Consumerism & Gaming

“Consumerism is a social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts.” – Wikipedia.

I was rifling stacks of digital shelves teaming with gaming titles in my Steam library along with GOG to choose next best gaming title to be installed after completing SOMA.  Honestly, it was and is becoming most “stressful” decision-making process. In upcoming years, it’s going to get worse as I realized my “to-be-played” game list is ever-increasing tail of snake in that classic old Snake game we used to play longingly on our handhelds. Only exception is, no “Game Over” in sight. Even though I somehow able to run through all titles bought by me on current date basis for single play through, there is much more fodder to chew upon for next few years. Forget about second runs. Co-op and multiplayer also not counted. Is such consumerism good for Gaming industry?

I am no economist. On a chilled winter night, having discussion with one of my colleague-cum-friend, he raised the topic of consumerism and impact of the same on our daily lives. If I count myself conservative for consumer goods, I am extremely likely opposite of it when games and books come into picture. Currently Gaming industry is booming billions dollar business globally. In USA and European countries along with few technology-forward Asia-Pacific countries like Korea and Japan, buying games is quite mainstream. But in developing countries like India it’s still in lower gear, accelerating gradually. Credit goes to digital distribution model and inclusion of local currencies. Steam has almost claimed the market with local currency model and all the deals cropping up on regular basis. Other digital distributor also going to follow the trend soon. Still Consumerism won’t hold the same meaning when we are talking about Gaming Industry as there are some peculiar features which can only be applicable to Gaming. Here I would like to focus on PC and console gaming which is comparably more expensive than mobile or F2P model.

Pricey Affair: First and foremost, though user base is quite diverse, Gaming is considered as prime hobby, kind of expensive which could only be claimed by upper or upper-middle class. Average price of the high-end Consoles are approximately 35-42% of per capita income if we consider latest figure of 93,000 Rs. To build high-end gaming PC would cost much more than that. Price of newly launched Console title costs around 4000 to 5000 Indian rupees which is  almost 5% of per capita income. So, gamers are reluctant to buy new title right away if price is on higher side. They tend to wait out till some discounted price is on offer. And that is quite good approach when it comes to gaming as though shelf-life is short, lifespan of a typical title lasts very much longer. There is always something else on offer on lower price tag to satisfy the itch. And that’s when hoarding starts. As a Gamer you want to acquire titles during sale even though you didn’t have time to play as tempting slashed prices are too good to ignore. As soon as you see title with 50-60% price of the original, you right away make your mind to play the game at later date and buy it now. Series and franchisee loyalty also play big part in buying the title. For publishers, new IP is always difficult decision. It takes some time to get traction.

Value for Money: It’s always debatable topic that when should gamer be satisfied in terms of value for money. In gaming, user or consumer is active part of the value. In simpler terms, I might be perfectly happy with short but quality game-play. On the other hand others might not feel satisfied with hours and hours of content. Genre also play the bigger role here. One don’t want to have RPG of 10-12 hours of total gameplay. Contrary to that, 10-12 hours of FPS gaming is more than enough. In short, Gamers are specific buyers. They know their genre well. To draw new consumers is entirely different beast. Though genres also applied to other media like movies and books but they get advantage of peer-review and mouth-to-mouth publicity. Also you don’t have to invest yourself completely to experience them. In Gaming, you won’t take others word for your experience. There are examples of flawed gems where patchy designs actually enhances the gameplay so much that these titles are now considered as cult. STALKER series, Deadly Premonition are few to name.

Sliced: This brings us to sale and discounted prices. And consumer market is same as for other consumer goods. If particular title on discounted price, there is always chance of picking up the sale. And all consumers are attracted towards slashed prices. Gamers no different. Though it’s always difficult to perform valuation in the first place. Softwares or services tends to have various business models and choosing the correct one makes all the difference. Weather to go for F2P or premium package or MMO with gradual contents or go for low-investment cost mobile gaming, are just basic inception ideas Publishers/Developers have to face. Though most of AAA studios back their breads on many burners, kick-starters and Indie developers had gained much appreciated welcome to introduce their own quality flavor. Economic model and value chain of Gaming industry itself is vast topic. I would take that up in future series of blogs.

No Pay, No Gain: I have already put emphasis before on the fact that you need to fuel the economic engine by paying up fair if you don’t want your favorite entertainment to be vanished from market. Paying up for indie development also encourage more quality and passion-driven projects. Game lovers like me do this often. Long list of “to-be-played” games are fair proof of that.

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