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Maes

Which way to the bargain bin?

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Who decides when a particular game title should hit the bargain bin? Or becoming a PC/games magazine bundle, which is practically the same thing?

Apart from titles "designed" specifically for the bargain bin, I've seen some real WTFs now and then.

E.g. 3 years ago, the "PC Master" magazine bundled World of Warcraft II Battle.net, with pressed CD, legal key and all. At the same time, the same title continued to be sold for 15 Eur retail ... WTF? As a note, there was no change in the usual price of the magazine (ca Eur 5.50 at the time), not even a one-time 1 Eur premium. I also doubt it was sponsored, given the large number of copies sold and the age of the game.

Also, Warlords Battlecry III, a RTS game I was involved with some time ago: released in late 2004, it was available as retail in Greece and elsewhere (and still is, AFAIK), yet in some countries it hit the bargain bin as soon as summer of 2005 (the Italian version became a magazine bundle).

So, what gives?

I also wonder...owning such a bundled CD/DVD from a magazine gives one the same ownership rights as if he had bought the same game retail at full price? E.g. if tomorrow a magazine bundled Doom: Collector Edition for a dime, would it be in any way better than warezing it? What if I made a copy of the bundled CD?

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Maes said:

Who decides when a particular game title should hit the bargain bin?


Probably the shop owners, who get sick of looking at them on the shelves not selling.

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Planky said:

Probably the shop owners, who get sick of looking at them on the shelves not selling.


This doesn't explain the case of titles such as Unreal, UT, Warcraft II, Serious Sam, Dark Reign Z etc. unless Greece is a warez paradise and this whole bundling-games-with-magazines is a unique, local phenomenon.

To contrast that, I've seen magazines bundling games e.g. in Italy, but they always did so at a price premium, and they were almost always third-class games, not great classics like the ones described above.

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I got my copy of Fallout 1 bundled in a (now bankrupt) Swedish computer game magazine that had started selling localized editions in other Nordic countries...

And I think the game publishers create "Best of" editions of their games a while after their sales have went down to make money with games that otherwise wouldn't sell anymore.

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OK, fair enough when we're talking about games that even their creators consider too unprofitable to keep selling as full-price retail.

But it can't explain the cases where games such as Unreal, UT, Warcraft II, Serious Sam and even some Civilization games are given away for free. I'll note that I've never seen an id game bundled in this way so far, so it may also be due to company policy.

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Maes said:

OK, fair enough when we're talking about games that even their creators consider too unprofitable to keep selling as full-price retail.

But it can't explain the cases where games such as Unreal, UT, Warcraft II, Serious Sam and even some Civilization games are given away for free. I'll note that I've never seen an id game bundled in this way so far, so it may also be due to company policy.

Who would buy, say, Warcraft II in 2009 for full price? Regardless of whether it was a hit or not when it was new, today it's helplessly old. Only some super RTS freak who has never played it before and has way too much money would pay $50 for a 14 years old game. But when the game is re-released as a "best of" edition, or bundled in a magazine, the publishers can still make at least some money with the game - without making almost any investments of their own (the game has been created once so all they need to do is burn it on a few CDs and get it on store shelves, that's almost completely free money at this point).

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Maes said:

I also wonder...owning such a bundled CD/DVD from a magazine gives one the same ownership rights as if he had bought the same game retail at full price? E.g. if tomorrow a magazine bundled Doom: Collector Edition for a dime, would it be in any way better than warezing it? What if I made a copy of the bundled CD?

I expect magazine publishers would cover themselves by negotiating a licence fee for bundled software so they can distribute legal copies - though you mightn't receive the same level of support as someone who paid full retail price. Copying the disk could be risky though a CD burner is required occasionally when featured games are provided as ISO images (C&C and Red Alert on PC PowerPlay in Australia - who've also bundled Age of Empires, Grand Theft Auto, Independence War, Rainbow Six - Covert Ops and Unreal).

Bundling a popular title can help boost a magazine's circulation figures which in turn makes it a little easier to attract/retain advertisers - while for a game publisher the licence fee is money for old rope with the added advantage that someone else has the production and distribution headaches.

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That's the weird thing: there was NOTHING in the magazine's price suggesting that a fee was given, at least not here in Greece: bundled games never increased the magazine's price, and there are not "bundle-less" editions for sale.

In Italy, on the other hand, there can be as much as 4 Eur difference between the bundle and no-bundle edition, so something is a bit off here....

Warcraft II was sold as "collector's retail" for 15 Eur at the exact same time when a copy of PC Master with it bundled sold for less than 6. It might have been oversight by part of the retailers or an attempt to make some extra profit out of something bargain-binned, but still...

...and yeah, some games even come to the point of being distributed as ISO images on a DVD filled with random crap. The difference between buying the magazine for a dime and torrenting (but not necessarily warezing) the thing is then very thin.

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Scuba Steve said:

PC Gamer gave away Duke Nukem 3D, the full version, on one of their CDs a few years ago.

They gave away a lot of other stuff too... I have a CD from them with the full versions of Duke 1 & 2, Descent, Ultima: Underworld, Need For Speed, Alone in the Dark, plus lots of others.

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Maes said:

...and yeah, some games even come to the point of being distributed as ISO images on a DVD filled with random crap. The difference between buying the magazine for a dime and torrenting (but not necessarily warezing) the thing is then very thin.


What do you mean by "torrenting but not warezing?" If you're torrenting a game that is no longer protected by copyright law, that probably means that the CD that you're buying with a magazine is being made without any concern to licensing, since there need not be any such concern. If you're torrenting a game that is still under copyright, that's warez.

But as has been said, the magazine company pays some small fee to the publisher for the right to give away the game. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to increase the price for that issue, it may mean that the company is taking a loss for that individual issue, but the idea is to get more subscribers. Think of it like a coupon or any other special offer. They lose money in the short-run to get money in the long-run.

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Sorry for double posting, but I wanted to address another point. The "thin line" between buying it from the magazine and downloading it in violation of copyright law is just that, the legality of it. The same argument could be made about buying games used, however. The publisher is not getting any money from you buying a copy of the game off of another person, so the only issue is the legality.

Unless you're implying that the magazine may not be paying these licensing fees on games still protected by copyright law, in which case the only difference is that they burnt it to a disc for you.

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david_a said:
They gave away a lot of other stuff too... I have a CD from them with the full versions of Duke 1 & 2, Descent, Ultima: Underworld, Need For Speed, Alone in the Dark, plus lots of others.

I have that one too. I think it (or an issue or two before or after it) also included the Daikatana demo...

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Scuba Steve said:

PC Gamer gave away Duke Nukem 3D, the full version, on one of their CDs a few years ago.


Don't forget Wolfenstein 3D. That was the greatest magazine I ever received.

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raptir said:

Unless you're implying that the magazine may not be paying these licensing fees on games still protected by copyright law, in which case the only difference is that they burnt it to a disc for you.


Well...I'll just quote the facts:

My favourite magazine (PC Master):

  • Costs Eur 6.80 as of March 2009, which is not significantly higher than a paper-only magazine (Men's Health costs 4.50, and PC magazines without bundles cost about 5-6 Eur depending on the magazine).
  • Includes bundle games in every issue since the last 5 or 6 years.No exceptions. I pretty much built a game library in those years!
  • If you account for inflation, there has been no "price gap" between the era when they just gave away generic shareware/utilities filled CDs, and full games.
  • There is a special bi-monthly edition which gives away bigger games (e.g. double DVD) which costs 9.9 Eur.
So no, I don't quite see the fees here, as they aren't significant or one-time enough to say that it's a "publicity stunt".

Also, games are always copyrighted, whether they are in the public domain or not. E.g. Command and Conquer: Red Alert has been declared freeware by Westwood, but they still keep the copyright to it.

I wonder if by-country laws and rules could apply, in which case e.g. it may be perfectly legal to own a give-away version of, say, Doom 3 in Greece for what practically amounts to someone else burning (or actually, pressing!) a CD/DVD for you, while the same would not be true elsewhere.

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I remember once getting a magazine with a "demo" for the game "Companions of Xanth" (1993) on it.

I say "demo" in quotes because there was an error. I installed it and started to play, and carried on playing, and kept playing, and kept playing... always expecting it to finish. Eventually it did finish - when I completed the game!

It was a mistake. The magazine had included the full game, not the demo, on its cover CD. At the time, the game was newly released and I don't suppose the distributors were too happy with the situation. I, however, was very pleased to get a full game for the price of a magazine that I would probably have bought anyway.

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You are banned for/from buying that magazine :-p

I guess I shouldn't mention the MAME ROM bundles then? (ask me for a pic of the boxes and pressed DVDs if you don't believe me ;-)

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Maes said:

Also, games are always copyrighted, whether they are in the public domain or not. E.g. Command and Conquer: Red Alert has been declared freeware by Westwood, but they still keep the copyright to it.

You are confusing a few different concepts here:

* Copyright - It is the author or publisher's exclusive right to control distribution of their work (plus a few more things that have been added to law over the years, but that's the gist of it). By default, a customer has almost no rights; user license agreements usually do little more than re-affirm the default copyright restrictions, although a few of them (eg, free software licenses) grant more rights than default copyright grants.
* Public domain - The work is no longer under copyright by various means; the author had specifically disclaimed all copyright, the government the copyright was valid under has collapsed (few East Germany and Soviet Russia titles, for example, are in public domain; this isn't an absolute, some titles like Tetris have been claimed by corporations to have valid copyright world wide and are not public domain), or the work simply is too old to be under copyright anymore. The third case in there is very rare for video games as most copyright terms last decades -- sometimes even over a century.
* Freeware - A very loose term that generally means a work that the copyright holder decided to provide at no cost. Copyright still applies (it is *not* public domain), and does not necessarily even grant redistribution rights to end users.

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Scuba Steve said:

PC Gamer gave away Duke Nukem 3D, the full version, on one of their CDs a few years ago.


They gave away Baldur's Gate in their September 2004 issue.

I also have a disc from the January 2004 issue of Computer Gaming World that had Deus Ex, Thief 2, Dark Age of Camelot, and Warlord's Battlecry.

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Most bargain bins exist because retailers are trying to shove old product out the door to make room for new stuff. They are almost definitely losing money on those sales, since they hardly make much of a profit from sales of brand new games anyway.

As for giveaways with magazines, that's more of a promotional thing. And a way to get more magazine sales.

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The bargain bin at my local EB Games is usually full of budget re-releases in DVD cases.

Maes said:

I wonder if by-country laws and rules could apply, in which case e.g. it may be perfectly legal to own a give-away version of, say, Doom 3 in Greece for what practically amounts to someone else burning (or actually, pressing!) a CD/DVD for you, while the same would not be true elsewhere.

It appears that Greece has implemented the EU directive on the legal protection of computer programs so I doubt that you're living in a copyright-free zone.

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MikeRS said:
the government the copyright was valid under has collapsed (few East Germany and Soviet Russia titles, for example, are in public domain; this isn't an absolute, some titles like Tetris have been claimed by corporations to have valid copyright world wide and are not public domain)

How so? I mean, the USSR signed with the Universal Copyright Convention in the '70s. Author rights existed all along, and I doubt the changes, or the government collapsing, made the copyrights invalid. It does seem Soviet copyrights were more lax in some respects (such as shorter periods and more freedom to translate), though.

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