Playing any sort of video game has a steep price associated with it, from purchasing the console to going out and actually buying the games you want. I've always accepted this, that there would be a hefty price to whatever game I enjoyed playing the most, and have really tried to make smarter decisions in what to buy. But looking back at the history of gaming (and how I've taken part of this vicious cycle), it's hard not to be bitter about how the games I've had the most fun on have cost me anywhere from double, to
triple the amount of cash spent to own the disc.
Gaming is filled with peripherals designed to make playing games more fun, anything from fake guns to Gameboy attachments. These add-on devices are supposed to bring logevity to a title, add more friends to the mix, or just make it easier to play. Sometimes they work pretty well, and other times they flop. It's hard not to see Nintendo as the King of Attachments, looking at either their history in the industry or their more recent console. However, there are plenty of other games out there that suck away cash. Fighting games for example, are not the biggest offenders on the list but often times ask more of their fans than most. Going to play online only to discover the difference a MadCatz or Sanwa controller makes is a cold reality. Worse yet, the cost for playing some fighters even includes importing a game to play on a region free (or imported) console. An expensive proposition simply to engage in a bit of competition.
Downloadable content (DLC) is another offender that has spiraled out of control for the worse, as consumers are forced to pay more and more cash to get the 'maximum experience'. To add insult to injury a lot of this 'bonus content' is featured right on the disc. It's to the point that when purchasing a game, you can't just think about what you'll be getting right out of the box. Consider what maps will be featured in the future, characters will be unlocked, multiplayer levels or scenarios that may be worth looking into. These things can ultimately raise a games price tag substantially, all to put a couple more hours of life back into a disc.
While I'm all for making my favorite games last even longer, there must be a better way to go about doing this. On one hand it's always good to support developers for taking the time to extend the experience, but while companies are still in debate over what the real price point for the content is, gaming consumers are simply suffering. Dragon Age is a fantastic example, featuring a slew of missions that are all purchasable individually on top of a full expansion that costs less than a full price game. I would almost prefer that content to be in an extensive expansion pack that will provide more than simply an extra hour or two.
The situation is extra touchy when it comes to map/gun packs that FPS titles enjoy releasing for their multiplayer, as how useful the pack is to begin with is completely subjective to how often one has the time to play online. Someone pouring 24 hours a day, every day into multiplayer will obviously get more use out of Stimulus Package and therefore be getting a better deal compared to someone working a 9-5 job. Wouldn't it be better to offer the content then, at a lower price to ensure that everyone can make the most of it? That would certainly be more fair to the general consumer, especially when you consider how often map packs are released and how quickly low-priced digital content moves.
In the end, everything has a price and hidden fees associated with it. Enjoying a game casually should never feature a list of growing expenses, accumulated over time. If anything it's encouraged me to stop buying some games, wait for sales on DLC, and overall hold off spending money within the industry. After all, it will only be a few months before a new Game of the Year edition is released, featuring all the content at a lower price than the initial launch. If the only response publishers leave gamers is to be more frugal with their cash, then so be it.