All that Glitters is Not Gaming GoldDecember 18th, 2008
One of my favorite games on the NES is Final Fantasy. To this day I can still play the game through savoring each moment. Most recently I have been playing the 2003 re-release for the PS1 which may diminish the nostalgia factor but definitely not enjoyment. Which got me to thinking, there are many more powerful, better looking, insanely more complex games available to me. Yet, out of all the games out their and all the ones I own, I’ve never played through a game as many times as Final Fantasy. For that matter, in my top five most played games of all time the only one made recently is Katamari Damacy for the PS2.
This is a testament to the enjoyment that can be derived from relatively simple games–not a condemnation of the quality found in more recent offerings. A game does not need to have a huge production budget to be fun. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the myriad of time-sucking flash games on the internet, or the games on Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network. I wasted the better part of my morning trying out many of the Community games on Marketplace. The quality to crap ratio appears to be better than the rest of Marketplace, with one standout being the Contra inspired Weapon of Choice. The game is a pretty good deal at 400 MS points.
Which brings me to my next point: is it worth paying $60 for a game when you can derive so much enjoyment from cheaper fare? A great example is the Penny Arcade games which cost a little more than a fifth what a major release will run you. I can honestly say I derived more than a fifth as much enjoyment from that game as from, say, Lost Odyssey. Even though the play time is nowhere near equal, with Lost Odyssey having the clear edge, the enjoyment advantage, for me, is owned by the PA games. I know games are not priced based on the quality hours you get out of them, but there is a huge disparity between what you pay and what you get. Granted, some of this is influenced by digital distribution and other factors, like marketing or a lack of it. It follows that we as consumers are paying dearly for factors that have no effect on the gaming experience. Is this fair?
As has been discussed on this site, developers are needling us with added costs in the form of downloadable content. So you might not even get a full game for that sixty bucks you just shelled out. Here we also see games becoming more complex but not necessarily more fun. Did you get extra fun with that horse armor? How about with that new weapon? This is the issue of perceived value discussed in the aforementioned post, but this goes deeper than downloadable content. The entire business of games on discs is being run on the (apparently correct) assumption that people are willing to pay a premium for slick graphics and production values. What happens when you don’t get the disc? With digital distribution networks like Steam you pay the same for major releases and you don’t get a disc. I understand hosting costs money, but does it cost as much as physical distribution? Digital distribution has been heralded as the new wave but it looks like more of the same. Fight the power and support the little games, you’ll be happy you did.