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…