Essence of Gaming Part 3
The Price Of Gaming
We gamers spend a lot of cash on our hobby, there’s the console or decently specced PC as your chosen platform to pay for, none of which come cheap and quite a lot of people have more than one. I know of many homes with a Wii and a 360 or PS3 and some have all three as well as a great gaming PC. Personally I only have 2 different consoles and a PC that groans at the thought of just playing movies so new games are out of the question.
Then there’s the game itself to buy, although it’s usually plural as one game is rarely enough for a gamer. A new title can cost around $60 which is a lot of money and when there are multiple must buy titles coming out in the same month, just as it was earlier this year in March, then your Landlord may be wondering where the hell your rent check got to while you’re sitting with all your newly bought games wearing headphones and pretending you’re not home. I actually have something of a sickness when it comes to games (I suspect I’m not the only one) and have games that I have bought but never even played and possibly never will. Games that sit there on the shelf staring their condemnation at me from beneath their light coating of dust and inevitably making me feel guilty for having never played them. It’s just difficult to walk past the bargain section in games shops (yes, against all odds they still exist, out there on the high street) and seeing some old title that I’ve never played but is so cheap that I just can’t walk away from it. Even though deep down I know that it will spend the rest of its days on my shelf, I get it anyway, I have a shelf that’s quickly becoming a memorial home for retired games and crap.
So you’ve got your chosen platform(s) and some games and now you want to try the multiplayer mode. You’re going to need an internet connection. A pretty good one if you don’t want to be a victim of the dreaded Death By Lag. So this is more money to throw at the gaming mad monkey on your back. This time it’s a monthly fee and if you chose to buy an Xbox 360 you need to pay a further $60 per year and though this may not seem like a grotesque amount, it all adds onto that final price we pay for being able to play our shiny new games on our shiny new systems.
So we now have everything we need and can sit down to enjoy our games.
Unless we bought them from the used section. If we did, the chances are good that they didn’t come with the important online map pack DLC or maybe we even have to buy a pass to enable us to play online as our used copy came with a code that had already been used. So now there’s another $10 or so to pay out for the privilege of getting all the content from our game. I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of the used games market, although I do buy a lot of back catalogue titles used but I would never buy a new release used because it’s just a blatant rip off. Let’s take Bulletstorm as an example. Here in the UK Bulletstorm was released at a price of £39.99. The same title if bought used, had the princely price tag of £35.99, offering a (ahem) massive saving of £4 – but wait! You get home, happy with yourself for saving four whole pounds until you boot it up and see that it will cost you another £7.99 if you want to play it online so now you’re paying £43.98 for a game that costs £39.99 new. Not only that but instead of paying the developers of the game, you’re money just goes straight into the pocket of the game store who probably paid someone £25 trade in value for the used game, meaning that the person who sold it just gave the money straight back to the store.
Now I’m no business mogul, nor do I profess to know the inner workings of game stores but it seems to me that the only winner here is the store. Not the devs who slaved away for years on a game, certainly not the customer who ends up being ripped off whether he’s the buyer or the seller. Still, they’re just trying to make an honest buck, the same as anyone else, right? Even if they are taking food out of the mouths of developers.
I’m not sure that I like or condone the way that game publishers are fighting the war on used games though. Offering free maps or an extra mission or just a nice weapon / car / suit via a DLC code in the box is one thing but crippling the game completely by removing access to multiplayer is just taking it too far. I’m not saying I have a better solution to offer for them to use but there must be something? Maybe making games more affordable would be a good start. In the comments section of my last article someone seemed to think I expect people to eat feces from game publishers and be grateful for it. This is not what I stand for in any way. I wish that more game publishers were like Valve and listened to their customers and actually gave everyone their money’s worth instead of spinning out the same tired old games year after year, Activision’s Call of Duty springs immediately to mind as it hasn’t done anything new since the first Modern Warfare and that came out in 2007. Not forgetting the sports titles that never change but just look a little shiner each year. I do applaud developers who try to do something different though, be it with a new console such as Nintendo’s 3DS or an indie game such as Limbo, both trying to be different and both succeeding. I just despair that in these days of realistic shooters it’s not easy for something different to be a huge success. Enslaved odyssey to the west was a perfect example of this as it was a great game and well received by reviewers but nobody went out and bought it so it quickly rocketed into the bargain bucket.
As I’m rambling about the price of things, what is it with Digital distribution? I don’t understand why the price for buying a downloadable game is usually twice as expensive as buying it on a disk in a game store. I’m not talking about Arcade or PSN games, but older releases such as Halo 3 and GTA 4. I would have thought that the cost for providing this service would work out cheaper than distributing the games on physical media. There must be some reason for it but if they could get it right, and set the right prices then this would be the perfect way to battle the used games industry. Digital copies can’t be sold but if they’re available at a good price then nobody would complain.
If you chose a PC as your gaming platform then you have no doubt heard of Steam. This is a brilliant digital distribution service which has a lot of great sales with amazing savings that make for a lot of impulse buying. If the consoles adopted this business model then they would have a lot of happy customers rather than a horde bitching and moaning at them every time they make an announcement.
I look forward to reading your own thoughts on these matters.