What are the “cheat codes” for the news industry?
You’ve probably the missed the recent incredible rise of Dagenham & Redbridge from the obscurity of League Two to competing in the Champions League, but that is no surprise, since it has been confined to my iPad. But it has made me think of an interesting problem for the news industry.
I’ve been playing the manager mode on FIFA 12 and have just started my tenth season in charge of the Daggers. At six minutes per fixture, so far I reckon I’ve clocked up 40 hours of actual matchplay, let alone the time spent preparing the side and delving into the transfer market. It has been thrilling and frustrating in equal measure, and if you spot me lingering on the platform after I’ve got off a tube train, it’ll be because I’m finishing off a vital fixture.
It cost me 69p.
69p that has filled up innumerable commutes and entertained me for months on end - I started playing it in December.
Now compare that to the kind of digital subscriptions news organisations are hoping to levy for commodity news content. As Mathew Ingram wrote last week about ebooks, the end user doesn’t care about the cost of production, the end user cares abut the perceived value they get.
I got my copy of FIFA in a sale in the app store. I’ve got no idea how EA Sports expect to make a return on developing an app and selling for 69p, but I am slightly more minded to experiment with FIFA Street or their Euro2012 game when I run out of steam on this one.
They may also simply see the 69p as a loss-leader for customer acquisition - since the game also has another payment mechanism built into it. If your team is struggling to compete, you spend real cash in exchange for an increase in your team’s virtual budget, allowing you to pay higher salaries and attract a better calibre of player.
Not that long ago unlocking an unlimited budget would have been a “cheat code” - a sequence of characters or controller moves that would reveal additional features or reduce gameplay restriction. Originally built in to aid game testing, cheat codes used to help a whole games sub-industry thrive, as magazine sales were boosted by the fact that they included these secrets, and hardware like the Game Genie came into existence.
As my colleague Alex Graul pointed out in conversation, it was a great day for the games industry when in-app purchase mechanisms effectively allowed them to monetise “cheat codes”.
Which begs the question: Faced with pressure from 69p games making news subscriptions look costly, what are the “cheat codes” that the news industry can monetise?