Garnet Lantern

A unique video game experience

Video Game Pricing is Whack Jack!

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If you are a gamer and haven’t been living under a rock for the past few weeks then it is likely that you have heard that The Order 1886 takes roughly 10 hours of game time to beat. The Order also offers no multiplayer and apparently there is no real reason to return to the game after completing the linear single player campaign. Even with all that the game still costs $60.

To no one’s surprise the game length convo has been brought to the forefront due to these facts. How long should a game be? Is it ok to charge $60 for a game that only has 10 hours of gameplay? And my personal favorite discussion: quality over quantity.

Luckily I have no interest in joining the discussion of the game length right now. That’s another post for another day. Instead lets’ dive into another hot button topic that is loosely related to that discussion… game pricing.

I can already hear the internet trolls cracking their knuckles, so let’s get a few things out of the way. Yes I do have a job. Yes I can and do pay $60 for a game. I am not here to complain that $60 is too much to pay for a game, but what I would like to talk about is the lack of price variation on triple A titles.

Video games are continuously compared to movies, and rightfully so. Both video games and movies are visual entertainment, both can be used to tell stories and both use graphical effects to enhance the experience. It seems like an easy comparison. I however have never been one to compare video games to movies.

Movies tend to be a single serving of entertainment. When you decide to grab a hot date and head to the movie theatre to “watch” a movie, you watch the entire movie. Thank you Captain Obvious… What I mean is that everything the movie has to offer is served to you in one sitting and you are likely never going to return to that movie again. Unless you loved the movie so much you buy it on Blu-ray, but who still does that?

Video games on the other hand can take days, weeks or months to finish and can some games can be played for years… take World of Warcraft for example. I’ve been playing that game off and on since 2005, yeesh! For that reason I have found myself more consistently comparing video games to something a little more old school, Books.

Again, I can feel us veering off the path of this conversation. We can get into a conversation of if video games more relate to books or movies in another post. I apologize for getting you all riled up, but my point is that books have a very wide price variation.

You can find book in the same genre and length with prices ranging all over. One book could be a 100-page bestseller that costs $20 and another 1,000-page bestseller by some no name author that costs $10. To take it even further you can find the exact same book for cheaper in paperback vs. hardcover. My question is, why video games don’t do this?

True there is significant price variation in the indie game realm. Never will you see an indie game selling for $60 and relatively unknown games tend to sell for cheaper then a popular well-known indie game such as Day Z. But I am talking about the triple A games at launch.

Why does every big name game that comes out released at a $60 price tag? And why is the digital copy of the same game $60 as well?

Let’s take The Order 1886 as an example. A linear single player game that currently according to howlongtobeat.com (which by the way, is a great website! Click that link) is taking most people around 7 hours to beat and has no replay value or multiplayer.

Now I am not knocking these things and by no means am I saying that The Order 1886 is a bad game; in fact I don’t know I haven’t played it or purchased it. But what can’t be denied is the value you get out of purchasing The Order 1886 vs purchasing Evolve is going to be a lot less.

I like to break things down into numbers from time to time; I mean I am a financial analyst. Let’s keep it simple though. We will use (cost of game)/ (number of hours played). This gives you the cost per hour played (CPHP).

If The Order takes you 6 hours to beat and costs $60 your CPHP is $10 an hour. If you play Evolve online for 60 hours your CPHP is $1 an hour. Basically it’s a fancy way of saying Evolve brings more value.

 

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Woah! Sorry got all financial nerd on you. Sorry I blacked out for a second but I’m back.

 

Of course we can argue over the quality of the value each brings. Meaning you could have a miserable time playing those 60 hours and the best time ever playing those 6 hours so which one really is more valuable? But again I am not here to get into that. I’m just talking strictly dollar dollar bills ya’ll, so try and stay with me.

Since our value excluding quality is lower when purchasing The Order 1886 people tend to be turned off from buying the game at full price. I know I was. But what if The Order 1886 was launched at $40 or $30?

At that price the developers have lowered the cost and risk, which begins to intrigue a lot more people to buy your game. Sure, the game may only take 6 hours to beat and there isn’t any replay value, but people are paying half the price of every other triple A game and begin to see value in your game rather than cost.

This tactic was actually used to great success back in 2004 when ESPN NFL 2K15 was released at $19.99 while it’s competitor Madden 2005 was released for more than double the price at $49.99.

The result? ESPN NFL 2K15 greatly reduced the sales of Madden 2005 by releasing at over half it’s price, and according Wikipedia one EA Sports developer said“[i]t scared the hell out of us”.

On the consumer side I rushed out and purchased ESPN NFL 2K15, a game I would have never had interest in and a series I had never bought but thanks to the price point I found interest. If I didn’t like the game I only spent $20 but I wound up playing NFL 2K15 more than Madden that year.

The top tier world of gaming seems to be stuck on the notion that every top tier game they release must be $60. I’m not sure if this is because a lowering in price is viewed as a knock on the quality of the game, greed or it’s just the actual dollar amount they must sell the game in order to make money but I think it’s time we start looking at a better pricing scheme.

Digital copies have no reason to be the same price as hard copies since the cost to the publisher is much less and games that aren’t going to bring as much value or quality shouldn’t fear dropping their price.

Gamers tend to be some of the most cost efficient people I have ever met. Very few of us go out and buy every game they want. Most of us take our time, do our research and make sure that the game we are buying is worth our money and because of this sometimes quality games fall through the cracks.

If developers and publishers were more willing to branch out from the standard quo of pricing I think the argument of whether a game is worth it or not will die and games that may have failed miserably at the $60 price point will flourish.

The notion that ever triple A game needs to be $60 is outdated and it’s time to start pushing for a change. So continue to vote with your wallet and let your voice be heard and let’s be honest cheaper games sounds pretty awesome!

As always, happy gaming!

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