Buying a video game, like the upcoming Mass Effect 3, is really complicated these days.
First, there’s stuff like this:
“Origin exclusive” means I get the in-game item if I buy the game a certain way. There might also be a Best Buy exclusive. Or a credit card exclusive. Or a second-Tuesday-of-the-month exclusive. Some exclusives are mutually exclusive exclusives, with a different bonus for Gamestop and Wal-Mart customers.
Origin is, of course, EA’s new Steam knockoff, another digital distribution platform for games. It’s required to play Mass Effect 3 on PC. As a PC gamer, that’s another piece of software I have to download and worry about, but for EA it’s a new way to sell me games. I’m sure the marketing guys are thrilled about it. I’m less excited.
Now they’ve announced DLC (downloadable content) that will be available upon the game’s release. It’s yet another thing to fuss over. Another thing to worry about. I have to decide if having an extra character in the game is worth the 3 dollars or 10 dollars they’ll be charging for it. For him.
Is he crucial to the story? Will the game still be good without him in it? Will he be a good squadmate or someone I end up not really liking? The answers are irrelevant, because having to even ask the questions is what’s bothering me.
At this point, it’s not about money. It’s about convenience. Buying a video game is too damned annoying. It’s like stopping at a toll both; It’s not paying the 75 cents that bothers me, it’s having to slow to a stop, wait in line, and then throw change in the bucket before I can be on my way.
It’s a pain.
In their rush to make money, game companies like EA and Bioware have inadvertently made their product harder to buy, increasing friction at the ever-so-crucial point of the financial transaction.
I’m not taking a principled stand against the game. I’m just not buying it because I can’t be bothered. I’ll be back when it’s easy.
So, what does that have to do with JC Penney?
They’re going the other way by simplifying the process of buying what they sell. They’re simplifying sales by just slashing everything by about 40% and doing away with the constant barrage of promotions. They’re making tags easier to read and easier to use.
They’re rounding prices to the nearest dollar.
JC Penney has essentially said the extra burden placed on the customer by all the 8.95s and 19.99s is no longer outweighed by whatever bullshit marketing benefit the practice had.
They strive to build trust and simplify the buying process in a brick-and-mortar retail environment. Meanwhile EA is trying to recreate all the typical brick-and-mortar consumer abuse in a digital environment.
I can’t help but think EA has everything hopelessly backward here. I just wish they didn’t have some of my favorite game franchises to sacrifice at the altar of marketing.