Syl recently published an excellent post asking how we defined the value of our video games. Her discussion was drawn from Episode 30 of our Game On podcast. Our conversation there stemmed from the recent supporter packs offered for Trove by Trion Worlds. The general consensus was that, be it Trove, Star Citizen, or any number of Kickstarters that let you donate thousands of dollars, anyone paying that much was bound to be disappointed. Games, even the “perfect” game, would be bound to disappoint with that much pressure stacked on their back. I share this background because it’s relevant to Syl’s topic and my response today: How do we — I — define the value of my games?
On the show I mentioned that I rarely pay more than $45-48 for a video game. Dealzon, a discount aggregate, has become my best friend when it comes to new release titles. This site is proof positive that competition works to the benefit of gamers. Case and point, I pre-ordered and bought on release day the four biggest games of the season — BF4, AC4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Batman: Arkham Origins — none of which from Steam. Each was in this $45 to $48 range except Batman which was only $37.50. Net savings: $36 and $50 if I had bought locally. Almost enough to buy another game!
I have done this for more than a year, so when I see a AAA game priced for full retail, it’s not even a consideration. If there are no discounts to be had that’s another case but it is such a rarity that it has never been an issue in the launch window. But would I pay $60 if I absolutely had to? You bet. That is the occasional reality of being a gamer. Now, new release games represent two scopes of value for me: the entertainment value of the game itself and the entertainment value of being part of the zeitgeist. Let’s call these Scope 1 and Scope 2.
For Scope 1, the value proposition of the game really comes down to standout qualities. Does the game have exceptional gameplay or an incredible story? Does it have something I can’t get anywhere else, even if it’s three hours long? If the answer is yes, I can feel comfortable buying that. Long campaigns mean nothing to me if they don’t keep me interested. Even so, I would still question buying one of these games off discount. That’s where the second scope comes in.
Scope 2 represents the community. I love being a part of the conversation surrounding new games, even if that’s just reading and relating online. If something comes out and is being talked about on all of the podcasts and blogs, I’m much more likely to want to be a part of that. It’s a very meta type of gaming but is hugely influential to my value proposition. I have bought many a game just because other people liked it and their enthusiasm was infectious. Sometimes it bites me and I find out that the whatever game it was just doesn’t click (Glitch, for example), but at least I can say I tried and stay up with the times.
Indie games are a tricky part of this discussion. My rule of thumb is not to buy them until they are $10 or less for two reasons: 1) most of them get there by the next Steam sale of Humble Bundle, and 2) they can be incredibly niche and bite-sized. But how about the $39.99 wannabes who offer “AAA experiences” for budget prices? I have reviewed enough to know that’s usually not true. I don’t mean to be insulting but a $40 game studio pretending to be Bethesda is going to fall short. There are exceptions (Telltale is a good example) but to be honest, I value these games far less than a good $15 indies.
Lastly, we have MMOs, my favorite of favorite genres. I think it’s a testament to how much the industry has shifted it is harder to convince me to buy a full-priced box here than almost anywhere else. We live in an age where you spend $50 at launch just to have the same thing given away for free six months later. That’s not cool with me, even if it means the developers have an easier time developing content. Get some tact, MMO guys. That kind of stuff reeks of double dipping and has soured me on buying in at launch unless I’m already sold.
And even though subscriptions offer the best value per game, I need a whole lot of convincing to hit subscribe in the first place. I value quality gameplay but in the last few years that has proliferated. If you’re going to ask $15 a month, you had better be delivering something I can’t get somewhere else. A different coat of polish is simply not enough. You had also better be prepared to communicate like the dickens and be producing content at a steady clip. MMOs can no longer survive on being good, they need to be better. That’s a tall order for a newly launched game.
So that about sums it up. How I value games. Maybe I’m a bit spoiled, but today, the only time I’m paying full price is if I have to: if there is no discount to be had or just when I need one to join the conversation.