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Money can buy everything except “love”, “friendship” and “exp points”.

The Price Of Keeping Up October 22, 2008

Filed under: Consoles,Metagaming,The gaming industry — haounomiko @ 10:47 am
Tags: , ,

Comments on my prior blog entry about the price of games have me thinking. There are at least two upcoming PS3 games that I would love to purchase (The Last Remnant and Heavy Rain), and various others that I’d love to give a spin. It’s gotten to the point where, if the PS3 were the price of the average console, I would say it’s time to buy one. But– ouch. The price difference takes it from a range where I’d easily choose to purchase it, into a range where it’s not as easy of a decision for me. If Sony didn’t charge an exorbitant price for their console, I would shell out for it right now. Would they rather risk that I not do so? This is the direct impact of their decision, which they may have thought wouldn’t matter that much. Right here, right now, it is mattering: I definitely want one, but I won’t just run out and buy one now.

I suspect that because the Playstation caters more towards the older sector of the gaming crowd than the kids, Sony thought they could set a high price since it is a “mature” console. A high price for a working adult is more than a high price for a child, it’s true– but what they may have overlooked is that the price is simply a lot. Even without the downturn in today’s economy, the average American would have to be serious about gaming to buy a PS3.

Would Super Mario Bros. 3 alone be worth $100? I believe so, given what it delivers– but perhaps not to someone, even a serious gamer, who hasn’t played it. When buying a new console, gamers take the risk that there might not be any games on the console that captivate them enough to make it worth the price; perhaps they’ll neglect it and play mostly on some other console. It’s a lot of money down, betting that the reward will be worth the price. Even though there’s a good chance that the bet will pay off, how much money does the average gamer want to stake on that risk? There’s a certain price that gamers are used to staking; when that abruptly rises with no more guarantee of payoff than their usual price, it asks them to put more down for the same quality difference as they always get.

Maybe I’m biased because I’m so used to handheld games right now, so I’ve been buying less expensive games, but I feel like I’m getting just as much bang for fewer bucks that way. On the other hand, I’m going through DS games so much because it’s my only current-generation console, and it’s getting more releases than my old systems right now. The galling thing is that I don’t care a whit about graphical superiority– I just want to be able to play lots of fun new games, and it won’t be long before my TV consoles are obsolete.

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11 Responses to “The Price Of Keeping Up”

  1. Karl Says:

    The PS3 has yet to really charm me, but I do understand the feeling. In the old days, pencil-and-paper RPG sourcebooks were rarely above $20, and I bought plenty of ones that looked interesting but that I might never use in a game. These days, though, it’s a lot harder to justify paying $40 for a book unless I feel like I’ll actually use it in a game someday.

    With the PS3 (and, to a slightly less extent, the Xbox 360), I understand that, on a purely technical level, they are expensive because they are very fancy and made of expensive parts. But, on a higher level, they are expensively made because they are multi-purpose high-definition media-delivery behemoths. Never mind that people might prefer simple systems on which to play fun games; the behemoth strategy has more potential avenues for profit, so that’s what was done. So, yeah, the price is putting me off for more reasons than just the idea that I’d have to pay it.

  2. Ayulsa Says:

    I believe so, given what it delivers– but perhaps not to someone, even a serious gamer, who hasn’t played it.

    True, and there is, I suppose, the rub– we value Super Mario Bros. 3 retrospectively. We value it not only after having sunk so much time into it, but after years of comparing it to other games and realising that it still shines in comparison to much of what’s been released since 1990. Whether a game is truly worth that is, perhaps, something we can only evaluate after a lengthy period of time. (And given what you said on comments to your previous post, I’m wondering if “worth it” monetarily is a concept that holds universally or not– like you said, it’s about financial situation. $30 is a big gamble for someone living on ramen; the CEO of a big company can easily afford a PS3; most of us fall somewhere in between, but we still vary a lot, especially with age.)

    There’s a certain price that gamers are used to staking; when that abruptly rises with no more guarantee of payoff than their usual price, it asks them to put more down for the same quality difference as they always get.

    That’s very true, and I’m surprised it hasn’t done heavy damage to the PS3’s sales to the point that they’ve marked it down, honestly.

    And regards Karl’s comment on sourcebooks… I agree, and it’s really a shame. It’s like, there’s less of a feeling that you can go and casually dip into these things because you like the look of them and hopefully get something good out of them; you have to really, really want them to consider it. So there’s less experimentation.

    I’d compare this to games, but I really do feel like it’s only comparable to consoles; as we said before, I do think games are getting cheaper, even if consoles are getitng more expensive. The odd trade-off of this is that it feels like much more of a risk to buy a console because the games are so cheap in comparison, whereas when the consoles were cheaper but the games cost half of what the console cost, you felt more like you could justify buying a console for a single game.

  3. haounomiko Says:

    @Karl: Yeah, I don’t want a mega-monolithic hi-def entertainment system that does everything except wash the dishes, either. I want a game console that plays all the new games. So I’m not too fond of it in principle, either, and I hate to think that if I buy a PS3 I’d be validating their decision to charge a high price for it. On the other hand, I have started to want one.

    Incidentally, do you know whether there’s a way to plug in your own hard drive to a PS3, or did Sony cleverly make it so you have to store everything on the 40/80 GB that comes with the system?

  4. haounomiko Says:

    @Ayulsa: Yeah, and I like experimentation, personally. I do think games are getting cheaper, but I think this is mostly due to how commonly you can get used games, rather than any industry decision. Once used games became really common, carrying with them a big discount, the price of new games had to go down– which of course made the price of used games go down as well. At some point there’ll be a limit where games have to be a certain price to pay for the work that went into making them, or at least I hope so; I’d hate to think of all the game-industry programmers living on ramen and suffering for their art just because they wanted to make games.

  5. Karl Says:

    I have no actual evidence re: PS3 hard drives (and I’m too lazy to search right now), but I’d be incredibly surprised if you weren’t limited to the drive that came with the system and possibly any official peripheral drive that might eventually be offered. And modding game systems that rely on Internet access for patches and things can be risky.

    @Ayulsa: (I’m amused at Twitter conventions being used her, by the way.) I actually heard that, at the high end, new games for new (non-portable) systems are a bit more expensive than the previous generation, although I don’t think they’ve reached SNES levels yet. What we are seeing, though, is more variance in price – now that most of the expense for big releases is in their huge production budgets, things like Katamari can be sold for much less.

    And, alas, used games aren’t going to be driving down prices in the US. Gamestop, at least, keeps used games at about $5 below the price of the game new for as long as they can. Obscure games get cheap more quickly, but big-name games will take years to really fall. Ah, the things one can do with a near-monopoly.

  6. haounomiko Says:

    @Karl: I’d be surprised, too, because quickly no one would buy the 80 GB model unless they were too clueless to hear the internet telling them not to, which it would. I don’t even want to think about how much money they’re making by selling people an extra 40 GB for that price difference.

    And re the @ convention, it’s becoming somewhat common on the blogosphere.

  7. Ayulsa Says:

    I actually heard that, at the high end, new games for new (non-portable) systems are a bit more expensive than the previous generation, although I don’t think they’ve reached SNES levels yet. What we are seeing, though, is more variance in price – now that most of the expense for big releases is in their huge production budgets, things like Katamari can be sold for much less.

    That makes sense; like you said, the expense is in the production these days, whereas before it was in the hardware (the cartridge and such), I believe? Or am I wrong in thinking that SNES cartridges and chips really cost that much to make? In any case, they’re surely more expensive than a DVD; I mean, the facilities for pressing them and such had to be unique, and while I know you can’t just master a PS3 game on your hard drive, at the very least the technology shouldn’t have to differ that much from mass-produced components.

    And to haounomiko’s earlier comments, I agree that I don’t want a system that does everything except wash the dishes (that said, if it did wash the dishes I might buy it). If I want a multimedia system I’ll buy a multimedia system, and the people who really do want those are going to buy the genuinely fancy stuff, not use their PS3.

    Don’t make everyone pay extra for a poor man’s multimedia system when all most people want to do is play games. That locks out people who love games, don’t care about anything else, and don’t have the cash for fancy hardware, and yes, buying the PS3 encourages them that their decision was right– but what you can you do? It’s not like there’s such a thing as an alternative to a Sony PS3, the same way that there’s an alternative to a Hitachi VCR or a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

  8. haounomiko Says:

    @Ayulsa: They do make a system that washes dishes. Unfortunately, there just aren’t any good games for it. It’s made by some well-known companies with a lot of experience under their belts, such as GE; and new models are coming out all the time. It’s prohibitively expensive, though, and if you think the Xbox is large, you should see how big the Dishwasher is.

  9. Ayulsa Says:

    and if you think the Xbox is large, you should see how big the Dishwasher is.

    Yea, verily I am slain. =D =D

  10. Jon Says:

    Great site, I’ll come back and read more when I have more time.

  11. haounomiko Says:

    @Jon: Thanks! Glad you like it. 🙂


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