When it Comes to Video Game Companies and Consumers, Fairness Never Enters Into it

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At IGN, Audrey Drake lays out five reasons why having to rebuy virtual console games to get full Wii U functionality is entirely fair,

Look, I know all about being a petulant gamer who just wants all gaming companies to give me exactly what I want the moment I want it and totally free of charge. Having those thoughts is inevitable, especially for people who devote a large part of their free time to a singular hobby. But don’t confuse what you want with what you’re entitled to. Nintendo has the right to charge for the goods and services it offers. It’s called the free market, and it’s a beautiful thing. As a company (read: a business out to make money, not a magical, game-making fairy machine only out to give you free happiness) Nintendo has every right to charge consumers for a new service they’ve conceived. And consumers have every right to elect to buy into that service, or to make the personal call that the cost isn’t worth the return. It’s all really simple. And all very fair.”

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On the one hand I’m not that concerned with throwing a few more bucks in order to get Wii U functionality. Should I desire to, I could still play all my virtual console games from my Wii on the Wii U using a special mode (I just wouldn’t be able to play them on the GamePad or interact with the Miiverse).

On the other, however, I think Drake commits a common mistake when she employs the “free market” as an explanation for why companies should be allowed to do as they wish, without recognizing that the same principle leaves consumers free to react however they see fit.

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You can see my full rebuttal over IGN, but here’s the main thrust,

What some people often forget when discussing the business of video games is that the free market logic cuts both ways. Businesses have a right to sell whatever they want for however much they want. And consumers have a right to go elsewhere if their expectations aren’t met, and/or tell others that they should do so as well. Nintendo is entitled to not offer Cross-Buy, and consumers are entitled to punish their brand or their bottom-line for not doing so. That’s the free market.

You only get what you fight for and if Drake is satisfied with Nintendo’s current offering, than she’ll get just that. But if others aren’t, and remain unconvinced by the points she makes, that doesn’t make them entitled or unreasonable. It just means they have different expectations; a different breaking-point. I’m sure Drake has one as well. If the Wii U required you to not only rebuy old content in order to play it on the GamePad and with Miiverse, but also required a monthly fee for the on-going service, she might decide that that is her breaking-point—the point at which she as a consumer decides it’s just not enough, not because she’s entitled, but because she’s a consumer, and that’s how consumers in a free market act.”