Fortnightly, the Hawk gives you the good, the bad and the ugly of the whole Xbox Live Marketplace content. This week, we delve into the Games on Demand section.

Some years ago, as I was checking on the pros and cons of the digital download system, I received word that Microsoft would start delivering Xbox games (from the old console) as downloadable content in Xbox Live. Afterwards, Xbox 360 titles started appearing, and it has been the norm of having new titles each week.

Since the system begun, I have been dealing with a barrage of questions about how games were selected, if they were somehow affected on patches or additional content, and the famous discussion on what’s better: having your own physical copy (which you could sell or trade afterwards), or having the whole content on your drive only.

But there’s one thing I always come back to: the price of the available titles.  When the digital download discussion started, I always figured that it would be cheaper, as they would not need to include the cost of the physical game itself (DVD recording and labeling, manual and box). That, I was told, would lower the end price and attract the Live members attention.

Based on this, how can we explain these cases:

  • King Kong for $20 (a launch title, 2005)
  • Modern Warfare 2 for $60 (released in November 2009)

I recently read an article (thanks to one of my twitter contacts) about the explanation that Microsoft gave on having $20 as the low price limit for any title appearing on Games on Demand. The reason is how much the owner of a given store, who has to cover costs for employees, shop rental and/or services, and so on, would get affected by having to deal with a cheaper digital copy coming directly from Microsoft to their customer base. Ok, that’s fine, but I would invite any of our readers to prove me wrong if there’s a store where the Xbox 360 launch titles (brand “new” on their boxes) are available for $20. If there is at least one in the whole US, I eat my words (and tweet about it). And no, you can’t use the Microsoft Store, where prices will keep the same (but craziness does ensure, like Dead Rising for $12 – marketplace price: $20!).

As for the MW2 case, how can EA keep a full price for this title, when you have to deal with Halo: Reach, somewhat a direct competitor, for $50 bucks on the same section? Or Bad Company 2 for $40 (and remember, we are just now enjoying of Black Ops, the newest CoD release)?

You’ll end up wondering which market laws are used to stick prices to the GoD section. But in the end, you know deep in your heart they could make a better job about it. How, you would ask?

  • Stick to the premise that being a digital download a game must be cheaper than their retail versions
  • Do not ignore the general market! They can even compete against it. You think I would like to go to Gamestop or Amazon if I can purchase a digital version for a cheaper price?
  • Stop playing the guessing game! Keep uniformity based on original release date.

Steam has proved that digital downloads have a place in the game sales market. Now if Microsoft can improve their model…


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