My old man was once just a single signature away from buying a computer game shop. Not a video game shop – back then they were computers, not consoles – but a proper, fully fledged shop – it sold monitors, keyboards, mice and – yes – games. He didn’t, and I can’t for the life of me remember exactly why he didn’t, but that’s history long in the past.
I often wonder how my life might have turned out if he had, it was a decent location and then, at the advent of the Amiga / ST era, things were really starting to kick off. The industry was maturing, the general public was staring to accept this whole new medium of entertainment and – crucially – the price of games was starting to rise to all new levels.
Gamers long in the tooth will remember, as fondly as I do, a game called Armour Geddon. Ignoring the rather ridiculous play on words, this was a game that featured 3D vector graphics and an almost entirely open-ended structure that invited the player to plan out their own research strategy and defense systems as two players battled against the computer AI.
This was an awesome game.
However, part of me thinks this might not have been the case. As kids could we have afforded another disk?
To get the most of out it you needed to team up and have an Amiga each – so the irony, looking back, of having a full computer / monitor combo spread over two rooms of a modest semi-detached, yet not being able to splash out another twenty quid, seems ridiculous, but then pocket money was hard to come by and whilst parents might have bought the machines in the first place, they certainly didn’t buy the games we played on them.
Are we as a public justified in ripping off a publisher because we can’t afford the games? Legally, no – of course not, but are games really worth the asking price in the first place? Nowadays if we see a brand new AAA title at that sort of price we don’t think twice – it’s a bargain – but then, that was a serious investment and one that we couldn’t make twice.
I don’t buy a lot of games these days – I’m generally done with a title after it’s been reviewed (and rarely return to it) and think seriously about handing over £40 for a game that I can’t help feeling is, in most cases, overpriced. It baffles me that people are happy to pay upwards of £50 for a game, but then it’s all just down to perception of value.
Take, for example, Call of Duty. Activision can charge what the hell they like next year for what would arguably be yet another iterative update on a franchise that’s surely well past its prime. And people will buy it – because, to them, it’s worth the money. They’ll play online for hours a day and – in some cases – won’t play anything else for months.
To me, an ageing old fool in his thirties who remembers panicking about handing over seven quid for Jet Set Willy to the man behind the counter in the shop my dad nearly bought, it simply doesn’t make any sense. I guess it all just depends on what disposable income you’ve got to splash on these things, but for me – with flashbacks of Armour Geddon – these things are damned expensive.