As we picked up the 4-pack for Dungeon Defenders last night, our Steam group talked about paying for games, and why anyone would pay full price for a game in the age of $5 Steam sales, Game+DLC bundles, and Sub-to-F2P tactics. Interestingly enough, the best reasons all touched on this week’s general topic; playing with others vs going solo.
The best reason to buy on day one, and pay full price, is because you want to play with your guild/friends, who are going to be playing right at the beginning. If you opt to join late, they will either already be ahead or have moved on from the game. Obviously, if you don’t play with a steady group, and just join groups from game to game, this is not a huge factor. If the game in question is a single-player game (either because it is in fact a single player game, or because it’s something like SW:TOR), that’s one less reason to shell out $50-$60.
The next reason, and this is somewhat related to the first point, is in a game where the first month plays differently than the next. An real MMO generally changes as time goes on, players do things month one that they don’t month two, and in a social environment being part of the buzz/wave is fun. The more single-player focused the title, the less this is a factor. Battlefield 3 is a title I’m not picking up day-one, and while the matches will mostly be the same in six months, the fact that players will be higher ranked with different guns is something to consider. For me it’s not enough to pay $60 for the title, but it was a consideration.
Finally, and this is certainly the weakest reason, is to show support for a title or genre. I pre-ordered Heroes of Might and Magic 6 not just because I want to play it day one (I honestly could wait), but because I want more TBS titles made, and I want HoMM6 to do well and get future support. Going back to Battlefield, I honestly could care less about EA, or to support ‘yet another shooter’. It’s also why I still have an active Darkfall account, despite the fact that I only play it sparingly (once a week for an hour or so). In the grand scheme of things, gaming is a fairly cheap hobby for me, but I fully understand for others money might be tight and you simply can’t spend as much as you’d like, so how often you can afford to ‘vote’ like this is going to vary.
I’m not sure we are really seeing the effects of this yet. Modern Warfare 3 sold like crazy in the first week, but consoles are somewhat different, and game prices rarely drop to PC/Steam levels. Duke Nukem Forever is on sale right now for $10. If you paid $50 for it at release (which was like a week ago, right?), how’s that working out for ya? Again I’m not putting money down that the average gamer is going to start shopping smart tomorrow and only paying full price when they strongly support a developer/genre, but I’d like to think at some point it’s going to matter, and if so, that’s good news for those of us who enjoy games with strong social (real social, not Sims Social) mechanics and true community-first design.
I guess it is related to the third reason, but sometimes you are really waiting for something to fill a niche in your hierarchy of gaming needs.
Civ V for example. I really wanted to play that, in part because I generally like Civ games, but also because I couldn’t find my Civ II disc (why isn’t Civ II on Steam, I’d buy another copy of that game) and Civ III and IV never really replaced Civ II in my heart. So there was a hope (mostly fulfilled) that Civ V would scratch that particular itch.
Of course, a year later on Steam, there is the game of the year edition which bundles in some stuff and is cheaper than launch to boot. But against that, I have a lot of hours of Civ V I have enjoyed playing.
As a bookseller, it’s interesting to see the different approach that games companies take as compared to publishers. If you want a game for less than the full retail price you have to wait for a sale; if you want a book below retail your best chance is to buy it in the week of release.
I regularly have customers comment that “this book must be doing really badly if you have it at half price” whereas in fact the bigger the expected sale, the heavier the discounting in the first couple of weeks.
We were talking only today about how publishers are now raising their official retail price in expectation of the discounting, so that a £30 price tag reflects an expected retail price of £15.
We actually had a sales rep almost admit this a few weeks back, although he backtracked when he realized what he’d let slip.
You sort of touched on social reasons, but it’s not just about playing with your friends. It’s about fashion. When a new game comes out, everyone is talking about it, it’s all over the news, and all of your friends are bragging about how far they are in it. Playing the newest game is the fashionable thing for us nerds.
If you wait until games are cheaper, you’re always sort of out of the loop. Do you really want to be getting all your red dead redemption achievements while all of your friends are racking up skyrim achievements?
Nice zing on “a real MMO generally changes as time goes on.” But I would argue that even an MMO which epitomizes “not real” for you would also provide a very different experience on day one. Do you not think SW:TOR would feel different as part of a massive wave of new players levelling, compared to months down the track when the critical mass of players are level capped and sitting in Mos Eisley spamming “LF2M tank + healer for Sarlacc”?
Sure it will be less pronounced in SW:TOR than a more world-y MMO, but it will still be pronounced. If I was planning to play it (I’m not), I’d want to be in there on day one.
(of course, as an Australian, EA have cheerfully told me that I’m not welcome on day one, but that’s another story entirely).
Anyway, this is also the answer I like to give to the oft-heard argument “never buy an MMO at release time, it’s sure to be buggy and unfinished and servers crashing etc. etc.”
Yeah, maybe. But if you pass on that day one experience, it never comes back. So you struggled through some bugs and crashes. If the game is any good at all, that’s a small price to pay for not missing the experience of the early days.
That’s the thing though right, for everyone who expects SW:TOR to be KOTOR3, what do they care about other players? And the only effect other players will have on voice acting and the 4th pillar is a negative one (hurry up, min/max the options!).
If TOR truly delivers on it’s promises (a great solo-MMO), not having to sit in a server queue or deal with bugs WILL be a better reason to skip release than seeing 100s of Jedi running around.
I suppose you could be right.TOR seems to be promising to be a WoW-style “solo to level cap, then LFG for instance/raid” MMO, with the goal of being the finest “solo to level cap” experience yet seen. In such a game, the only disadvantage to being a late arrival is that when you get to the “LFG” stage, you’ll be deemed something of a nub, because you haven’t already done fifty Sarlacc runs and learned the dance.
I keep my Darkfall account active to support development. But after waiting so long for DF 2010/Arena/2.0, I think I’ve really been paying for Tasos’s extended holiday.
Console games always stay too expensive for the longest time. In NZ, where I live, the big game and electronics stores are ALL charging at least $90 for Modern Warfare 2- a game that is now as old as Noah’s Ark.
Paying $130 for a new release title? Flag that!
It’s the social pressure that forces people into paying top dollar for games the second they comes out. Nobody is excited or interested by the guy who waited 6 months to get the latest blockbuster game at a reasonable price.