Friday, April 9, 2010

Release Day vs. Pay Day

by C.T. Hutt

For gamers with gainful employment and bills to pay, the fiscal impact of our favored hobby is significant. Consoles aren’t cheap and the television, sound system, and extra controllers that go along with them come at a premium; this is to say nothing about the resulting electricity bills or the cost of the games themselves. Unlike Mario, we can’t just pound our heads against brick walls until gold comes out of the stones, we work for our GPs and we work hard. Finding a good deal on games is an important consideration for savvy gamers, but doing so is complicated by the rise of digital distribution services, the popularity of DLC, and games which are released for multiple platforms. Assuming the experience is more or less uniform, why would a person pay more to play a game on their XBox when they could pay less for the same experience on a computer? Sales at brick-and-mortar stores like Gamestop and online promotions only add additional layers of confusion to the debacle. No matter how convoluted the algorithm may be to find the best price on a game there is only one rule that you always need to remember: the closer you are to the release date, the higher the price will be. So why does anyone buy a game on its release date?

Unlike movies, which are only in theatres for a short while, video games provide the same experience whether played in six months or this very afternoon. To people who don’t game, it probably seems that the only reason we pay extra to possess games immediately is because we either have poor impulse control or run some kind of blog that analyzes contemporary video games (which is really just an excuse for poor impulse control).

Price aside, there are a variety of other reasons to wait a few months to purchase a new title. Often it takes a while for developers to process customer complaints and iron out any wrinkles in a given title’s programming. Further, the truly patient gamer may win out in the long run if developers decide to release a definitive edition of a game that includes all the DLC which impatient folks (like me) have been paying out the nose for. And yet, many of us just can’t wait.

Are we such suckers that we can’t resist the siren call of clever marketing singing us to financial shipwreck? Are we so desperate for entertainment that we will throw our hard-earned cash out the window just to fill our lives with a few immediate hours of escapism? Are we a bunch of pathetic addicts lurking around the Best Buys of the nation at 4am on a Saturday just to get our next fix? Maybe we are, but I like to think that we shell out the big bucks for new releases because, like children, we are excited. We have the privilege to be part of an ongoing discussion about an art form still in its chrysalis. As small as they are, our speculations and introspections about new releases are part of a greater record of the medium’s emergence into our shared cultural heritage. Gaming is evolving so fast that every year brings new innovations and ideas to the table. We are exploring bold new worlds and doing so from different perspectives with every great title that comes out. We can scold ourselves for not making the right financial choices some times, but I think it is a mistake to be harsh on ourselves for indulging in our curiosity and striving to be among the first to see what’s next on the road ahead.

1 comment:

  1. When I get hold of a good metaphore I don't let it go, becuase I eventually get to reuse it. In this case it's likening gamers to magpies with wallets attached. It's all about hype. The consumer mind, especially the American consumer mind is about turning your wanted purchases into needed purchases. You need to buy this game, you need to go see this movie. Don't kid yourself pleanty of movies open big and drop like a stone because they were crap marketed up the wazoo.

    As for being a blogger keeping up, the last game I wrote about that was contemporary was Prince of Persia (2008). Really it comes down to what type of person you are. The normal mindset will set of endorphens to the focus tested (to death) comercials, splashy magazine ads, tie ins and so forth. Marketing is about flash because it's quick and appeals to the basest of our emotional comprehension: Excitement, fear, catharsis, amazement, laughter. Alot like most video games actually. It's why dramas are so difficult to market, or socks. They evoke none of those emotions. So they rely on need or quality, a much harder sell.

    When everything is reduced to flash, people are saturated with it from every source. In return marketers have to up their marketing campaigns to make sure they are heard. So people get further sautrated with it and it spirals up until they finally go see it and are either satisfied or in most cases disappointed, even if it was decent, just not like the comercial. Think of the old lego comercials or action figures and how they advertized stationary objects.

    It is difficult for people to recognize this if they are in the middle of it and they get swept along. A friend of mine is in internet marketing and has told me I am a marketer's worst nightmare. You can't sell me jack shit in mass media. The effort it would take to create a specialized campagin just for me would be a waste of time and resources. Marketers want to hit the widest demographic possible. So they resort to the basist emotions (see above) or to the highest reasoning, aka show all the awards something has won to represent quality.

    I've rambled on enough.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.