To hold investors over, not fans
I don’t think I’ve ever complained a game was too short. Except Persona 4: Golden. I could have played that for another 400 hours. And I’ve always laughed at the ridiculous price per hour breakdown some Internet goers abide by. I found Thirty Flights of Loving to be more complete feeling in its 15 minute run time than many 15 hour games I’ve slogged through.
But the wild world of variable pricing models, downloads, and paying for games that don’t even exist yet has complicated my more generalized, “price doesn’t matter,” and “quality over quantity” stance.
Konami’s line is that it wants to “to ease players into the new open world environment and its potential” and “to introduce key elements, while setting up the events of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.”
You know what game did that? Metal Gear Solid 2, which had a prologue sequence. Without this sort of pricing model. You know what other games did that? Most of them. That’s how games work, generally. They start and you play them and are introduced to them and then are introduced to more things.
I know Metal Gear Solid fans, for the most part, are fine with getting a little taste of Metal Gear now rather than waiting until 2015. That’s fine. That’s their (or your — maybe even my!) prerogative. But to frame this as anything but a business decision, as Konami tried to do above, is insincere.
Phantom Pain production is clearly expensive. Keifer Sutherland doesn’t come cheap, especially when everyone’s tripping over themselves to watch that silly 24 show again. It’s going to release in 2015 for what will partially be packed away consoles (PS3, 360) and the new hotness (PS4, Xbox One), the latter of which will have much more competition (and possibly less fervor) than it does now. It makes sense to release a “fun size” prologue, with little else tickling “next-gen” users, and reap the dough.
So what’s the problem? Well, for one, they’re getting us coming and going, because The Phantom Pain will likely be a full priced game ($60 in the US, worse elsewhere). If you buy a physical, next-gen copy new, plus Phantom Pain, Konami has convinced you to pay $100 (plus tax; about $110 for me) for Metal Gear Solid V.
Of course there’s the “don’t buy it” argument, but people will, and that’s how precedent gets set, in the same way we all blithely assumed “next-gen” development subsidization when games went from $50 to $60 (yes, SNES-era games were often more expensive — but we got it down to a cheaper standard, then willingly abandoned it).
The point is that if large companies can dump more costs on — or make more money from — consumers, they will, as evidenced with all the anti-consumer practices of the last five years. Horse armor, online passes, et al. I’m lenient on well-priced episodic adventures, but generally I don’t want piecemeal games.
It’s nice that that the PS3 and 360 versions are $10 cheaper ($20 download, $30 retail), provided that you want to play the PS3/360 follow up a year and a half from now rather than the “better” version, or don’t care about save file interaction.
But what about the average consumer? I know the game news reading bourgeois doesn’t always want to care about the average consumer, but consider the money Konami will make solely off of people who don’t know they’re getting an itty bitty prologue. Metal Gear Solid is a big name. And of course you’ll want the next-gen version — again, what else are the 8 million or so people with PS4s and Xbox Ones playing?
The ones that don’t read Destructoid aren’t waiting on The Witness. But show them a big name franchise that looks gorgeous (and the prologue is probably very good and fun, all that said) and Konami will make their money. I don’t think the back of the box or the download page is going to warn, “Hey, the main story here is under two hours, and you can tack on a few more doing side stuff.” At least Gran Turismo 5 put “Prologue” in its title, however nebulous.
Maybe I worry too much. Maybe this isn’t a harbinger of offloading even more costs on consumers (as if $60 for a brand new game wasn’t enough). Maybe this was a financial necessity for a pricey or somewhat mismanaged project. Maybe Konami will even give Ground Zeroes owners a Phantom Pain discount (hah). Maybe you’re just really excited to play Metal Gear and look at Snake’s pert butt. At any rate,