I Stand On My Soapbox is a series of editorials that cover more specific topics in the games industry and community. These articles are a little more extreme than normal editorials published here, and could just degenerate to outright ranting. Have fun and enjoy the show!
Ever since this generation started, seeing games costing $60 was a tough pill to swallow. I’ve never seen prices this high since the days of the N64. In those days though, the Playstation was still around and new games were only $40. PS2/Xbox/Gamecube games evened out with $50. It was a sort of pricing sweet spot that had some opposition but was pretty much uncontested. PS2 games were $10 dollars more than PS1 games, but Gamecube games were $10 cheaper than N64 games. Xbox would begin its life with games at $50. So in comes the PS3/360/Wii era, and we see the Wii in the same position the PS1 was with its games being $50 while the other two consoles charging $60. While both of these pricepoints were still high, I much preferred paying just $50 instead of $60. But now that the Wii U is out, and all the players in this game are now charging $60.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with this price point and it’s sad that we as gamers (I included) let this happen.
Before the launch of the Wii U, it was revealed that Wii U games would be joining the $60 Club. I figured it’d be inevitable, though I still held out hope that the games would stay $50 like on the Wii (and probably give Nintendo an edge). Or maybe that $60 would just be the maximum and the games themselves will have prices according to content. But then I saw that New Super Mario Bros. U would be $60 at retail. Seeing this reminded me of a problem plaguing not only Nintendo, but the entire industry as a whole. On the Wii I probably couldn’t complain much. Games were $50 and was pretty much a deal from the get-go when compared to other consoles. But now…well, no offense to Nintendo, Mario, and the genre it is, but I wouldn’t pay $60 for a new 2D Mario game. A 3D one (like Sunshine and Galaxy) maybe, but not a 2D platformer. The only way I’d pay this price is if either the game has some length to it or was Asshole Difficult. Otherwise, $40-$50 is my offer to buy a game like this.
My analysis over NSMBU is something I hope gamers start doing now that the playing field is completely leveled. On the HD side of the console war, we let companies tell us that “the tech is what’s making us bump up the price.” And you know what, I believed it. We all probably believed it. More tech, more money needed; a natural progression of prices if we use the PS1 as a starting point ($40,$50, $60). It made sense and I respected it. But then these companies (and by companies I mean Publishers and Developers) used the “tech excuse” as a crutch to sell shoddy products rife with much-needed patchwork, DLC, and ungodly short singleplayer campaigns.
Then came the other excuse which was popularized by games like Halo and Call of Duty. “Most people will play our game for the multiplayer, hence we’ll be charging this amount.” This is even worse bullshit for two reasons. 1) Nothing is more YMMV than multiplayer. It’s almost completely unpredictable how your experience with other people online will be. 2) Are people even going to be there anyway when you get game? Remember getting Assassin’s Creed II Brotherhood and seeing lots of people playing online? Remember other games with online components that had a crapton of people online? What happened about 6 months later? They’re gone! Online mutiplayer is the one feature that is not as concrete as singleplayer. But hey, since there’s no one online, let me go play the singleplayer campaign then. Oh that’s right, I already beat it in 4 hours!
That brings me to point 3) Short Singleplayer Campaigns. The two genres that abuse this the most are First Person Shooters and Fighting Games. Most First Person Shooters today have unfathomable clear time of 6-8 hours. That’s roughly a day or a lazy weekend. And I know the FPS is more capable than just having multiplayer as a focus. Look ayt games like Bioshock or Mirror’s Edge. Those had excellent stories and gameplay on the singleplayer side of things. In regards to Mirror’s Edge though, its singleplayer was short and left us hanging. Look at the recent Call of Duty games. They’re more capable at storytelling than many other companies, yet they never truly tap into it. Look at moments like No Russian in MW2 or when the nuke dropped at the end of MW1, or the story of Spec Ops: The Line. There’s some massive untapped potential here and the powers that be won’t let it happen. Why? “Oh, but the multiplayer should make up for that.” Okay sure, but why is it so lax on modes? Oh, and where the hell is everyone?
And the Fighting Games. Oh my lord the Fighting Games. Back then you could probably get away with having barely any modes in a fighting game. But back then things were locked and were unlocked from actual gameplay. Arcade modes were pretty much the go-to story mode for these games and actually had some length to them, and this was the mode where we did our unlocking. When there was no one to play against, we played this. The ultimate culmination excellent singleplayer happened with Super Smash Bros Melee/Brawl, Soul Calibur III, BlazBlue, Mortal Kombat 9, and Persona 4 Arena. These were chock-full of content that made these games worth every penny, especially Mortal Kombat 9, a game that was made for Tournament Play (hence multiplayer) that actually had a competent story mode and challenge mode (the Tower) for those who played solo.
But what about companies that can’t be assed to add sufficient singleplayer content? Well, price it accordingly. A game’s online mode is only as good as the community that’s in it. If the community is not up to snuff or not really present, then that’s money wasted.
As for companies who got pricing right, Sega comes to mind. The oft delayed Anarchy Reigns is a online-multiplayer centric brawler and will retail for $30 when it comes out. There’s probably a singleplayer mode there, but like Call of Duty and most fighting games, the multiplayer is the main attraction. So Sega priced it accordingly, knowing that this online experiences will vary from player to player. Nintendo (of all people) sold Rhythm Heaven Fever at a lower price considering what kind of game it is. And Namco sold Klonoa at $30 when the enhanced port came to the Wii.
It’s a cliche to say this, but it just applies so well here: Let your wallets do the talking. More than ever waiting for a price drop is resulting in better deals for games. If a game comes out with barely any content or expected to lack content, don’t pay those $60 up front. For too long companies have dictated the price points for games, citing “tech” and “multiplayer” when in reality there is not much there to begin with. Now, it’s our turn to tell these companies what we want to pay. You might really want that game now, but trust me when I say that patience is virtue. The economy ain’t what it used to be, and we can’t stomach these prices for such little content any longer.