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Paying for games, posted by Derek

So it’s not a new thought – I’ve had it before, and posted it before (hell, maybe here – I’m too lazy (no, no, too inspired) to check), but I’m thinking about the costs of games again.  So here comes a rambling discourse on stuff.

There are a lot of different ways to pay for your games nowadays.  Apparently there are people out there that pay a sum of money, and receive some sort of physical device they keep for ever.  It’s odd – I’m going to test this idea out in a month or two when I do that sort of transaction for Borderlands, Dragon Age (CE) and Alpha Protocol.  So, say you pay $60 for an RPG type game or a shooter, and get 120 hours of enjoyment out of it.  Then you play it again later for 30 hours or so.  You’re looking at $.40 per hour of entertainment.  If the game is something shorter, you start to get less, but even if it’s a 12 hour game, that’s $5/hr, which is movie price.

Then there’s the ever popular renting of console games.  I’m pretty fond of that one.  Pretty much I buy RPGs and Rhythm games, and that’s about it.  Everything else is a rental.  From a cost/hour perspective, that’s probably your best bet (assuming you actually play it once you get it – I’m horrible about renting them and turning them in a week later unplayed).  If you get a good game, you’re looking at anywhere from 8 hours to 40 hours for a rental price, which is $5 to $10.  So you’re anywhere from $1.25 to $.15 per hour in cost.  Pretty good return.

Then you get an MMO.  Initial investment is the same as a game, or less.  First month, you’re probably playing 2-3 hours a night on average, assuming you enjoy it.  Now you’re at $1/hr, which isn’t bad, but isn’t great compared to the other types.  But then next month, you’re still enjoying it.  Now you’re getting 60 hours for $15 – $.25 per hour.  The difference is that if you play less, you can’t make it up – you bought a game, if you play 5 hours now and then 50 hours later, it’s 55 hours.  In an mmo, it’s by month.  So you lose value if you don’t play it.  Shamus ( and (no relation)) has a bit on this that says it well, and is what prompted me to do this.

And then there’s free to play.  More and more, I’m coming to be a fan of free to play (which is really microtransactions).  You can play as much as you want, and if you want to spend some money, you can.  But you can get by just fine without doing it (in a good f2p at least).  DDO is doing it perfectly, imho – f2p with purchases, or just subs – best of both worlds.

But people complain that you can’t really play unless you pay.  I call bs on that.  If you’re lazy, or you need the shiniest and best, then you can’t (ironic, coming from me).  Take my current f2p obsession, Wolf Team.  It’s a shooter.  You earn gold for doing things, and can buy gold or AP.  Gold is used for weapons, and a couple other things, AP are used for stuff that makes you better – stronger wolf, can’t blow yourself up with grenades, etc.  If you’re lazy, or not very good, you might need better weapons – having the basic stuff may mean you can’t play.  And items have a duration.  But really, they give you a sniper rifle.  They give you a machine gun.  They give you an uzi.  The sniper rifle you get takes three shots, or a headshot.  The sniper rifle you can buy is basically one hit.  So if you pay, it’s easier.  If you’re skilled, you’re fine.  I’m playing with the basics only on purpose, to get better.

DDO is the same – people whine like crazy, but you don’t have to buy a damn thing.  You get a lot of stuff for free, or you can spend $5 or $7 every month or two.  And you’re doing a hell of a lot better than an MMO still.
Course, there’s a multiplier effect of some sort – $.50/hour for a game that’s okay is probably worse than $1/hr for a game that kicks ass, but I think there’s a limit – there’s mediocre, and there’s good, and there’s awesome.  But paying $1/hr for good and paying $2/hr for awesome come out the same in a lot of people’s minds, I think.  It’s hard to argue that an MMO is superior to a single player game in most cases.  But a single player game isn’t significantly better.  Unless it’s KoTOR, you’re getting enough fun for a good price.  And that seems to be the key.

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