Nowadays there are many options when it comes to playing video games. I’m not just talking about traditional factors like genre or even platform, I’m speaking more of distribution method and timescale. You can rent games from a couple of places – both Redbox and Gamefly are readily available in a majority of the United States as well as possible smaller scale rental ventures – you can be part of rewards programs like Playstation Plus, and then there are digital distribution methods, all aside from the classic retail purchase methods. As a result gamers have the new luxury of deciding how best to justify investments and despite reviews being abundant and detailed, it’s still not a simple decision as to whether or not you want to purchase a game. Reminds me of the NES days, where you would look at the crazy 80s box art and, if you’re lucky, any printed coverage on a game and take the sacred “is it worth it” gamble. With video games being one of the few items in this country you cannot return if you’re dissatisfied, you have to predetermine if you will like the product before getting to play it. For many players, myself included, we have within the past few years initiated the “time served” commodity model of value for video games – in other words we justify our larger purchased based on a calculation of how much time, and hopefully enjoyment, it will offer us at the standard $60 price tag. As time has gone on I’ve lately learned that this is a poor and dangerous practice.
This week I completed the recent release Tomb Raider, a reinvention of the classic franchise that I felt lived up to its advertised potential. I paid $60 for it, purchased it at a retail store the day it came out, and only intended on playing the campaign; several people I talked to thought this was incredibly stupid. Tomb Raider is a game that focuses on single player, the campaign is the main draw for anyone playing the game, and the lackluster multiplayer is forgettable. People think I’m stupid because the game offers around 12 hours to complete the main campaign, 15 if you try to collect everything, and the aforementioned don’t-even-bother multiplayer. For most gamers out there, despite a recent resurgence of demand for dynamic single player experiences like Tomb Raider offers, 12 hours is just too short a game to justify a $60 purchase. It’s also available in Redbox at the small price of $2.00/night, which to most makes this a cheap and easy way to conquer the game in a few rentals and move on to the next big thing. As a result I am expecting that we will see poor sales, which can lead to the publisher deeming the project a failure (even though it receives positive reviews from critics and audiences), and poof no more Tomb Raider. This has happened many times in the past.
I always hear people who ask why we haven’t seen sequels to Mirror’s Edge and plenty of others when there’s absolutely no risk or chance that another Call of Duty or Battlefield won’t be made. That’s because people didn’t buy these games, or due to the short campaigns they waited until the games were at the discounted, DOA price tag. Examples like this explain the argument behind the death of the single player campaign, provided of course it’s not a massive RPG, which I do appreciate from time to time but is far too exhausting to headline my gaming practice. We can finger point whether the problem is the market’s shift to either consistent online games that are treated more like a sport than a video game or the expensive nature of games (which mind you has always been the case) necessitating rentals and used games, but the fact of the matter is times they are changing. It’s also justifiable to say that the game companies and publishers are to blame for not creating a model that supports this new trend, which I then ask why everyone’s complaining about free-to-play because the cards are on the table and that’s all today’s publishers have at this point. As for me, I like the traditional old school game, I like experiences like Mirror’s Edge and Tomb Raider, so despite the low hour-to-dollar ratio I’m ponying up $60 to tell game companies that I do like this model and it does have a place.
Sure, it’s probably a losing battle. No, I don’t expect anyone to get on board with it. If you don’t, though, you really have no right to complain that your Redbox isn’t stocked with decent short campaign titles for you to grind through at $6-$8 a weekend because like it or not that’s not the business model video games fit in. At the same time if you would have never purchased the game at $60 and therefore are just throwing the developer a bone once in a while, then you really shouldn’t care if these titles aren’t getting regularly stocked anyway. Whatever the case, if you do like these types of games and you do want to see more, I urge you to purchase the ones you can really get behind. We have no one to blame but ourselves for the retail racks dominated by shooters, sports games, and RPGs, they’re the only games we’re actually spending money on.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, Fred Rojas, and not necessarily the views of the B-Team or its other hosts. In fact, most of the time the guys think I’m bat shit crazy.