Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

Final Thoughts on Blue Reflection

April 18, 2018

At the end, when you go around to talk to all of your companions about the huge decision you’re supposed to make and when you face off against the final boss who talks about doing something that no human should want because it would be better off for humanity, the game finally, finally started to give me the feeling that a Persona game gives me. I think the game series has potential if it can improve on its stumbles and figure out how to make the things it does well work, and so I hope it does well-enough to spawn a sequel. But as a game itself, it’s at best a “Meh”.

I’m going to talk about the plot in detail, so the rest will be below the fold:



Why Aren’t There Better Persona Clones?

April 11, 2018

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog for any length of time that I’m a huge fan of the Persona games. It also, then, shouldn’t surprise anyone that I seek out and have tried most of the games that claim to be Persona clones or Persona inspired (even if the game itself doesn’t claim that but reviews or the premise hint at it). I’ve tried Sakura Wars: So Long My Love, Conception II, Mana Khemia, lately Blue Reflection, and a host of others. Suffice it to say that if it’s one of these games, I’ve probably tried it, and if I haven’t I want people to tell me about it so that I can try them out. And there’s been an idea hiding in my head that finally came to the fore while playing Blue Reflection:

Why, in the twelve years since Persona 3 came out, has no one managed to create a game that rises to its level, as the series has advanced throughout the years? Why don’t we have anything as good as Persona 3 when Persona 4 and Persona 5 have both, in general, improved on the basic model?

Conception II comes pretty close wrt the overall feel. It pretty much nails the “Dungeons for plot and combat and daytime for S-links and events” feel of Persona 3, but the combat is inferior and the S-links are more shallow, and less numerous. Blue Reflection — more on this in a future post — has the number of S-links, but doesn’t capture the right feel for them — are you supposed to go out with your friends after school while your classmates are having emotional breakdowns? — and has a vastly inferior dungeon and combat system. And these are probably the best examples, and they’re vastly inferior games. Which doesn’t mean that they are bad games, per se, as I’ve enjoyed, in greater and lesser amounts, most of the games. But as games in roughly the same genre as the Persona games, they aren’t even close. And don’t even get me started on the Western system like, well, everything Bioware does. I like at least some of the games and the romance systems, but even as they are mechanically more deep than the Persona games they don’t capture the feel at all.

Why is this? Why is it that despite having the Personas as examples for over 12 years no one else can even come close to what the Personas give? Is it that hard to clone? Do most of them feel that they’ll make enough money without having to put in that much effort? But then some of the things are just plain obvious and don’t seem hard to do — like having explicit free time and a deadline in Blue Reflection, or more in-game mechanisms to encourage socialization — so that doesn’t seem to be the case. So why can’t people clone and improve on or even match what the Personas do? That’s happened in other genres, so why not here?

This really does boggle my mind. In a lot of other genres, the big popularizing game that is used to define the genre often seems limited when it’s played by someone who only played the later games, or who has played them for a long time and wants to revisit the game that started it all. Compared to the latecomers, Persona 3 would still be a far better game and a far better example of the genre. How often does that happen without all of the competition being idiots who missed the point of the genre and what people liked about the game? In short, how often does that happen without killing the genre? But I don’t think the genre is dead, and I think the opportunities are there, given the reception of Persona 5 and how many other games are expanding their mini-games and social aspects. So why hasn’t anyone other than Team Persona gotten it right yet?

Further Thoughts on Blue Reflection

April 4, 2018

So, as I write this, I’m around Chapter 7 in Blue Reflection, which is about half-way through the game, and so this seems like a good time to talk a bit more about the game. Since this is a relatively recent game and I might be bringing up spoilers, I’ll continue below the fold:


Dragon Age Blues

March 21, 2018

I have three different characters mid-game in Dragon Age: Origins: A dwarf noble, a Dalish elf, and a human mage. I enjoyed playing as these characters, and had relatively distinct personalities for all of them: the dwarf was lawful, respectful and noble, the elf was adventurous, and the mage was mostly average. And yet, for all of those stories some other game came along and pre-empted the stories. For the dwarf, I’m pretty sure it was “The Old Republic”. For the elf, it was a replay of Persona 5. And for the mage, it’s going to be Blue Reflection.

So, why Blue Reflection? Well, when I was browsing on Amazon, it recommended it to me. Looking at it, it was described as a Persona-like game, which always piques my interest. But in looking around, it seemed that many people were also pushing it as a girl-focused game, which didn’t appeal to me that much. But then I thought about it, and thought that if I was willing to play Conception II and defend it as a game, I really should be willing to give this one a chance, even if it was being advocated as a game aimed at girls/women. Maybe, since there were some complaints about fanservice and thus hints that it was aimed more at the male audience, but then there were the comparisons to Sailor Moon, which had similar things but was definitely something that girls were drawn to, but then I also watched that anime a bit — Mercury being my favourite of the characters — and so maybe it would be good and …

Yeah, no one should really put that much thought into whether or not to buy a game. And ultimately, I decided to get it, figuring that if it was a decent Persona-style game then I’d enjoy it, and if it wasn’t I’d get some blog posts out of talking about it and where it went wrong as a Persona clone and whether or not it’s really a girl game or not. And, heck, I just finished watching “Jem”, so it wouldn’t be the first thing I watched that was aimed more at girls than at boys.

So, I’m through the prologue, and are just at the point where you actually get to go out in the world and talk to people and build affection and thus do the elements that I like in the Personas. What do I think of it so far?

The biggest thing that struck me is just how good Persona 3 did this that the other games simply don’t seem to be able to match, despite having it as an example, and despite the fact that the later Persona games seem to have improved on that model while their competitors are still miles behind. While the Personas can be said to have prologues that run for too long before getting to the good stuff, Blue Reflection has a shorter prologue that seems more boring than those did. The main reason, I think, is that the game’s protagonist is not a silent protagonist and has a set personality — which is tightly tied to the plot — and so they don’t actually let you choose her responses to the people she meets in the prologue (this might change later). While the protagonist’s responses didn’t actually change anything in the game, at least you could set a personality, and Hinako — the protagonist — often makes very odd, extreme, mean or rude responses. The biggest one is with the girl who wants you to decide how or if she should approach her crush, and Hinako when directly asked snaps at her, causing her to have an emotional breakdown that you need to clean up. Since the main issue she had was the fear of making a decision, that could have been triggered with a much less rude response, and there is no way for the player to choose how Hinako reacts.

The game is built around emotions and empathy, as people losing control over their emotions can cause damage to their consciousness, and so Hinako has to go into the collective unconsciousness and stabilize their emotions. In doing so, she has to empathize with what they’re feeling, and in general how this works is that Hinako remembers something in her life that was similar to what they were going through and so can relate, and so can stabilize their emotions that way, which turns them into support members in her fight with the massive enemies that show up on occasion and are going to destroy the world, at least according to her fellow Reflectors.

I found it disappointing that you don’t get to convert them to fighting beside you directly, like the Personas do, and I don’t really see why they didn’t do that, or at least didn’t do that for some of the characters.

Hinako herself is damaged psychologically, however, as she had a serious knee injury that ended her career as a ballet dancer, which she had dedicated her life to doing, and at the start she is even wondering what kind of life she could have without ballet, and the player can’t really do anything, at least in the prologue, to steer her towards any kind of goal. She even tries to refuse the call as a Reflector until the other two say that if she manages to save the world she’ll get one wish granted, no matter what it is. Of course, she wants to wish to be able to do ballet again. I can see two ways this could go. The first and the one I both think the most likely and the best is that she will finally get the chance to make her wish … and there will be something else that she has to wish for instead, like the life or emotional health of one or all of her support people and friends. Alternatively, there was a look between the other two Reflectors that could suggest that they were actually lying to her about the wish to get her to fight the enemies. I hope the latter isn’t true, but it would be a nice bit of foreshadowing if that happened.

The combat on Easy is pretty boring, but not so much because it is that easy, but because it is that repetitive. You really should just use your skills until you run out of MP and then recharge as appropriate, as your HP and MP refill after every battle so there is no reason to conserve it. That’s nice, but so far the enemies haven’t really required any targeting of weaknesses — which they supposedly have — or any variation in strategy other than to delay their turns as much as you can and/or wipe out multiple enemies with your area attacks. This might change as things go on.

So far, the game is entertaining enough, but I’m just getting to the good part, where you actually have to do quests in the world. It’s this part that will make or break the game for me.

Super Seducer …

March 14, 2018

So, there’s a big kerfuffle going on in the gaming world over a game by Richard La Ruina called “Super Seducer”, that appears on Steam but has been rejected from PSN network. Normally, I’d have probably ignored something like this, but this issue hits on pretty much everything that I’ve been talking about on this blog for, well, its entire existence, except for Stoicism. It involves dating sims, video games, PUAs, feminism, social justice, social justice and video games, social justice vs video games, and shyness. While controversial, it’s not like I’ve actually shied away from commenting on controversial issues, and it represents a microcosm of things that bother me about things work today.

So, the basic issue is that La Ruina has created a CYOA dating sim type game to promote and teach his PUA techniques. The game is, as I said, on Steam. A number of the usual Social Justice suspects heard about this and, despite not being in either of the intended audiences — either people who are interested in PUA techniques or who are interested in dating sims — raised a huge fuss over it, essentially because it’s a PUA game and therefore bad. This is despite the fact that many of them have no idea what PUA techniques actually are. For example, a constant criticism of them is over negging, which is always presented as being insulting a woman to lower her self-esteem and make her vulnerable when the technique really is about using that against a woman who is confident in herself to demonstrate value, that unlike all of the other men who won’t dare even playfully tease her for fear that she’ll be offended and so they will lose any chance they have with her you are perfectly fine taking the chance that she’ll be offended because, presumably, if she does get offended and shoots you down you believe that you’ll have other options anyway, which demonstrates that you’re a man who is desirable.

Anyway, let me dump a bunch of resources on you. I’m probably going to talk most about Jim Sterling’s discussion of Sony rejecting it, mostly because it talks about a number of issues that I want to touch on. Since that’s a video, I won’t quote much from it directly, and so will paraphrase, but I’m likely to quote at least a little bit from a number of articles, like this one by Harris O’Malley (also Dr. Nerdlove) at Kotaku, this one calling for a petition to get it removed from Steam by Carys Afoko, this one from John Walker at Rock Paper Shotgun (hey we meet again!), and maybe this one from Allegra Frank at Polygon, but you can read that even if I don’t talk about it much.

So there’s lots to say, in other words.

Okay, before I get more into this, let me outline my own experience with PUAs. I’m one of those shy virgin types that La Ruina says his stuff is designed for, as related by Jim Sterling. In the olden days, when newsgroups were big things, the PUAs used to go directly to their audience by frequenting the newsgroup. The famous — or infamous, depending on who you are — Mystery definitely posted their directly, and they spent time “debating” techniques with someone else who was promoting his own system that they felt wasn’t going to work. So I got to interact directly with them, which also allowed me to post my own objections to their methods and see their responses. And my general objection was that it would probably work to get sex, but wasn’t going to be all that great at getting a relationship, despite their insistence that you could. The reason was that the method was essentially aimed at figuring out what sorts of things she liked and then molding your approach to feed that back to her, which might work in the short term but would be hard to maintain. The general idea was that what you always wanted to do was make her feel good, and then associate those good feelings with you, so that you could demonstrate value, in that you would be seen as someone who would make her feel good. Thus, even if she didn’t actually find you all that attractive to start with, by instilling positive feelings in her she might feel more pleasantly disposed towards you and develop enough attraction so that you can, well, score. This is why negging isn’t aimed at making her feel bad about herself and thus vulnerable, because the key there is that it makes her feel bad, which most PUAs find counter-productive. Now, as most of them aren’t scientists or psychologists or anything formal, it’s actually possible that the success of negging is because it makes her feel vulnerable and she tries hard to prove to herself that at least someone finds her attractive, but that’s not the intent.

Also, the common complaint in all of the articles and the video is that it encourages men to treat women like objects as opposed to actual people. Aside from these being related as strategies that you can use to get women — which men and women have been coming up with and relating for thousands of years now and so shouldn’t cause anyone to bat an eyelash — the biggest element that does this is the encouragement for shy men to stop fixating on one woman and developing massive crushes on her, sometimes even before meeting her, and instead believing that, at worst, she’s one woman much like any other and so a) you should just go up and approach her as soon as you can without waiting for some kind of “perfect” moment and b) if she declines, don’t moon about it or persist, and instead just move on to the next one (this is the strategy of “one-and-done”: try once, and if it doesn’t work, forget about her and move on). Of course, while this attitude might seem like it treats women as interchangeable objects, it’s generally better than obsessive crushing over someone who either doesn’t know you exist or isn’t interested, and avoids all sorts of complications like someone suddenly coming on too strong because they’ve been fantasizing about a relationship for ages or someone hanging on as a friend in the hopes of turning it into something more. It also avoids one of the big problems shy men have, which is being afraid to approach and putting too much pressure on themselves which makes them either not approach or flub it when they do by taking the pressure off the approach and encouraging them to just do it and not care as much about the outcome. I’ve long commented that if all I cared about was sex approaching would be less of an issue, because if the approach fails I wouldn’t care, whereas if I’m feeling out a potential relationship I obviously think more of that person and their at least somewhat unique traits than I would otherwise and so don’t want to screw it up. For me, though, simply getting sex isn’t enough motivation for me; the pressure is off, but the motivation is reduced so much that I can’t be bothered, and approaching is never a trivial investment for me. And, in fact, one of my worries about the “respect women” approaches is that they increase the potential negative consequences of approaching. Rejection is bad enough, but if a bad approach might get you fired or kicked out of a conference or bashed all over the internet for many shy men they might as well not even bother. Sure, their fumbling might not have those consequences, but shy men will tend to worry more about the worst possible outcomes than other men do.

In fact, I’d suggest that the advice that people like Dr. Nerdlove give to men have created more misogynists than PUAs ever have, as most shy men did not take lack of relationships as sanguinely as I did, and the advice like “Get to know them first” and “Start as friends and then move to sexual things later” only ends up with friendzoning, and men end up not succeeding and being made to feel like misogynists for following the given advice, and note that people who ignore it succeed and are, in general, not considered misogynists. Most of the misogynists on were indeed men who tried the standard advice, found it didn’t work, and found that society blamed them for that instead of the advice. This, of course, would leave them vulnerable to PUAs who ignore that advice and appeal to their own personal experiences that what you are told works doesn’t, but that their approach does.

Okay, so let’s leave PUAs for a while, and talk about the game. Sterling comments on the reasons that people are crying that this is censorship is entirely because Sony said they’d put it on and now say they won’t, and so it seems like something was taken away. He links it to Hatred, which never even made it to consoles and was pulled from Steam, and people only complained about it being taken off of Steam. Here, he makes an argument that is both obvious and misleading. The issue is that Sony had accepted it but then there was a huge outcry from people who are not the intended audience — again, see the article about there being a petition to pull it from Steam — and then Sony decided to pull it. It’s a perfectly reasonable assumption to assume that the outcry played a big role in this decision. Sterling does not help this impression when he talks about Sony having a task force designed to promote women playing games who wouldn’t care for this game, because again this game is not aimed at them and so we’d have to assume that their argument would have to be that having this in the store would discourage women from buying other Sony games, or perhaps that every game on the store has to be aimed at women as well as men or else it can’t be there. And my response to either argument is that the arguments are utter crap. Women are perfectly free to not buy games that aren’t aimed at them, and even to not buy games that they find personally offensive, demeaning, or whatever. Promoting women in gaming does not have to mean that there can never be any games that don’t aim at them, and this game is definitely and specifically a game that is not aimed at them. Even if it was a bit misogynist, it’s aimed at people who either are that or don’t care about that … and they’d still have to establish that.

And the Hatred example turns out to be a bad example, because the ESRB gave it an AO rating and consoles don’t accept games with AO ratings. Since the game was clearly aiming for that sort of rating, then this really was just the consequence of what they tried to do … unlike the Steam case. Again, people are assuming that it was the controversy and complaints that got it removed, and that’s a reasonable assumption. Sure, Sony might just have thought that La Ruina wasn’t handling the controversy well and didn’t want to have to put up with that crap over such a small game, but they really should say that if they don’t want people thinking that it was the controversy that did it.

So let’s talk more about the complaints. Are they valid? Are they reasonable complaints that someone who isn’t the intended audience can reasonably make? Let me start from the post with the petition that’s calling for it to be removed from Steam by Afoko:

Pickup artists like La Ruina make a living selling men sleazy “seduction tricks” to teach them how “to pull”. Behind the so-called psychology of his methods are some pretty dangerous ideas. That persistence and the right lines are more important than what a woman tells you she wants. Too many of us have been on the receiving end of those ideas. Too many of us have had to deal with men who won’t take no for an answer, convinced it’s a matter of time until we succumb to their “charms”. La Ruia may not know better than to encourage men to harass women, but a company the size of Steam should. They never should have approved this game for sale.

Of course, most PUAs actually advocate taking a “No” for an answer, at least once it has become clear that it is a “No”. Does the game encourage this sort of pressure after a clear rejection? She doesn’t say, and doesn’t give any examples. The title of the article is about how the game encourages groping, but she gives no examples of it doing so and most of the other sources talk about how the more egregious approaches are portrayed as ones that won’t work. One of them (Walker) even tries to use that against him:

All the way through, the game attempts to disguise the repellent stupidity of the whole process with the outlandishness of the “wrong” choices. So those two girls in a bar – should you click on, “Ask them if they know what you like in a girl. The answer being your dick”? Ha ha! No! That won’t work! They’ll say, “Ew!” and ask you to leave! Much better to instead just creepily invade their lives for your vile creep motives.

These choices serve two purposes. They give you the option to watch Richard say the deeply demeaning thing to some actresses, and laugh at that; and they allow the so-called “right” option to seem, in comparison, much less lecherous. In reality, of course, you’re just picking the least creepy option of a bunch of creepy options, the result still being incredibly, repellently creepy.

Implying that the choices are there mostly so that the players and La Ruina can say those demeaning things that they really want to say to them while masking the fact that the right responses are, presumably, cleaned up versions of those things. While I’m not as good at mindreading as Walker clearly is, I’m more inclined to think that they are there for those men who take people like Walker seriously and think that all PUAs are just misogynistic and so think that that sort of strong approach is right, while PUAs know that being that openly misogynistic doesn’t actually work.

And that’s another issue here. The articles waffle between insisting both that the right answers are completely obvious and that the advice and methods don’t work. Frank implies that it does work here:

There’s definitely some fun to be had at first with making a live-action avatar talk about his dick with abandon. But there’s always an awareness of the discomfort the woman sitting across from Richard must feel — or will eventually feel — as he eggs her on or chips away at her defenses. We have those defenses up for a reason: The dating game is a challenge, and it’s one that us women stand to lose more often than not.

Now, another personal anecdote here. When I was in university, I was in the debating society and helped out with a tournament. A female friend of the president at the time — also female — was there, and I thought she was pretty and seemed nice. And then she said that whenever she was drinking and was around a rather … successful member of the society, she always ended up having sex with him even though she didn’t want to. And I lost a ton of respect for her right there. While the guy could be charismatic and a player, certainly, if she knew what was happening and really didn’t want it to happen she could easily take precautions like, say, not drinking (and note that I grew up in an area where drinking was the number one passtime and still becoming a complete non-drinker, so it’s not impossible to do that). The same thing applies here: if you know that these techniques are being used and are chipping away at defenses, then you can do lots of things to avoid that happening, like being more suspicious, or even leaving. If these techniques are common, I’d almost say that every woman worried about that should want to buy the game and study them to learn what they are and to develop strategies to deal with them, which should be available. In fact, one of my main comments on it was that smart women will see through them and will only go along with them when they want to. So how is it that I give women more credit than these feminist defenders of women do?

Anyway, though, the more common refrain is that they don’t work. From Walker:

Of course, alongside its inherent grossness, PUA is complete woo from top to bottom. It’s entirely reliant on men who are so completely clueless, and so completely in denial of a woman’s agency, that they aren’t able to recognise that their ridiculous pack of “techniques” are a sordid fantasy. The concept is completely entwined in this idiotic notion that women are a near-inanimate castle to be conquered, just a series of routinely deployed defences to break through, before reaching the treasure hidden inside the walls. Rather than, oh I don’t know, being other humans.

But how does he know that? Has he tried them? Because the PUAs always cite the empirical evidence that they have some success — and they brutally eviscerate (verbally!) any competition who can’t claim to have that success, even challenging them to contests to prove that they have success — using their techniques, which is what they use to convince people to pay for the materials. Sure, there might be other explanations, but so many critics jump to the idea that these things can never work and never test them, while constantly misunderstanding and misrepresenting what it actually says. Again, I agree that it relies too much on deception and manipulation to work for long, but most PUAs don’t want a relationship anyway … and it’s not like a lot of the existing techniques, even those aimed at women, don’t do that either (like going someplace you don’t want to go because it’s a good place to meet members of the opposite sex, like joining a club you don’t enjoy but is dominated by people of the opposite sex. My objection to that has always been that my not enjoying myself is not a good mindset to be in when trying to impress a woman). If they don’t work, these men will ditch them soon enough. And if they do work, then he’s selling precisely what he says he’s selling … and if they are problematic, it might be a good question to ask women why these problematic approaches actually work.

So, finally, what is the game itself actually like? From looking at various reviews, I was interested in it as a fan of dating sims, and it looked like one that might be somewhat interesting, with a range of responses allowing for roleplay and reasonably attractive models to interact with, although it might be a bit shallow. Since the last pure dating sim I’ve played was Huniepop, and since I don’t really have any others to play beyond the elements in Persona 5, it seemed like it might be a more pure dating sim and a slightly deeper one than Huniepop, and so somewhat interesting. Of course, there might be tons of other games out there that I don’t see because I refuse to use Steam and don’t really have any other way to get them — I got Huniepop from GOG, which doesn’t seem to have anything else like that on offer — but it looked like it might be unique. However, I’m going to agree with O’Malley’s criticism here:

With each choice, Coach-Richard will appear to let you know whether you made the right choice, the wrong choice, or the enh-I-guess choice, and why it should or shouldn’t work. Get the right choice, and you’ll see Player-Richard lounging around on a bed with models who resolutely ignore him and stare into the middle-distance. Make a “meh” choice and the models are busy doing their nails instead of draping themselves over the bed like throw pillows. Get the wrong choice and it’s just Richard on the bed, staring at you with stern disapproval.

The effect is actually jarring.

Super Seducer could have actually have become marginally more entertaining by stealing a page from Telltale games and let each scene play through. Live with your consequences, while Coach-Richard analyzes choices at the end of it all, explaining, why doing X got Y results. Instead, each scene ends with your rating—will you be a chump? A Casanova? The titular Super Seducer?—and a replay of Coach-Richard’s advice before moving on to the next scenario.

I think this would have been better for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it would turn it into an actual game rather than simply a tutorial. Even better, it would allow for roleplaying, where you take on the role of someone and act as they would act and see how that works out for you. Of course, while there are different endings (according to O’Malley) the difference isn’t likely to be big enough to make that work out all that well for most people. Still, I don’t have interest in it as a tutorial in La Ruina’s PUA techniques, but was only interested in it as a game, and don’t think it would be that great. That being said, in reply to O’Malley:

Super Seducer isn’t worth it. Its value as education is as marginal as its value as entertainment. Frankly, you’d be better off learning how to seduce women by playing Stardew Valley. At least then you’d have a future as a farmer when the whole pick-up artist thing doesn’t work out.

It’s about $15 on Steam, regular price. I’ve dropped about that on games that sounded mildly interesting and never played before, so it doesn’t have to be all that interesting to be worth that price. As it is at least currently only on Steam, I won’t be buying it, but I think that, at the end of the day, all of the complaints against it are greatly overblown, and at the end of the day only serve to give a mediocre game attention that it wouldn’t get otherwise. The best outcome for the Social Justice side here is that it gets “censored” and most non-Social Justice people get left wondering what the big deal is and start thinking that they overreact, and the worst case is that it stays and does better than expected as most people buy it for the controversy and find that, again, the criticisms are overblown, promoting better made games inspired by it. I really think that in this case the Social Justice side should really have just let it go.

Ethical Loot Boxes …

March 7, 2018

Continuing their theme of talking about monetization schemes and why they are necessary, Extra Credits has started a multi-part — maybe two, maybe more — on ethical loot boxes. They seem to, in general, like loot boxes, but their view of its biggest benefits is … odd, to say the least. They present loot boxes as essentially being rich, frivolous gamers subsidizing gamers who aren’t rich by buying things that they don’t really need — and that the Extra Credits team things no one should really want or need — and providing that extra income that allows the gaming companies to keep prices low. They compare this to rich people buying a Ferrari, and point out that we generally allow rich people to spend their money in these ways without too much complaint, and so it should be fine here. The problem is that they misunderstand to a large degree what rich people tend to be doing when they make these luxury purchases, mischaracterize what is happening in games, and are appealing to a model that has never actually existed anywhere ever to make their claim that this is good and beneficial to gamers.

First, it isn’t really accurate to say that it’s rich people subsidizing people who are not rich when it comes to the gaming market. What’s really happening is that people who have more disposable income to put towards games or who are willing to pay more for games and subsidizing the people who don’t have as much disposable income or who are not willing to pay more for games, if their model is correct. This may seem like a subtle difference, but it matters because you may have “rich” people on either end here. It comes down to what someone is willing or able to pay, not how much money they actually have. And the question at the convention about how many people would buy the same number of games if they were $80 instead of $60 should be seen to reflect that. When it comes to gaming, most of the people purchasing games have some kind of budget. If we assume that someone, say, has a budget that would let them buy a game a month, at $60 that comes to $720. So, twelve games a year for $720. If the price increases to $80, then for that same amount they could only purchase nine games. So they’d be forced to either increase their budget by a third or decrease the number of games they buy by a third. While in the earlier videos and even here it was implied that this might be psychological, in general it’s more budgetary: they either can’t afford the increase or don’t think the extra games are worth increasing their budget for. And if they figure out that things like loot boxes and monetization schemes are causing them to blow their budget, they’ll start reconsidering these as well.

And this leads into how they don’t understand the mindset of those “rich” people that they are relying on to subsidize the others, because they are appealing to a model that has never existed. There is, as far as I know, no case outside of maybe FTP gaming — MMOs and the like — where this has ever been the case. To use their car example, the closest we can find are companies that have luxury lines as well as standard and economy lines, so Cadillac for Chevrolet and Lincoln for Ford, for example. But it was never the case that the luxury lines subsidized the regular and economy lines. Instead, all of those lines were expected to — and generally do — make their own profits and carry their own weight. They’re meant to be lines aimed at different markets, and so have significantly different design goals that attempt to fit in with each other where ever they can. Luxury models tend to be ones that focus on comfort and, well, luxuries. You get the best materials and the newest technology. The standard models and economy models tend to strip a lot of that out, and strip it down to what customers really need. For the most part, the idea is that most drivers might like many of the things you get in the luxury cars … but not enough to pay that much money for it. They can get what they need — and some of what they want — from the standard cars, and that’s good enough for them.

What you have to notice here, though, is that the “rich” people aren’t generally buying these things and spending money on them just because they want to spend money. They are always getting something out of it that they value enough to pay that much for, just like everyone else does. Sure, the more money you have the less you care about the sticker price — it’s not like they’re risking their rent to buy that luxury car — but they definitely get something out of the deal. A Ferrari, to use their example, is a very well-engineered performance vehicle, and also comes with a lot of bells and whistles that some car buffs might really want. If they like that enough and can afford it, they’ll buy it. So one of the things that luxury makers will try to do is actually give their customers some functionality that benefits them. In short, they will try to make it an overall better product to justify the extra cost so that people with money are more likely to purchase it.

You can, of course, say that even with the added functionality and even taking into account that they don’t have to worry about the price as much, there are a lot of luxury purchases that still seem excessive. But there’s another benefit that people can get from luxury purchases, which is the social benefit. By being able to purchase such seemingly frivolous things that they can display in public, they signal that yes, they are that rich and have access to those things. And this can be incredibly important, as the image of being wealthy can help one achieve and maintain wealth. If someone wanted investors for their next big project and showed up in a beat-up Honda, those investors might wonder if that person really has the wealth to make this project work, and wonder if they were any kind of success at all. Sure, the idea should be paramount and someone who didn’t spend money on frills is likely to be more of a success than someone who does, but the image of being wealthy and successful can be very important. Many “rich” people buy the things they do to present an image of success, and being able to buy those luxury items and get “the very best” is a big part of that.

And from here we can start to see, I think, the disturbing result they saw in the science, where people spent more than they could afford on these sorts of things because they were afraid of being tossed out of their guild or to maintain some kind of top-dog status. Even if this was just aimed at rich people, it would be important for these things to provide something of value, something that rich players or players in general might want. When it comes down to what people are willing to pay, then this becomes even more important. So, perhaps they provide some kind — even if small — of mechanical advantage in the game … and then people who can’t afford them worry that this will just make them fall behind enough so that other players will be chosen ahead of them. The more competitive the game, the bigger a worry this is. Or you can give it a social appeal, where people look at those players and think how cool those cosmetic things are and want them themselves. This then could engender envy, and could also have it be the case that people who got ahead and got recognition for this using these schemes now feel they have to keep doing this to live up to that image (we see the same thing with rich people who lose money but keep spending so they don’t look “poor” to their social circle).

The only way to avoid this at least being a significant problem is to return to the general “luxury” model, where you aim these things at different markets. What you want is to have one market think those things are cool but not worth paying for, while the other market is willing to pay for it. I don’t know what sorts of schemes they’ll talk about in the next parts of this — I’m writing this before that video is out — but one thing that I thought of while musing on this is something like the Dragon Age Keep. Dragon Age had a number of different scenarios that could impact the world, and so when Inquisition came out they provided a way to build the world with the conditions that you wanted to see. While it was free — as it replaced the ability to import the state of the world from previous games — it would be easy to imagine keeping the importing but having this as a separate service to allow people to create the world state they wanted. If you want to start in a certain state, you can either play through the previous two games again making those choices, or drop $20 and create it (preferable with an easier to use interface and with the importing being a lot easier than it was). This seems to be ideal, as people who might want that — and I would count myself in that number — generating more income, people who don’t think it worth it being able to skip it, and all of this using mechanisms that you pretty much need to have anyway.

Another example might be the old City of Heroes extras model. Pretty much all of the stuff in there was cosmetic, but one of City of Heroes’ great strengths was the cosmetics. The game started with an abundance of options and when it went FTP and added its shop all it did was add more options. If you didn’t want to pay or didn’t find anything incredibly cool, you could still build a wide variety of characters, but if you found a cool set or combination of items you might be willing to pay to be able to play as that. Contrast this with the Cartel in The Old Republic where I hardly ever bought anything because they had nothing I liked or wanted.

Ultimately, though, how “ethical” you can get these things will depend on the features of the game itself. You will always have to provide some benefit to those who pay for these things or else no one will pay for them. Even rich people don’t buy things just for the sake of buying them and the games model cannot rely on rich people. The more beneficial these things are, the more tempted someone will be to buy these things when they can’t afford it, or will feel pressure to buy it because they’d be too weak or the game would be too hard if they didn’t. Any system that doesn’t take this into account is doomed to failure.

Extra Credits on the Cost of Making Games …

February 28, 2018

So, as a follow-up to the video talking about how much video games should cost, Extra Credits did a video talking about how much it costs to make a AAA game and about how there isn’t really that much room to cut costs there. I’m not going to get into whether, for example, marketing is as important as they make it out to be or whether graphical fidelity is really as important to the console market as they say, but what’s interesting about it is that they take the idea of as slimmed down a studio as you can get and say that that would be 200 people working for 2 years to finish a AAA game. It so happens that I, in fact, worked in a 200 person department making software (not games), and I can say with certainty that if that’s the minimum case it isn’t at all sustainable.

The issue is that those 200 people would be working on a product for two years, and the company would see little to no revenue from that product for that entire two years. In our case, we were releasing an update to the product at least once a year if not multiple times a year, and also were adding things to that product and not starting over roughly from scratch. While franchise games aren’t quite starting over from scratch, even they are doing more than adding new features to a pretty much finished existing game. The closest we have to that are the sports games that EA does so well, and that’s only if they only do roster changes and not engine updates or major features. In our model, if we wanted a completely new product — particularly if that was supposed to be a replacement for the existing product — what we did was use the old product’s revenue to fund the new product. We’d shift people away from the old product to work on the new one, while still maintaining enough people to add new features and fix bugs to generate new releases that generated enough profit to cover the development costs of the new one until it had enough market share and revenues to generate profit on its own. But we could do that because we were developing mission critical software that our customers did not want changed. They didn’t want new interfaces or new engines or any kind of new experience. New experiences with that software cost them money in terms of training and potentially in the effectiveness of their operators. They wanted, ideally, one product that did everything they wanted it to do and that when they needed new technologies it was just added to this product and worked in pretty much the same way as all the other technologies did. That’s obviously not true for games, where customers generally purchase a number of widely varying products that they can roughly use in parallel.

So, what we have in the gaming space is a product that takes two years to make a game, costs a fortune to make — again, a 200 person department/studio has a large number of fixed costs — and the game has to earn its money back in a shockingly short amount of time, because games don’t have a huge productive shelf-life. You’re looking at a percentage of revenue after one or two years even if you gradually reduce prices that the product I was on had during the last 2 – 5 years of a 20+ year run. And you have to be working on the next game almost immediately, even before you see how well this one has done, because you can’t stretch the next game out for longer than two years. So we can see why AAA game developers would really like to get a model like ours was, where they build a basic software product and do add-ons to it for the next while, so instead of developing an entire new game over two years, they instead build a set of add-ons every six months, say, and get either a constant revenue per month (a subscription model) — or an in-flux of revenue when each add-on is released (DLC, expansions, and loot boxes). The EA services model and, of course, loot boxes are the more recent and controversial attempts to do just that.

The problem is that this model does not work very well for video games, at least in the long term. The customers for games generally don’t want to play just one or a small number of games for years and years. They like some variety, and to even have a stable of games that they play and so don’t even necessarily play the same game the next day. They also have strict time and budget restrictions when it comes to playing games, since it comes out of their entertainment budget. The more that they play a specific game, and the more they have to pay to keep playing that specific game, the less time and money they have to play or purchase other games. If one game becomes really successful and charges a significant enough percentage of the average gamer’s gaming budget, it can lock out other games as there just aren’t enough gamers left who are willing to play and pay for those other games while they spend most of their time on that one. This can not only hurt existing games, but can of course greatly impede new games, who can’t even break into the market because everyone else is still playing that old game. And this, of course, will also impact new games from the same studio, as their players are still playing the old game. Should the old game hit saturation where they can’t add anything interesting and their customers are tired of the existing game, they may — and are likely to — lose customers to something else faster than they can get an alternative up and running. If anyone still has any alternatives available.

And this isn’t actually speculation, but is something that we’ve seen already in the MMO space. In 2014 I talked about MMO saturation, with there being a large number of MMORPGs still running, with World of Warcraft being the killer game that hampered new MMOs when they came out. At the time, MMOs were the big thing, in large part because they provided this sort of revenue stream. But once WOW gained prominence, new games struggled, and a number of promising candidates faded away far earlier than the original games had, and weren’t profitable. Most MMOs had to adopt some kind of Free-To-Play model to generate sufficient revenue to keep going. While you can talk about the MMO shooter games like Destiny and Overwatch, MMOs aren’t the growth industry that they were back then, and it very much seems like they are fading a bit. I don’t know of too many new ones coming out, and Shamus Young — my main source for industry information — used to play a lot of them a lot.

If AAA gaming companies try for this expanded revenue stream, they are likely to run into the same issues. Even the sports sim genre hits this because the revenues from the previous years’ games tend to fall off fairly sharply when a new release comes out, but this steady revenue system wants to prolong the life of existing games. There are some ways to mitigate this — extra things being compatible with multiple games, for example — but aiming for this sort of revenue stream is not going to help games as much as you might think because of the very nature of games. If you prolong the life of a game, people don’t buy new ones, but you need them buying new ones, too.

What Message To Listen To …

February 9, 2018

So, Anita Sarkeesian decided to take a little trip to Bioware Edmonton. She decided to talk about it on Twitter. Shockingly, people responded negatively to it. Even more shockingly, Sarkeesian decided to call out this “negativity”. But in a move that is surprising, Sarkeesian focused less on talking about how bad the criticism was and more about calling out her supporters to post positive support:

I say this not to bring people down, but to encourage people to act! If you’re glad to see things like this happening, tweets expressing support can go a long way toward countering the torrent of negative reactions such occasions always elicit from those people who are still fighting to maintain the old sexist status quo of gaming, and who see it as a tremendous threat when a feminist drops by a gaming studio for tea.

It may not occur to you to think that your positive reply or supportive comment would matter, but it does! Too often we tend to be silent and let the angry naysayers dominate the conversation. Those of us who want to see games become more diverse and inclusive need to show those studios who are actively taking part in the ongoing dialogue our support and encouragement. So the next time you see a game studio welcome a cool guest or take action toward a more equitable gaming landscape, let them know you approve of what they’re doing! Because almost certainly, hundreds of other people will be letting the studio know they don’t.

Since for the longest time I’ve been calling on them to talk more about the things they like and focus less on the negatives, I certainly see this as a step in the right direction. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t find some oddities in this.

First, why is Sarkeesian so happy to go to Bioware, and why would they want her there? In her “Tropes vs Women” series, Sarkeesian rarely had anything good to say about Bioware, even when they write the subversion that she claims she wants to see. Bioware employees would be right to think that she treated them unfairly, and given her comment above she clearly thinks she would be going there to help them “improve” their games to make them less sexist, when it can be argued that not only do they not need to learn anything about that from her she could indeed learn some thing about that from them. That’s not something that you should address with this simple message:

I had such a great time touring @Bioware’s Edmonton office and having tea with this great group of women (and allies!). Thanks for your hospitality.

Also, it’s not clear how positive this visit was. If you look at the picture, there are a small group of people in it, and all but one of them are women. I couldn’t find the actual headcount at Bioware Edmonton, but I have to think that this is a minority of the people who work there, if for no other reason than programming and technical positions — especially in game development — tend to be male-dominated and, while this is Canada, it’s very unlikely that this represents the actual mix at the company. So why, then, are there relatively so few people with her? Either she hand-picked people who supported her and excluded those who didn’t or — more likely, in my opinion — a couple of people there invited her and these were the people who showed up when she visited, with many not showing up for reasons likely ranging from they didn’t care to they disliked her shots at the company to they disagree strongly with her stance. This then risks either creating or revealing large rifts in the attitudes of the people who work there, which can cause problems if the people respond to those disagreements in what seems to be the standard way these days (see Google, for example).

Hmmmm. Suddenly, the “absurd” reaction — as Sarkeesian puts it — of saying that her visit meant the end of Bioware doesn’t seem so absurd.

But let me reiterate that I like the idea of them promoting more what they like and being “positive” than focusing on criticism all the time. And yet, a thought occurs to me, reading the post and the Twitter replies that Sarkeesian finds “hateful”. The point of publicly stating what you like or dislike is, as Sarkeesian herself points out, to influence the people inside these companies. If they make a move that might support one side and all they hear is criticism, they are likely to think that the people who care didn’t like it, and shy away from that in the future. But if they get a balancing positive response, then that at least gives them some reason to think that it might be appreciated, and so gives them some impetus to decide if the positives balance out the negatives enough to keep doing it, or alternatively feel confident that this is not a move that enough of the people they care about like and so avoid doing so in the future. Listening only to the people who scream the loudest is generally not the way to keep most people happy, because the people who scream the loudest aren’t always — and I’d say aren’t usually — representative of what most people want to see.

This, however, leads to a more serious thought: who should a company like Bioware be listening to? The problem is that this debate in games — and in all sorts of other media — has become politicized, by which I mean there are lots of people talking loudly about the debate who care more about the external political and cultural implications of the debate in games than they do about games themselves. Yes, there is a culture way going on here, between SJWs and, well, the only label I can give them is anti-SJWs. The “Cuck” Twitter reply that Sarkeesian references strikes me as an anti-SJW comment as opposed to one that is a strict gaming comment — and, ironically, the “this is the death of Bioware” comments are more of a gaming comment — while it’s pretty obvious that Sarkeesian cares more about sexism in general than in what that means for games. But Bioware shouldn’t be listening to the politicized responses because, well, those people generally don’t buy their games, or games in general. They aren’t the audience, and aren’t the ones keeping them in business. If either side manages to “win”, it’s not that likely that they’ll stick around to consume the media they fought so hard to create. This seems especially true for the SJW side, since they tend to wander into fields that they don’t care and haven’t cared much about to protest the impact on the overall culture (anti-SJWs, I’ve found, tend to get drawn into it when the war hits something they like and they start to feel that the culture war is “ruining” it).

This puts the companies in a bit of a bind: the people they need to listen to to be successful — and so keep running — are their actual audience. This means that when sorting through the feedback they need to be able to identify who are their actual audience and who are posting to participate in the culture war. But their actual audience may indeed share the same concerns as those on either side of the culture war, so they can’t decide on the basis of content who cares about their games and who cares about the impact of their games on this cultural conflict. And if they pick wrong, then they could end up destroying their game company while both sides of the culture war shrug and say that it was good that they died, while their actual fans are the ones upset and frustrated that they were a casualty in this war, and lament that if only they had listened to them and not to the people who didn’t care things would have worked out differently.

Right now, in so many ways, so many things are pawns in various larger struggles, larger struggles that get so much social and mainstream media attention that content producers feel that they have to respond to the struggles or else be swept away by the currents into oblivion. But the current that they decide to follow or steer themselves by might sweep them into the rocks, or over a waterfall. This is coming in a time of great upheaval in media itself, given advances in online streaming, the increasing costs of AAA gaming, and all sorts of other technical revolutions that threaten to reshape how we consume media completely. Right when these companies are grasping at some kind of marker to guide them into the future, this culture war is obscuring the landscape and making it harder to tell what people really want.

Ultimately, my advice to companies is this: do what you want, and let the sales decide. Fight back against misrepresentations from both sides, do your marketing, and do what you want. Because right now, the loudest voices have even less clue what most people want than you do. And that’s sad.

The Cost of Games …

January 31, 2018

So, Extra Credits recently did a new video talking about how video games really shouldn’t cost $60 anymore. I’d have used that as the title, but I don’t really think it reasonable to use a title that assumes the conclusion, and obviously their conclusion is that the retail cost of games should be higher than it is, and while for various reasons the gaming industry doesn’t want to do that, this is what is driving the move towards DLC, microtransactions, and loot boxes, and ultimately at the end they conclude that the only options are to have higher retail prices for games, or accept some sort of “good” monetization scheme. Directly quoting from videos is a pain, so again I encourage everyone to watch the video for themselves to see if I’m summarizing them properly.

The first thing I want to talk about are their reasons for saying that the retail price of games is too low. The first reason given is inflation, which has gone up by, on average, 2% a year since 2005, when games started costing $60. Doing the math, they conclude that that would indicate a 25% increase in the price of games, for a retail price of around $75. The problem with this reasoning is that inflation doesn’t actually work that way. That 2% is an average across the entire market and economy of how prices have increased. Because it’s an average, there will be some things that have increased in price by far more than 2%, some things that haven’t really changed price at all, and even some things whose prices have gone down. For example, I’d wager that the cost of gasoline has increased by far more than 2% since 2005, while the price of at least some electronics has likely decreased (I don’t think I could have walked into a Canadian Tire in 2005 and picked up a perfectly functional Blu-Ray DVD player in 2005, like I did a few years later). So what we really need to know here is what costs have increased for the gaming industry and balance that with what cost savings they’ve been able to achieve to determine how much the price of games ought to have changed. Applying a simple inflation argument doesn’t really work here.

Their second reason is the increase in things like, say, graphics that are seemingly necessary for modern AAA gaming development but greatly increase costs. While there are some balancing factors, they end up concluding that prices should be in the $90 range, which they base on their experience in the industry, much of which they can’t talk about because of NDAs. At any rate, a question here is if all of that work is really required to make money as a AAA game. Does the gaming audience — which they admit has grown enormously in that same time period — really care that much about the new graphics that it will greatly hurt sales if they don’t achieve those heights? As a personal example, the graphics in Persona 5 were much improved, but also annoyed me in some ways. The same thing holds true for Skyrim, where the leveling up process was pretty, but also quite confusing. When we add in the mobile games and Steam games that they talk about as driving customer expectations and throw in GOG games, it looks like there are a number of cases where inferior graphics can still sell a significant amount of units. Sure, they don’t sell as much as AAA games do, but then they don’t have the marketing and distribution channels of AAA games either, and many of them are so cheap because even their gameplay is somewhat primitive. A AAA studio should be able to create far more engaging games and still be able to do good enough graphics, and use their existing channels to still make a significant number of sales. Or, at least, they should be able to do that if gaming magazines and hardcore gamers don’t bash the game simply for not having those super-special-awesome graphics, as long as they are serviceable and pretty enough.

They then go on to talk about how the industry is or should respond to this situation, where the price of games is lower than it should be. A big problem here, though, is that despite being gaming insiders — or perhaps because of that — they don’t seem to really understand gaming from the perspective of the customers very well. They talk about the $70 mark being a psychological barrier, which amused me because in Canada games have cost that since the last increase, and as even they point out they are even more expensive in Australia. It’s less that gamers, then, have a reaction to that number than that it makes them wonder if gaming is worth the money they’d have to spend on it. This ranges from people who simply can’t afford to spend that much on entertainment in general to people who have a number of different things that they can spend their entertainment dollars on and are looking for the most value. As any product increases price — as long as disposable income doesn’t rise the same amount or more — there will be people who either can’t afford the product anymore or decide that it isn’t worth the percentage of their disposable income that it is taking up anymore. That’s the risk with increasing prices, and it seems to me that a lot of the issue around the $60 increase was precisely that. Games were seen as a simple and relatively cheap form of entertainment, especially since for PC games you already had the system, and gaming consoles were relatively cheap to buy. As the price increases, they are seen as a more and more expensive form of entertainment, which also drives up demands. If I’m paying $20 for a game, I’m not going to demand the highest standards of graphics, but if I’m paying $70, I want it to be a more “professional” quality game. Additionally, that might be one of the few if only games that I might be able to buy, so they had better both be good and be something that I can play for a long time. And, of course, those higher prices mean fewer purchases, which only exacerbates the risk of having a game flop that they talk about in the video.

So, increasing demands have caused AAA gaming companies to focus on producing higher quality but more expensive games, which loses them customers and alienates part of the market, while increasing the demands from those gamers who are left. This causes the gaming companies to risk more — as they have to appeal to a potentially shrinking market — but also to increase their overall quality level, which is more expensive, which drives up costs, rinse and repeat. If this continues, AAA gaming will eventually collapse under the weight of expectations that cannot be supported by the shrunken player base where most have been priced out of the market by the increasing prices of AAA games.

Thus, the mechanisms to get around that. They discuss DLC, and say that Day-One DLC is unpopular, but later DLC doesn’t get purchased, but this doesn’t ring true for me. After all, other than it being downloadable, DLC is a lot like expansions, and people definitely bought those after day one, as the often came out months later. Also, Bioware games tend to do this — the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series games in particular — and clearly it was successful enough for them to keep doing it. Additionally, games like Persona Dancing All Night had a number of DLC items that presumably did all right and I think were Day One (Adachi, for example), and in general DLC is still a pretty popular option. So I don’t agree with their thoughts on DLC. It turns out, it seems to me, that the issues with DLC and even with Day One DLC is when it becomes clear that this is being added only to increase the price of a game. For DLC to be successful, it has to be seen as something interesting enough for people to buy it, but not so critical that you have to buy it to get what can be considered the full experience of the game. If we look at the various “Adachi” type DLC from the Persona 4 add-on games (Dancing All Night and Arena), because of the link with the game they certainly sound cool and things that people might want, but you can play through the entire game and get the story without buying it. The extra costumes representing the school uniforms were the same thing: cool so they’d garner some interest, but not something that you needed if you want to enjoy the game. On the other end of the spectrum, expansions tended to add completely new storylines and adventures, and so were certainly worth the price, but again added on to the end of game and weren’t required to enjoy it.

I’m not going to say that these approaches to DLC worked and made significant money. I am going to say that customers are, in general, not idiots. They are going to see that these things — which includes other forms of monetization like loot boxes — as ways for the company to make more money off the game. And as they realize that, they’re going to demand more and more value from these things, to make up for the extra money they are putting into these things and the game as a whole. This is going to force gaming companies to provide more and more content in these things, which will cost them more to make and so reduce the amount of money they make from them, which will encourage them to either charge more or make more of them or both, which will create more demand for them to provide value, and so on. The alternative is that they will find more and more ways to force the players to buy them, by making them more and more important to the game and game experience, which gamers will rebel over as they already have.

In the video, they insist that we have two choices: either accept a price increase, or except “good” monetization. The problem is that both of these options will inevitably lead to the same problems that AAA games have been having for the past few years, with either gamers feeling ripped off by the price they have to pay for games versus what they’re getting out of them, or game companies having to continually add more and more value to their games to justify every thing that increases the overall cost of a game for a player. If these are the only two choices, then it doesn’t seem like gaming is going to survive.

But are these the only two choices? As mentioned above, maybe chasing the highest quality graphics or at least the appearance of having the highest quality or most modern experience isn’t really necessary. Maybe a company can skimp a little in those areas and still produce fun games that gamers simply want to play. Additionally, Shamus Young has wondered why video games don’t go down in price as they get older, like a lot of other products do. As games move down the price points, they’ll pick up more and more sales from people who either couldn’t afford it at the higher price point or decided that it wasn’t worth it for them at that price point. You’ll even get some people thinking — if the price is low enough — that they might just give a mildly interesting game a try because it’s not going to cost them that much. The lower the price, the lower the expectations the game has to life up to before the player feels that it was worth what they spent on it. Since the cost for game development is mostly upfront, this can extend the life of the game, allow for later DLC and expansions to make money (since there will be more players picking it up for a longer period after the game’s release) and allow for a return on investment that the company wouldn’t make otherwise from those gamers who couldn’t afford it at the higher price point. About the only reason to not reduce the price — and produce “bargain” games — as time goes on is if you’re afraid that if gamers know that you’ll reduce the price six months or a year later they won’t buy it at release. However, if that’s the case then either the release price point is too high for most of your customers, or else they don’t really want to play your game and so are willing to wait that long to play it, either because they have too many other options or because your game doesn’t interest them that much. Both of these are more serious problems that simply trying to cover the costs of producing a game with the price of the game or with extra monetization.

This is not to say that these solutions will definitely work, but maybe gaming companies need to come up with new ideas and solutions instead of trying increasingly annoying variants on the ideas that weren’t really working in the first place. Because at the end of the day, gamers are going to demand value for the money they pay for a game, and will do so even more the more money they end up paying. And since providing that value is arguably the biggest reason Extra Credits says that the price is too low, there’s no way to escape this cycle the traditional way.

Zero Time Dilemma Was Ruined For Me …

January 17, 2018

… although you could say that it was my own fault.

Since this is a newer game, I’ll continue below the fold.