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Editorial

We’re Not Paying Enough For Video Games

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I want to talk about the value that gaming provides, and explain why it may be time for things to change.

If you think about it, the cost per hour of gaming is relatively low. Sure, you have the high initial investment of your console/PC, but after that it’s the cost of the games that you have to worry about.  When you consider a game that could have 20 hours of gameplay all the way up to sprawling RPGs touting 100+ hours of content, it’s easy to see why some developers go bust trying to make enough money to stay in business from making a product that can literally take years and years before it’s ready for release.

This is all the more worrisome because the $60 price point of triple-A games has not changed in over a decade. The Xbox 360 was largely responsible for the $60 ceiling we’re familiar with today, although there were odd games here and then even prior to that that were in that ballpark. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that $60 has been in place for 11 years… that’s a long time to see absolutely zero increase in the cost of a commodity, particularly when you consider that the underlying costs of making games have increased substantially. Technology has advanced ridiculous levels in those 11 years. Developers need higher salaries to put food on the table and support their families. And perhaps the biggest factor for the cost of game design increasing is that gaming budgets are now orders of magnitude larger than they were 11 years ago. Destiny, GTA V, and Star Wars: The Old Republic all had budgets of over $100 million, and that’s before factoring in marketing and advertising costs.

Frankly, the current $60 model is unsustainable at current levels. When you consider that it can cost $10-20 to go and see a blockbuster film at the cinema, or a brand new book could cost $20-$30 when its first released in hardback, it’s difficult to jibe that kind of utility against what we regularly expect to receive for our $60 in games. And this doesn’t even include added value from DLC (which may in some circumstances be released for free, as CD Projekt Red did for The Witcher 3), or multiplayer modes that for some games are actually pretty damn good, even if we largely just bought them for the single-player experience and story (the Uncharted series, Mass Effect 3, some Splinter Cell titles, for example).

The gaming world is littered with the corpses of game developers and publishers that have gone under. THQ… Psygnosis… 38 Studios… Blizzard North… Lionhead… Looking Glass… and many, many more. The gaming industry is fickle, and what sells well today may not be what sells well tomorrow. The only true way to insulate yourself against the boom-and-bust cycle is to be a developer so large that you can absorb the losses from some underperforming titles without it completely wiping you out. That’s why the EAs and Ubisofts of the world are still around, but even a larger company like THQ wasn’t immune to this when they went bankrupt in 2012.

I believe there are only two solutions to this problem: either the costs of developing games have to be reduced, or the cost of games themselves should increase. In many ways it’s a problem of our own making. Developers and publishers wanted us to buy their games, so started throwing bigger budgets at titles to encourage us to buy their games containing flashy graphics and Hollywood voice actors. We bought them, which encouraged even bigger budgets, and so on and so forth, until here we are.

It’s a hard sell to say to EA “Please make a shittier-looking game that contains bad voice acting from the 1990s”. And so with that in mind, the only solution I can see is to raise the price of games. Maybe $60 needs to be $65, or $75, or even $80. I’m not on what number you land exactly, but we’re getting a really good deal, and have gotten a really good deal for over a decade. In exchange, the average game developer can approach 100 hour work weeks during the crunch period, and have some of the worst job security of any skilled career. It’s difficult to see why anyone would voluntarily choose to work in such a such a capricious industry, but they do, and the games we like to play depend on them continuing to do so.

Of course, given the steep discounts we see on games even very shortly after release now (Battleborn was recently marked down to $27 on the PC less than a month after launch) you may not actually pay more than $60 if you’ve a savvy gamer who waits for sales. The point still stands though that we’re getting tremendous value in a bloodthirsty industry that exists almost solely for our benefit. If the only way to balance the scales a little is to suck it up and pay a little more for the games we know and love so that developers can have a bit more security then perhaps that’s something we should seriously consider.

The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.

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I write about PC games and sometimes it even makes sense. I'm a refined Englishman, but live in Texas with my two young children whom I am training in the ways of the Force.

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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