Saturday, November 20, 2010

I've been thinking a lot lately about the cost of games. This kinda started a week or so ago, when I heard that some game exec was talking about selling games for $40. As apposed to the $50+ current standard price in the USA. Now. Here in Canada. New games sell for $60-70, at least, and in Australia it's even worse. They can pay as much as $100 for a new game. So needless to say, this idea of paying $40 for a game piqued my interest.

I've looked into it a bit, and it seems that THQ is taking the initiative in the "not raping your wallet" front. As they plan on selling the new MX vs ATV game for the magical $40 price. Which sounds good, in theory at least. In practice however. They plan on having an in game store, to help with revenue. Which too, sounds good in theory. A store in game to buy some custom stuff that you don't really need, but would be cool to have, and show off is never a bad thing. The problem comes once reality hits however. The main fear I have. Is that they only give you half the game, and have to pay to have the rest of it unlocked. Which is a supreme dick move. That I really would not put passed any company to try.

Selling optional DLC is one thing. But selling people parts of a game they just payed good money for, expecting to get the whole game. Well that's just fucking evil.

Unlike this puppy. Faceless corporations can't rely on their cuteness to make up for their evilness.

So why the high cost of games to begin with? Well. To start with. Most AAA games (That is. Games of modern warfare 2, or halo reach status.) cost a shit ton of money to make. I mean these things can be 2+ million easily. That alone means they need a huge return on their investment. Or the studio could be shut down from losses (This has happened quite a bit in the last year alone. But more on that later.). You have to remember. When the money is spent on development. It's invested money. Meaning people are giving them their money, to try and gain it back with interest, later on. Problem being. If your game doesn't sell well enough to so much as break even. Then the investors are out their original investment, and financial backing for the studio will no doubt dry up quickly. After all. Who wants to invest in a company that just loses your money.

Because of this, it makes sense that companies would hedge their bets, and price their game at a price point that allows them to at least break even, even in the event of poor sales. But is this really the best option?

Ignoring the fact that a games quality and appeal determine sales figures above all else, and development studios them selfs. Have to take charge in putting out good quality games. Why not take a different sales strategy.

Not all games can be Modern Warfare 2's. Selling more copies than there are people in some small countries. If you have a smaller game, why not market it as a smaller game? With a lower price point that's likely to sell based on that alone.

Steam is a good example of this. Look at how often steam has sales. I know tons of people (My self included) who have seen a game on steam for such a cheap price, that even if you are only semi interested in it. Even if it ends up sucking, oh well. You only shelled out 10-20 bucks. Hell, I've lost more than that to my couch over the years.

Om nom nom

I have had countless conversations with people who all say the same thing. "If new games sold for $20, I would so many more games". So why don't they? Is it a high development cost? Worries about financial returns? Lack of virgin sacrifices? Well, that all plays a part in it (Save maybe that last bit). But I don't think those alone make up the full reasoning.

Simple greed plays a major part in it. As well as ego. Think about it. If you were a game developer. Would you want A: To make the best game you can, that stays true to your vision. or. B: Make a game that out sells everything, gets all the press, and makes the most money? Well. Unfortunately most people will go for the second one, and I can't really fault them to much for it. Seeking to gain is human nature. Whether it's power, money, or fame. It's something illustrious. So there's an innate sense that we have to have it. Faulting someone for making game B, would then be literally, spiciest.

It's those rare few that decide to make game A though. Those are the ones who bring us the true innovations to the medium. Games like Braid, Minecraft, The bit trip series. All of these are games made by people just trying to make the game they truly want to make.

I can't even say it's unfortunate that these types of games don't get made by major developers. I mean, half the appeal of these games, are that they were crafted from love. The developers really care about their games, and are willing to put that extra effort in. Do you think Minecraft would be even a tenth as fun and interesting, if it wasn't started by a single guy just making it because he wanted to make it? Hell no.

Apparently gravity is slightly askew in Sweden. Good to know.

The only exception thus far when it comes to major developers. Is valve. (Ironically. Notch, the developer of Minecraft has talked to them about getting help to make the game.) They are notorious for two things. 1: Always delaying their games. and. 2: Always putting out high quality games.

Think about it. Right now. Try and think of a game developed by valve, that legitimately hated. I don't doubt there are people who will find one or two. But most won't be able to. I know I can't. Even though I'm not one of those people who busts a nut anytime half life is mentioned. I certainly don't hate the games.

Above all else, valve keeps their standards high. No matter the cost. They want to deliver the best experience to the gamer that they can. Sure they take forever and a day to make a game. But you know full well from the word go. That game will be worth the wait. Portal 2 is a prime example. It was recently delayed, and while it kind of sucks. I honestly don't mind. Because I know full well. The game will be worth not only every second waited. But every penny spent.

and that right there. Is more than I can say 90% of the games out their.