is infinitely variable depending on the opposition. Campers (those cowardly rat bastards) aside, human players make a more interesting game.
If I could buy just the multiplayer for half the cost of the combo pack, I’d buy a lot more games. My total contribution to the industry wouldn’t drop, but it would be spread out across a wider array of companies. I suspect a lot of people would do the same.
The possibility of owning a larger library of games I would play (multiplayer) and keeping my drive from being all crudded up with storyline crap, appeals to me. I hope the game developers will realize the options available to them and consider breaking up the product.
That said, I’m not about to demand FCC acton to regulate game companies to make that happen.