Replay value is easily one of the hugest parts of a gameís value, to the average consumer anyway. Seven hours, fifteen hours, or maybe seventy hours of sweet sweet playtime were promised, and though the time you actually clock in on will vary, due to different levels of dedication and interest from different gamers, we all put serious attention to the minutes weíll be gleefully shaving off the salt mine that can sometimes be real life.
I donít mean to put this in a negative light. Iím all for the concept that games should be priced at a reasonable cost based on how much I can expect to gleam out of it. Sometimes I could be how much I get out of it emotionally, but such a title is obviously rare among the normal entertainment. The case will often be that Iím putting down up to sixty doll-hairs, as a teenager without a salary, to own a disc packaged in a flimsy, light case, the weight of which often making me feel like my purchase was all the more shallow, that I can POSSIBLY enjoy for up to a few days and maybe more if I can get into the multiplayer functions or expansions of the game. (Iím sure it gets easier with the actually salary, though Iím not so sure that $60 isnít going to hurt the wallet of a twenty-something guy like it hurts mine, or my familyís, but I digress.)
But of course, sometimes expansions arenít free, and sometimes multiplayer is hidden behind an nonsensical online pass, because of the genius who thought that setting fire to the puppy covered in radioactive waste would save them both from losing their lives. Well, I suppose the genius didnít have much else of a choice that wouldnít bend his bones in an odd direction, but thatís another metaphorical argument for another metaphorical time. Basically, games cost money, with a price usually decided by the particular console/digital distribution platform, bundled items, the date since the game was released, and the sympathy of the gameís developer to the customer. Sometimes you are willing to pay in support of the developer, the fact thereís an awesome deal, or that youíve been duped into thinking itís worth your hard earned bones. IE, Modern Warfare 3. From time to time there is an emotionally compelling game that youíd pay anything for, but like I said, at least in my experience, itís a rare case, so weíll put it aside for another blog. All of this would be nearly peachy keen if it wasnít for everyone offering different packages with different advertised/actual/variable values at this same price, falsely equating them, like an RPG to an FPS, where it hurts most.
So youíve heard the problem. Replay value, and even the true value to the individual customer, is not translating well to the price of games. Usually, we make these purchases expecting to continue enjoying a game for months to come when it may just be one. Likewise, the costs of game development and standards are escalating while the industry grows and sequels created from the lucky break of the last, go boom where fresh IPs fail. Whereís the solution? I have had a few ideas over the years, especially as I grumble to myself while looking over a purchase I regret. Iíd like to talk about them all, but this blog has already gone on pretty far. So here is just one of them that I donít think has been discussed very prominently before.
Consider how television shows work. Every week or so, you can choose to experience thirty to one hundred and twenty minutes of heartwarming comedy, thrilling adventure, or shocking horror. Some programs are even part of a subscription service that has you paying a little bit every month to view premium content. They operate on a system of customer viewings and advertising to earn more money
and continue to create delicious content. You probably already see where this is going, but Iíll feed you another example; Season Passes. For a small sum of money now you can get a discount, or not have to pay anything at all, on future downloadable content items for the game in question. Sometimes itís a fantastic deal, other times it isnít, but itís a fantastic idea where the customer can break a few extra dollars out of the normal purchase while showing dedication to the developer, and of course getting new content.
Changing the asking price for games may not be the right idea for the developers who arenít exactly fitting the AAA military shooter studio bill, like Valve or Capcom. What if developers charged the normal sixty dollars, explicitly stated the approximate playtime and the actions you can perform in the game, but most importantly, promised a healthy stream of downloadable content over the coming months for no charge? This is of course a bendable idea, concerning games like Skyrim, with a massive amount of content on day one and expansions bigger than the average map pack on the way. But, for example, Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3, or at least Capcomís next big fighting game, would benefit incredibly. Every month for half a year, a new character released for the fans, simply for putting down sixty dollars on the game. Perhaps for a minimal extra fee, but certainly nothing too expensive. Players that stick to the game, looking forward to the upcoming content releases, will show love to the developer, and vice versa with the developer continuing to update the game, that will keep them producing games, or maybe even putting out larger, paid for expansions alongside the smaller free ones that they know there will be an audience for.
Of course, this is a bit of a charitable gambit. I understand that sacrifices will have to be made for such a model to work, as should anyone who supports a Ďfree season passí for just buying the game. Perhaps the developer could place advertisements on the main menu, or through specific menu screens the player will need to go through in order to download the monthly content. Of course, nowhere that would obstruct gameplay and detract the value. It couldnít possibly hurt, assuming gamers would be mature enough to welcome it.
I believe a healthy, robust relationship will create a more fun, cheaper and satisfying life for both developer and consumer. The game creator will look forward to putting out content for loving fans, and they will be happy to know that the fans lick their lips in anticipation for the next free piece of content next month, which will extend their replay value considerabley and warm them up to the idea of paying for expansions packaged with premium content while expressing gratitude back to the creator and completing a cash cycle.I believe that free season passes are one way of doing this.
So, now I want to know, what do you think destructoid?