Let’s just get this out of the way before we start, I don’t want to talk about day one DLC. Yes, it’s becoming a big part of the way games are funded and sold, but I feel we’ve covered it enough this week. No, I’d like to look at the general way that the gaming landscape seems to be changing in regards to price, rather than focusing on one single aspect.
Comments made by people like EA’s Peter Moore may be worrying for many, looking at consumers as merely a metric than someone who’s playing the game. Of course it would be incredible naive to imagine that much of the industry, at least on the business side of things, hasn’t looked at their sales in this way for many, many years.[drop]Presumably though, most will be worried about his comments which concern turning a $60 game into an $80 one through DLC, and although his comments were in reference to day one DLC it’s quite easy to apply them with broad strokes to the industry as a whole. The pricing model for games is certainly changing, and it does look like the up front cost of a title isn’t going to be the main thing factor you have to look at when considering the price.
The important thing to remember, at least in my opinion, is that we don’t seem to be locked into increased prices, they’re not the only option. Whilst they’re certainly one way publishers are experimenting, just look at the exceptional growth of free-to-play recently.
It’s easy to dismiss free-to-play titles as nothing more than little time fillers, games like Farmville or Tiny Tower being prime examples of this. However, our recent week of articles on this method of paying for games showed just how much variety there is in that area right now. Games like Super Monday Night Combat or the upcoming Hawken make it clear that these aren’t just casual iOS or Facebook games that you can sink a few minutes into, free-to-play titles can have the same kind of gameplay and production values as full retail releases.
Many might argue that in the long run the free-to-play model ends up costing gamers more, although it’s over a longer period of time. It’s easy to see how this can be true, but it really is up to you how much you want to invest in the game. Assuming that the free tier of play isn’t at a severe disadvantage, something that seems key if free-to-play games are going to continue to grow, then it really is up to each player to decide how much they want to put into the game.[drop2]Take me for example. I’ve played an awful lot of Tiny Tower and I’ve never brought anything in the game at all. My tower might not grow as quickly as those who’ve pumped money into the game (minds out of the gutter please), but to me there’s a weird satisfaction in just waiting for the denizens of my mini sky scrapper to get their act together and build the next floor (although I suppose a few hours is a pretty good turn around on outfitting a new shop).
If anything makes it clear that we’re in a phase of experimentation with regards to price, it’s the Xbox 360 subscription deal. Whether or not you think the deal is a good thing is immaterial really, it’s evident that Microsoft are playing with the way they price their console to see how consumers react.
To be honest I can only see all of this experimentation as a good thing. It may end up with consumers having to pay more, but we may also see a shift in the way we pay for games and consoles. It’s hard to see what the outcome is going to be, although a cynic would say that we’ll just end up paying more. As for me? I’m not sure yet, but I do like seeing the industry try something new.