A New Way of Thinking About Video Game Cost

We live in a world where metrics can drive people mad. If people start assigning values based on certain properties, there will always be others who suggest that doing so is wrong. Green Man Gaming, a well known distributor for digital games, has come under fire for a new stat it is offering to help seal deals. Some product listings have Stats & Facts sections, which now reflect “average cost per hour.” Oh, no!

Here is why people are getting flustered. Some people think that games’ prices should be dictated by how much play time you get for your money. People who think cost should be determined by other factors worry that a site like Green Man Gaming offering this assessment as one of its selling points is sending the wrong message. Like people are going to all start demanding accountings from games, comparing how long they are, how much they cost and adjusting prices so things are “fair.” You know, because games are art, and how can you properly assign a price to art, and what about the effort people put into it and the message. You know, they worry about the finer things getting overlooked.

And that is a justifiable concern. There is a worry that some people might start hopping on the bandwagon for the wrong reasons. But maybe we should not be so reactionary. Instead of vilifying Green Man Gaming for offering this additional bit of insight or working ourselves over people daring to figure out the average cost per hour for Skyrim (29¢), maybe we should see this as being just another way people can weigh the benefits of certain games. Maybe we should understand that people know that these figures are a general assessment and may not always reflect what will be our own experience.

Let’s stick with Skyrim, a game people can often get 100 to 200 hours out of, as our example. The Green Man Gaming page for it has a graph showing the number of players over 24-hour, 48-hour, seven day, 30 day, three month, six month and 12 month periods of time. It says the average cost per hour is 29¢, average play time is 69.4 hours, average completion rate is 22% of owners, over 728,000 members of its community own it and it has a 9.2 “excellent” rating on the site. While these are there to help people be a bit more informed before buying, both the cost per hour and play time figures have “average” assigned to them. It is not saying this applies to everyone. It is designed to give an idea of how long someone could expect to play and what the monetary figure might be. I would wager more people are concerned with the community giving it a 9.2 rating than the cost. Though, if someone is on a budget, that might be more appealing.

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Now, let’s look at Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. This is also a very good game, but it is significantly shorter than Skyrim. It took me about three hours to beat it. At Green Man Gaming, it shows the average cost per hour is $9.73, average play time is 1.5 hours, average completion percent is 14%, over 179,000 community members own it and it has an 8.9 “excellent” rating. Say Skyrim and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons were $19.99 and $14.99, respectively, at this time. If someone only has $20 to spend on a game for an entire month, then Skyrim could be more attractive. These metrics would help someone see that the averages suggest it could be more cost effective and entertain them for a longer period of time. If they have $20 for the week to spend on the game, then someone would not weigh the cost as heavily, would see Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is both popular and has an “excellent” rating, and could go with it instead.

We are living in a period of time where some people do not have huge entertainment budgets. After paying bills, covering gas, and taking care of food, there might only be $60 left as “fun” money. If a site like Green Man Gaming, which is known for offering cheap games and discounts, wants to help its customers, who could be strapped for cash, by offering that metric, more power to them. It is not saying that the average cost per hour is the only thing that matters. It is just saying this is one of seven measurements people may want to consider when making a decision. Considering the financial hardships some people might face, we should try to be less judgmental. We should not say prices should be dictated by play time and the cost per hour, but should acknowledge that it could matter a lot to some people.

Jenni Lada
Jenni Lada

Writing Team
Date: 05/23/2018

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