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$5 Lattes and 50 Hour Games

Tonight’s topic is pretty simple. I want to just muse and ponder quickly on a sad/strange observation related to our spending habits on games.

I was listening to the Touch Arcade Show on my way to work this morning and one of the hosts made a statement about a certain game costing $5 on mobile and therefore would never see more than 10,000 copies sold. It was was so matter-of-fact. It wasn’t even a point of discussion. It was said then he moved on to continue on with his point.  I was a little taken aback by this.

Then this evening I saw a tweet — this one a little more direct — calling out the issue.

Dang… how sad, and how true.

$5 won’t (always) stop me from buying a game on mobile devices, but it will give me pause.  Why? I’ll drop $10 on lunch without blinking an eye. There’s zero pause spending $5 on a burger. I just do it.

Sometimes I’m even hesitant to spend $1 or $2 on a game, but I get my morning Diet Coke and pay $1.85 — every single day.

I technically understand why. It’s the same academic principles they taught in Marketing 101 back in college. Yet despite knowing, I still fall into the psychological trappings.

Part of this is exactly why F2P games exist. They want to be my Diet Coke. I won’t let them, but they’re someone else’s latte

I was talking to my wife about this the other day. Before we got married she thought video games were a waste of money. She couldn’t fathom how anyone could spend $60 on a game. Then she learned they can last for 10, 20, 100+ hours and suddenly she’s saying, “Wow this is an awesome value! I had no idea games lasted this long.” It’s the same argument I used in 1997 when I was trying to tell my friends why I would spend money each month of Active Worlds, or why it was fine to pay a subscription to The Realm or EverQuest:”You spend more going to the movie one time for less than two hours, and I can get hundreds of hours out of this $15.”

The subject is certainly a thinker. I’m going to spend more time evaluating my spending habits.

  • I think you’re in the majority (of gamers with an opinion about this topic) there, but let me give you a different point of view. I don’t usually buy $5 coffee (there are exceptions, but they’re more like once per month). I also don’t buy any breakfast or whatever drink regularly. I also don’t have a problem getting a $12 lunch when I’m at work – but I prefer to not do that daily. On the other hand I don’t care *at all* if the game is now $3 or $9 (yes of course, talking about Steam sales and stuff) – if I want it, I might buy it. That said, I only have 80 games on Steam and not 400 like others I know. So maybe I’m the silent minority, but my only “this should not cost this much” is AAA games for $60. I absolutely only buy like one per year, the one I really want. Or if it’s an MMO expansion for my current month-long pastime. I think Heart of Thorns, WoW: Legion and D3: Reaper of Souls count as that, for the last few years (might have forgotten one or two, to be fair).

    Wilhem also wrote a great piece: but I don’t agree there either.

    TLDR: Coffee and Games are both in the “I’d like to, but I don’t need it” category. Absolutely luxury goods, so I’m limiting my spending because I’m tightfisted like that.

    // Let’s see if this makes it through this time.

    • Thanks for your comment, and for posting it again after my comments section broke!

      I totally get what you’re saying.

      I think my own stance on this is a living oxymoron, and I think you’re right that I’m in the majority of gamers here. The one exception being that I can distance myself from it, acknowledge it, and wonder why.

      I’m still torn on why I can spend $1.85 every morning on my Diet Coke, but when I see a game on the App store for $2 I have to pause and really think about it.

      Maybe it’s a result of getting burned? Am I traumatized by F2P games?

      Or maybe I have years of conditioning that games SHOULD cost $60, and therefore a $2 must somehow be inferior. Therefore, it’s an unknown. My Diet Code at $1.85 is a known. I know what I’m getting and I want it. That $2 game might be terrible.

      I have major issues with buyer’s remorse. I haaaaaaaate it. Anything that causes me cognitive dissonance is screwed.

  • Steam changed the market by flooding it with inexpensive games. I regularly put $10 PC games onto my wishlist not because I am a cheapskate, but because I already have 435 games, many that I haven’t had the time to install yet, and buy a handful more, virtually all on sale, every month.

    It used to be I would follow a game’s development process over the course of years and pre-order it from Gamestop at full price because there might only be a few games that came out throughout the year that I was interested in buying, but in contrast I could easily buy tons of games at full price off of Steam, but I already have so many to play, so it only makes sense to wait for a 70% off sale for the Platinum full DLC Director’s Cut Edition, because I know I will eventually get an email notification that has occurred, while in the mean time getting daily notifications of 10 other games on my wishlist currently on steep discount.

    In short devs no longer have any leverage against the patient shopper.

    Of course there are other downsides for devs in a market glutted with games, such as designing non-single player MMO’s, which might sound like my dream game, but that lose most of their player base prior to leaving beta, launching DOA.

    • …by “non-single player MMO’s” I mean games that are meant to thrive off of online PvP, but don’t have single player capabilities.

  • I always used to justify game costs by the value of beer… lol
    “A pint will last you half an hour at most, this game costs 3 pints and lasts 50 hours”

    but… that was back when games were released complete, you didnt have to pay for ‘day1 dlc’ and they did not nickle and dime you for everything in game.
    these days I am happy to drop £60 on a game I like, but only if i know its not going to lock content behind extra pay walls.

    As for mobile games, a lot of them require extra money to stay competitive (I recently downloaded the silly little final fantasy new empires game, which was free so not quite as relevant, but on every login it would offer you game changing bonuses (50% increase resource income, 50% increase build speed, 50% more army damage, and many more, each individually costing £99 (like, $130) and I see the same thing in cheap mobile games, although not to that extreme.

    Also, I can take back a £5 coffee if its poor quality, most mobile games I cant.