This article, like most of my articles these days, was born out of discourse online. Let me first say that the issue of worth is completely subjective in many respects and is down to the person consuming said content. I may think a video game is worth full RRP and others may not. This issue got me thinking about what constitutes the reasons people consider a video game to be worthy of full RRP, currently sitting at £49.99 in the UK and $60 in the USA.
I would opine that many people when not having thought much about the issue would jump straight to the hour count of a video game. For many, the number of hours you eke out of a game usually determines whether or not the game is worth your cash. Of course, there are more reasons but, from my experience, I have had many people ask “how many hours does it take to beat X?” when discussing a game.
Through countless discussions over the years, a lot of people have suggested that video games are in fact a very expensive hobby or pastime. This may seem the case as their own circumstances have changed, be it becoming growing older into grown-up gamers, getting that dreaded mortgage, loan, car payment or even the biggest drain on finances, having children.
Would you believe that video games are actually the cheapest they have been for a very long time?
Yes, games have evolved over the years but a base game these days is far less expensive than it was, say, 20 years ago. Wages have gone up and video game prices have stayed fairly stationary, a point I will make later.
Recently, I put a poll on Twitter and Instagram asking how increasing development costs are causing the gaming industry to diversify in order to find different revenue streams. I asked what the best solution would be to combat this so that game companies can make profits and continue to make the many superb games we have currently. Paid DLC, micro-transactions and subscription fees were all ways people mentioned as these are the ways in which the game companies have tried to improve their profits.
Moving back to the cost of games, I have an example involving my own experience of time vs cost. During April 1998, I was in my 4th year of high school (16-years-old). My mother picked me up outside of school so we could take a trip down to our local tech store. I purchased, after months of saving and scouring magazines, Resident Evil 2 on the PlayStation (PS1). This game cost £49.99. This was the standard RRP for almost all games during that time even although a lot of games sold for much less. At this point, I would like to point out that £49.99 is the current RRP for most games yet it is more than 20 years later.
If you delve a little deeper and hit up the Bank of England inflation calculator, you will find a rough estimate of how much £50 back in 1998 should now be worth in real terms. The results are fairly large. £50 in 1998 is currently worth, approximately, £86.43. This means if the video game industry kept the RRP in line with inflation we would be looking at just over £85 for a game.
It stands to reason then that the industry has added in different ways to monetize games as many, if not most, would baulk at paying £85 or $110. The increasing development costs and the decision to keep RRP static means they NEED to gain revenue elsewhere and by other means if they are to continue making profits and more importantly, games.
I am in favour of some ways in which they monetize video games currently. I am a strong advocate for the abolition of MTX in video games in essentially all or most forms. I strongly believe pay-to-win content is a form of discrimination against people with low income and is an unfair dynamic to have in a game which many younger players will be exposed to. The use of loot boxes does tilt towards people who have a more addictive nature and can cause many problems for those types of people and indeed people who seem to not be that way inclined.
The issue of MTX is being discussed in the UK Parliament and the world in general at this moment in time. I feel this is the wrong way of monetizing games to keep the profits in line with growth and having a sense of responsibility to your customers. The fact XP multipliers are added to some games is a definite nod towards greed as the base game is built to slow things down. Essentially they are asking you to pay more to experience the game as it would naturally be played. At least that is my bent on the situation. It is a level of greed that many are wary of and the investigations in MTX are 100% warranted in my opinion.
Recently, some of the Parliamentary discussions have shown some companies to be less than willing to share some of their data in regards to MTX. A particular instance of this was when a representative of Epic Games said they do not track hour counts and had no idea what an average gamer is and/or how long they would spend playing a game. This baffles me in this day in age where data is king that they don’t have access to that basic information. It suggests a disingenuous approach to what they consider transparency. I urge you to check out the whole interview as it was pretty interesting and the level of ninja skills involving swerving and dodging certain questions has a level of strange but unavoidable admiration.
Some other ways of monetizing games currently are DLC and or subscription services. I am fundamentally unopposed to either and actually think paid DLC that provides some side content or a stand-alone experience is worthwhile. DLC that continues or furthers a story, on the other hand, is not something I am a fan of as the fundamental question exists: why not include it in the game in the first place? This type of monetization also sounds a little like corporate greed and is something that should not take place in my opinion.
Strangely enough, on my quest for knowledge on Twitter and Instagram, not one person, of which there were many, offered up the one way I am about to talk about.
Why not increase the price of games?
“HOLD ON!!” I can hear the screams! “Nooooooo!!”
But hear me out. If the games were increased in price by, say, 10%, which is less than the inflation figure mentioned previously…would gamers be substantially put off? For example, if a new game is about to release, such as the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Part 2, would you care that much if the game was £54.99 instead of £49.99? To me, it’s not a huge jump and may be enough to improve the profit margins AND the quality of the content we receive.
On the flip side to my argument, I read recently that some game developers/companies have looked into this price increase and found it to be unpalatable to the consumer. What do you think?
In addition, I come back to the MTX as, in my opinion, the genie is unfortunately out of the bottle in this regard. Game companies would need to be banned or halted from developing them for them to look into other alternatives seriously. Fifa packs for 2018 earned EA $800 Million – somehow I doubt that adding an extra 10% onto the cost of the game would cause the removal of paid player packs.
It would be a financial math problem, one which I think has already been partially solved due to the prevalence and increasing addition of MTX in games.
Coming back around to my main issue, worth. I would say many things go into how I consider whether a game is worth the money. I am aware that games are essentially, in comparison to previous years, fairly cheap. I would consider most games I play to be worth the money, with one or two caveats. For me, it comes down to a comparison of a few things but the main one is satisfaction and quality.
Whether the game is well-made is a key metric. Is it obvious that a lot has gone into the production of the game? Secondly, is the game satisfying? Is it enjoyable to the point where you are deeply engrossed and your enjoyment levels are maxing out? Hour count doesn’t really come into play for me unless the game itself is incredibly short coupled with poor production values etc.
I have played many games, e.g. Nier Automata, where I have paid full or close to full RRP. Despite really wanting to like this game, and being convinced that I would, I just couldn’t get into it. It just didn’t jive with me. I admired that the production values were high, the hour count was high, the story seemed good but certain elements couldn’t hit that X factor where I was satisfied with the game. I essentially couldn’t put my finger on the issues I had with the game, I am sure we have all been there at one stage or another but I just didn’t enjoy it. At this point, I questioned it’s worth as I couldn’t see past all of the elements that made it a high-quality game.
I, of course, understood that the game would have value for others so a quick eBay sale later and I had literally paid to rent the game for a week or two. A trick I have used with many games in the past when they didn’t jive with me. As I hadn’t lost a huge amount of cash in the process I could still say the game was worth the cash, just not to me.
What makes a game worth the money for you? Does the game need to have a 30+ hour count or are you fine with a 10-20 hour journey, or even less?
And, do you have another solution that companies could employ to monetize their games more effectively?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these points.