All of this talk about the price of making games and the price of playing games thanks to Star Wars: Battlefront II has meant getting a pretty decent peek behind the curtain. Case in point: a lengthy discussion and explanation by Raph Koster about how expensive games really are. While Koster outright says that it’s wrong to say games are “too expensive to make,” he also points out that it’s undeniable that costs on making a game have risen hugely while box price has proportionally fallen. And as he points out, that’s because there’s no real market for second best.
The key thing to understand is that the public doesn’t buy B games. A game with stellar gameplay and less than state of the art graphics is generally simply left on the shelf. Yes, indie games with distinctive art have managed to break through so everyone will cite counterexamples, but looked at statistically, it’s something like 99.9% don’t.
Koster also focuses in on the idea that free-to-play is inherently predatory or winds up costing more in the long run; people will have price limits to get into something, but many will pay more over a period of time than they would pay up front. (The example he uses is of golfers dropping $50 a weekend for a full year when they’d never pay that much money up front.) It’s a worthwhile read if you have any interest in the costs of making games and how the economics work, which should be all of us; it also mirrors several of the things said in our recent Soapbox on the same topic, albeit from a development side rather than a journalism side.