I am certain of two things:
1) If the current generation of consoles hadnít included online capabilities in their machines, I never would have bought the add-on equipment required to gain internet access. Iím not a big fan of multiplayer and I view any additional cost beyond the system itself as taking away from the pool of disposable income I put towards games.
2) If PSN wasnít free I would never subscribe to online play. I donít know how much Xbox Live costs, but Iím pretty sure whatever it is I wouldnít pay it for the same reason as above. I donít view the amount Iíd use it as equal to the 2-3 used games a year (or whatever it works out to be) I would buy with that money.
I am certain of two other things:
1) Without the previous two circumstances landing in my lap as they did, I would not have had access or a desire to play games like Closure/The Unfinished Swan/Braid/etc. (though this is only partially true, these games can be accessed through Steam and the like, I have little inclination to play them on the computerómainly because I enjoy controls Iím familiar with, but mainly because I have a Mac, which reduces the pool of games considerably) and would never have even tried them out.
2) I would be ignorant to what I was missing, and Iíd be worse off for it.
There is a larger issue than my frugalness at play. Games (like anything else) trend towards the masses, and what the masses want is longevity over substance and additional gaming beyond the campaign, like multiplayer. I want neither of those things, which makes it hard for me to find well-funded games that I believe worthwhile. There are some creative teams who find a way to marry what the general public wants and what I want, but this is the exception not the rule. In order for me to find narrative-driven games that donít linger for the sake of padding on gameplay time, I have to turn to innovative independent games made by small companies.
I prefer the linear experience built around larger ideas that strive to inform and affect the audience, but have a hard time finding this in many games that are built with a mainstream audience in mind. They are most concerned with graphics, framerates, and prolonging a redundant experience and compounding it with DLC. I understand why these factors matter, they just donít matter to me, and I think itís hurting videogames as a whole. This medium is no longer in its infancy; it has now matured and reached a critical point in its life. Does the industry become a mass-produced form of entertainment that focuses on the commercial profitability of now rather than the long-term health overall (say, like MLB or the NFL) or something that strives for artistic longevity that can be both thought-provoking and profitable (like the movie industry).
Iíd like to think there is room for both AAA titles and independent ones, but for someone like me, the appeal is oceans apart. The only time I ever buy a AAA title is after the price has come down at least 33%. Almost entirely out of principle I refuse to buy a game at full priceÖbecause I know it has been altered in order to meet the mainstream demand. I am buying a game for a single player experience, yet paying for the flotsam and jetsam I will never touch. If you think about it in binary terms, for online play there is PSN for everyone and there is PlayStation Plus for those who want a more abundant experience. For games there is just one option, take it or leave it. I guarantee there are millions of people who would buy a Call of Duty game just for the multiplayer. I would buy a Call of Duty that had no multiplayer. But when it comes to the fiscal rationality of the 21st century, videogames are stuck in a time before they even existed. You can go see a movie at a theater and pay a premium price, or wait until the movie comes out on video and download that movie at a lesser price, or you can wait until it comes out on Netflix and get it at no price above your monthly subscription. All along the way the people who made and produced and financed the movie get a cut. Videogame publishers refuse to believe this is a replicable model and insist that people buy the game at full price at all times. Games come down in price, sure, but at a slower rate than the market, and anyone with the slightest bit of ambition can find a game online at a much lower price weeks after its release. If Call of Duty came out with a strictly single-player experience for a discounted price, I would happily but it. Activision doesnít want my money though, theyíd rather I buy it used on eBay.
I recently purchased Closure for $15. This is $15 that I will never get to resell on the used market. I canít gift this game to a friend, itís linked forever to my account. Thatís $15 that many AAA titles will never get because they make you buy in completely. For comparison, say you wanted to watch a baseball game, but in order to attend the game you couldnít just buy a seat. The price of your ticket would force you to buy a hot dog, two drinks, a program and popcorn. What should be $20 has now tripled in price and given you things you never asked for in the first place. Of course itís great to have the option to buy a hot dog or a soda or a program once you arrive at the stadium, but to force those things on you before you even sit down is crazy. If teams started doing this it would only serve to force fans into other means of watching the game, which is the problem the videogame industry has been facing for years. Instead of thinking of ways to make games more available to consumers in the way that they want them, corporations try to punish users who donít buy the games brand new (requiring passcodes to access multiplayer, for instance). Which means nothing to people like me since restricting online play is comparable to a restaurant telling a vegan theyíre out of bacon. So why canít I just pay for the campaign of a game? Why do I have to get trophies and multiplayer or anything else outside the scope of the game? Why does the videogame industry refuse to evolve in this aspect, when in every other they completely revolutionize? I wish I knew.