In the 21st century, humans have seen technology skyrocket from simple cellular phones and digital televisions to handheld computers, ultra-high resolution displays, and virtual reality. Tech companies are constantly pushing the boundaries in the digital world. Whenever a new and improved phone, computer, laptop, or television is released, it is replaced by a superior one in a matter of a few years or even months.
The continued fast-evolution of gadgets and tools has also accelerated the development of video games in every aspect imaginable. Games have gone from sporting 8-bit pixel animations to hyper-realistic character models that look eerily close to humans. With new and improved graphics, interfaces, and technologies in the gaming world, the cost of games has skyrocketed as well, with most titles starting at $60 (not including the device needed to play).
Assigning such a hefty price point to the continuation of a hobby and interest begs the questions: Is gaming too expensive in this modern era? Is gaming still worth the time and money?
The overall quality of games has definitely improved as time has progressed, and part of the reason is that new technology has revolutionized the way video games are created and presented. Sure, the majority of gamers love nostalgic classics like the “Mario Bros.” series or any of the “Pokémon” games. However, recent games can be considered cinematic masterpieces that give retro titles a run for their money.
A recent example is the game “Until Dawn,” released in August 2015, which used hyper-realistic human characters who were modeled after their voice actors. This was especially interesting because it used human movement, reactions, and behaviors to create a game that felt more realistic than its two dimensions on the screen. Many game developers have also been experimenting with virtual reality, which makes video games feel much more interactive and attempts to blur the line between the digital and the real world.
Creating these pinpoint-accurate graphics, voices, and models requires a lot more work from the consoles or computers that run these video games. Because of this, next-generation consoles such as the Xbox One and Playstation 4 need to have hardware that will last around half-a-decade, until a more powerful console is ready to be released. With new consoles coming in at around $300-$400 each, there’s no doubt that many players would have difficulty paying this hefty price every time a more advanced console is released.
Likewise, PC gamers need to constantly upgrade and improve components like memory and video cards so that their computers can handle the intense and realistic graphics of modern video games. In a financial context, the NVIDIA GTX 1070, a video card that can run most high-end games at respectable frame rates, costs around $400 and is expected to last 4-5 years. If consoles and PCs are not well equipped to handle hyper-realistic and accurate graphics in new games, gamers are guaranteed to experience frame-rate lag, in which there are obvious and distracting cuts and distortions in the display due to lack of power in the game system. All of these factors require gamers to not only pay for their copy of the game itself, but also to constantly spend money on buying new game systems or improving their current ones.
As previously stated, the price of recent video games is around $60. However, with the rise of downloadable content in video games, the price of experiencing the full game is often more than just $60.
Unfortunately, many games feel incomplete without their DLC content, and one can even argue that developers sometimes don’t release 100 percent of a game in order to make extra cash on DLC updates. With more games adding DLC, it has become commonplace for gamers to spend even more than the initial $60 to buy the “full” game. Although DLC content is fantastic and often adds depth or much needed changes into games we love and enjoy, it is an often hidden increase on a game’s base price tag, and that might cause buyers to think twice before purchasing.
Along with a hefty monetary investment, some video games require quite a bit of time to complete fully. Games like “Skyrim” are extremely lengthy and take weeks to finish the main storyline, not to mention the hundreds of optional side quests. One can argue that the time spent playing a game is worth some money spent, but although a game may be worth around $60 on the market, games that require tons of hours to complete incur an additional time cost that increases its face value simply due to the sheer amount of time inching toward completion.
Additionally, with all the optional side quests and achievements in modern-era games, can one even say that they “completed” the game if they haven’t fully explored all its areas or set foot in every single damn corner that the game as to offer?
On top of all this, one of the worst things about buying video games is the lack of proper return policy. It’s unusual to ask for a refund on a book after reading it because someone did not enjoy the content of it, or ask for a refund at a movie theater because the movie wasn’t good. The same goes for video games that are sold physically. Although some retailers might allow you to return your copy because of dissatisfaction, it certainly is not common.
Nowadays, many gamers buy games digitally and receive a one-time redeemable code that allows them to download and play the game. Additionally, with the majority of games in Steam, a platform that houses video games and allows you to own and play games under an account, returning games solely due to dissatisfaction is often not an option. Even if you found a game unappealing, there aren’t a lot of options to get your money back.
Although there is a large price to be paid to continually (albeit legally) enjoy video games, one thing is for certain. Any money or time spent towards a hobby should be for the purpose of entertainment and leisure, ideally without pressure.
Therefore, it’s up to the individual to really decide if video games are worth the large investment of time and money needed to play them. No one can say that the time or money spent pursuing a hobby is gone to waste, even if the hobby does not produce any tangible returns. People who enjoy watching movies, for example, spend money and time to pursue their hobby but aren’t met with any real return.
However, no one can put a price on the enjoyment and satisfaction that they get from watching a good film. The same goes for playing video game. When you play a good game, you’ll forget the hours that have passed and the money you have spent, but you’ll remember the characters, the storyline, the challenges, and the moment of completion you experienced in that game.
The best way developers can alleviate financial strain on gamers is by offering more ways for gamers to try out the product before committing to buy. This method is already in place in the form of game demos, but most of the time these demos are extremely misleading. The game developers often feature the appealing aspects of the game rather than an honest representation of the game itself.
For example, Capcom featured “Resident Evil 7” in a demo that was free for everyone to play. However, the demo was quite polarizing, as it actually made the game look unfavorable. Not only was it strikingly different from past “Resident Evil” games, but there was little storyline context making sense of it, essentially dropping you in the middle of a plot already underway.
A correct example of a demo is Blizzard’s “Overwatch,” in which the company gave the public full, unrestricted access to the game for one weekend. This boosted sales, since players were allowed to trial the game with no restrictive clauses, and fully perceive the pros and cons of “Overwatch.” Perhaps if game developers were more open about giving out free samples of their product, like Costco is with their food, the customers would have more knowledge of the product and be able to discern if it is worth purchasing.