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Pro Video Game Leagues — Another Economic Casualty 207

Posted by Soulskill
from the quake-me dept.
Anonymusing writes "Not long ago, professional video gamer Emmanuel Rodriguez earned a base $30K salary plus prize winnings in the Championship Gaming Series. However, with the economy suffering, sponsors like DirecTV and News Corporation are backing out, leaving Rodriguez with a more typical job for a 23-year-old: store clerk. After the demise of the CPL and the Championship Gaming Series last year, the only major pro gamer league left is Major League Gaming, though it expects to turn a profit this year — some of its players earn more than six figures from the $1 million in prizes given throughout the season, while others are putting off college to work on their gaming careers." A recent story in the LA Times discusses how the games industry slow-down is hitting game developers hard as well. Conversely, the used game market is seeing significant growth — it'll be interesting to see what publishers learn from this.
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Pro Video Game Leagues — Another Economic Casualty

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  • by Evil_Medic1 (1345503) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:23PM (#27434129)
    Probably...
    "The used game market is canibalizing our sales, they must be stopped!"
    • by Stepnsteph (1326437) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:57PM (#27434695)
      What they SHOULD learn is that they need to lower their #&@%ing prices. We're not talking rocket science here: People buy used games because they're - gasp! - not $60 or more. $30 to $40 is a far more realistic price range for games, and thus that's what most people are going to pay. Basic economics is a little too difficult for these people though. They'll just panic and blame used games for "cannibalizing their sales", or go on blaming piracy, or make some other inane excuse.
      • Damn. I used up my mod points already. You make a good point which companies are aware of, they're just too greedy to change. We're paying prices which have been the same for ages, from the days when gaming was a niche hobby and there were fewer copies of games created (which by the magic of supply and demand means they were probably more expensive to make). I remember eagerly shelling out $80 CAD for the first Dark Forces PC game the day it was released. That was unusual - a new release price was about $60

        • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:18PM (#27436709) Homepage

          We're paying prices which have been the same for ages

          Which is actually a pretty good deal considering how other prices have risen in the same time frame, including the cost to develop a game.
           
           

          You make a good point which companies are aware of, they're just too greedy to change

          Why *should* they change? Demand for games is largely (though not completely) inelastic - dropping the price doesn't result in an equivalent increase in sales.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by filthpickle (1199927)

          Nintendo games costing about $50 (an AWFUL lot of money in the late 1980s)

          somebody else that was young back then man up with me and admit to going into your room and crying when you bought a new nintendo game and then slowly...horribly...realized that it sucked after 20 minutes or so of playing it. $50 was a LOT of money for me to come up with then, and my parents were only gonna buy me 2, maybe 3 games a year.

          (dana carvey grumpy old man voice) and we played it anyway! we liked that it sucked!(/dcgomv)

        • by westlake (615356)

          We're paying prices which have been the same for ages

          Which means that - adjusted for inflation - prices are dramatically lower while production values are dramatically higher.

          there were fewer copies of games created (which by the magic of supply and demand means they were probably more expensive to make)

          No it doesn't.

          Your production budget has to be be based on a realistic projection of future sales. If you want to remain in business.

          I remember Atari 2600 games costing about $10-20

          You remember wrong.

          But

        • Considering the budgets that newer games have, compared to what NES games cost to make, you're getting a fucking great deal.

          In terms of raw sales, the gaming market hasn't had that much growth since the late 1980s, certainly not enough to offset the exponential increase in development costs. That's where all the money goes. The cost of the physical medium is and always was almost negligible.

      • by jez9999 (618189)

        What they SHOULD learn is that they need to lower their #&@%ing prices. We're not talking rocket science here: People buy used games because they're - gasp! - not $60 or more. $30 to $40 is a far more realistic price range for games, and thus that's what most people are going to pay.

        When did you become a communist?

        • by BoberFett (127537)

          Supply and demand is a capitalist concept, not communist.

          If that was an attempt at being funny, you failed miserably.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by servognome (738846)

            Supply and demand is a capitalist concept, not communist.

            Supply and demand is an economic concept, capitalism and communism are different methods to deal with it.

      • by Mr_Silver (213637)

        What they SHOULD learn is that they need to lower their #&@%ing prices. We're not talking rocket science here: People buy used games because they're - gasp! - not $60 or more. $30 to $40 is a far more realistic price range for games, and thus that's what most people are going to pay. Basic economics is a little too difficult for these people though.

        The price of games has no relevance to to levels of piracy.

        If it did, no-one would have swapped C120 cassettes of £2 Spectrum games and the Amiga would

        • So what you're saying is... if games were already free, for some reason people would pirate them?

          More so, you're saying that if people could get 2 or 3 games for the current price of 1 game, that EVERYBODY would still continue to pirate?

          Gimme a break! Of course there will still be people who pirate the really cheap games... I know friends who have pirated Gumboy. But to say that there's NO relevance at all is... just silly. Even when you earn $10/hr, a $50 game means 5 hours (more with taxes) of
      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Back in the early 90s, a NES cart would go fo $75 at Toys 'R Us.

        $75.

        And people are getting games way, way more complex for less than that?

        Even so, I do agree that the price is too high. I think a lot of it has to do with the "movie box office" style of sales they employ - they make most of their money in the first few weeks of sale and then it drops off to practically nothing after that. I believe this is a non-issue through smart marketing and digital distribution.

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      They've already learned that lesson.

      "Buy our new game, only $80! You can install it three whole times, on any computer you want!"

  • My 3 guesses (Score:4, Insightful)

    by click2005 (921437) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:25PM (#27434147)

    Conversely, the used game market is seeing significant growth -- it'll be interesting to see what publishers learn from this.

    1. That future games will be a 2Mb executable that downloads all the game content.
    2. They need to charge more for games
    3. Piracy is to blame.

    • One problem with your first bullet. High end games are getting HUGE. That's a hell of a lot of bandwidth on the server side along with a lot of data to push through someone's cable model. Can you imagine having to wait a day or two to play a game you just bought from Walmart?
      • by click2005 (921437)

        I know and with the game industry seeming to love wasting more and more effort on cut-scenes and unneeded HD content its only likely to increase. Valve's Steam has shown it can work well (especially with being able to download locked games before they're released that unlock at a certain time) although 20-30Gb games will use up some people's bandwidth allowances.

        I suspect in a few years we'll all be getting most of our entertainment (games, tv, movies, music & pay per view events) online with ISPs doin

        • Valve's Steam has shown it can work well (especially with being able to download locked games before they're released that unlock at a certain time)

          That Peter North sized upstream phatpipe they seem to have helps also. Glad I don't live where the bandwidth is metered (yet), I get anything I can on steam.

          I've never been angry with how long I had to wait for a game to dl thru steam. Although I'm more than willing to be the exception to the rule there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:26PM (#27434153)

    Conversely, the used game market is seeing significant growth -- it'll be interesting to see what publishers learn from this.

    Clearly they need to go straight to the "used" market. It's like "straight to DVD" in movies.

  • if only... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Digitus1337 (671442) <lk_digitus.hotmail@com> on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:28PM (#27434183) Homepage
    If only we had some players that were -really- good at "fix the economy" games. I'd grok to that.
    • Get those people who are earning more than six figures each, out of a total of $1,000,000. They seem to have managed the whole 'wealth creation' thing. Or they measure their income in cents...
  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:28PM (#27434195)

    used game market is seeing significant growth -- it'll be interesting to see what publishers learn from this.

    Ooo oo oo, I know, pick me! Publishers will learn that they should publish used games! ... hm, wait...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by v1 (525388)

      No, what they'll learn is to install even more offensive DRM that prevents you from reselling your game, so they can sell more new copies.

      oh wait they're already starting to do that aren't they?

  • Stories like this make me feel *OLD*.

    Take my lawn.

  • Sports Celebrities (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:29PM (#27434229)

    He's just a sports celebrity. That's all. You don't hear anyone crying because nobody can get sponsors for curling, do you?

    If people wanted to watch other people play video games, the economy would have very little effect on his life.

    Though, honestly, I've never been sure why people want to watch other people play any other sport, either.

  • by moose_hp (179683) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:30PM (#27434233) Homepage

    [...] Conversely, the used game market is seeing significant growth â" it'll be interesting to see what publishers learn from this.

    That DRM is good and they should disallow the selling of used games.

    What? they were supposed to learn that their bussiness model can be better? that most new games cost way too much? that is not required to have a great studio spending millions of dollars to make a great game (World of Goo comes to mind, their "studio" was pretty much any coffe shop with free wi-fi)?

    I may be wrong...

  • by edittard (805475)
    We kan haz baylowt?
  • by drsquare (530038) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:33PM (#27434295)

    Perhaps that in a recession people cut back on luxuries, and that a computer game is less important than a mortgage repayment.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No, the computer game is a necessity, it's clearly an important piece of the American dream, therefore something every American has a right to own. The government can step in and cover the mortgage repayment.
    • by esocid (946821)
      or that people will buy games frugally. In the depression (the 1930s one), I think escapism helped some entertainment industries boom: clubs, movies, variety shows. While people now are less inclined to leave their homes or go somewhere where a TV isn't present, they still need something to escape their daily lives. Studios should bite the bullet and price their games down 8%, or whatever, and see that maybe their sales might increase, rather than the standard $50 game which hasn't seemed to change for a co
    • Perhaps that in a recession people cut back on luxuries, and that a computer game is less important than a mortgage repayment.

      Ah, when you sit back and read how some are earning six figures doing this, you quickly realize WHAT is paying that mortgage...

      Bottom line is whether it's 15 minutes or 15 seconds, if you're offered fame these days, you better TAKE IT while you can. Might not come around as often in this economy, but use your skillz while you still have them, and get paid well. Hand-eye coordination and reflexes aren't exactly something that sticks with you through your 30s and 40s, so good luck to those who actually thin

  • No surprises there (Score:3, Insightful)

    by godfra (839112) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:34PM (#27434313) Journal
    The problem with competitive gaming is that it's more exciting to play the game than it is to watch someone else, even if they are way better than you.

    The way to keep people interested is to involve them. Simply presenting video gaming in the same manner as a football match isn't really enough.
    • by evilNomad (807119) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:48PM (#27434533)

      You must be an expert, because the users, more than 200.000 unique a month, on my site that is dedicated to broadcasting Counter-Strike matches, sure beg to differ with your conclusion..

    • I beg to differ (Score:3, Interesting)

      by chrisG23 (812077)
      I like watching competetive starcraft matches much more than playing it. In South Korea, there are 12 professional starcraft teams of 7-14 members each, that play one another in the team pro-league. On top of that there are 3 single player tournament leagues (OSL - Ongamenet Starleague, MSL - MBC Starleague, and GomTV Invitational) that run pretty much concurrently. The games are televised, the best players make a decent living when you take their team base salary + tournament winnings + sponsorships into a
  • You mean video game playing adult isn't a recession proof job? Who woulda thunk that?!

  • The thing that I find to be most outrageous is that there are pro video gamers in the first place. Last I checked, they weren't showing up anywhere on ESPN. WTF, was that just some sort of feeble attempt by the game publishers to get more people buying their warez? "Oh, if you get really really good, we will pay you to play video games all day long. (You gotta be in the top 0.0000005% to get that though, in the meantime we will still take your $$$)"
    • For the most part the pro-gaming leagues were set up by random entrepreneurs, not game publishers. Yes, they represented publicity. But the jury is still very much out on whether people will pay to watch other people play video games. They do in Korea, for sure, but not in the USA. So it was never obvious that the PR they represented was really worth the expense of running them. That's why it wasn't the publishers that set them up.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, to be honest I'd say most companies were actually against it. Valve regularly would push updates that you were forced to use that completely shifted or broke gameplay.
        The only exceptions would be Blizzard and ID, both of which run their own tournaments.. but they both keep their competitive play second to attracting new players.

        Frankly as a 'pro-gamer', Im glad its crashing down. The scene is awful. Bunch of 16 year old kids who bitch about tourneys not having >$5k purses. Pro gaming used to just

    • How is pro video gaming any different than pro golf or pro football? The bottom line is you're being paid to play a game and that's it. Neither is a productive activity. You also need to realize that pro gamers take their craft very very seriously and dedicate many hours a day to improving their skills. These aren't kids goofing around for a couple of hours a day to beat on their friends. They are as serious about competitive gaming as any pro athlete is about their sport. To be even a good amateur ga

    • The thing that I find to be most outrageous is that there are pro video gamers in the first place. Last I checked, they weren't showing up anywhere on ESPN. WTF, was that just some sort of feeble attempt by the game publishers to get more people buying their warez? "Oh, if you get really really good, we will pay you to play video games all day long. (You gotta be in the top 0.0000005% to get that though, in the meantime we will still take your $$$)"

      Er, the " top 0.0000005%" eh? And how is this ANY different from ANY other professional sport in the top leagues? What percentage of pee-wee league kids are you going to see in the Superbowl in 20 years? I'd probably say it's around "0.0000005%".

      IMHO, video gamers are no more "professional" than bowlers or golfers. Yes, it all takes dedication by all which I fully respect, but hitting little white balls with a stick or knocking down sticks with a ball can seem just as pointless, yet we pay them hundreds

  • A little help (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Useful Wheat (1488675) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:39PM (#27434393)
    To be honest, I've never really understood how the pro gaming leagues really made any money. I understand that sponsors will give money to anything (re: Pizza hut advertising on a NASA rocket http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=2202 [spaceref.com]), but this is no excuse. At the very most I'm indifferent about how well other people play the games I play, and I'm pretty sure most of my friends are the same way. The economy is just a useful scapegoat in this situation. Let's take a survey: How many of you enjoy watching other people play video games? How many of you have dismissed players that dominate you as having spent way too much time playing video games? What's your favorite kind of cheese? I'm partial to those Kraft American Singles.
    • by Narishma (822073)
      I suppose you are talking about competitive video games. If that's the case, then yes I enjoy watching how others play. It's no different than watching a match of tennis or chess. Do you also wonder why people watch those instead of going out and playing the sport themselves?
    • I am very passionate about cycling, and tried racing, but didn't like it. However, niche sports like these all suffer from the same problem:

      They don't have a mass audience.

      There are millions of people that will watch a game of football, baseball, basketball or soccer (especially soccer) on a (n>inf)" widescreen plasma LCD TV (or any TV, really) at home, or in the pub/bar, supermarket, while shopping, etc. I postulate that a reason for this is that the action and "spirit" of each sport caters to dif
      • by 2short (466733)
        Cycling has a big advantage though: Take that many hour race and edit it down to a 15 minute highlight reel, and you *do* have something you can watch in a bar. Even as a gamer, even if you cut it down to a highlight reel, I can't see wanting to watch others play for long.

        Admittedly, in the US at least, non-cyclists don't watch cycling the way people watch football. Which is why pro cycling gets supported by people advertising to cyclists, and football gets supported by people marketing to a wider audienc
      • by lgw (121541)

        It's somewhat embarassing to admit, but I actually enjoy watching curling on TV. I'd never want to actually participate, but the recently broadcast US olympic trials caused my to see TV commercials for the first time in more than a year,

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NigelT (1265592)
      I can see how you might find it hard to understand video games as a spectator sport...but usually, The people watching are avid gamers themselves, they know the mechanics of the game involved and at least in my experience, enjoy watching others demonstrate their ability, or sometimes inability to do well in whatever the game of choice may be. Nevermind the whole competition aspect of it...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Fozzyuw (950608)

      (re: Pizza hut advertising on a NASA rocket http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=2202 [spaceref.com] [spaceref.com])

      Off topic to the article, but to your point about sponsors... KFC is actually spending money to fill pot holes and spray-paint their logo on them [chicagotribune.com]. Complete with Col. Sanders standing around with a bright green jacket.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      i) How many of you enjoy watching other people play video games?

      You do know that IN THE BEGINNING we used to stack quarters on the machines and wait our turn. If some bastard was really good he could keep the crowd waiting until people started to give up and pick up the quarters and leave.

      Damn, that used to feel good! :)

      Oh, wait, you wanted to know if I enjoyed watching other people play.

      The answer is Hell, yes! How do you think I ever learned to play the original Street Fighter? You remember, the on

    • by JMZero (449047)

      I don't understand how people watch, say, Halo 3 or Street Fighter (though I love playing Street Fighter).. Certainly there's strategy in those games, but much of it is not apparent in the default view, and is often eclipsed by execution skill that isn't entertaining - at least not after a while.

      On the other hand, a game like Starcraft is made to be watched (and many, many people do including myself). With a good observer (and commentator helps too), you can really get a feel for the strategy involved.

      I ge

    • by Machtyn (759119)
      Last I checked there were about 5 television stations that broadcast poker championships (ESPN, ESPN2, A&E, ...) And, people watch that even though that is an easy game to play (note my choice of words, it's not an easy game when you throw in the human dynamic).

      In any case, I enjoy watching poker because it is interesting to see the tough decisions a person has to make with money on the line. Likewise, in computer gaming, the player has to make a virtual life-or-death decision to win the game, that
    • by shermo (1284310)

      HP Blllaaaaacccckkkkkbird.

      That's why.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      To be honest, I've never really understood how the pro gaming leagues really made any money.

      I've never really understood how the pro football leagues really make any money.

      What's your favorite kind of cheese? I'm partial to those Kraft American Singles.

      That's not cheese.

  • XP League [xpleague.com] just started up, they were formerly HTGN. They are advertising cash payouts, similar to CPL.
  • by HalAtWork (926717) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:46PM (#27434497)
    Wow, that's a pretty short career for this kid [gadgetsandgizmos.org]...
  • by EWAdams (953502) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:53PM (#27434631) Homepage

    If the retailers aren't careful, they'll kill off their own source of supply. Used games are a big win for them and a big win for the consumer, and a big loss for the publishers. If the retailers drive the publishers to digital distribution ONLY, they won't have anything left to sell.

    You'll notice that major bookstores don't sell used books, only new ones.

    Within 20 years games may become a service like cable TV, not a product you buy and take home.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      There are separate stores for used books. It's a separate market from new books, though used book stores may sell the occasional new book.

      One reason for the difference is that people hold on to their books far longer than they hold on to their video games. So having a smaller supply, used books tend to be a much smaller market. Very old books go out of print, while old games either cannot be played (format change), or can be found via other sources (P2P). So while very old books can be worth a pretty penny,

    • by SScorpio (595836)

      Within 20 years games may become a service like cable TV, not a product you buy and take home.

      Last week at GDC there was a company called OnLive that set off a major buzz. Your 20 years might be a little pessimistic if the service takes off.

      http://www.onlive.com/ [onlive.com]

    • You'll notice that major bookstores don't sell used books, only new ones.

      ...and you'll notice that major bookstores are a dying breed [boston.com].

    • by demachina (71715)

      "Within 20 years games may become a service like cable TV, not a product you buy and take home."

      Multiplayer online games are already a service and probably should be. If its a game with persistence that people are going to play for a long period they almost have to be a subscription service like WoW. Two reasons:

      A. It insures the developer has a financial incentive to continue to develop the game, fix bugs and run servers. When games have a burst of sales after they launch and then it tails off, the deve

    • by Hatta (162192)

      You'll notice that major bookstores don't sell used books, only new ones.

      You'll notice that I don't shop at major book stores.

      Within 20 years games may become a service like cable TV, not a product you buy and take home.

      If they want me to never ever buy a new game again, that would be a good plan.

  • WSV (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jethro (14165) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:53PM (#27434639) Homepage

    I wonder if I can start a professional World's Smallest Violin league...

  • by lupinstel (792700) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @02:54PM (#27434653)

    In light of this news EA Sports has decided to cancel their new game "Major League Gaming - The Game 2K9".

    • In light of this news EA Sports has decided to cancel their new game "Major League Gaming - The Game 2K9".

      Dammit!

      I was hoping to prove that I could assemble and train a team of players that could beat the snot out of SK Telekom T1...

  • Conversely, the used game market is seeing significant growth â" it'll be interesting to see what publishers learn from this.

    Quit making the same games as each other and quit making so many damned sequels and then maybe people will see value in what you produce.

  • They'll probably learn nothing.

    But they'll probably add more DRM in the future, lobby harder, and generally give us less while attempting to charge more.

    Seems to be their typical reaction to any type of change or encroachment on their nearly obsolete business models. While I don't believe hard copy game selling will ever die as long as we have walmart, it's not a market that is growing as fast as digital delivery.

  • The professional video gaming industry is part of the fabric of our country. It has become too important to fail.

    I think they deserve a bailout.

  • "some of its players earn more than six figures from the $1 million in prizes given throughout the season"

    Either i or the people who wrote the article are not using the phrase "more than six figures" properly. I would think "more than six figures" would be the same as "seven or more figures," however since the total prizes for a season is $1 million only one player could actually earn seven figures (and everyone else would get nothing.)

    So presumably by "more than six figures" they mean "more that $100,0
    • Well, there were a couple of problems with the submission...

      • It's not "more than six figures", it should be "as much as six figures".
      • The six figures are not solely derived from the $1 million; most of the six figure money comes from sponsors, not prizewinnings.

      Sorry about that. Badly summarized, I admit.

  • I know... marketing, free market economy and whatnot... But

    I think many people actually playing professional sports get paid way too much money. I do understand the limited lifetime of their careers and that skill is involved, but seriously - it's a game.

    Paying people to *pretend* to play sports is silly. I do understand that there is some (button-pressing) "skill" involved, but seriously - it's a video game.

    • by brkello (642429)
      People don't realize how much work it is to be that good at a game. First, not everyone even has the physical ability (twitch skills) to be even able to compete. Beyond that it is learning every map, every angle, every cheap place to play. It is mastering every scenario, figuring out the timing of every item (if the game has it), etc. It requires a lot of time, patience, and practice just like any other sport. It really is no different. You just don't have to spend time in the gym.

      We pay actors and a
  • by rgviza (1303161)

    >it'll be interesting to see what publishers learn from this.

    People have less disposable income when the economy is in the toilet, and (duh...) games are a luxury?

    It doesn't take an economist (or game publisher) to figure that one out.

    I'm just a regular developer (as opposed to game developer) and I know this ;)

    -Viz

  • by kuzb (724081)
    Now he has to get a real job like the rest of us. My heart really bleeds for this guy. Really.
  • I have an older computer that can't run most new games, but on games it can run I wait until Best Buy is selling the game new for $20. For console games my sweet spot is also $20, but rarely do any of the new console games reach $20 new, so I just buy them used at Gamespot.

  • Game companies should buy back their games at a price slightly higher than the used game stores and sell them used at a slightly lower price off their web site. This would increase their revenue and drive the brick and mortar used shops out of business. Then once the stores are all destroyed, simply stop doing it so everyone has to buy them new again. If the used game stores come back, then start up business again. Evil and profitable.

    Of course, that is just using the current model. Really, just sell

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