“The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

What is a ‘good’ game worth exactly in these days where AAA MMOs embrace the F2P model, where Steam offers regular deep discount sales, where mobile apps tend to cost under a dollar each, and where collectors editions and ‘pre-purchase’ deals are climbing in price?

The economist would say that goods are worth whatever people are willing to pay, but as consumers we each have to arrive at  some concept of ‘a fair price’ to come to that decision. Frex, why did I think paying £50 for a pre-purchase of GW2 was unreasonable, where lots of other people thought it was fine? Which games would I buy on release, even if they did cost more than similar games in the past?

So when EA’s chap in charge of Origin spoke out against deep discount sales a couple of weeks ago, on the grounds that ‘they cheapen intellectual property’, it’s worth a pause to think about what he meant. Economists love increasing discounts because of the idea that every reduction opens up a new tier of customers who would want the product at the new price but wouldn’t have been prepared to pay more. And if everyone knows that the sales/ reductions will be coming, people just have to decide how much they’d be willing to pay and how long they’d be willing to wait and buy accordingly. It’s all about expectations. If it wasn’t guaranteed that sales would  happen then more people might pay higher prices, on the grounds that they’d rather have the game than not, and waiting might not result in a price drop. You see this sometimes with Blizzard games, since they have a reputation for not offering discounts for a long time after release. Although I think they will have lost some goodwill from the WoW annual pass, especially if the release date for MoP drifts towards the end of the year.

Anyhow, EA evidently had some internal differences on the topic since they’ll be offering deep discounts on games on Origin. That’s … fairly contradictory.

Have your ideas on ‘a fair price’ for games changed over the past few years?

But this has all made me wonder how I decide on what is a fair price for games I buy.

  • I didn’t have any issues paying full price and a full sub for SWTOR (I’m still enjoying it, for the record, and feel that I’m getting my money worth), but when EA start talking about F2P for SWTOR, my first reaction is to rethink my plans to take out another 6 month sub – what’s the point if they might experiment with cheaper options? (That’s illogical btw since I can’t imagine it’d happen within 6 months anyway – but it makes you think.)
  • For an MMO I am mildly interested in but not to the point of getting in on release, knowing that F2P could be a future option is more likely to make me wait and see.
  • But I’m still not fond of F2P models for MMOs, I don’t think I would want to make my ‘main’ MMO a F2P one.
  • Steam sales have made me think “wait 6 months or so until it’s cheap in a sale” on some games which I might have otherwise picked up sooner. Or I might not, but knowing the sale will come does affect the decision.
  • I do also have a few games picked up cheaply in Steam sales that I haven’t really played yet, so perhaps not THAT good value.
  • The humble indie bundles also have to make anyone think hard about buying indie games, if price is your only criteria, because some of the strongest indie games have ended up in these cheap bundles.
  • I don’t like it when full box price creeps above £40 for new releases, that makes me far more likely to look round for a deal or wait for a sale.
  • And increasingly, the amount of play I get out of a game isn’t strongly related to how much I paid. With sub games that I enjoy, the link is actually quite close though.

So – have your ideas on fair pricing changed?

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