REPLY TO ALL: Contagiously Cheap

Sales and crazy Steam specials have seriously screwed with our abilities to finish games, though they have exposed us to some titles we wouldn’t normally get into. Let’s put on our devil’s advocate hat, think of other reasons that cheaper gaming could be a problem in the near future.

How have cheaper video games and crazy steam specials changed you as a gamer?

Want in on the weekly conversation?
Every Wednesday we pose a question on Twitter and Facebook. You can answer from Wednesdays through Mondays on Twitter with the hashtag = #RE2ALL, and in our weekly thread on Facebook.com/HorribleNight posted every Wednesday. Check out this week’s responses at the end of the post, and add to it in the comments!

Justin L (JDevL)

My game queue is forever changed. Even outside of the explosion of the indie game scene and so many marketplaces giving us access to these great games. The games themselves just run the gamut of genres and are blurring them faster than we can define them. These games are changing what I expect out of games in general and the very value proposition I put on my purchases. In other words, I’m starting have a much tougher time justifying full priced $60 games unless they really make it worth the leap.

The Binding of Isaac

Fun matters.

It hit me the hardest when The Binding of Isaac came out. The game was cheap as hell and you could literally play it for a few minutes or a full day, and get something different out of each session. I was trying to balance a few new releases before Mega Release Fall hit hard, and Rage suddenly lost my interest to a $5 game. Because let’s face it, I knew what to expect out of Rage but had no idea where Isaac would take me. I think I will be purchasing a lot more games in 2012, but spending less money overall.

Brandon (H21)

I had a hard time with this question. I still love my games.

That being said, with Steam, Xbox Live and the various bundle services out there I’m having a more difficult time to justify pre-orders or purchasing on launch day. I will admit I’m guilty of doing those two things a lot this fall, but then I come across many sales like these mentioned and I’m torn again.

I think what needs to happen is more value for the $60 price tag. What exactly are we paying for? Exclusive crap because we bought it at this place over the other? Launch day DLC or patches? I can pick up a complete game, digitally, patched and ready to roll on day one from one of these other outlets for $15 or less. I can see a rift beginning to form, and it really begs the question – what should we get for $60?

JP (JPizzle151)

Tropico 3

Cover still makes me laugh.

Before my affiliation with this site I had never heard of Steam. With that said, I think that the extensive pricing options now available for games is a great thing. My most recent Steam purchase was Tropico 3. I really wanted to buy this game after playing the demo on XBLA, but I had a very difficult time justifying the purchase at $60. When Steam had the game on sale for roughly $12, I was all over it. The price also included all of the expansion packs. I look at Steam for any discounted RTS will all of the extensions.

The overall usability of Steam also makes purchases stupidly easy. As previously discussed on various podcasts throughout the year, pricing models need to change. This generation puts me in the mind set that a full price game should contain at least 40 or more hours of playable content. The reason I jumped on Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was because the price was an easy to digest $40. The game includes all of the planned DLC content that was push back because of the tsunami. There are a lot of games floating around that I refuse to play at the moment because I feel that the price is just to high. I was just telling my wife yesterday that I will pop into GameStop just to see what games I’ve been wanting to play have taken a price cut on the used shelf. When you look at all of the purchase options with the inevitable new generation of consoles, the industry really needs to rethink their pricing structures because of Steam and the used market.

Ethan (Wizardtrain187)

As you guys have pointed out, I think the justification of a full priced game is incredibly difficult when I’ve gotten just as much if not more value out of low priced and indie games. To put it bluntly, AAA studios are going to need to try harder to make gamers want their product.

In terms of the good side of this, my exposure to a multitude of different genres has been significantly enriched. No longer do I feel restricted in my exploration based on a price tag. For five bucks I can try a game out and if I hate it, it’s only five bucks (though this can be a problem as five bucks does add up).

The reality of the situation though is that I’m oversaturated with games and don’t feel too much of a necessity to finish them since I have another beckoning to me. Because of this, I’ve missed out on some pretty stellar storylines, which I do regret as most of them have already been spoiled, making it even more difficult to go back.

JP

Over-saturation is a great term. The market in general has just too many options at this point. The shear number of titles seems insane compared to the NES or even PS2 and Xbox generation. I think that Steam and the used market is a huge beneficiary of this generation. If we had to reflect on this generation now, I would point to the past 6 years as one of the biggest boom periods for video games.

Justin L

JP, not that I want to open up an hours per dollar type of conversation, but I think if you are gonna measure value based on time it’s gotta be more flexible and maybe based on the genre. Prime example is the Uncharted series and a lot of adventure games that clock in around that 10 hour mark. Maybe that’s just personal preference, too, but I just couldn’t think of very many 40 hour plus games worth playing from this year. A good 40 hour plus game is almost a rarity.

Uncharted 3

Thrills can equal value.

What this really brought up for me though, was the wonderful problem with the flood of indie games is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to classify games into genres. The lines are getting blurred. Why is this a problem you say? On the purchasing side sometimes it makes it hard to find the games you are looking for or for a surprise to bubble up to the top of the list. On the actual game playing side, I tend to try and spread out my active game list so that I can bounce between genres based on my mood so I find myself putting off games because I’m not really sure how they are going to play. Terraria, I didn’t know what to do with your adventuring meets building blocks gameplay so I went to something simpler :)

JP

Sometimes the timing of topics is remarkable. I just had to watch various videos about the computer industry for one of my classes this semester. The most recent one I watched was about the birth of the open source movement. If we set aside the dollar per hour discussion, we can say that there is a strong revolution going on within the industry. In the past the majority of games were created by developers with huge corporations looking over their shoulders the whole time. It now seems that more and more games made by people who love games with ‘normal’ jobs are creating games and finding friendly ways to distribute their games. Of course making a game for the fun of it is going to change what someone charges for the game. I think that this year in particular can be pointed out as a huge year and the spark of a revolution. I think the cheaper game movement will be a problem for big developers. This year has proved that the major houses (like them or not) are extremely arrogant. Developers making a extremely solid games at the right price is a huge issue for the major publishers because they are circumventing their iron fist. I think this trend will stay. It will affect my purchasing decisions and I hope that publishers will adjust their business strategies going forward. Sorry get intellectual on everyone, but the topic is much deeper than it appears at first glance.

Justin G (GiffTor)

I don’t do much PC gaming, despite the fact that I have a Steam account but I do play games on my phone / tablet and love me some downloadables on the 360. I think part of my reticence to get into the Steam stuff is that with the XBox, I just download and it works. (I ran into this the other day downloading The Sims 3 for Carrie and still haven’t gotten it to successfully install). That said, I’m consistently blown away by the quality of these lower-priced games and, in addition, think the price point of $40 for Halo: CE Anniversary was pretty solid for a fully redone game that was, nonetheless, a re-release.

Amazon

Don't even get me started on your deals.

We’ve talked about it before, but even though “traditional” games’ prices have stayed static (e.g., not rising with inflation) since the mid-80’s, I think the indie/downloadables + Steam have a chance to drive prices down. On the other hand, we could see something similar to what’s happened with e-books: there are a lot of self-published ones where the authors make more $ than they would / get a chance to “break in” that they wouldn’t have with a traditional publisher, but at the same time, you have the traditional houses demanding physical-book prices despite the fact that they have no physical cost overhead that they would have had otherwise – Amazon even has a “Price was set by the Publisher” disclaimer.

Justin L

What’s the threshold with all of this is my question? With multiple indie bundles out there selling through the roof (some of which that are bundling up some of the same games), it is hard to imagine them all continuing to be the massive successes that they seem to be today.

Brandon

I think the success of bundles points to an ongoing pattern. There will always be new games. There will always be new ways to bundle games. I think they’ll always be massive successes especially if many of those bundles are going to things like charity.

Ethan

To me, those bundles are not unlike what you’d get from a wine of the month club. Not every game has aspirations to be an epic success nor should they be, but some want to introduce a new flavor to people that may not have been previously exposed. To me, these bundles are taking over for the demo CDs that were always included with gaming magazines as making games is considerably cheaper and more accessible for developers. Where AAA studios have insane marketing budgets, these smaller games have their “bundle exposure” strategy if you will.

Humble Bundle

So many games so cheap so often.

The issue that may come from this, which could also come from games being cheaper across the board is that you don’t necessarily savor (sorry for the food references) a game when you can jump to a new one cheaply and easily. Some games are acquired taste or need time to fully develop, which I believe some people may miss out on if they have ten others in the bullpen vying for attention. I think this will make great games stand out even more, but it could also prevent those slow burns from making the impact they did when gamers were forced to choose between a few sixty dollar games as opposed to numerous 10-20 dollar games.

The other thing that I fear is that the time and effort of producing a game will be undercut by the mentality that games should be cheaper and more accessible. I’m not as concerned about the studios losing profit as I am the developers whose hard work is taken for granted by people that are spoiled by cheap games.

Golden Corral

This image confused you and made you reread the paragraph.

I do think the age of AAAs only pricing games at 60 dollars will come to a close sooner than later because there are great games out there that are modestly priced, but I’m not sure how to judge their value as their are a ton of factors involved. Obviously, paying 60 dollars for a crappy six hour campaign sucks, but attaching game length to price is like saying that a buffet at the Golden Corral should cost more than a well cooked filet mignon, though games like Skyrim have proved that they can create buffets filled entirely with filet mignon, lobster tails and caviar (though some of that food may have been dropped on the floor and crawling with “bugs”).

Justin G

Yeah, I guess I’m just not convinced that the explosion of not just bundles, but lower priced games, whether mobile, PC or platform, is going to have a hugely transformative effect other than enriching the media as a whole. Although making comparisons to film is treacherous, there’s always going to be room for 1/2 hour shows, hour shows, mini-series, feature-length films and now, thanks to the ubiquity of YouTube and cheap, high quality digital cameras, short, amateur films. I think it’s the same way in gaming except in this case, the barrier to entry is a lot lower so you can get a lot more talented people out there to be noticed instead of waiting tables waiting for their big break.

Justin L

I always wondered where those demo CDs ended up. I think you are right on there, Ethan. I think we are have started to see the pendulum shift a bit with the rise of free-to-play games in addition to the plethora of indie titles available affecting the amount of traditional AAA experiences available.

Mafia Wars 2

Too much/little too soon?

There’s gonna be a race to the bottom so to speak with more resources devoted to finding the way to make the most money off of the easiest/cheapest experience to reproduce. But that won’t last long as I think we’ve already started to see companies like Zynga have trouble making hits as huge as their original titles. The same thing will happen when the market is flooded by bundles and cheap games, not all of them can turn the profits they are after. In the mean time games like Skyrim will come along and reemphasize the fact that the Call of Duty formula isn’t the only way to make money with full priced games either.

Josh (Joshleedotcom)

Are we at the point yet where gamers like us could live solely off budget and downloadable titles?

There are certainly enough games out there that qualify, and many of them are stellar. Think about how much time we spend playing XBLA and PSN games. For my multiplayer couch sessions, I’ve almost gone completely downloadable. When I need a quick fix, I’m not going to Battlefield 3, I’m firing up The Binding of Isaac. Have we ever gone a Horrible Show without Ethan mentioning a couple of dirt cheap games?

I feel like the budget title (for lack of a better all-encompassing term) has snuck it’s way into our lives. They used to be relegated to the quick-fix or rare breakout hit. Now they are mentioned on the front page of every gaming news outlet right along side Call of Duty.

Who wants to be the 2012 Frugal Gamer guinea pig? Only buy games $20 or less, no AAA backlog. Or, is Ethan already doing this?

Justin L

It’s made me wonder if I hadn’t grown up with the AAA titles would I feel so tied to them, because I’m definitely getting fulfilling experiences from the downloadable games. I’m sure I’ll continue to be stubborn and jump on the full priced franchises that I know and love in addition to these games for the near future.

Steam

Thank you for our wonderful problems.

Conclusion

There’s never been more competition for your gaming budget than the range and availability of the games today. Stores are stocked with full priced games making other games cheaper to get them off the shelves. Digitally Steam, Amazon, and various indie bundles are constantly promoting more games across more genres for less money than we assume is possible for these great gaming experiences. How are your game playing and purchasing habits changing because of the prominence of these deals?

REPLY TO ALL – Our weekly conversation where our writing staff offers up their opinions on the gaming topic of the week.

Source:

Giant Bomb (images)