How many times have you been browsing a store or perhaps even a digital catalog and said, “If that was a few dollars cheaper I’d buy it”? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do that. I’d also be lying if I said that I didn’t do it almost daily.
I see content all the time that I am interested in, but immediately brush it off because the price just isn’t right. My latest offense was hastily demoing Trials: Evolution and immediately saying, “I’ll buy this when it goes down in price”, knowing full well that I would get hours of enjoyment out of it at its current price. I’m sure some of you feel the same way, but where does this stem from? Where do these pricing barriers we set for ourselves originate from?
The psychology behind our purchasing decisions as gamers has altered drastically in recent times. Where we used to just purchase something and hope that we got our money’s worth, we now evaluate a game on much deeper levels, but ultimately it seems to revolve around price. A game’s worth in dollars is magnified more now than ever. We see a game on Xbox Live for 1200 MSP, but tell ourselves that it is must buy at 800 MSP. In reality it is only a $5 (£3) price difference, but we have been conditioned to think that small price difference is a matter of life and death. We spend $5 (£3) without even thinking on numerous other things every day, but when it comes to games, in particular digital downloads; we have curbed our impulses and refined our spending habits. Are gamers becoming more intelligent consumers or are we just mindlessly scrutinizing prices?
Digital downloads are more prevalent now than ever, but even within the context of this market we still exhibit a certain brand of thriftiness. The prices, no matter how low they are, still aren’t low enough. But why, why aren’t they low enough? Oh that’s right; a little digital marketplace called the App Store sells games for 99¢. Since the introduction of this pricing model we have been lumping all things digital into one category and that couldn’t be more of an issue. Xbox Live, PSN, Steam, Origin and other digital services offer content digitally and are all considered competition to one another, but even though they offer moderately different content from one another including Apple’s App Store, but we transfer our purchasing psychology upon them.
You hear all the time that Apple is gaming averse. That they never intended to have their products be used as a gaming platform; well like it or not Apple your products are used for gaming probably only second to music listening or checking Facebook. Companies chomp at the bit to get their stuff on the App Store because it has a ridiculously large install base. It’s also no trade secret that games sell like gangbusters on the App Store and most of the ones that are hugely successful ring out for 99¢ (a la Angry Birds).
My chief concern doesn’t entail established platforms like the aforementioned, but more so that newer digital store fronts will not have the opportunity to blossom because they do not embrace this price scheme; case in point, Nintendo’s E-Shop. Nintendo has made great strides with the E-Shop on the 3DS, but has little to no content worth a damn in the range of 99¢. Nintendo wants to embrace more digital media with the coming of the Nintendo Network and the Wii U, but knowing Nintendo I can’t see them selling software, especially their own, for less than what they currently offer it for. Third parties might lower the price ceiling on the E-Shop pending Nintendo allows such a maneuver and we just might see the same explosive potential that the App Store showcases regularly, but until that becomes a reality I implore you to consider different pricing standards.
I don’t want to vilify Apple, because just like everyone else, they probably didn’t see this coming either. Gamers as a whole need to reassess how value is quantified; is it simply in dollars and cents or is there something more inherent we are missing? Consolidating all things digital under one pricing structure isn’t likely to happen and to be frank, isn’t fair. Things will continue to be priced accordingly and as future consumers of digital content we need not retain our antiquated lines of thought. We must acknowledge other pricing standards exist with their own set of principles. Whether we choose to accept them or has yet to be seen, but will ultimately lay the foundation for future platforms.
I didn’t want to end this without answering my question at the beginning of this article about gamers being more intelligent consumers or just simple price scrutinizers. I honestly think it’s a combination of both. More and more gamers are living on a budget, but we also have infinitely greater access to information now, than ever before. Making a decision through the lens of a budget will display a vastly different image on the other side and also knowing anything you want at the push of a button keeps us from overspending. I don’t think intelligence factors in as much as responsibility does, if anything gamers have become more conscious consumers, hence why all of this is happening in the first place. Things in the industry are changing much faster than anyone could have anticipated, I guess the same changes are applying to the consumer as well, for better and worse.
Have you ever knowingly or unknowingly engaged in such kind of thought? Has the 99¢ app forever augmented value for gamers? Lastly, do you think other digital platforms like Nintendo’s E-Shop will fade into obscurity if they don’t adopt an Apple like pricing model? Let us know your sentiments in the comments section.