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The Almighty Buck Games

How Do You Measure a Game's Worth? 188

RamblingJosh writes "Video games can be very expensive these days, especially with so many great games on the horizon. So I wonder: how exactly do you get the most gaming entertainment for your dollar? '... the first thing I personally thought about when approaching this was money spent versus time played. Using Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions as an example: I bought the game for about $30 Canadian, and played it for roughly 85 hours. That comes out to 2.83 hours per dollar spent, a pretty good number. In this case, the game was a lot of fun and it was cheap, and so the system works fairly well. There are so many other things to think about, though. What if the game wasn't so good? What about the fact that it's portable? ... What about the new content? Multiplayer?'"
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How Do You Measure a Game's Worth?

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  • Counterexample (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @07:36AM (#30868600)
    The new Silent Hill game for the Wii, Shattered Memories, was amazingly good; innovative, deep, intelligent... and maybe 8 hours long. $7.50 an hour. Absolutely worth it, in the sense a great movie is, even though it fails the $/hour test.

    On the other hand, a good strategy game, like any of the incarnations of Fire Emblem, can easily top a hundred hours. The metric has to be total enjoyment... and fond remembrance of the game counts into that total. Hell, the game is probably worth an extra quarter if it generates a decent slashdot post.
  • by lena_10326 ( 1100441 ) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @07:46AM (#30868638) Homepage
    It encourages re-use over the long term because:
    1. Players create the drama and "script" the dialog.
    2. Open ended which permits game play not conceived by the game authors.
    3. Encourages game mods which causes the game to endure long after the expected expiration.
    4. Making mods becomes it's own fun activity separate from the game.
    5. Encourages public player rankings and forums. Another fun activity separate from the game.
    6. Enduring games encourage the game developer to continue supplying content updates which can be cheaper than original game purchase.
  • Easy... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Windwraith ( 932426 ) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @08:01AM (#30868698)

    ...if you remember the game after 2-3 years, it is good.

  • by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @08:17AM (#30868774)

    Time spent playing (per dollar) seems like a good measurement. If a game has other advantages beyond being good, such as being a mobile phone game you can play while sitting bored on a train, then that will cause you to play it more. Everything naturally factors in.

    Of course, values between different people aren't comparable due to different tastes and amounts of time available to play games, and it's virtually impossible to work out in advance how many hours you will play the game for, but it's a good way to quantify a game's value.

    It's one way but not the only one. I paid about the same amount of money for Quake I and Duke Nukem, I also spent about the same amount of time playing them. As far as I was concerned Duke Nukem was the better game by far even though it didn't have nearly as much eye-candy as other games it was just more 'fun' to play. The same applies to Half Life I and II and Unreal as well, now that I think about it, were also superior games IMHO. A good game should take more than one weekend to complete (single player). I wouldn't even mind having the story spread out over a few expansion packs like Half Life (as long as they don't get greedy with the pricing), it should have a plot that makes sense, it should be 'fun' to play and I'd be willing to lose a bit of eye candy for things like playability, good AI and big well designed maps with lots of open spaces etc... I don't know about the rest of you, but take the some of the Doom series games for example, those endless rooms and hallways started boring me to tears after a while. Games other than 1st person shooters have different requirements. Take for example Civilization, going by length of game play it's a winner. I can still waste an entire day playing Civilization IV but they could improve the AI. In a game like that AI is really important.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @08:48AM (#30868932)

    But it's not the only metric. Let's ponder all those hours spent in FPS games with the old "get key from location A, run to location B on the other end of the map, get Key for A again" spiel. That's no fun and simply a time sink. We did it for a single reason: To get it behind us so we can continue having fun. So I'd propose that those hours of "tedium" should be subtracted from the "play time", or even count against the play time that could be considered "fun time".

    The best game would obviously not be repetitive or, if it is, still be enjoyable while you repeat yourself. All games are repetitive to some degree. The interface only has so many options, as do AI or gameplay. Gaining new weapons (FPS) or units (RTS) can either be just another set of tools or a completely new experience, and that's something to consider when pondering the value. Getting an automatic gun compared to your old repeating shotgun in a FPS can alter the style of game, or it can just be a necessity if the enemies just get harder to reflect this. Essentially, if the old gun becomes useless in every aspect once you have the new gun because it is simply no longer a viable choice, it's a bad development. You did not get a new option, you just got a new skin. Likewise, RTS. If new units make the old ones obsolete, you did not get new units. You only got a replacement and basically have to play with the same amount of choices you had before. New skins, but no new options.

    I like it when games guide you into the play style, when you start out with a limited set of options to get to know the interface and all, and then it expands from there. giving you more and more options over time (preferably giving you the option that you wished you had when you finally get it without engineering the situation to require this option. Usually that means it is only a viable option in very specific, almost necessarily artificially created situations). But those should be options. Not requirements.

    And that's just me. I, for one, could not stomach the item grind of games like WoW, but appearantly that's something a good deal of people enjoy. My metric for a "good game" is probably not the same you would use. For me it has to give me more and more options over the course of the game. When I get no new options, the fun starts to decline and the repetition starts. Multiplayer can help here a lot, given that a human opponent is harder to figure out and requires you to adapt your strategy to stay on par with him, but a computer AI will eventually be figured out fully and you will develop a winning strategy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 23, 2010 @09:57AM (#30869284)
    These days I've become skeptical of videogames. When they're all self-masturbatory derivative affairs, do "playtime" or "features" really tell the whole story of worth? Or even at all? What about their meaning or impact on the player? I've started judging worth of videogames based on how seriously they take themselves as a medium for communication. If a game can stand on its own two legs and say something to a person who isn't a hardcore gamer, then that's valuable.

    Now, that's not something quantitative like the OP seems to be looking for, but as far as I'm concerned, Braid or World of Goo are both worth just as much as Final Fantasy Tactics even though FFT may have had 4-5x more "playtime". I still, more than a year later will ruminate on some of the themes in these games, and the mental spaces and emotions they elicited from me, and that's a value you can't quantify.

    At the same time, I disagree with having this perception that value scales based on what "bonuses" or additional play features it provides me. I was never one to buy a DVD for special features, and I'm not one to buy a videogame now for special gameplay modes or whatever. I wouldn't pay more than $25 for any game, regardless, but then I am also a poor graduate student so that's probably a factor as well.
  • by ThatGuyJon ( 1299463 ) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @10:07AM (#30869340)

    You think that's evil? You haven't seen Bastet []

  • by Simon Brooke ( 45012 ) <> on Saturday January 23, 2010 @10:24AM (#30869444) Homepage Journal

    I was about to say almost exactly this.

    If a game is multi-platform, then you will play it more (if you don't it's not worth any more to you).

    Frankly I doubt this. Most of the games I play would not be enjoyable to play on my phone - the screen is much too small, and the phone hasn't got appropriate controls. I would prefer to be able to buy the games I play for Linux rather than having to keep a Windows box just for playing games, but I don't need any game which I do play to run on multiple platforms, because I'm only going to play it on one. Of course, if a game is Mac only (or Wii/Playstation/X-Box only) then I won't play it because I don't have those platforms. Making a game multi-platform expands the market for the game, but it doesn't make individual players play it more.

    If a game is good, then you will play it more.

    Oh, absolutely. I've played The Witcher [] at least 150 hours; Dragon Age [] about the same. Probably over a thousand of hours of Neverwinter Nights (which I only bought to support the Linux port) in its various incarnations and community add-ons. Certainly hundreds of hours of Sid Meier's Civlization, Alpha Centauri (both of which, again, I only bought because there were Linux ports and I wanted to support them), Pirates! and Railroads! Hundreds of hours on Settlers II, III and IV. And, back in the day, thousands of hours playing Elite [], the video game sans pariel. In terms of hours of entertainment per unit currency, good games are extraordinary value for money.

    I fins that about half the games I buy I only play once or twice. I don't resent that in the least, because the games that do work for me give me so much fun.

    If a game gets extra content, then you will play it more.

    Again, agreed, particularly if it comes with good modding tools and allows community-made content. After all, modding (and playing other people's mods) is half the fun of things like NWN and The Witcher.


  • by TBBle ( 72184 ) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @12:08PM (#30870060) Homepage

    I'd disagree that it's a different standard. Dollars per hour is only part of it though, the other half is the dollar value you put on the entertainment.

    Hours per dollar spent and dollars enjoyed per hour. You estimate these two amounts, and you get an estimate of dollars enjoyed versus dollars spent.

    So you're (or at least I'm, maybe I'm alone in this...) generally looking at games or DVDs or occasionally audio CDs and trying to guess how long/often I'll play 'em, and whether the entertainment per hour is sufficient to justify the cost-per-hour.

    Portal's a great example someone used below, because it's only 6 hours, but it's 6 high-quality hours, which you might pay more per-hour for than six hours of something dreadful.

    Games big difference over the cinema (and actually a commonality with books and audio CDs and DVDs) is that in the case of cinema, the entertainment length is arbitrarily limited by someone else, so you know the dollars-per-hour up front.

    For everything else, you have to guesstimate how much you're going to play/read/listen to something (I wouldn't pay for an album I'll listen to once through, but I'll buy an album which has a song or two I've had on my shortlist of songs for a month...)

    All the control you have over cinema entertainment (or a concert) is leaving early if you wish. That comes down to a sunk-cost consideration, which I can't say I've ever done, but I can see that people reach the point where they're enjoying a movie not at all (eg. $0/hour benefit).

    I personally generally use my income per hour when I consider entertainment dollars per hour. Something'd better be damn good for me to spend more than the income I make in an hour on it, but my Steam purchase history suggests that for $5, I'll buy something that I never expect to play...

    This also means that I generally give new full-price games a few hours at least, so they're dragged down to below my wage level, before they go onto the shelf and I forget to ever finish 'em.

    And funnily enough, I like longer movies because I do feel I'm getting better value for my ticket. Short-but-awesome will beat long-and-underwhelming still.

    On the other hand, I don't really apply this to books, but only because they're almost always less than an hour's work in cost, and more than an hour to read. So they're already below my pain threshold, in that respect.

    Graphic novels, on the gripping hand, are hideously expensive on a per-hour basis, so I generally buy only that which I know I'll enjoy. And I still always feel that it was too short for the cost.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!