As a consumer, video games are a fantastic investment. Considering how much use a good game and a good console or computer will get, the monetary outlay is more than justified. At about $50 a time, games are expensive as an individual cost. But consider t 30-40+ hours sunk into a blockbuster game with an expansive story. That actually works out at roughly $1 per hour of enjoyment. When framed this way gaming seems extremely good value for money.
This has plagued game developers for years. The amount of development time spent building an expansive and immersive game is huge. Not to mention the time spent marketing, writing or licensing the score and developing the plot. It is fair to suggest that developers are undervaluing their product. In recent years, the developers have taken measures to redress this balance. They have learned to better monetize their video games.
The birth of in-game purchasing.
Many gaming studios’ methods for monetizing their video games have been controversial. There was an innocent time when buying a game meant buying a game. All the contents was loaded onto the disc or cartridge you put it in your machine, and you played the game to your heart’s content. But now that most consoles or computers are connected to the internet, developers are able to sell games in a completely different way.
A developer can release the initial iteration of a game and then release expansion packs at a later date or allow in-game purchases as a way of further monetizing their product. This could be new maps, new kits of weaponry or even a whole new campaign within the story. This is an effective way of building on the financial returns from a game, which may have taken years and millions of dollars to develop.
But the developers only deserve limited sympathy. Theirs is not a hard life, particularly those releasing blockbuster games. For example, look at GTA V, released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 and then re-released for the next generation of consoles, the PS4, Xbox 1 and the PC. Then, as a final injection of cash, the game was re-released as a first person shooter.
This effectively meant that the same game saw three releases. This has ensured that it is the most successful release in video game history, having made the developer, Rockstar, $1 billion gross. This is just one way that developers look to make money out of their games. And fair play to Rockstar, they’re clearly out in front in terms of games development. Their follow up game to GTA V, Red Dead Redemption 2, will not release until Spring 2018. The production model they have chosen emphasizes quality over quantity, and as such they are respected in the gaming community for the manner of their releases.
The same can’t be said for all forms of monetization.
The menace of the microtransaction.
We’ve all heard the stories. A parent gives their child their smartphone to play with. The child plays a brightly colored and sparkly game. The game asks if they want to buy 6 billion gems for $3,000, and, of course, the child does. The parent puts child locks on their phone. Microtransactions are the bane of gamers, particularly on mobile devices. They’re often the quickest way to see a game uninstalled from a smartphone. But there is a necessity for them. A lot of mobile games are free, but offer in app purchases. Unfortunately, this is the most effective way that the game developers have found to monetize. Simply because people won’t pay upfront for apps.
Microtransactions can also be found in console or computer games and tend to be met with similar levels of derision. The reason being that a gamer has paid good money for the game and to gamers who are often young it feels a bit like a money grab.
At the end of the day, the game companies have to make money, particularly the smaller indie studios. They do so through the use of microtransactions and advertising.
Now, annoying as this may be, who am I to tell them to do it differently? They don’t make the games purely for the love and they need to eat too. But perhaps the future holds some better form of monetization. Quite what that looks like, who knows…what do you think?