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Searching for a New Way to Define Value
So I bought Evolve last Tuesday.
You hear that? That’s the army of keyboard crusaders preparing their assault. Do you want to know my thoughts on the game itself? Or shall we spend the next thousand words or so using metaphorical nonsense to pick apart the crime against humanity that is cosmetic DLC? Here’s what I do know: I love Evolve, I agree wholeheartedly with my colleague Same Hale’s review, and I have had a blast this past week playing it. I can’t tell you whether or not I’m going to be playing it a week from now, a month from now, or even six months from now, but I do know that the game I bought is an absolute blast. Let me reiterate that so we’re not confused going forward: the game I bought is an absolute blast.
Now let’s jump a week ahead and see that The Order: 1886 has come under fire for reportedly being “too short.” This caused a whirlwind of speculation from every outlet under the sun—both professional and otherwise—which led to developer Ready at Dawn defending themselves and tempering the disappointment of their fans who have, mind you, not yet even played the game.
I’m not here to defend Turtle Rock or Ready at Dawn. I’m here to challenge gamers. $60 is a lot of money. What gamers need to do is stop yelling at developers and publishers for creating these products at prices they feel are too high and start defining value for themselves. Video games are not a right, they are a privilege. When I went out and bought my PlayStation 4, it was on launch day in 2013. The $400 I spent that night were within my means, and I purchased it with an understanding in the brand and the product that I would be able to get $400 worth of value out of the console. Do I feel like I’ve gotten that yet? No. Do I feel that come the end of the console’s life cycle my investment will have been worthwhile? Absolutely.
Games are no different. We have the privilege of being part of an amazing age of gaming. Gaming is no longer just a weird niche market anymore; it’s a global powerhouse, and the variety of games we have the pleasure of enjoying is at an all-time high. Even more exciting is the versatility of choices we have. Choice is the key word that can’t be overlooked here. As gamers, we have the power to dictate what it is we do and don’t play. No one is forcing me to drive to my nearest game store and throw down $60 on the newest, hottest title. Pre-order culture gives us the illusion that these games are forced upon us from the first trailer, preview, or reveal, and that it’s our duty as gamers to feel excitement or absolute rage towards the next big thing.
This conversation would be so unnecessary if we, as gamers, would take the time to educate ourselves and be more responsible consumers. We live in an age where information is more available and accessible than it ever has been. Previews, demos, reviews, trailers, let’s plays, the list goes on and on. With this staggering amount of information out there, making an uninformed purchase at the detriment of your finances is not only risky, but downright stupid. If a game is systematically broken, that’s one thing. That is unacceptable and it is a trend that has been far too apparent in big releases as of late.
With the rise of indie titles, AAA releases just don’t have the same kind of muscle that they used to, and for the price of one AAA title you can get three, four, sometimes even five indie titles. These indie titles are no better or worse than the mega franchises that loom over them, it’s just a different market. My favorite game of 2014 was Dragon Age: Inquisition, a big-budget, 70-hour epic of the grandest scale. My favorite game of 2012 was Journey, a two-hour emotional juggernaut of an experience. One cost me $60, the other cost me $15. No one in their right mind would attempt to compare these two games. They couldn’t be any more different, but you could ask the same question, “Did I get the desired value out of my purchase?” and you would get the same answer: Yes.
As the video game industry continues to evolve—no pun intended—these trends will continue to evolve with them. Who knows? There may be an age in which DLC becomes so demonized that developers opt to stay away from it and just decide to hike up game prices as a whole. Maybe games become so expensive that indie titles break through the mainstream and give birth to powerhouse franchises that take over the forefront of gaming. With developer innovation at an all-time high and the amount of money travelling its way in and out of the industry, nothing would surprise me. One thing is for sure: as video games continue to grow, so will its fanbase. More products often means more consumers, and it’s our responsibility to be educated consumers, speak with our wallets, and not allow developers and publishers to dictate what we want to play. So when you find yourself about to pull the trigger on your next game purchase, don’t ask yourself, “Is this worth the money?” Ask yourself, “Is this worth my money?”