Gamers and money

In the discussions triggered by our recent post about reviewing games, the topic of consumer advice came up regularly. The function of the game review was to tell the potential customer whether or not the game was worth the price asked for it. Hence the desire, I guess, for a more or less objective analysis of a game. And since a game’s structure (aka gameplay) is about the only thing that can be judged objectively, all the other elements are disregarded or underappreciated.

I remember a pathetic moment in the 1Up Show (I believe it was Episode 02/23, view the segment in question here.) where one of the journalists exclaimed that Flow -yes, thatgame again- wasn’t worth the 8 Dollars Sony was asking for it.

Eight Dollars… that would be six Euros. I can buy 3 or 4 loafs of bread with that. Or a single beer in a bar, maybe two if it’s a cheap bar. It might just get me a cinema ticket, but not my date. Or I could spend it on a set of postcards in the second hand bookstore, a magazine perhaps (not a glossy one though). I don’t think I can buy underwear for that price. But I could get some cookies.

What’s up with gamers and their money?

Why are they so skimpy when it comes to games? As far as I can tell, people who play games -and especially those who can afford a PS3 and the HDTV- are plenty rich. It’s not like they cannot afford buying a game that they might end up not liking. Even only vaguely entertaining games give plenty of value for money, in comparison to books, cinema, food, transportation, clothing, etc.

How many times are you heart broken when leaving the cinema realizing that the film you saw wasn’t that good? Do you wish you could get your money back after being disappointed with a novel’s plot? No. You paid the money for the experience. With no garantees. Somebody offered you a product or a service. And you take the risk. You can afford it.
But not when it comes to games. When it comes to games, we need to know exactly if it’s going to be “worth our money”, even if it only costs a measly 6 Euros.

Why is that?

I might read movie reviews to see if anything good is coming out. The truth actually is that I never read movie reviews. I just go to the cinema if the stills and story appeal to me. If not, I don’t go to the cinema. Gamers seem to work in a different way. To game does not seem like an optional activity. They need to game! And so they need the review basically not to recommend a game to them, but to tell them which games they should not spend their money on. Because they will buy a game.

Is this why they are so skimpy? Are they looking for the cheapest fix?

And if it really is about value for money, would you pay 200 Euros for Halo, or 300 for Grand Theft Auto or Spore? Surely, considering the work that goes into these products, and the glowing reviews, they would be worth every penny!

The pricing policy also has effects on the design of the game. In a world where the price of a game is relatively low, a developer can only make an ambitious game if it is going to appeal to the masses. If gamers would be prepared to be pay more for a game, then the designers would be able to work in a much more focussed way without caring about mass appeal. They could make a game just for you, or you and your friends!

But would a gamer pay more for a better game? I think not.

Somehow this leaves a bitter aftertaste in mouth that we don’t think very highly of this form of entertainment. That basically, deep down, we all know that all games suck…

5 thoughts on “Gamers and money”

  1. I personally think it’s because you can play so many games online, for free. Sure, most of them are pretty much crap, but occasionally you’ll come across a really addicting game that can give you your entertainment fix for the next month or so (at one point my brother, my dad and me were all addicted to Junkbot on the Lego site…no, honestly, we were). Why pay for something you can get for free?

  2. Speaking as an adult-with-kids gamer I can say that (although I hate the feeling) I very often feel guilty about gaming simply because people where I live (adults and teens alike) think it’s pathetic that an adult would game. Actually they seem to think that any form of play that isn’t “family” oriented is a sign of degeneration or something. I was seriously shocked by the amount of flak I have seen directed toward adults-w/kids gamers.

    So anyway, maybe the reason some people get weird over game pricing is because people around them say (as has been said to me) you paid WHAT?! for that game?? I mean come on the same $50 I paid for Twilight Princess isn’t gonna last me over 100 hours anywhere else. … But I still feel guilty because people who matter (my kids’ teachers, neighbors etc.) think much less of me when they find out I not only own video games that are solely for me, but how much they cost as well.

    I may be speaking for a small population of gamers but I’ve seen adult gamers catch hell online as well for being a parent and wanting to have gaming as their hobby.

  3. Sherry, this might cheer you up:

    I think there’s a “games as crack” metaphor driving a lot of game journalists. Play With Fire was reviewed (briefly) in Wired last month, and the reviewer totally missed the point, noting the game didn’t have a strong “addiction” factor. Hallucinogens aren’t addictive, but they’re a lot more substantial as experiences in my book.

    I could go on about this topic all day. If game journalists aren’t going to stand up for the artistic potential of the medium, who will?

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