Saturday 7 March 2015

Gaming: Justifying the Cost (//RANT Warning//)

I've come across this a fair bit in forum posts and in blogs.  Someone suggests the price for a product is unreasonable, then others rush to defend it.

I noticed this recently on a free-to-play (lol) PC game called "Mechwarrior Online." The game, which was crowd funded, continues to milk consumers by selling digital "mechs."  These are solid in "packages" as "early access."  The packages are $55 for a single mech, or up to $240 for 10.

That's right -  $55 for what is essentially a in-game character.  A collection of code and textures, in a game with only 10 small maps (arenas.)

For non-videogamers, $55 is more than a complete FULL GAME of huge PC classics like Skyrim Civilization V, Grand Theft Auto, Dark Souls, and Assassin's Creed.  Those games have many times (100s of times, in some cases) more content than the entire MW:Online game, let alone a single mech.

Naturally, these "paid only" mechs are more powerful than the other mechs, so players are effectively paying for a gameplay advantage (exclusive access to superior equipment) which lasts up to 6 months.   Furthermore, the really powerful mechs are restricted to more expensive packages ($180+). 

Not surprisingly, this business practice (paying to win, and ridiculously overpriced content) has people criticizing it. But what surprises me is the people (those who did purchase it) rushing to defend it. The people who dared complain were attacked and quickly shouted down by "fans."

I see their arguments justifying price cropping up all the time in reference to wargames as well, so let's review some:

Let's call this The Idiot's Guide to Justifying Price

#1.  One handy way to refute the 'overpriced' argument: make a personal attack on the person making the complaints.  This should refer to their socioecomonic status.
-Bonus for ridiculing their social skills/making half hidden racial slurs
"Get a job and move out of your mom's basement"
"People on welfare shouldn't be allowed to post" 
"You're a freeloader who expects everything to be free"
"Maybe it's a big deal if you only make $5 an hour in Guatemala" 

Not only does this put the whiner in their place, it discourages others from having the temerity to question pricing or your own financial decisions.  After all, by specifically questioning your purchase, they attacked you first, right?

#2.  Next, boast about how awesome you are or what a great job you have. 
"I make $1000 a day on construction."
"I own my own business and $240 is what I make in an hour."
-Preferably, at the same time, make yourself the long suffering victim
"If it wasn't for paying players like me, free loaders like you couldn't play."
"If it wasn't for me, this game wouldn't be developed/supported." 

This helps them understand why the pricing is OK.  If it's OK for you, it should be OK for them. $80 for six plastic 28mm minis is fine.  $55 for a digital character in a game is fine. Who do they think they are, anyway?

#3.  Compare the price of the object to something totally unrelated.  
 "I spend $50 on the movies, so the $50 I spent on 2 finecraft models is totally worth it." 
-Bonus points if it is drug or alcohol related.
"I spend more than $300 on a night out on grog, so $500 for a Warhammer army is cheap"

This also reinforces how cool you are, for the benefit of those unlucky whose lives and decision making is not weighed against/or enhanced with the consumption drugs/alcohol. This also shows your superior grasp of economics. I mean, if you can afford to drop $300 on booze every Friday you must be a smart guy, right?

#4.  Claim to do it as you are "supporting" the company.  
-This should be a enormous multimillion dollar company that desperately "needs"support.
-Preferably at the same time, combine this with a complaint.
"I do think the minis are overpriced at $15 each, but I want to support the company."
"I'll pre-order the game to support it's development, even if the alpha rules are crap and I don't like the current model range." 

And people wonder why companies feel free to peddle any rubbish at whatever prices they wish.
Please, encourage and support mediocrity.  Those multinationals really need this sort of support.

#5.  Defend the 'overpriced' model with an irrelevant argument, i.e. your 'enjoyment' is worth it"I've spent $2000 on the game, but it's worth it to me as it's the only game I play."
"I don't have any other hobbies, so dropping $1500 on a 40K army is worth it."

This one is harder to refute, but for example in the "Train Simulator" PC game, to "buy" (or rather unlock) all the trains and tracks would cost $4000+ dollars.

To "buy" a digital train costs $20. Yes, $20 for a digital train that is just a bunch of sprites and code.
To buy a "route" (a single train line of say 100km) costs $40.

So if you think to buy a "full game" of trains is worth $4000, I guess I can't argue.  It's your opinion.
However in the minds of most sane people, paying $4000 for a videogame is vastly overpriced, given you can get fullgames with 10x more content for the industry-standard $20-$80.

So whilst we cannot refute your claim it is "worth it" to you, I do think it's fair we can claim you are an idiot for paying 80x more than the industry standard, for an inferior product. 

To make a wargame comparison, if Perry Miniatures sell plastic models at $30 for 40 (75c each), and Games Workshop sell models sculpted by the same sculptors, to an equal (arguably inferior) standard at $12 for $36 ($3ea) - i.e. four times more. 

Claiming it's "worth it to me" does not alter the original contention - the minis are overpriced.

#6. If all else fails, disarm us with honesty
 "This game/model is ridiculously overpriced, but I'm going to buy them all anyway." 
"I was really disappointed with the release of x model, but I'll still pre-ordering the next release."
-To do this right, you need to complain about the price,complain about the company, admit the shortcomings in the product, then slavishly pledge to continue buying the product

People need to show loyalty to a company.  After all, the company listens and is loyal to you, their valued customer, right?  People need to understand that everything has a price.  And the shinier the toy, the higher the price. Man up, and pay what you need to pay for your plastic/digital crack. 


  1. I suppose prices are all relative but yeah, the sun will go out before I blow 40 dollars on an imaginary robot >:)

    To drag it on to wargaming specifically, I tend to have a 50 dollar rule: If I can "buy in" meaningfully for 50 dollars, then I'll give it a shot.
    Thats about the cost of a mechanized 15mm platoon (or a Fulda Gap's worth of 3mm tanks!).

    War Machine fans like to say that the game is cheaper than 40K because you don't need as many mini's but the individual figures are still stupid expensive.

    1. I am somewhat influenced by the cost of a "unit" or maneuver element.

      That's a reason skirmish games are appealing to me.

      I.e. Warmachine might need a $50 10-man unit, but Infinity you get the same in-game effect for a single $10 mini.

      A single airborne/stealth mini can radically change your playstyle and tactical options. Whereas in Warmachine I'd have to buy (and paint) 10 models for the same effect.

      Although the unit cost of Infinity is double ($10ea vs $5ea) I somehow feel more "value for money." (The sculpts are also much better)

      That's my pet justification.

    2. Yeah, I get that view.
      For me personally, I 99% of the time don't buy for a particular game, so that doesn't work for me but that's just me, personally :)