Rectify Gaming

None of Us are Entitled to Free Next-Generation Game Upgrades


Posted on February 25, 2022 by Michael Boccher

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I’ve been playing games for 38 years since I was 5 years old. In those years, I’ve never seen a time where gamers have acted more entitled than they are now. The main topic recently has been upgrades to the next generation of consoles. It appears the gigantic leap in technological advancement for video games has played a huge part in this. It’s simple human nature: The more people get, the more they want. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, the curiosity of the human mind and longing for innovation is what has allowed us to survive and thrive as a species. At its core, innovation is a good thing. Unfortunately, the flip side is where many gamers have staked their claim. The primary issue being not just console upgrades, but FREE console upgrades for games from one generation to the next. I have never seen the debate so hotly contested before as it is now.

There are three main areas of focus that need to be discussed in the matter. When all tied together, it shows that unfortunately many gamers today tend to mislabel what they WANT to get as something they are REQUIRED to get from game developers and publishers. While this may be nice, it couldn’t be further from the truth. 

My first video game system was an Atari 2600. I got it when I was five years old in 1984. I still remember the first game I played on it – Maze Craze. My younger brother and I would play for hours together. We’d tease each other. Whoever was the first one to the end of the maze would sit there and say “Come on I’ll wait”. Then, of course, we’d pop into the exit a second before the other one made it there. I still remember everything about it and can even draw the room we played in from memory thirty seven years later. Fast forward a couple years and I got my first NES, Christmas 1987. My dad video taping it, my mom says it looks like there’s one last gift behind the tree for me and me dancing so happily on camera. To this day it is still my favorite Christmas. The main reason why is because I remember so vividly how I felt at that exact moment. I couldn’t wait to play it and had so many memories with it. I’m still the only person I know that TKO’d Mike Tyson in the first round of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!.  007-373-5963. The real ones will know. 

These times alone all pale in comparison to how it made me feel during those moments. That’s the best part of playing games, how they make you feel. As intoxicating as that feeling can be, within that feeling lies what has been falsely manipulated into fact: That you as a gamer are required to get that feeling from every game. 

Nobody is entitled to another’s hard work for free

First and foremost, it needs to be said that neither you, nor I, nor anybody is entitled to anything a game developer or publisher makes for free. You’re just not. Now, if some company chooses to do so, that’s fine. If another company chooses not to, that’s fine too. Microsoft chose the former with its Smart Delivery system requiring all Xbox One and Xbox One S/X games to receive free upgrades to the Series S and X consoles. There is no problem with this. These companies are aware of this going in and receive compensation from Microsoft for doing so. Sony has opted for the latter and chosen not to provide free upgrades. Instead, they are going to charge $10 for upgrades from the PS4 to the PS5 versions of games. There is also no problem with this either.

Now, the issue is that many people feel that since Microsoft is choosing to do this for free, that they are somehow required to get the same thing for free from everybody else. This, of course, makes absolutely no sense. Sony did not help themselves in the matter either. Initially, they stated the recently released Horizon Forbidden West would receive a free upgrade, then backtracked and wanted to charge $10. Gamers flipped out, and rightfully so as it was a broken promise by a company to people who support their product. Voices got loud, Sony heard them and went back to their original statement of allowing a free upgrade for Forbidden West

Why is it just video games that are receiving this attention? Let’s put it in perspective, shall we? Were you required to receive DVD’s of all your VHS movies that you owned? Were you required to receive Blu-Rays of all your DVD’s that you owned? I owned so many cassette tapes when I was a kid and for the life of me I just can’t seem to remember being given their CD upgrades for free. I just bought a new car. If next year’s model is released with an upgraded engine or some cool new navigation system, am I required to be given that for free from the manufacturer? 

How many believe they are entitled to free upgrades from game developers, yet have willingly forked over thousands of dollars year after year to Apple or Google for the newest phone? Spoiler alert, it’s 100% of them. Therein lies the hypocrisy. One cannot simply pick and choose solely because it’s what they want.  

Think

There’s also the legal aspect that comes into play. These are all private companies that have the right to run their businesses as they see fit. Nobody, including any of us or government, has the right to tell a private company how to operate their business. Not only does this violate so many laws that I can’t even count, but it goes against everything that has allowed us to advance to the point we are at today. There is no possible way that companies would have had the freedom to innovate these technological advancements if they had to do it all for free. 

Economics is the third factor in this. Money makes the world go round’. We all know this. The economics behind the decisions the companies make is another key element with these upgrades. Let’s start with Microsoft. Now, as mentioned they require companies to provide these upgrades free of charge via their Smart Delivery system. One must ask why Microsoft chooses to do this. Well, let’s look at the dollar signs, shall we?

Currently, Microsoft has announced they have 25 million subscribers to Game Pass. The cost per month is $15 per subscriber, or in total $375 million per month that goes into Microsoft’s pocket. Since the $1 sign up discount only applies to the first month, the monthly revenue isn’t impacted for the sake of this discussion. Remember, these developers don’t spend all this time and money making a game only to make nothing because it’s on Game Pass. Microsoft compensates them, and it is this money that allows Microsoft to do so. Microsoft made a business decision that said developers had to offer these upgrades to Series S/X for free because they had the revenue income to do so from these other areas such as Game Pass. 

Sony has 48 million PlayStation Plus subscribers at a varying cost between $5-$10 month depending on whether you choose to pay monthly or yearly. This would average out to anywhere from $240 to $480 million per month from subscribers for Sony. Now, could Sony do the same thing as Microsoft? Sure. Do they have to? Absolutely not. I’ve seen people say things like “They make so much money so they can afford it” or “They should have to give it to us because it’s not fair that they have so much money”. First, these companies are the two biggest companies for a reason. Remember, you never complained for a PS2 for free over your PS1, or a PS3 free over your PS2, or the PS4 free over your PS3. So, why now? Secondly, not all companies make the money that Sony and Microsoft do. In fact, most of them will most likely never make what they make in a month in the entire duration their company remains in existence. If you force one company to give upgrades for free, then ALL companies will be forced to do it. 

A third-party or indie developer releases a game, people buy it, play it and give feedback. If it’s well received, chances are it will benefit from a new generation upgrade. Said developer gets compensated from Microsoft for doing this upgrade for free from Smart Delivery. Now, all these developers lose a portion of sales from the digital storefronts. This can vary, but tends to hover around the 30% area. If developers gave these upgrades for free on PlayStation after not being compensated like with Microsoft, they are losing that much more money in the sale of the game. 

If this developer charges $10 for their own upgrade like Sony does for their first party games, that’s a huge amount to them. Say their game is a hit and sells a million copies. Let’s say half of those are on PS4 – 500 thousand. $10 per copy would amount to an extra $5 million dollars for the company, right? Not so fast. Not every single person that bought the game on PS4 is going to play the game on PS5. Many, if not most, would simply beat the game and say “Ah I already beat the game I don’t care about the upgrade” and then never play it again. Factor in on top of that the cost of the wages to pay employees to make the upgrade and everything else that went into it, and the company is damn close to breaking even. Even if they do make a profit, some of that profit will of course roll over to development of their next game and so on. This is how companies stay in business and make the technological advancements that we have lovingly benefitted from all these years. Now, imagine if they did all this for free then lost money. Now, imagine on top of that if the game wasn’t as successful and sold even fewer copies. This amounts to very little in the grand scheme of things to a game developer company. 

Saying these companies should be required to do so or just do so out of the goodness of their hearts ignores the sheer realities of the situation. Making it a requirement using the biggest companies as a justification ignores the economic hardships that would be thrust onto all of the smaller companies as a result. This would cause companies to go out of business. As a result, you, the very person who asked for these things for free in the first place, would no longer have the option to get any of these upgrades at all because you put the company that would have made them out of business with your appetite for emotion rather than logic. You become your own worst enemy. 

Whether a game company wants to give me a free upgrade or not, that’s up to them. I’m happy either way as I get to experience something that I’ve never had the option to experience before. This feeling of constantly having something brand new to experience is well worth a couple of bucks when one considers not only what one has to gain, but ever more importantly what we all may stand to lose in the process. One must think about that and the long-term issues in the future opposed to simply one’s own desires.

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