Are Games Too Cheap?
A Steam sale, you say?
Look, I know you’re not meant to ask questions in titles. It’s considered bad practise because it’s far too often that the answer is simply “no” often followed by “idiot”. However, I really do think we need to examine just what gaming costs us. Not in a weirdly existential way, I’m a millennial, and the chances are so are you, we’ve got existential dread down to a fine art. Hell, if called upon, we could all lament the state of the world and what it is to be alive for decades to come. No, I mean in a very strict financial sense.
Take, for example, the recent Kickstarter success of the much-beloved Wonderful 101. The aim was to raise £37,809, a smallish sum given the cost of game development in general, but probably because it’s not a small unknown indie team asking for money, it’s Platinum Games. The amount raised so far is £1,339,017, which is an astonishing overshot of the goal, and should, hopefully, cover most of the costs of remastering the game. I don’t know every expense in the running of any studio, but it’s probably fair to say that Platinum didn’t actually need all of the £1.3 million to complete this project, and that’s fine, I’ve no doubts they’ll make good on all the stretch goals and whatnot.
However, if games were costed correctly, I’d argue that this wouldn’t be a thing in the first place. The idea that a big name would have to go to crowd-funding for something like a remaster of a game is kind of terrifying. Surely, given the success of their last few games, they should have enough money to self-fund this stuff, or at least the confidence that they can make that money back when it releases?
Why is a microtransaction like a writing desk?
Add this in with the constant barrage of microtransactions, loot boxes, season passes, and battle passes, and maybe it’s about time we admit that games are too cheap. I understand that a lot of the aforementioned things are due to good old fashioned capitalism and greed, but maybe if games cost more at launch we wouldn’t be constantly barraged by things like this?
The price tag we have on games at present has been around for a very long time, and in some places, gaming has actually gotten cheaper. This is despite an increase in employee numbers, rent, utilities, and the constant need to update to new systems and software. Here, humour me while we do some maths, let’s use Platinum as an example.
Oh god, not maths
Google says that Platinum employs 224 people. Let’s say they use an incredibly shady looking office rental site that I’ve just found, that only charges £2 a day for a single person. That’s £448 a day just for office space, which is roughly £9,000 a month, assuming there are 20 working days in a month, which is probably a low-ball figure given that we know this industry crunches.
So, we start off with there, but then we have utilities, which includes 224 PCs running every working day, let’s say the average PC costs £1 a day to run, which is a very conservative estimate, that’s a further £4,500 a month. Then, you’ve got water and whatnot on top of that, so let’s just double it to include lights, toilets, air-con, heating, and the broken printer.
We’re already up to £18,000 for a single month. Now then, let’s pay our employees and assume that’s somehow the last cost. We can average out the pay to something like £25,000 a year, which might be a little high, but really shouldn’t be. That’s £2083.33 a month per person, which is £466,666.67 a month. Which means our poorly guessed outgoings for a single month are around £484,666.
Everyone gets a million
Obviously, a million is loads of money, far more than I can realistically wrap my head around, and definitely, more than I could spend on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in a lifetime. I mean, I’d give it a try, but I’d probably also die trying. Not exactly a noble end, but I like to think I’d be remembered.
Anyway, suddenly £1.3 million from Kickstarter only covers two and a half months of outgoings. That seems like not much to me, I’ve no idea how long it’ll take them to do this, but it could well be that we, as a general group of gamers, simply don’t understand the value of the things we are playing.
All of this is exacerbated by the constant barrage of sales and free games that we get. It could well be that we’ve lost the concept of how much this hobby should cost in amongst a pit of people scrambling to the bottom just to have someone buy their game. It’s kind of depressing, especially now I’ve typed all of this out, but it’s also something we should consider if the weird £60 for a game price tag ever goes up. It’s also something we will have to consider if loot boxes and battles passes get banned. Look, I know we don’t want gaming to get more expensive, but we should probably admit that we’ve had a lot of cheap experiences that should have cost far more and that developers probably need to be fed to work too.