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What is Code Stripping?

Code stripping: the practice of removing or ‘stripping’ a game or software activation code from a physical, boxed product – entering it into a database and selling it as a digital code.  The physical product is then discarded.

Ever wonder why some digital codes that you see for sale are considerably cheaper than Steam?  Its not out of the goodness of the cheap retailers heart.  It is not because Steam is a rip off.  Its grey market versus legitimate.

Grey market games are those bought and sold through unofficial channels.  It is not a new concept.  Back when the X360 ceased region locking games – this whole sub market developed – and grey market retailers made fortunes.  Buying product from underdeveloped economies, shipping and selling them to consumers in other parts of the world.

In the world of PC digital – this has taken an alarming step forward.  Code stripping.

Basically code stripping involves wholesalers and retailers buying in pallet loads of cheap boxed PC product from underdeveloped gaming markets, employing cheap/unskilled labour to physically open the box, take out the code and pass to data entry, who will record the code in a database.  These codes are then sold online as digital activation codes.

Logically, the packaging and the disc then make their way into landfill as they are now useless.  And the sellers of both the boxed product and the codes make millions.  The end consumer is (usually) totally unaware that this process has occurred.

Code stripping is a blight on the industry – an extreme case of greed versus environment in our take, make, waste society.

So who is responsible for this?  Is it an ignorant consumer? A greedy retailer/wholesaler?  In part.  Ironically the main cause of the problem are those affected by it:  The Publisher.

The publisher needs to sell X amount of games at full price to be able to justify the expense of bringing the game to market.  The more copies that are sold at full price, the quicker break even point is reached and the more money can be made and then invested in the brand – including future iterations.  For most games, full price sales have a very limited life span – with the exception of super AAA – such as GTA and (almost) anything that Nintendo releases.   The bulk of full price sales happen in the first 4 weeks of launch.  Sometimes the first week.

For a discounted version of the full game to be available at release, the fewer full priced games sold, the longer it will take to break even.  No rocket science there.

However what you may not know is that the execs at the top of the tree will only be looking at top level numbers and decisions may be made to cut future, unannounced content – ie future iterations of the game, DLC, expansion packs, online functionality, etc.  This depends on the management team and the figures – and whether they adopt a ‘minimise losses’ strategy.  Development is halted, brand teams are cut and development studios closed (in the most extreme cases.)

In this instance, both the Publisher and the Consumer have missed out.  Not to mention the poor souls who have lost their jobs.

So why on earth would a publisher do this?

In my time in the industry, there are two sets of publishers.  Those that are sales driven and those that are marketing driven.

Both rely on and measure games sales.  The marketing driven publishers are different in that they will build and nurture their brands (particularly their own IP) at the expense of cheap unit sales out the door.  Rockstar and Bethesda are examples that come to mind.

Sales driven publishers tend to focus on shipping as many units as possible.  Period.  Their sales execs will usually be rewarded by volume of sales, rather than by ASP (average sell price) or margin.  In this sort of organization, you will find that the export manager who sells to the underdeveloped markets is very influential – and will be rewarded with praise and dollars for selling so many units and “expanding our reach”.  There will also be little care of the consequence of what happens to the product after it leaves the warehouse as the champagne corks fly. You don’t need to look far on discount sites at a products launch to see the heavily discounted titles and the publishers that they belong to.

The solution to Code Stripping?

  1. Education – for both the consumer and the publisher.
  2. Create a 1 tier pricing system – globally
  3. Develop pay to play games only
  4. Eliminate physical product from the underdeveloped markets
  5. Region encode – thus a game that originates from Russia (for example) can not be played anywhere outside of Russia, or features (such as online play) are limited outside of Russia.

There are some publishers now that have introduced region encoded SKU’s for their products – whilst some remain comfortably oblivious.

 

 

*At Savemi, we refuse to stock any product that is code stripped.  We only sell authorized digital codes from the publishers.

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WooCommerce HTML5 Video issues

Hey All.

We are currently using the WooCommerce HTML5 Video plug in that has gone a bit haywire.  Videos not showing, cant add new ones, interface off in the left margin somewhere.

Apparently there a new upgrade coming that is compatible with the latest version of Woocommerce.  Click here.

To be honest it has been wayyyy too long.  We persist because it has served a purpose for a while.

Anyone know of another decent (& free) video player that we can use?

Next step is to create new tab and embed out of Youtube

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The day I met Chewbacca – PAX 2014

PAX Melbourne Chewbacca
Anybody have some Chewie?

Ok so this should not be one of the highlights of my life, but…..

Thanks to my lovely wife for taking the photo and for not getting jealous.

2 days down at PAX as I reach for my first James Boags – looking back it has been a blast.

For the uninitiated, PAX = Penny Arcade Expo. dare I say kind of a Comicon.  Everything video games, comics and awesome costumes.  The overtly and covertly geek join together in celebration of alternate worlds and alternate thinking.

From the outset – I just love the energy, the exchange of ideas.  But what was most prevalent was the inclusion.  You could be dressed up as an Asari, or as Raiden, or in boring old civs like me and everyone was just happy to play, chat and impart knowledge.  There were a whole range of panel discussions and presentations in theatres across the way – I had a peep at the e-sports gaming panel.   Great to get knowledge of a completely different aspect of gaming.

Costume of the day for me – was definitely the Asari (Mass Effect Series – if you haven’t played.  Asari: They are kind of like well endowed female smurfs that mated with Squid Head.)  I was in line at the cafe when I saw her and was half scoffing down a hot dog, trying to get a receipt for the transaction – when she walked away.  I don’t have a photo, but a memory of the effort and the precision of the costume remain.

Biggest winner for the event would have to be “Cards Against Humanity”.  Ok so we played this over at E3.  It needs lots of alcohol.  It is like trivial pursuit for the depraved in all of us and gives some shocking insights into your friends minds.  Don’t play sober or with people who take themselves too seriously.  It is a piss take, but a hell (and I mean that) of a lot of fun.  The closest thing I have ever encountered (at a stretch) was a group of drunk people seriously and honestly playing “I Never”.  Seriously these cards sold out as soon as they had stock.

This year was interesting in that it was all about non-mainstream.  You just needed to look at the Xbox stand to see that it was more about Indie development and fringe games.

Conspicuous in their absence were Sony, EA and Activision –  an interesting decision given MS, Nintendo, Ubi and 2K really shone.  All booths were packed – and a line up for the big titles.  In the lead up to the manic Christmas selling period, you need to be top of mind.   This is an emotional and fast moving industry, with limited personal spending capabilities.  I am staggered that those with a Christmas title were not there.  Nor could you pre-order any title.  Seems like a massive opportunity lost.

Moreover. If I was a developer for an indie title and I went this weekend for ideas – I would be developing for PC and then at a small stretch for budget – for Xbox Live.

I really hope that those who went, support those who were there.

But enough of the downsides of the event – because there will be enough articles of derision by the small minded talking about mother’s basements, about people disconnected from reality and of those who cant find a partner.  These raise my ire – and are not for this post.

Big shout out to League of Legends and Wargaming also for putting everything into the show.  You all know about these – so not going to elaborate.  They fueled the excitement and energy of the show.

Ok so here is my list of games that I want to explore further – based on the show.

  1. The Crew – I like racing games to a point, then get really bored of doing the same thing over eg Forza, Gran Turismo.  This seemed to be a lot different with a lot more variety.  The street racing to me seemed like Juiced for the next gen.   Without the stupid drafting of the cocaine inspired sequel.
    1. The speed of racing – i haven’t come across yet.  It is fast.  It is very fast.  Speed wise it is what you can do next gen.  Control wise – needs to be fixed and quickly.  Too much over steer on a correction.  I was a constant fish.  Frustrating as a racing game fan.  Don’t play if you are a novice to the racing genre.  If they get that right – a big winner.
    2. I really liked the different ways to play – not just point to point racing and not just on track.  But the thing that drew me to the title was that ability to basically drive around the US.  Apparently you can just freeplay and drive route 66 coast to coast if you so wish.  I am intrigued to see this in the final game – and really hope that you get true snapshot that makes you want to travel and do it for real.  Not just random buildings with the icons in place.
  2. Smite – I cant explain but this just seemed to talk to me.  Mythical Deity V Deity arena battles.  It was fast, it was fluid.  There seemed to be some more interaction and sharing than the big name counterparts.  One to watch.  I have downloaded based on their showing at PAX.  Seems like a heck of a lot of fun.
  3. Mario Kart 8 – the less said about my mario kart obsession the better.  I just cant justify that amount of money on a console for one game when everything else is rubbish.
  4. Scream Ride – Xbox.  I had a look at it on Friday and it looked amazing.  I had a look today and the guy playing was more lost than me in a violent open world game.  I just want to check it out.
  5. Knight Squad – Xbox again.  No I am not a fan boy of MS.  I just like to see support.  KS was top down multi player, seek and kill, pacman nonsense type title.  Again looked like a massive amount of fun with mates.  Not likely to be a big depth game.
  6. Evolve.  Couldn’t get anywhere near it.  This is for a reason.  Great to see 2K trot it out.  Whilst “The Witcher 3” was sadly missing.  2 of the biggest games of our gaming lives coming out within a couple of weeks of each other.  Multi V Single player.  If you walked out today – which (not witch) are you going to put your money on?
  7. WWE – heads up for those out of the know – I worked on WWE game for quite a while.  In a global marketing sense.  Yeah it was kinda funny that an Aus country boy took control of the brand and achieved 40% above their previous record.  Different story – another strange but entertaining post(s).  So immediately apparent with the brand is the maaaassssssssive mistake of going Ps3/X360 a month earlier than PS4/X1.  Yep Im gonna put this in another post – I don’t want you to get RSI from scrolling injuries.  Ill link when written.
  8. Battlecry – I cant elaborate more – because seriously you couldn’t get near it.  I don’t do lines (on all level)  so this is just one for me to peruse at my leisure.

PAX has been awesome for me – not only on a business level, but a personal level.  PAX has got me back in touch with my gaming.  Back excited about sitting down after the kids go to bed and indulge in an alternate world.

Best

Jon @ Savemi

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Australia in the global scale of gaming

“sorry, I don’t have any more time to deal with Aus right now….” – a recent quote.

It was out of blue and quite perplexing in the context.  The person, although experienced, was in an understaffed gaming company that (like what people say to me when they meet my wife) is punching above its weight.

Now Ill preface this by saying I bear this person no personal ill will.  I have copped a hell of a lot worse in my years.  But it got me thinking….

This person clearly has good reasons for the quote – very busy.  We had been dealing for a couple of months and it all became a bit too difficult. Mind you I was doing everything possible to try and increase their global business.  In the end I was an Australian nuisance

For me it was a “wonderful” reminder of where we are seen in the corporate world of gaming.

I was lucky enough to work in a global marketing role for the now defunct THQ in LA on one of their massive titles – WWE.

It was not too long ago, PC was the minority and was only programmed for in console transitions – although it was enormously profitable.

So I had done enough of a job in the Australian office to get recruited over to LA and be a bit of a pioneer.  Development teams were smart enough (or desperate enough) to hire abroad – and that had been going on for a long time.  But for the gaming corporate world it was a bit unheard of.  Why you ask?

OK so most – if not all – gaming companies were based in Cali.  By sheer weight of numbers, if a game worked in the US – you made good money.  So US managers were employed to focus on US.  Everything outside of US was just there- and really didn’t exist.  All too hard.  Europe was an after thought and Australia “is part of Europe isnt it”?  Or it was just too far away with too few numbers to worry about.

So enter  a country boy from Australia who had a clue what was going on with business and how the WWE brand worked – being a fan.

I arrive in the country – obviously the first Aussie – because nobody had a freakin clue how to get the simple stuff sorted – like a social security number (you cant get paid without one and it took 6 weeks).  But I digress – seriously I could write a book on this – basically you cant do anything without a social security number.

My boss that employed me was awesome and very forward thinking.  But there were those few who were very open about it – I was Australian, too laid back and couldn’t understand big business, nor the brand I was working on.  Purely because I was Australian.  HR rules are a bit different there.

What they didn’t realise was that being from a small territory, you had to think creatively.  You had to work hard.  You had to turn every stone.  Because you didn’t have the luxury of large populations to make a quid.

So I seized the opportunity.  Grow the US incrementally, communicate with and empower Europe, APAC to grow massively.  Use campaigns that were were global – not US centric.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this was successful.  40% over the previous best year.  As the great Geoffrey Boycott would say “Money for old rope”.

Those that were my biggest detractors became my greatest fans.

Because I was Australian.  I looked at all aspects of the brand and the business.  I listened to and included all opinions.  I turned every stone.  Because I was Australian.

As an aside, this opened the flood gates for Australians going over to THQ LA.

The point is – even in the heady days of console region protection (except PS3, then X360 followed suit), regional thinking and small mindedness minimised results.  In today’s gaming world with the death of region encoding and the rise of PC through Steam, Greenman, etc – you can not afford to be region only thinking.

1) As a gaming company, if you have these region focused sort of dinosaurs in your organisation – get rid of them.  The market has become too global, too diverse, too demanding for them.  You wont survive with this thinking.  Ill say it again: You wont survive with this thinking.

2) As a developer, marketer, entrepreneur, whatever from a small territory – never think it is too hard because you are from a small territory.  In fact, it may just be a competitive advantage.

The company that I referenced above will probably get mediocre results, but I really hope get awesome results – as the guys in the studio are awesome and work their asses off!

Best

Jon – Savemi