What’s going on you sexy video game? Yeah you! I see you sitting all alone at the kiosk, flashing your $60 price tag and showing a little too much insert. You’re promising to be my game of the year and excite me in all the right places. For a little more than a tank of gas, you’ll make me forget about all the heartache and loss in my gaming past. You’ll be the game in the genre that sets the bar for every other game I’ll bring home. But game, I know something you don’t know: you’re not my first $60 game. I’ve been around the gaming block and learned a thing or two.
We’re entering the age of the Indie Game. You might not think so, with titles like CoD: Black Ops and Homefront setting sales records for the industry and for their publishers, but the $60 game is dying. Homefront set records for THQ, but when the reviews were lackluster at best, the company’s stocks took a sizeable hit and gamers were left confused, lonely, and heartbroken. How could Homefront, with its over-the-top marketing, completely fail to at least mirror its FPS contemporaries? Gamers were presented with Bulletstorm, Fallout: New Vegas, Fable 3, and Crysis 2 (to name a few) and while these titles sold fairly well, I’ve noticed a few trends.
First, many games being released in 2011 and 2012 are sequels. That’s not an entirely bad thing (I’m thinking of 2010′s Bad Company 2), but gamers appear to be catching onto the lack of ingenuity in game design. It’s apparent that gaming has become saturated with average games with price tags that match superior games. And when a superior game is developed, its veins are bled dry via sequels and DLC. I’m not contradicting anything I’ve said in Fools Fault Activision, in this economy, I understand a publisher’s desire to milk their cash cows to death. But when sequels are sequels in name only (most sequels gain very little from playing the previous games), what point is there in purchasing titles on release day? Most PC gamers have already noticed that their sequels are console games ported over to PC, and a lot of console gamers have noticed that publishers have abandoned original IP’s to focus on sequels. How many times can Gears of War or Killzone be reskinned and repackaged?
The second thing I’ve noticed comes from listening to several podcasts and browsing online gaming forums. With the exception of very few titles, most gamers are becoming discouraged by how many games are released at $60 only to dissapoint when it comes to campaign depth and duration. As far as I’m concerned, multiplayer belongs to a handful of heavy hitters, so us gamers ask “why shift resources from singleplayer (or co-op) and reallocate them to a multiplayer mode that won’t push the envelope?” There are some gamers that buy a ton of new games, but it seems like the majority of us have a few titles we love, and we explore other titles when the price drops or we can buy them used on the cheap.
I just started playing a game called Section 8: Prejudice, and its selling point will be its price: $15. I’ve only started to dive into the gameplay, but so far it’s doing a pretty good job of convincing me that a $15 title can deliver what most $60 titles are currently offering. This game, combined with an increase in rewarding Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, and indie Steam titles leaves me questioning the lifespan of the default $60 pricetag on release day.
I’m not saying some games aren’t worth $60. Red Dead Redemption definitely was. Both Left 4 Dead titles were worth the price and I felt Bad Company 2 was a good investment at full-price. But as the used-game market continues to squeeze the coin-purses of publishers and developers, I’m willing to bet on a shift from the de facto $60 release-day price tags. I’m hoping that the burgeoning indie game market will also grab the attention of major publishers, forcing them to rethink their business models. I can’t speak for every gamer, but give me 2-3 quality $60 games per year, and fill the gaps with some entertaining indie titles. As indie developers begin to succeed despite the risks they take, I’m hoping we’ll see innovation and ingenuity return to game design. And I’ll keep you posted on Section 8: Prejudice. I’m trying to not get my hopes up, but when I see this game shaking its $15 money-makers, it’s hard not to get excited.