With the arrival of next-gen consoles and games, 2020 is all set to be a landmark year for gamers. Even the virus cannot fully dampen the excitement, as gaming is not affected too much by lockdowns and quarantines – for many, it actually gives more time to spend on their favourite games!
But time is not all we spend on our games – they cost money too. And with the rise of mobile gaming and “freemium models,” spending on games has been taken to a whole new level. Sinking hundreds of hours into a $60 game is one thing, but what about spending ten times as much (or more) on a free-to-play game? Where should one draw the line?
The Traditional Model is Fine, Even at $70
Okay, this is a pretty sensitive topic for most video gamers of the current and older generations. For well over thirty years, the price of the average big-release AAA title has not changed in the industry. Well actually, it was $60 in the 1990s era of Nintendo consoles, then $50 during the first Gen consoles, and back to $60 in the mid-2000s.
The fact of the matter is, game prices have stagnated when compared to other similar entertainment products and services. And with the new generation console launch, the industry is preparing to raise that pricing to $70 for the AAA titles – your Far Crys, Assassins Creeds, Call of Duty’s and so on.
As long as you get a more or less complete and wholesome gaming experience, be it for 10-15 hours or 60, that is still an okay price. After all, you will continue to own the title/disc and can play any time you want in the future. If it is a disc, you can even recoup some of your expenses by taking the trading/selling route.
With DLCs, it depends entirely on the content
Gone are the days when game devs launched a complete title and then maybe, release an expansion in a few years. Modern games are often cut up into different parts for better monetization. Sometimes, they sell you an incomplete game with a cliff-hanger ending and high-priced story DLCs dropping in a few months.
With these games, getting drip-fed in this fashion is not okay. A better option would be to wait until they release everything and package it into a GOTY edition. And if you can snag it during one of the Steam sales or other events, even better!
Story-based DLCs and expansions are still relatively benign and tolerable. Sometimes, they greatly enhance the overall gaming experience, like in The Witcher 3, or for a more recent example – Control. But cosmetic DLCs are a whole different deal, and they deserve another section devoted to the topic.
Draw the line at Micro-transactions and Cosmetic Skins
Mobile gaming has opened Pandora’s Box in the industry with its freemium model and micro-transactions. We now have real cash-based “stores” in almost all modern video games, especially those with a heavy multiplayer focus. These stores are out to exploit a gamer’s ego and vanity.
It’s understandable – we all want to look unique and stand out on the virtual battlefields and arenas. So we end up buying customization items like armor, unique costumes and weapons, most of which have no gameplay impact. Dabbling a bit in this kind of dress-up is fine – but if you are not careful and the devs are greedy, it can get out of hand.
On the other hand, buying levelled gear to progress is a really bad deal. Game devs should not be encouraged to design game progression in this way – creating artificially high-level requirements that would take players hours of boring grind to reach, or a few dollars of your cash. The recent Assassin’s Creed games like Odyssey and Valhalla have this, and you should not encourage it by spending money on such items.
Even gambling is better than loot boxes
Loot boxes are the absolute worst form of spending money on video games, period. We do not encourage gambling, but if you are an adult and thinking about spending on loot boxes, you are better off using that cash on slots and actual online casinos.
The logic is simple – with loot boxes in Fifa or other games, you get only virtual players or cards. Some may have value on the underground trading circles, but the vast bulk of what you get is worthless trash. People spend thousands of dollars for the thrill of random loot – it is the same impact you get from playing slots.
At least with slots, when you hit a vein of luck, what you get in your hand is real money. Even then, we don’t even recommend that you play slots – spending money like that for entertainment is dangerous.
The choice is plenty
Ultimately, games are a form of entertainment, just like movies or TV. And just like TV/Netflix, the games industry even has subscription formats like the Xbox Game Pass. You get access to games worth thousands of dollars by paying just around $10 per month.
Deals like that are far preferable to dropping thousands of dollars on loot boxes, skins, and microtransactions, which are largely worthless outside the game world. When you buy a game+DLC, you can keep playing for years. With these skins and cards, they expire the moment a new edition of the game launches in a year or two.
Spending any money on such products is frankly, madness, and not worth your money. Indulge a bit on a special character if you play online multiplayer heavily, or are a pro-streamer. But otherwise, stay away from such things and use that cash on better hardware or games instead!