The Last Guardian

With The Last Guardian’s Price Drop It’s Time to Reevaluate How We Judge Games

The Last Guardian Sees Prices Slashed

Eight weeks after its release, Sony’s The Last Guardian got a permanent price drop. Its new price is $39.99, $20 off the original $59.99 retail price.

The Last Guardian is an action adventure game following a young boy and his half-bird half-mammal pal Trico. Drawing inspiration from his previous games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, designer and director Fumito Ueda combined puzzles and action as the characters explored their environment.

Due to the game’s almost decade-long development, many feared that The Last Guardian would never see the light of day. With rumors of troubled development and worries of the game’s waning relevance, The Last Guardian had a lot to prove. Although many critics liked The Last Guardian, the game failed to live up to the hype.

The Last Guardian
Photo credit – The Verge

Cost vs. Content

According to many reviews, The Last Guardian was by no means a bad game.  The unnamed boy and his cat-bird-dog companion were engaging and sympathetic, with incredibly life-like AI programming for Trico. But beautiful visuals couldn’t save the game from glitches, frustrating controls, and strange camera angles.

Nevertheless, The Last Guardian’s price drop is going to indicate a decrease in more than just monetary value to many. Players too often equate cost to quality. Most games cost $60; anything less can seem like a lesser game. A Triple A game at this high price point is usually associated with high production costs, high finish, and lots of content. By pricing a game lower, gamers sometimes assume that it’s lower quality or a less full experience.

Jonathan Blow’s colorful and complex puzzle game The Witness faced a backlash for its $40 price point. However, many critics praised it as “beautiful, powerful, and cleverly designed.” Consensus was The Witness was one of the year’s best. Interestingly, Blow said that after the game’s release, the cost complainers stopped complaining. Although players eventually judged The Witness for its content and not its cost, many other games can’t escape cost evaluation.

The Witness
Photo credit – IGN

Time is Money

There seems to be a common consensus among gamers that a lower price point means less game time and that less game time means less quality.

This has led to an unfortunate trend in game development. Developers will try and add unnecessary hours of gameplay, usually at the expense of narrative coherency, in order to make games value for money. Alien: Isolation successfully captured the feel of the original film, and pleased both fans and non-fans of the franchise. But the run time dragged on a little too long, finishing a few hours after a natural conclusion. Some players might enjoy the extra game time, but for some this was a frustrating ploy to justify the price.

Although it makes sense for gamers to want their money’s worth, bigger doesn’t always mean better. Shorter games can be just as powerful and entertaining as longer ones. Journey, one of the fastest-selling games on the PlayStation Store, has an average play time of two hours. As well as indie games, horror games also tend to be shorter more intense experiences. This format benefits the genre, and shouldn’t be a reflection of the game’s quality. It’s the age old battle between quality and quantity.

Cases like this perpetuate the “time equals quality” mentality, even though gamers aren’t always getting the best experience and developers are sometimes selling their own games short.

Alien Isolation
Photo credit – Polygon

The Value of Games

The industry needs to move away from equating things like cost and length with value. This trend is a reflection of players’ expectations rather than developers’ intentions. As consumers, we all expect a return for our money. But gamers should try re-evaluating what that return is. An experience like Journey is unforgettable and worth its price – or perhaps more – because of its lasting emotional impact. That’s a less concrete, yet still valuable return that is hard to quantify with dollars and hours. However, the games industry is a business, and developers need to cover their costs, which is only getting harder. To make these games as attractive as possible means advertising things like substantial campaigns, or lots of replay value.

With so many different types of games available, it doesn’t make sense to try and compare games based on things like how much money they’re worth, or how long you can spend with it. A 2 or 3 hour long game could be more entertaining than a game with a sixty plus hour campaign. In the same way, a game that costs you $10 might be more creative and immersive than one you pick up for $60.

It may be time to re-evaluate how we evaluate games.

Jess Barnes
Jess is a gamer and a writer with an alarmingly large book collection, and is addicted to all things Sci-Fi. She's also started a novel, because she's mad and apparently hates free time.

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