Gamer Matters
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How Much Would You Pay For Games?

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Playing video games is an expensive hobby. Game consoles have dropped in price over the years, with a PS4 bundle currently is cheaper than the latest iPhones or flagship Android phones. Isn’t that exciting? Compared to the days where buying a PS2 on launch costs RM2000 and a PS3 was at an absurd RM4000 price tag, now more people can share the same hobby and passion!

Yet game prices are steadily increase in price, and some games are harder to justify a full RM200+, only to have not as many features as expected, content gated in the form of DLC, really fancy collector’s edition, and sometimes, broken, bug-ridden or even missing features on launch.

So there lies the question: in the dire economic state Malaysia is suffering through, how much would you be willing to pay for games?

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Pay Full! And More! The Hype Is Real!

The release date inches by. Everybody in your circle of friends, in real life or those social media, are talking about them. This game is going to rock. You’re imagining how much fun you would have with it when you can get a copy. You’ve scoured for all the information you can get. Video footage, news bits, interviews by the devs. Anything to learn more about this game you really want.

Then there’s the announcement of a special edition, offering more goodies. Some of those looks so tempting! It costs a bit more, but you seemed to be down with that cool looking collectible.

And then they teased that a season pass is coming! DLCs! For a few more bucks you can get more content in the coming months of enjoying the game! You contemplated, but decided to go for it. And so from a newly-released game sold around RM200+, now you have paid way more, almost half a thousand for a single release.

If you’re a committed fan who is willing to show support for the game and its developers, this should not be a problem. Plan your finance well is all I have to say.

But here’s a word of warning. There’s not many games in the current day that are perfectly made and shipped out of the box, especially the more expensive AAA titles. Personally, I was super pumped for XCOM 2, the sequel of a tactical strategy game I adore, mostly because I once imagined and designed a similar game before. But only on release day I started hearing that the PC-exclusive game has some performance issues, even on high-powered rigs. (The game’s still great though, check out fellow writer J.S.’s glowing XCOM 2 review here)

I had to resist from buying it full price sadly, and would rather wait for them to patch it, and maybe a discount to boot.

The amount of games coming out not perfectly fine and relying on patches in months to come is now something normal, since even console games can do patches now. There’s a lax of quality control compared to the old days so the game can ship quicker, meaning more profit. Plus, games are getting ever more complicated – and expensive – by the day, especially the AAA titles that it’s just not worth the money to delay. It’s a better business decision to ship early and patch it later.

But what is even more frustrating is now developers can even skimp out content in the outright. I played Need For Speed 2015 near the launch window and was massively bummed out with the game being almost similar in feel to the closed beta, released a few weeks before launch. Only with the constant flow of content is now the game a bit more bearable, and fun in some places.

And this is not a special case either. Street Fighter V is a ballsy move for Capcom. Not only did they promised it’s only ever going to be only one version of the game ever (No Super, Ultra variants moving on) with the base game getting updates and balance patches. Even ballsier is that they are launching the game in barebones form, with a focus on the online multiplayer, but no cinematic story mode, challenge mode, and even the in-game store to buy costumes and characters. All that was mentioned will come via updates in the next few months.

There’s also been debates on whether multiplayer only titles are worth the same price as the single player-only games. Titanfall, Evolve, and Star Wars Battlefront are among the games that were heavily criticised by some of us due to not having a single player campaign but still priced as a full game.

And it’s not only AAA games that suffer from being a worthy full price purchase. The Witness is an indie puzzler in the veins of Myst in style and exploration, made by Jonathan Blow and his team. He made Braid, one of the earliest indie hits on the Xbox 360. Even at RM75 have people arguing if it’s worth the price, when most of the game is about the puzzles, with not much other content let alone a gripping story or some sort. Then there’s the walking sims, like the recently released Firewatch, that have not much gameplay or even none to call one. Are those worth the asking price?

As long as you feel you won’t regret your purchase, and know what you’re getting into, then it’s fine. Read multiple reviews. Watch a bit of videos (but don’t spoil yourself too much). Don’t buy on hype alone or you could be become super disappointed with what you are paying for.

But if you like me, then maybe you will..

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Wait For Discounts and Price Drops

This is a smarter move, but it has its caveats. Especially if you have close friends and other people that will get games day 1. There’s now a developing trend of FOMO, fear of missing out. Didn’t buy Fallout 4, the game almost everyone you know is excited about, on launch? Then it’s an uphill battle to avoid their impressions, thoughts, experiences, or even worse, spoilers. You’re not with the zeitgeist. You’re not talking about the trending things like everyone else on social media. Can you handle it?

If so, then you don’t need to worry about securing older games. Most folks who were just there for the hype train, finished the game, or just couldn’t enjoy their purchase will probably had put it up on sale. Enter those trading groups on social media to see great second-hand games you can afford and near your vicinity. Don’t wait too long though, as it will be harder to find some of the games you missed out.

But if you’re planning on getting it digitally, then waiting out should not be a problem. Stay vigilant on sales announcements, especially on the holidays. Digital games won’t run out until it’s specifically de-listed from the store, at the cost of not being able to resell it once done, unless you sell the whole account.

If you’re too busy with work and other pursuits in life and can only play a few games once in a while, and also don’t care as much with what others are talking about, then you should be fine waiting for a few months, or even a whole year when the price will start dropping. It’s also a good method for games you sort of like, but didn’t have glowing reviews due to launch problems that will be patched in the future.

Also, if you wait it out long enough, there might be a possibility that the game will be bundled with all the DLCs shipped. It’s going to be full price, but compared to those buying in day 1, it could be a better deal. Being frugal can save up a ton of cash from buying expensive games only to not play them due to time constraints.

But for those who do have time but not the money..

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“Try Before You Buy”, Legally, Or Maybe Not?

And this is where things get shadier. But before I go to that point, let me assure you there are legal methods to try before you buy. One is actually finding a game setup for you to try, a friend who owns it, a shop, or at gaming conventions. Then, on the PS4 at least, there’s the share play function where you can hand out controls to a buddy. This is a limited function and on a per game basis, as in not all games have this function. But it is something.

Then of course, we have demos. Well, not many games have any nowadays. They are now “open beta tests”. But that is another discussion for another article.

But when you have no other gamer friends nearby, no official demos available, and no other legal options available, that’s where the jolly roger comes in. Do note that piracy is not legal and is not something to be proud of. Not paying for a supposedly paid product is technically stealing, isn’t it?

But it’s not just cheapskates or people with no money or have no access to pay pirate stuff. There are other reasons. One is of rebellion. It could be a game they liked but employed scummy tactics to sell pre-orders, or have features missing, not worth the asking price, or terrible DRM measures. Another is, well, honestly to try before buying. Playing games on PC can be a hit-and-miss experience. System specs alone is not as trusted now on how a game performs, so trying one out for yourself to see if the PC can handle it is a better way to gauge performance.

While it is a sad notion that most folks in Malaysia have a tendency to be guilt-free on piracy, it makes sense. We didn’t have the methods to get games legally and at an affordable price. RM200 is a huge amount, it could get you about 20 KFC Snack Plates, or around 40 normal meals which could last for almost three weeks.

But now that our payment options have become more varied (Paypal, debit cards, even prepaid reloads), more online stores accepting Ringgit, and more and more local distributors and stores now operating around the country, it’s still hard to convince some people that it shouldn’t be something we’re okay with. Even religious and pious folks I know personally sometimes just skirted the issue by saying it’s fine, most likely since it’s never been a commotion thus the ustaz and muftis had yet to address it and state a stand or fatwa. I bet there are others who don’t do this though, I’m not generalising here.

But if you indeed try it so you will buy it later, then you’re fine in my book. Admittedly, I sometimes do it when the budget gets tight, but buys a legit copy of the game when the money is there, and if lucky, when it’s on sale.

So.. How Much?

Again, it depends in your current situation. I cannot recommend doing solely of one method or the other, as each of it has its caveats, and everyone has a different situation going on. Some games may worth buying full price outright, but some don’t. Whatever it is, as long as you choose to purchase games as an informed consumer, then you’re good to go.

Remember, the money we give is to support the developers continuing their line of work so they can continue to produce more fantastic games we can all enjoy in the future. There are options to those who are financially limited, but keep that in mind. Vote with your wallet.

 [This article originally appeared on the author’s personal site, meckronos.wordpress.com]