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On Reviewers Setting Consumer Price Expectations

These days it’s a common thing to read quotes like “the game is overpriced for what it offers”, “the game should have a campaign, without it, I’m not buying it”, “really, only 50 levels?”.

These days it’s a common thing to read quotes like “the game is overpriced for what it offers”, “the game should have a campaign, without it, I’m not buying it”, “really, only 50 levels?”.

Fine, no problem about this, WHEN TALKING ABOUT 50€/$ games! Those quotes actually come from 1$ games’ reviews, and not only from the consumer themselves (who I don’t expect to be familiar with game development), but also from professional reviewers. I’m doing a fair bit of “everyone in the same basket” here, no offense.

I'm addressing this issue after reading this review of SHIFT Extended (PSP Minis Fishing Cactus released last month) which states: “At 3.99, it is extremely over-priced, regardless of the number of levels available”…

Now let's consider that SHIFT Extended has gathered very positive reviews and is ranked high up there with the best PSP Minis games, offers around 4 hours of gameplay, took some months to produce and that... well, 3.99$ is less than the price for a movie ticket. (not trying to advertise SHIFT Extended, just making clear it is viewed as a fairly good game for PSP minis).

Is this a far-sighted advice to consumers from someone who is supposed to know how game development works?

Don't think so.

Honestly, how can reviewers review a game that took 3 or 4 people three months to produce and say that “the game is very cool but at this price I can’t recommend it”? For a game sold for something like 2$, 3$, 4$ ? REALLY? Is the 1$-2$ difference the deal breaker in these financial crisis times?

The fact that the iOS price drops we’ve seen in the last couple of years is undoubtedly bad in the long term for developers AND consumers (as future games can’t be funded) has already been covered by several bloggers and game devs all around the world so I’m not going there.

What I’m ranting about is the fact that many professional reviewers don’t seem to take into account the realities of game development and in turn educate the general public into thinking that more than 1$ is an excessive price. Reviewers should review game truthfully BUT should support the industry by understanding the financials of how it all works.

We expect reviewers to have at least some knowledge of how a game is built and how game development works. Claiming that prices between 2$ and 5$ are “excessive” when taking into account the effort and resources that game development requires is an inconsiderate lack of professionalism. They’re not reviewing mass-produced socks, they’re reviewing a media product in which a lot of creativity and technical effort went into (no offense to socks). Or maybe I'm simply wrong, game development has become a mass-produced socks like industry?

Also very important, the merits of a game are independent from its price. A game is not less good because it costs more. It’s just as good.

Generally, movie reviewers don’t say, “cool movie, but at that price, it’s crap” right? Price doesn’t come into account when judging a movie. Why? Because they know how big of a deal it is to create and produce a movie and bring it to the audience. And movies need the revenue to continue producing stuff.

I’m not saying 2$ games and 50$ games should be judged in the same category but being picky about 1$ or 2$ on a game (especially a good one) is just plain wrong and will model consumer expectations in a way that will make very difficult for small to middle-sized developers to support their activity and make a living out of producing what gamers want and provide quality & innovative titles in the long term.

Bottom line: Reviewers, please be aware that you're a crucial part of the game industry and while we ask no more than your honest advice about games (and how it can be sh**), it is important to learn how your own industry works and how it NEEDS to be supported.

By all means, voice your concerns about game quality but it's time we stop educating players in expecting games for free.

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