The lights are on
I can't believe that more people don't play video games.
When I think of all the fun times I've had playing games, I'm surprised that
more people don't want to join our ranks. Then I think about the high barrier
to entry for home console gaming, and I realize it's no wonder more people
don't pick up the controller.
I'm not complaining about being a gamer, but in comparison
with the other hobbies I partake in, it requires a relatively high amount of
dedication. First, there is the cost of buying a home system. Depending on when
in a particular system's lifecycle you purchase it, it can run you several
hundreds of dollars. You may have even purchased more than one if you were interested
in playing a game that was console exclusive or if one broke at some point.
There are also various peripherals (a Kinect for the Xbox 360, PlayStation
Move, a second controller, etc.) you can spend money on.
The games themselves are $60 new, and might not even be that
cheap used depending on the title and when you buy it. But there are other
considerations once you leave the store. If it's a used game, you probably have
to buy a new online pass if you want to play multiplayer, and later on the servers
might be shut down, closing off that portion of the game entirely. Questions of
ownership – whether you're talking about backwards compatibility, used games,
or how much of a future your software has – are murkier with the next-gen
systems where backwards compatibility does not exist and the used game
landscape will likely be different than it is now.
Having a fast, stable online connection will also be
important for the next home consoles. The Xbox One needs to check in to
Microsoft's servers at certain intervals, and although Sony is saying the
PlayStation 4 doesn't require an Internet connection, PS4 features like video
sharing and cloud functionality necessitate one.
There is also the incurred cost that isn't related to your
wallet. Frankly, some people may not be interested in games because of the
social stigma to being called a gamer or the reverse – the fear of being judged
for the games you like to play or that you might not be good at playing them,
Time is another non-monetary cost to consider. Apart from
the time it takes to become proficient as a gamer or with a particular genre or
specific title, there is simply the amount of time it takes to get into your
average game. Between the obligatory opening tutorial, side missions, filler levels,
collect-a-thons, secret areas, and more, it can take a significant portion of
time to play a game to completion or to your satisfaction. For those of us with
precious little time, sometimes the notion of playing a game for hours without
any guarantee of payoff is its own barrier to gaming at that particular moment.
Even with all these things getting in the way of a solid,
satisfying gaming session, I'm not going to turn in my gamer card. Perhaps
cheaper, easier-to-consume mobile/tablet experiences are where I should turn my
attention. Or maybe free-to-play will be more of a force in the future.
Regardless, companies should reward gamers' long-standing dedication with
practices that are not meant to gouge our wallets, exclude us from easily
accessing the content we've purchased, and in general make it easier for us to
want to hand over our hard-earned cash. We quite willingly put up with a lot
for our hobby, but that doesn't mean we should be abused for it.
Email the author Matthew Kato, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.