(I apologize for the lack of a header image. I posted this during an excruciatingly
slow day at my job.)
This might be a little too high-concept for a humble blog post, as it will probably only skim the surface of the taoist dark and light sides of that curious beast known as business.
What strikes me as interesting is how the industry as a whole has moved towards bigger, badder, more expensive champagne tastes in a time where a beer budget is probably the best idea to model a business practice after. I believe that this is why the Wii sold so well right from the start -a price point aimed squarely at a level that wouldn't break anyone's financial future, whether you had to save for a month or two or could shell it out on a whim, you could (and still can) afford a Wii console. However, once you have the console, you have to buy games and accessories to get the most out of the system. This process is taxing, no pun intended.
Controllers, which in reality are only half of the control method, cost $30. The other half of the controller costs $20. If you wanted to have the maximum amount of supported players able to rock at any time, you're spending $150 to do so. The 360 is much the exact same way, even though its focus is significantly less geared towards same-room play and the controller is one piece instead of two. The PS3 controllers have been sold at a price point of $60, which makes some bit of sense considering that they are motion-control capable and rechargeable right out of the box, but to get 4 players in a living room on some LittleBigPlanet action is going to run you not only $60 for the game, but $180 in controllers for a grand total of $240. Halo 3 was the same way on 360, just $10 cheaper for the controllers, and that didn't factor in the cost of AA batteries burned up. Battery packs for those controllers were $20 a pop, which made the controller cost jump from $50 to $70 by that point.
Going back over this after I finished the blog entry, I thought of something.
Smash Brothers Brawl was a $50 game. If you wanted to get 4 control setups to please every kind of player in the house at one time, you'd need to pick up 3 Wii Remotes at $30 apiece, 3 Nunchucks at $20 apiece, and 3 Classic Controllers at $20 apiece. This, along with the game, would run you $260, $10 more than the console itself. Utter madness.
::yet another edit::
Don't even get me started on the Wii Balance Board.
::end another edit::
Going back to my original thought of system prices and the mass-market expectation of monetary cost, the 360 has seen multiple price drops at multiple levels to see itself in a clear possibility of purchase, even if obtaining one would take a little more saving on the part of the consumer than the Wii would (up until pretty recently). The PS3 had always been the Cadillac of home console systems, so affording it would take a great deal more of savings to afford, unless you were the type of person who had that kind of money to burn, and if so you would probably have all three of those systems in your house on their respective launch days anyway without a second thought to cost involved.
What worries me the most is how the trend has shifted completely in regards to peripheral controllers. It used to be that these type of games were a rarity, and produced in very limited quantities, such as the DDR games and the legendary Steel Battalion. These days, a new peripheral-based title drops every two months. Whether it's Rock Band, Guitar Hero, DJ Hero, what have you, these packs, bundled or not, cost a pretty fucking penny indeed. Take the band packs - they run an average of $200 when they first come out, giving you a mic, a drum set, a guitar and a copy of the game. What they don't come with is a second guitar (most of the time, not sure if any packs have started doing this as of recent), which would normally run you $50 or $60, making the total cost almost as much as the system itself, if not more than the system you'll be playing it on. At least Activision and EA got over their little "my girlfriend left me for the other guy" spat, and allowed them to cross-communicate, therefore saving you the pain of having to load up on a brand new set of plastic gadgetry just to play the competitor's brand of product. However, DJ Hero seeks to undo this line of thought, as the game itself outright requires the controller to even play it (even the demo needs it, which can be bought online now just to try
the game, which is about the dumbest goddamn thing I've ever heard of, no matter how much Daft Punk you promise me), and it will not be compatible with any competitor's product, therefore making sure that your $180 stays with them and not headed towards anyone else's offerings. If they do release a standalone controller, logic would state that the game is $60, and therefore the controller is $120. Which, to have your own in-house virtual DJ battle, you just spent $300 on a mock DJ battle...which you could have a REAL ONE for about the same price after buying two old turntables, an old crossfader and a stack of random LP's at a garage sale for about $10 - $20. Normally I don't go off on the whole "play real music instead" tip, but this is one instance where it may actually ring with a certain amount of truth.
It's not like the AC6 Flight Stick is used for much, but it is used for AC6, which justifies paying $150 for the whole setup for the "real" flight experience complete with a copy of the game - and HAWX would end up using it as well, so double-bonus there. The $150 Tournament Edition Street Fighter IV Fightstick is pretty much the best fighting game peripheral you can pick up easily here in the States, and this stick works with just about every fighting game you'll ever play, so at least if you invested in something that is meant for a particular genre of game that decades worth of backlog titles would support (if not downright require for tournament-level input), at least you know that $150 doesn't go to waste on a single controller for a single game. Still, that's $150 out of your bank account to play a library of games that, personally, have cost me thousands
of dollars to build up as I usually buy fighting games the very second they are released, and have done so for the better part of two decades. It's a comparative drop in the proverbial bucket, but it falls with a resounding "thud" on my debit card nonetheless.
Development costs are rising in ways nobody could have predicted, even though imagining it was pretty easy enough. Some folks (::cough cough KOTICK cough::) think games should be more expensive, while some saintly developers, mostly independents, have crafted games that I spend in the realm of $5 to $20 and get way more out of them on the whole. Case in point: I spent far more on the Halo 3 Legendary Edition (working @ GameStop at the time, I only spent about $110) than I did on Castle Crashers ($15 day of release), but I got waaaaay more enjoyment and time out of Castle Crashers than I did Halo 3. To boot, I spent about a tenth of the price, once I factored tax into it - but I do spend $50 a year for XBL, so that has to offset it somewhere, somehow. In fact, I believe I have far more games downloaded through the Wii Shop Channel, PlayStation Network and XBOX Live Arcade than I do actual disc copies of titles on all three aforementioned systems.
I guess it is theoretically possible to get more for less in the world of gaming, but not through the normal channels of retail shops and manufacturers, you just have to look for what's worth your money - and I guess that ideal, like many other things, lies solely in the eye of the beholder, or maybe the cardholder.
With regards to everyone else who isn't as hardcore as we tend to be, The Wholesale Walletrape of our kind (potential hardcores and casuals alike) will continue, with less bitching, it seems.
LOOK WHO CAME: