Are game sales and discounts bad for games? Whenever I leave for a trip, I try to pick out something to play for the long flight, and that simple task is completely overwhelming for one reason. Video game backlogs, that particular tendency amongst people who play games to horde mountainous stacks of titles that we intend to get around to playing someday. And the reason is because you and I`m playing casino online africasino review and africasino game review on Casinoslots, but it’s not completely our deal. These days almost every game is on sale.
There’s Black Friday door busters, BOGO sales at retails, weekly Steam sales, amazing holiday sales, humble bundles, not to mention PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo digital sales. Should I just pay you now, or how are we going to do this? Of course, I don’t necessarily need the remake of Shadowgate when I’ve got copies Dragon Age, Bayonetta 2, and Tales From Borderlands to dive into it. But I buy it anyway because it’s a steal at half the price. [MUSIC PLAYING] So what’s going on here when a savvy, intelligent, and attractive audience, like game shows, cannot resist the lure of sweet, cheap games?
And more importantly, are deep discounts costing us and the medium more in the long run? First, let’s look at how game discounts actually hook us. Consumer research psychology points the way. The much lauded Steam sales, for instance, use a number of techniques that encourage splurging. For starters, look at the price. Steam has the old price crossed out above the sale price, and the new price tends to end in the number 9, which you wouldn’t think would work anymore but still has a very powerful effect on our thinking.
These factors, according to research that I’ll link to in the description, are a lethal combination for price tags, subconsciously encouraging you to say shut up and take my money. Another strategy used to great effect is creating scarcity. There’s a reason those amazing Steam sales expire after a limited time. When sign in and see you only have 20 minutes left to buy Crusader Kings 2 at half price, you’re much more likely to make a rash decisions rather than calmly and rationally thinking about whether or not you’ll ever actually play it.
Of course you will. All right. Next up, bundles, those enticing deals where you get an assortment of games for one the low price. These are great if you’re already in the market for Sega Bass Fishing, and Space Channel 5, and a bunch of other old Sega titles, but I’m guessing you’re not.
When we spoke to Dan Ariely, phenomenal Duke University psychology professor and author of “Predictably Irrational,” he told us that bundles are a clever trap. They prey on your irrationality by getting you to pull the trigger on the whole collection when the odds are there’s only one game you really want. Next, there’s the deceptively innocuous deals where you get to name your own price. Even better, some of the proceeds go to charity. I’m looking at you, Humble Bundle.
But seriously, what could go wrong? Believe it or not, these sales can take advantage of your kind heart to maximize profits. A marketing professor at UC San Diego ran a number of pricing experiments selling souvenir photos at a theme park. He gave customers that same option, to pick their price and donate some percentage of that price to charity.
As it turns out, profits soared. Of course, the elephant in the room is that for you, the customer, there’s a huge upside for all of these manipulative gaming deals, namely that you get more games for less money. Who cares if you’re occasionally buying games that you don’t want, or need, or will play?
Like, ever? But just for a large, let’s entertain an alternate scenario. What if the excessive game sales are actually devaluing games?
You’re probably saying, no way. After paying for new consoles, and graphics cards, and those authentic racing wheels, and this crazy gaming chair, gaming can get pretty expensive. I’m getting outstanding value here with all these cheap games. And that’s true, but there are multiple ways to determine value.
Whether or not we get our money’s worth is one way, but another way is how much we care about what we’re buying. Could it be that Steam sales and other types of game discounts are making games disposable? Hear me out. The philosopher Adam Smith’s paradox of value says that the more plentiful something is, the less we value it. He used the example of how diamonds are more desirable and more expensive than water because they’re less plentiful, even though without water you die. So when we have an abundance of games available so cheaply, we can forget how much work and vision went into creating each individual game.
And even worse, we could start unconsciously disparaging specific games and the medium as a whole because of the bargain bin prices. This phenomenon is already well-documented in physical retail. During JC Penney’s low price campaign, customers came to believe that they were buying inferior stuff because it was so cheap all of the time. This mentality is crazy in a way because The Wolf Among Us is the same great game whether you’re paying $1 or full price, but that’s not how our minds work. On a philosophical level, I think all this purchasing could be negatively affecting our opinion of games themselves. As Georgia Tech scholar Ian Bogost has argued, players are confused about whether or not they should treat a $0.99 game as a disposable piece of ephemera or as a potentially rich and life changing experience.
Instead of judging games artistic merits, people start to think of them in terms of pure economics, like this guy on Game Facts who instead of making a critical assessment of Captain Toad refuses to buy it on the grounds that he won’t get one hour of play per dollar, which is clearly the foreign exchange rate for game time trading on the public markets. Duh. Am I saying that you shouldn’t partake in all of the amazing game sales going on?
Of course not. But we should stop and think if we want games to ultimately be consumer products, or forms of art, or some strange combination of the two. And I admit it’s a very difficult call. Low prices make games widely available to a broader audience who otherwise couldn’t afford them.
And that’s great, as we’ve talked about before in our episode on whether or not video games should be free. But all these game discounts could make us think of games as disposable, trite, or even worse, unnecessary. So what do you think? Are game discounts trivializing the medium, or do they just give you more bang for the buck? Hash it out in the comments, and if you like we saw, please subscribe. I’ll see you next week.
Last week we talked about why you and I still play Smash Brothers. Let’s see that you had to say. So I was actually joking about not knowing where Sonic lives, but as it turns out, even among Sonic fans there’s some ambiguity about where his home locale actually is. Commenter Daniel Bentley points out that Sonic lives on Mobius– that’s an allusion to the Mobius strip, that single surface that goes on forever– but some other commenters pointed out that Sonic has lived on planet Earth and also on planet Freedom depending on your country and in what medium you are watching or playing Sonic. So, yeah, I didn’t realize I’d opened up a whole can of worms here. Commentar Dominitri is upset about the number of characters that are in the new Smash Brothers– there’s over 50 at this point– and points out that there’s an over reliance on Pokemon and Fire Emblem characters, and there’s a whole universe of other Nintendo affiliated characters, whether it’s Bayonetta, who could make their way into Smash Brothers.
And it speaks to, I think, this core tension that Nintendo both wants to introduce new characters into the canon, but they also want to sort of pay allusion to all these old characters, since Nintendo has this long history making video games. So, yeah, I don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see in future years whether they’re actually going to have to start kicking characters out. Or maybe they’ll do what they do in English football where you just have some sort of like relegation league, where like top tier characters stay in, and then there’s like a lower tier, or something like that. I know know.
We’ll see. Garet Rooks shares my love of the character Game & Watch who comes from, I guess, the original Nintendo handheld. He’s a little character, and he’s got a frying pan, and he can make bacon. He does all– he basically has a special tact that changes every single time, and it’s more or less random. I think it speaks to, again, what I was talking about in the episode, is that Nintendo deliberately introduces these chaotic elements to just add a sense of craziness and a sense of unpredictability to the game.
I think Game & Watch is an excellent example of that. So in the episode, I talked a lot about balance and about how Nintendo doesn’t balance Smash Brothers the way that other franchises or titles like Legal Legends or other online games do. And commenter Ddiaboloer and a couple others pointed out that there is a difference in Smash Brothers Melee, specifically that the PAL version, which is a video standard that’s used by Europe and pretty much the rest of the world, was a rebalanced version of Melee that came out on NTSEC, which is the standard that’s used for the United States, South Korea, and Japan.
So Nintendo stepped in. It made a change from one region to another region. Regardless, my larger point still stands. Older versions of Smash Brothers, which were pre-internet connected versions, weren’t necessarily updated, so even if Nintendo rebalanced one version from one region to another, it doesn’t mean that they were actively patching it. And regardless, Nintendo doesn’t have the same kind of active patching and balancing ethos that, you know, that other online games, like say League Of Legends, might have.
And frankly, as I said in the episode, I think that’s a really good thing. It allows for spontaneity, unpredictability, and for characters to become these, you know, diamonds in the rough over time. [MUSIC PLAYING]