Welcome to week five of the Game Critic! This weeks topic is not, as some might have hoped or feared, going to be about Harvest Moon. No discussing of watering crops, growing corn or how to marry the mayors daughter. No, this week we're going to discuss milking cash cows.
To those of you have have never heard of the term "cash cow franchise" before, its a pretty simple concept that most industries are actually guilty of because its so easy to do. The concept is simple. Develop a product that an acceptable number of people will purchase. Then, after a period of time, take that exact same product, make a few minor enhancements and adjustments, and then release it again at the full price, dubbing it a sequel or a newer model. The followers of that product, swayed by product placement, rush out and purchase the newest model. A short time later, the newest iteration of the product releases, and the cycle is reborn.
Milking a franchise is a positive to businesses for obvious reasons. It builds and relies on an already established fan base for the product and requires very little time and money to perpetuate. Those same employer positives however, hurt buyers by offering them little more then a snazzy new feature that's all chrome for their well spent dollar.
However, given the long history of product franchise milking across all industries, it won't be gone anytime soon. Disney has done it (straight to video sequels anyone?), Apple has done it (Their basic operating system stayed the same for over a decade while re-releasing), Cell phone manufacturers have mastered it, the list goes on.
The gaming industry is one area however, where it is relatively easy to perpetuate. Often publishers take a previous concept, slap a new coat of paint over the same old code, and re-release the product as a brand new concept. A great example of this (aside from 90% of bargain bin games and a large percentage of games produced by Electronic Arts) is the Dance Dance Revolution series by Bandai.
On its own, Dance Dance Revolution is a good game...albeit one that has not changed since its first incarnation. The concept is simple: Stand on an arrowed pad and move your feet to match the arrows on screen in time with the music. This basic concept has not changed since the original Dance dance Revolution game almost 10 years ago shy of the Nintendo Wii releases (which have you move your hands as well). In those ten years however, Bandai has released multiple versions of each title on each system. None has changed the formula outside of added new songs here and there.
In fact, almost all ideas of improvement have been frowned upon. 2 weeks ago I brought up the flawed load system, where the newest iterations of DDR take just as long to load as the previous versions on far less powerful systems.
In addition to every game being essentially identical, Bandai has recently utilized online capabilities to pull more cash out of customers. When I purchased DDR Universe 2 for the Xbox 360 (A $70 purchase), I was intrigued to see that they offered 'down loadable' songs off of X-box live. When I logged on, I found that sure enough, there were 10 songs available to purchase either individually or together. However, I noticed that each song (supposedly containing new music, and backgrounds) was less then a third the size of a standard mp3, and the 10 song pack where all came at once was the exact same size. I did some digging, and what did I find?
Those songs are already on the disc. I'd already purchased them, they are already listed in the manual. I just couldn't play them until i'd shelled out another 10 bucks (making my total $80)
So what can we do? Fight back! When you see the newest Deluxe special edition of Cow milkers 2 (now with new colors of cows!) going up for sale, hold back the buck, do some research to see if its really worth your money (just google the name of the game plus the word review and you'll get all the opinions you'll need) and then, only then, if you really need it, buy it. If not, shell out your cash somewhere else.
The buying public keeps this going. We can stop it.
Games I'm currently playing: Crysis (PC), Command & Conquer 3: Kanes Wrath (PC), Megaman 9 (Wii), DDR Universe 2 (360), Final Fantasy IV (DS)