“Oh hell yeah” I said, turning to my hypothetical friend, “Nidhogg has just been released on Steam! I sure want to play that action-packed, super-tight duelling game”.

“Oh boy, oh boy” replied my still completely imaginary chum, “As do I, verily yes! How much is this thing that will surely provide us with many hours of fun?”

“Ah” explains I, “a mere “£11.99 (that’s about $20)” I parenthesise to no-one in particular.

My non-existent mate’s face falls, “Oh sod it then, I’ll wait till it’s on sale”.

If you and your friends often buy games on Steam, think back to how many times you’ve had a conversation like this… except slightly more realistic. Every time I try and get someone to buy a game I’ve picked up to play multiplayer – or the other way around, I’m by no means immune to this type of behaviour – this has pretty much been the response. Steam sales, and the sales of other digital distributors like GOG, GreenManGaming and Gamefly, have made it so that if you buy a game at full price, you feel like you’ve been ripped off.

Now, I’m obviously incredibly grateful for these sales. It saves me money and it makes PC gaming a much more viable hobby for many people who may not have the income to drop £30 or so every time a game they want comes out. But it’s also fostered a sense of entitlement on the part of the consumer, particularly when it comes to the cheaper indie games. Suddenly, at least in my case, “budget games” now means around about £5, instead of the £15 one would usually accept if the game were bought in a store.

I think this is a really dangerous trend that’ll hurt the indie game scene immensely in the long run. If small-time developers can’t afford to put a game out at a reasonable price, then they won’t be able to support themselves as developers. Or at least, in order to support themselves they’ll have to compromise on the quality of their games or their business tactics – you know, the microtransactions/free to play bullshit that we all hate so much.

I’m going to quickly state right now that when I talk about “consumer entitlement” I’m really only talking about when we expect budget games to be cheaper. All this on-disc DLC/microtransactions/early access/season pass bullshit… well screw that. I mean seriously Activision, £5 for a wolf skin which only appears in COD: Ghosts multiplayer and only when you get a kill-streak? You might as well sell a skin for the damned air support chopper. £5.
[Update: Turns out I misread the £5 card and the wolf skin is only £1.59/69 and merely a suggested purchase advertised on the card. So I have a little less rage about the price, but a little more about the marketing tactics of GAME/Activision for not selling the skin separately in a physical form – forcing the less knowledgeable (or less observant, like me) to drop £5 on the skin plus some credit they don’t really want. Therefore I still stand by my final statement for this paragraph.]
Fuck you.

Ahem, tangents aside, the silliest thing is that these games, even at full price, are still so much cheaper than other forms of entertainment. Want to go to the cinema and enjoy a three-hour film? That’ll be at least £8 per person, but that’s fine. Even buying a DVD will cost you about £10 and, though it’ll be rewatchable how many time have you rewatched even your favourite DVD? I realise that subscription services like Netflix and Lovefilm may have cut away a lot of the cost of that sector, but I bet most of you have still bought a couple of DVDs in the last couple of years.

Yet £12 for a game that can (and in my experience has) entertained 10 people at a party for three hours… and can keep on doing that? I’ll wait till it goes on sale. I don’t see the logic, and yet I still think like that.

I’m all for cheap games but if this continues there’ll be nothing left but budget and free to play games: manipulative, gutted titles wallowing in cynical marketing. Or those from massive publishers who are already employing those tactics for their £54.99 games anyways.

Let’s at least keep making indie games profitable enough for some new blood, otherwise we’ll just be left with kickstarted reboots and EA *shudder*.

About The Author

Contributor

Ben is pretty damned nerdy. If he isn't playing video games, then he's probably rolling some dice to hit goblins and thugs or designing, running and crewing a host of LARP systems. He lives in Brighton, because it's nice there. You can follow him on twitter @benrlmeredith

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