The real cost of a game
How much are you paying for your video games? Is it 60€? 75€? In 2013 I was surprised to see all the PlayStation and XBox games cost that much. Even some of the EA games on Wii U were 75€, but in today's industry, 60€ is only where the cost begins.
We're going to look through all of the many ways companies try to take your money. These things happen in all countries and company sizes, but are most obvious in large western companies like EA, Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft and Warner Bros.
From here on, I'll be measuring prices in US dollars because that information is the easiest to find on the internet.Preorder Bonuses
Before you even get your game, companies are already asking for your money. They offer you extra content in the game if you pay them early. While this technically doesn't cost more than buying the game on launch day, it means they get your money sooner rather than later.Multiple Editions
You could say a game costs you $60 at launch, if you buy the cheapest edition, but there's always more. Each game regularly comes with a silver and gold edition. Assassin's Creed Odyssey came with a total of 7 editions, ranging from $60 to $160. Ignoring all the collectible items, the least you'll have to pay to get the whole content is $120.Downloadable content
Once you got the game, it's not over. Not happy with releasing a final product to the market, companies offer you more game and ask for more money. You paid $60 for Destiny 2, but every few months a new campaign comes out. You have Curse of Osiris for $20, Warmind for $20 and finally Forsaken for $40. In total it adds up to $140.Season Passes
Instead of selling you downloadable content every once in a while, companies offer you the option of buying all future content by paying a fixed price. This is called a season pass. The main problem with this is that you don't know what you're getting. You might not like the content they release, or they will cancel all future content. They might even decide to sell new content beyond the extent of your current season pass, requiring you to buy another one.Microtransactions
Not happy with continuously selling you new content for a price. Companies found out they can just sell you disposable content at a price. Because it's disposable, this removes any upper limit to how much a game can cost you. The price can range from $60 to $6000 and beyond.
Games tend to have a store where you can buy items using in-game currency, like gems or coins. These items can be buffs, health powerups, experience boosters and things like that. Although you can technically obtain the currrency in the game, the amount of time you need to play is in the order of 100s of hours. To get around this, they offer you the chance to buy currency with real money. Usually in packs ranging to $1.99 to $99.99. Product Placement - in both directions
It's not uncommon today to see a large Gatorade logo in NBA2K. They're not taking money from you directly, but they're not really giving you the option to remove ads in a game you paid a lot of money for. It's not a major problem, but it can be annoying.
When I say "both directions", I mean that you have to buy Totinos pizza rolls to get experience boosters and weapons in Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Whether it's products in your game or pieces of the game in your products, it's not good for us gamers.Gambling
The true horror, the ultimate level of corporate corruption in videogames: Gambling. This method of obtaining money from gamers was made popular by loot boxes in Overwatch. At regular intervals, the game offers you random mystery boxes, which may contain really cool rewards or might have completely mundane objects. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 also has this, with some of the rarest things having a 0.1% chance of appearing.
This looks fine, until you realize these key points:
- Loot boxes are not all that common.
- The odds of getting good things can be extremely low.
- You can buy these boxes with real money.
This money making scheme exploits a very real and dangerous medical condition: Gambling Addiction. Many of us are not gamblers and would not fall into this trap, but some people have personalities that are susceptible to addiction. If lootbox games fall into the hands of these people, they will bankrupt themselves playing these games.
Unlike federally licensed gambling, these games are completely unregulated. They have no age restriction processes and no links to gambling safety websites. Gambling agencies worldwide have been taking notice of this in the past year and will hopefully control this one day soon.A broken industry
Not all of the listed items are always bad. Special editions, downloadable content and even season passes can be done right if they offer enough value for the money, but that rarely ever happens.
Even if every game did it right, how many games do you know that offer you a whole product for a single price? It happens so rarely these days, it becomes a news story, like the Octopath Traveler game. But that's a different topic. Read more about it here: On the preservation of video games as works of art
Some people might argue that all of these measures are necessary because games cost too much to make. I have arguments against this point, but it would take another long journal entry to go through it. Let me reassure you: Games don't cost too much to make.
If you're like me and want to change the industry, talk about it. Although it doesn't seem like it, keeping the conversation alive makes it more difficult for companies to prey on unsuspecting customers. If the topic of videogames comes up among friends or family, bring up some of these points.