Tag Archives: RPG

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.

Kickstarting the Old engine

Pillars of Eternity

I am very much obliged and indebted to Kickstarters; a way of crowdfunding the project with support of zealot fans. And if you are fan of old school RPGs than you must also feel the same. With the release of Pillars of Eternity, Obsidian has proved their mettle on crafting massive yet engaging RPG. This proves that what can very very talented crew can do once they were given free rein. Even though lot many failures in mind, few Kikstarter gems like Wasteland 2, Divinity: Original sin, Dreamfall chapters, Pillars of eternity and many more has just created torrents of wind in the sail of crowdfunding. Anyhow it’s happy-happy situation for both parties as creators getting their hard work rewarded in monetary aspect as well as getting the recognition on larger scale; and consumers can spent money on what they want to play and in turn take part in building good-quality product through feedback and beta testing. Kickstarter is also great way of treading waters before plunging right away into risky Gaming Ocean.

Apart from quality products major influence of such kickstarting projects are revival of old titles, especially old school RPG has gained a lot. Never was I so excited to play old Fallout series along with classic old Wasteland until Wasteland 2 got released. Due credit to these creators on never wavering away from producing old school RPG nostalgia for their true fans. Just when I thought that Gaming is getting drifted towards more pixel crunching, high definition, high resolution, graphics intensive scale; titles like Wasteland 2 and Pillars of eternity has kicked the scale in other direction in the year 2014-15. It also proved that excellent writing is old horse but experience one and you can safely bat on it without losing the money. It’s so good to visualize the atmosphere through pixel produced text rather than pixel crunching GPU rendered atmosphere. (There are two most appealing aspects to me in the life; Gaming and Reading. So anything which can combine the both in most innovative and brilliant manner is must for me. I loved those DA:O lore. I loved to read Skyrim books. I absolutely adored so many text dialogues in Planscape: Torment. Alas for that you need to have highly intelligent character and that’s what I have done.)

RPGs have come a long way since its inception. D&D pen and paper RPGs were purely text based and still lot more fun. Even though 90’s were dominated by FPS gaming, RPGs managed to hang on with help of classics like System Shock 2, Deus Ex, Baldurs Gate, Neverwinter nights, WoW etc. But there were less and less of party based RPGs. Bioware has somehow managed the light from extinguishing with release of Dragon Age: Origins having party based strategic combat at core (It’s altogether sad that they lost track with series to put emphasis on mass appeal). Bethesda has started different kind of RPG strand with Elders Scroll series which was deep and complex and at the same time approachable by many. With Fallout3 and New Vegas, RPG has completely donned new “Avatar” which was entirely different from old school text-heavy predecessors. Mind you, all these modern RPG titles has retained the flavor of RPG for sure. Still there was XP to be earned, points to be allocated, quests to be solved, character to be developed, alternate solution to be found and all the tropes of RPG; but I feel that somehow in introducing and hence using the new graphics hardware those nostalgic text-based adventures were replaced. Heavy tactical combat was compromised. (BTW I am big fan of Elders scrolls and Fallout of Bethesda as they had pulled me into RPG black hole at that time and still time froze than onwards). Titles like Deus Ex:HR and Borderlands have combined few more game types resulting in movie like quality of non-stop fun and action. And those turn based strategic old school RPG were left alone for resurrection which was possible through new god; Kickstarter.

With the release of successive attention grabbing cRPG titles, can we say that computer gaming is getting back to the old route? I prefer to say Gaming has just found new route running parallel to the current expressway of AAA titles. Love to see these old school RPGs getting appreciated and played well by gaming community. This in turn going to result in many more Kickstarter projects resurrecting and/or creating new cRPG games in old school way. And if you are new to RPG than what are you waiting for, gather your party and move…………………