Should Playtime Determine How Much A Game Costs?

Over the years, gamers have become more conscious of the price of games. With many players looking at the time it takes to finish a game before the buying it, we look at the age old question of whether playtime should affect the price of a new title.

There are so many factors to take into consideration when purchasing a new game. Players look at all sorts of things, including the genre of the title, its gameplay mechanics and overall theme, among any others. One such factor that many players tend to focus on for varying reasons, is the amount of playtime offered by a specific game. Over and over again, people contemplate the question: should playtime determine how much publishers and developers charge for a game?

Gaming prices have continued to increase over the years, supposedly, due to the increase in realistic components and complexity of the game being released. This idea provides an understandable reason as to why the price of games increase, but there will be a stage where some players consider the price to be unrealistic in relation to what is being offered. There are several reasons players can draw this conclusion about a particular title, including the amount of prospective playtime.

One focus area in this debate is the “average cost per hour” metric, which looks at the game cost and divides it by the average amount of time spent playing that specific title. Based on this metric, the higher the number of hours that can be spent playing the game, the more justifiable a higher price becomes. There are loads of games one can buy which provide countless hours of play time. Ultimately, this game would then be judged to be a great return on investment. The only issue with this metric is that there are other factors a player may look at when deciding whether a game is worth purchasing, most of which are subjective. 

Although the notion of “average cost per hour” is seen as an unrealistic metric, it definitely is taken into consideration when determining which particular game to purchase. If you know that a game is going to, on average take a certain number of hours to complete and you as a consumer deem this figure is good enough for the amount you would pay for the game, it will impact your purchasing decision. But, even that average completion rate is not entirely reliable as people complete the same game at different times due to the skill of the player or whether the genre of game caters to their wants.

If we could categorise different games relative to their price, these categories would be somewhat as follows:

  • Free Games
  • Relatively Inexpensive Games
  • Medium-Priced Games
  • Expensive Games

But, even this categorisation method is subjective as one individual could rate a game as a relatively inexpensive game, and another person could rate the same game as an expensive game. Within these categories, there are games that would provide certain players tremendous hours of play time but would not suit others, providing very little overall satisfaction. If you look at the “Free Games” category, the cost of the game is zero, so regardless of the amount of playtime you get out of it, you are already “winning” as your reward will always be higher than the price you pay. That being said, there will be some games that consumers play for hours on end and others which are only played for a couple of hours here and there before players eventually get tired of it.

Another aspect is the purpose of the game as single player games normally have a timeline of starting the game, embodying the character on their quest throughout the story, completing side missions and working through the overall narrative arc before getting to the end of the game. The journey is what makes it an enjoyable and memorable experience.

Other games, such as multiplayer games, tend to have a longer lifespan in terms of number of hours played due to the fact that there often is no definitive narrative that it needs to follow. If you are able to make awesome plays or “memories” with the friends you play with, the “average cost per hour” is always likely to decrease as you keep on playing the game.

With all of the above taken into consideration, “us” as consumers need to realise that the studios developing these multiplex games have (somewhat) of a justification behind charging high prices in some instances. These groups have built a brand that most customers are able to trust in developing top quality games.

Most people thinking of a racing game will either think of the likes of Forza. Another example can be seen in the first-person shooter genre, where if many had to think of the best shooting games they have played, they may gravitate towards the Call of Duty or Battlefield franchises. These companies also have to take into account the monumental amount of work and effort undertaken in making top grade games for their customers and the various costs that are not taken into consideration by the consumer.

On the topic of price, everyone has to remember that every game is produced by a company that is looking to making profits; those companies will continue making games as long as customers are purchasing the products. If the product is terrible, the consumers will most likely not purchase from that company in the future. There will be a time where the consumer does not deem it worthy to pay the for a future game price based on past experiences.

As an avid gamer, there are definitely more factors that I take into consideration than just the average cost per hour, but that is not to say that I do not look at it. I think that it is still an important metric to have knowledge of when looking at potential games to purchase, even if it is not the only metric.

What do you base YOUR decision on when purchasing a game? Please share in the comments below.