It has been a long time since gaming has evolved from a casual hobby to a global entertainment industry. Even back in the good old days, video games had their respective rating policies, costs, etc. However, with the decade’s transition, the price of digital entertainment has evolved. Simple game expansions were snuffed out for something more modern. As we are about to close another decade, we here at Fiction Talk decided to look back at the cost of gaming. We will look at some of the practices the medium has pushed onto the public and how they were received.
A Significant Game Changer
The first obvious example of a change in business models is downloadable content, aka DLC. While not introduced in the current decade, it made themselves a part of the gaming culture during this period. These features ultimately served as extensions of the games, adding various extra goods to an already stellar release. Titles like the Witcher 3 graced us with a DLC that could only be explained as an entirely separate game. Developers fully began to utilize DLCs to earn additional revenue for their work.
Downloadable content would balance the amount of content with the original title’s price, to both appease the public, and generate a profit. Developers would also be given a chance to add new content that was planned but didn’t make the initial release date.
The cost of this downloadable content would become even cheaper once the game of the year editions rolled out. Containing all the previous additions at a reasonable price. Despite this, some franchises tend to go overboard, releasing multiple extensions during the course of a couple of years. While still an astonishing game, Dead or Alive 6 still holds a spot for having one of the biggest catalogs of DLC’s. The current price for the base game and extra content comes in at about 1200 euros.
Other games, like Killer Instinct, managed to use downloadable content to a different degree. The base game was free, with regular fighters being swapped each week. Players then had the option to purchase via DLC other fighters to their liking. Though not a perfect business practice, extra content is by far the best of what’s to come.
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The mildest form of the pay to play aspect of gaming comes in the form of subscriptions. Early on in the previous decade, games like Team Fortress 2 introduced the concept of free to play. Though players had full access to the vanilla edition of the release, other bonuses, such as cosmetic items for characters and weapons, demanded an extra purchase. These practices weren’t all well received, with multiplayer titles being some of the few who managed this system without repercussions. MMOs faired the best in this regard, and with monthly subscriptions, for a fair price, games would unlock 90% of the features.
That being said, these were at first just cosmetic items, adding little to no change to the pace of the game. However, comparing to the buy-to-play model, pay to play falls bellow a lot. In a couple of months, most multiplayer titles tend to go free to play, with the subscription model attached to it. Despite this, buying the game during its initial release date earns a free premium subscription to players after the game has transitioned. Costs of premium subscriptions became higher than the game’s initial price, and would ultimately lead to an even bigger disaster.
Why Not Just a Complete Game?
The first model to start out the big scam in the entertainment medium comes in the form of multiple editions. The 2010s saw a massive shift in the marketing of AAA publishers. Big budget titles released with the idea of generating revenue, way beyond its estimated value. Already marketing themselves for a minimum of 60 euros, AAA games tend to release in different editions with added content.
Assassins Creed is an example of such pathetic marketing. Adding a Standard, Deluxe, Gold, and Ultimate Edition, ranging from 60-120 euros. These types of games manage to cram in as little variety into their releases and dare to give promotional material, rather than in-game content.
Yet, corporations manage to benefit even more from a different set of practices. Pre-purchasing typically held a key role in the gaming press in the past. Review copies gave a chance for a developer and publisher to market themselves positively before the release. With the rise of modern practices, publishers manage to benefit from pre-purchases to such a degree. Releasing half-baked games, with cut content promised as a future addition, became a standard for the industry.
Still infamous to this day, Anthem is a perfect example of how big-budget titles tend to flop, even with such approaches as pre-purchasing. Even worse, big publishing names tend to lash out at reviewers for negative criticism. And despite all of this, we are just now about to reveal the biggest offender.
However you look at it, microtransactions is a term that has marked this decade of gaming. One of the worst business models ever to grace the entertainment medium, many have kneeled to this practice for a quick and easy buck. The absolute bottom of the barrel goes specifically to loot boxes. A pay to win method that is shoved down everyone’s throat into spending real-live currency for in-game items, abilities, cosmetics.
Initially, the gameplay becomes a contest of who has more money in their wallet, with pay-to-win players earning massive advantages over the others. Even worse, this system is adopted by games who already release with the initial price of, you guessed it, minimum 50-60 euros. At the end of the day, players are forced into long grinds or paying for content, they initially already paid.
By now everybody is familiar with the Star Wars Battlefront 2 scandal, and EA will need a lot of time to wash their hands from that mess. These corrupt designs in the gaming industry are accountable for instilling distrust between publishers and audiences. The sad thing is that these models will most likely continue on for some time. It is because of these practices, that gaming has gone far from its original form to relying on them, affordable or not.
Both the community and professional critics are continuously throwing feedback at the industry for its unreasonable marketing and pricing. It has now become a staple to price games way above their value. With a benchmark for a minimum price set, games will only get more expensive in the future.