The fast-food, throw-away nature of the game market

There is a thought that in the last days has come to my mind and it’s related to all those games in my humble bundle account that I wasn’t interested in, either because they were copies of games already residing in my Steam library or because they were uninteresting games in bundle with games that I wanted.

I have realized that this whole “bundle approach” has forced me to acquire games that were irrelevant to me, pushing me to treat them as secondary or second-class items. They were to me just “spare games”, a label inevitably acquired for being both uninteresting and purchased at a very low price.

Still, behind those games there were developers who believed in their project as much as the developers of the games that are important to me. Handling their creations with that “spare stuff” attitude feels somehow wrong and implicitly disrespectful, at least to me.

The production of games has increased and the online game market is now full of places and stores that rely on periodic big sales or on pay-what-you-want schemes. This makes it very easy to acquire games for extremely discounted prices.

This phenomenon is strikingly different from the way we used to buy and play games when we were kids, because games were more scarce, or because we had to deserve them, or because our playthroughs were longer and not influenced by hints and walkthroughs that it’s easy to find today on the Internet.

In other words it was more difficult to acquire them and they were consumed more slowly.

My question to you is : does the fact that we can now easily find and buy games at very low prices affect our perception of the non-economic value of the game?

Is there a risk that games are perceived as a lesser or cheaper form of art just because the rules of the market transform them into cheap and even disposable items?

And does this kind of “cheap” nature affect how players perceive the complexity of developing a game?

I’m trying to understand the negative effects of watching games being treated as cheap tokens to collect, exchange, eat quickly or give away.

2 Likes

It’s hard to say. I rarely use bundles. All the bundles I ever bought were on GOG and there I use the possibility to buy only the games I’m interested in, I don’t buy “hard” bundles with stuff I don’t need, I rather pay a little bit bigger price with less discount and hope that the original developer will see more money that way.
I know that my shopping experience became different in the last years - I can afford more now that I have a stable job and am past student status (thus I bought many games I used to play as a kind in pirated version, hello TWP guilt absolution bundle!), and I buy more things online via GOG and Steam and rarely buy boxed versions of games. But I often buy those games on day 1 or preorder or back them, so I’m usually buying paying full price and not something I consider cheap.
I still take my time to consume the games and don’t try to play much in short time. I buy things I’m sure I’ll replay one day. In another thread I mentioned how I played Witcher 3 - I took far over 120h to play it, I enjoyed the world and every bit of it. I played it over the course of one year and spent another year to play Witcher 1 and 2 to enjoy the full story.
What has changed is of course the nature to look up for hints if I’m really stuck somewhere, as this information is easily accessible via internet today, I don’t sit over a week trying to solve a puzzle (took me that long to realise how to get the ornament that is elephant’s nose in Indy4 where I meet Sternhart) and I don’t have to find a printed walkthrough.

TL;DR:
I don’t buy cheap, I don’t enjoy cheap, my playing behaviour hasn’t changed besides being less patient.

When those pay-what-you-want bundles came up many years ago I thought this is interesting. But in the end most people just pay the minimum amount necessary to get the games they want (or want to resell later?).

It’s always sad to see great games being sold such dirt-cheap.

I don’t think those bundles compare to what he meant, e.g. bundles from humblebundle.com where you already get a bunch of games starting with just $1.

Indeed, I understand what he means. And I explicitly don’t use them because I don’t like buying what I don’t need just because it seems to be cheap. Instead of trying something that doesn’t interest me I rather replay some older game I know like all the classic Sierra and LucasArts games. :slight_smile:

1 Like

If we talk about the Humble Bundle: If you buy such a bundle, some of your money goes to charity. You can even decide where the money should go (for example only to the developer of one of the games). So you could see those games as gifts. And I would assume that we all have too much unused gifts in real life - for example the billion ugly vases from our relatives…

No.

We had that phenomenon back then too. :wink: We had boxes of disks with pirated games. We collected them, but played only a small amount of them. And we had playthroughs - not in the internet but in printed magazines. And we solved some of the games together (back then together in front of one computer, nowadays via a internet forum). And it wasn’t difficult to acquire the games: You had just to ask a friend about a (pirated) copy on the schoolyard.

For me I can clearly say: I play the games that I buy in the same slow way I did in my childhood. The difference is, that I haven’t that much time anymore to play games.

Regarding you questions:

My own perception: No.
The perception of the majority of the players: Maybe.

Today it is more difficult to find interesting games. Back in the good old days we had magazines with reviews of all games. Nowadays you have to dig through the internet (just remember how many people missed the TWP Kickstarter).

I would like to answer these two questions at once: Most players never thought about how a game is developed or how much work is needed to develop a game. Otherwise there wouldn’t be piracy. :wink: It’s the same with movies or books. So sadly it is and was always a “cheaper form of art”.

I think that every player has some few games that he/she/it love, that they played many times and that they care about. All other games are “nice to have” and remain in their (Steam-/Gog-)libraries. I don’t think that there will change or has changed something. In the past and today we had/have cheap and fast produced games and we had/have outstanding games. It’s similar to the movie industry. If you would like to investigate the negative effects, maybe you should have a look at this industry. :slight_smile:

3 Likes

No, I don’t think that I have explained clearly what happens. What you have described is not what happens.

I don’t intentionally buy games that I don’t need because they are cheap.

I intentionally buy a game that I want at a low price and I’m forced to get other stuff with it. This stuff becomes irrelevant and invisible to me because I didn’t want it in the first place and I still don’t want it after I have acquired it.

Is this why you have so much to give away as quiz prices? :slight_smile:

Yes, that’s how a Humble Bundle works: it may contain a game that you want but when you buy the bundle you also receive all the games that you didn’t care for.

I noticed that GOG also sometimes automatically adds games for free to your library when downloading some games. I don´t mind either way, but I guess it can stack up over time.

But you don’t have to buy these bundles. :wink: It’s the same with the “compilations” in the 80s and 90s.

In most cases the games in the bundles are part of “normal” sales too. Just wait for the next Halloween / summer / spring sale. And on Gog you can deselect all unwanted games. (And the Humble Bundle is a special case because you support charity: The game developers are coming together to spend money to other organizations. It’s similar to a tombola: You give money and get some - maybe weird - prizes.)

It happens for example when buying any game from Bethesda on GOG: It will also add The Elder Scrolls: Arena and The Elder Scrolls Chapter II: Daggerfall to your account. But it happens only once and you won’t get any gift codes later.
But that’s not a typical case either.

The only case when I get duplicates from GOG to gift away are games I get during sales (e.g. current Black Friday Sale: spend >= $15 to get StarCrawlers for “free”).

In most cases you have to explicitly accept the free game. In other words you can say: “no, Gog, I don’t want that free game”.

That’s nice from those two people spending $100 for a bunch of nice games. But there isn’t much charity from all those $1 purchases

This is only true for such cases like when a game is free for a limited amount of time. In those cases exceeding a specific amount of sales you now get them automatically by email. But you can just ignore them too. Those are codes with very limited validity (e.g. expires in less than a month).

No. First, you can give the whole 1$ to charity, and second it’s the masses: If 100 people are spending 1$, we have again 100$ for charity. And each charity organization is happy about each cent. :slight_smile:

1 Like

A lot of interesting topics are emerging in this discussion. In this moment I can just write a few words and click a few “like” buttons, but I’ll write serious replies later. :stuck_out_tongue:

Two quick things:

it’s true that we had piracy back when we were kids, but the lack of modern technology (mainly the Internet) added a friction that prevented us from getting what we wanted immediately or to get the walkthroughs that we needed. The whole environment was slower.

I’m pretty sure that a large percentage of money collected by Humble Bundle for charity comes from the sum of all those little figures.

1 Like

Is this (in this case) a criteria? For example today I have to wait for the next bundle to get, well, a bundle of games. :slight_smile: In my childhood I just had to go to the next store in my town and buy a compilation or a game. They had even a table with cheap games.

Yes that happened to me. It might be a typcial case but given that Bethesda has so many popular games out there it occurs often in that case I suppose.

I also didn´t expect it to happen again and get duplicates, mind you.

Yeah, $100 from 100 people, that’s ridiculous.

And if you give all of that to charity then the developers see nothing from it.
And also for Humble it’s a loss since they have to provide the infrastructure and probably have to pay PayPal/Amazon fees too (or charities won’t get those $1 in full in the end).

Hm, but this shouldn’t have happened, if you got duplicates it was probably a mistake (unless it’s from sales like mentioned above).

No no, this did not actually happen. I just mean I don´t expect this to happen under any circumstances, unless there is a mistake.

Personally, I only bought one Humble Bundle, specifically for “Swords & Sworcery EP”. With it came 5 more games that I did not want, but I ended up playing each for a bit at least. But I also think that these games might have deserved better than being sold for a dime a dozen. Likely one reason I never got another bundle, even though I received emails about the offerings for a while.

Similar with stuff on my GOG wishlist. When something that’s only $10 to begin with suddenly goes on sale for $2,50, I really can’t bring myself to pay so little for all the effort that went into making it.

But the question is really, what’s better for a developer? Not making a sale at all, or selling a likely significant number of units for a few cent each to people that will let them rot in their library? The second alternative certainly sounds depressing to me, but if it gets the bills paid …