The new, true cost of videogames
Game publishers often like to point out the fact that the price on their games hasn’t gone up in years. And while this is technically true, the actual price most of us pay for complete games is going up all the time through DLC sales. Publishers argue that they suffer immense financial losses due to both game trading, and to a lesser extent, game rentals. Many ideas have been kicked around in hopes of addressing this situation. I’ve heard everything from using codes in new games to unlock full content to making games available for download only.
While the industry fails to make up its mind on a definitive solution, one new trend seems to be gaining traction: The Season Pass. A number of high-profile games releasing this fall have announced DLC (downloadable content) on day one, coinciding with a season pass that gives gamers a 25% discount if they invest in the entire set of content. What was most shocking this year, however, is the price of the passes.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Forza Horizon both offered up passes for 4000 microsoft points, which can seem like an abstract amount until you convert it to the actual cost of around $57.00 (which can be less, provided you find a deal on MS points someplace). The retail game costs you $59.99 on average, and then if you wish to have all the content that was held back from the retail game, the price nearly doubles. In both cases, most of the content is geared toward multiplayer fans. Black Ops 2 mostly includes MP maps and co-op Zombie mode content. Forza’s content includes car packs and new race modes/areas. In fact, if you don’t buy the DLC pass, there is a noticeably small number of cars compared to previous games. Enough so, that I didn’t bother buying the new Forza game for the first time ever.
Borderlands 2 also offered a season pass for less money. The cost was 2400 points, or around $40.00. This cost covered 4 sets of story content, each offering around 10 to 15 hours of gameplay. Shockingly, the Borderlands pass didn’t even include the Mechromancer class, which was available to anyone who preordered from selected retailers. If you wanted that content, it would cost you another $10.00.
In each of these cases, the retail version of the game included enough content to make them worth the purchase, in my opinion. I certainly don’t begrudge the publishers an opportunity to extend the life of their game through a trickle of DLC in the months following release. However, it should be pointed out that this new trend effectively squashes the claims of publishers that game prices have stayed the same.
If you’re just a casual fan of shooters or racing games, would you have picked up either Forza Horizon or Black Ops 2 on day one if the price tag had said $120.00? Chances are, no. I read all about the Zombie content in Black Ops 2 prior to release, but when I got a chance to try the game first-hand, it seemed like there was a lot less than I’d been expecting. So where was it? In the upcoming DLC, of course. For an additional $57.00. Did I feel like I’d been duped? A bit, yeah.
Maybe this is simply the new reality of gaming. Publishers will look to fans who are willing to invest more deeply in the game. Some PC titles do this. The new Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic online game charges people $15 a month just to play (after buying the retail version). Fans drop the coin without blinking. One of the repercussions of this, however, will be a narrowing of the selection of games. If people are investing $120 in a game, they’re going to give it more of their time. This means that fewer and fewer new IP’s will see the light of day, and inevitably, a reduction in the amount of innovation we see within the industry. And that’s not good for any game fan.