What is a Game Worth?

Halo: ODST was criticized as “not worth full price” since it was “just” an expansion of Halo 3. Yet this was the game that introduced Firefight, which became a staple of later titles and significantly extended the life of the game. Since it didn’t require intimidating and often hostile online play, my wife and I played hours and hours of co-op against waves of Covenant opponents in Firefight matches. That doesn’t even count the replayability of the campaign (nearly as good as Halo 3, in my opinion) or the add-ons like the Halo 3 multiplayer maps or beta access to Reach multiplayer.

Firewatch is a beautiful little character-driven game that was made by a tiny team. Just about everyone who has played it has loved it. Yet, at least one person wanted a refund because it was “too short”, even though he or she[1] played, finished, and liked the game. It is possible to blow through it in just a few hours, but it is a contained narrative, not an open world exploration.

Now, some are bitching that No Man’s Sky is going to “carry an astronomical fee” even before it has been released or played, just because it was developed by a small team and “looks shallow” based on preview material.

Games, like apps, should be judged on quality, not a relatively meaningless metric like length. People who have no problem dropping comparatively large sums on consumables or ephemerals suddenly become Scrooge McDuck crossed with Roger Ebert when it comes to software.

Let’s have a show of hands: How many of the bajillions of hours of side-missions in Skyrim made you feel anything other than annoyance at the inventory management at the bottom of yet another dungeon? How much actual story did you get in the work-week-worth of time you spent on any one of the GTA games? Is a sprawling, flabby, repetitive time-sink “worth” more than a short, contained narrative just because it takes longer to finish?

  1. Let’s face it, it was probably a dude. Even my sister, who is a certified grade-A diamond-class entitled bitch, wouldn’t ask for a refund under these circumstances. This is a woman who caused a scene in a restaurant over a tiny spider dropping down from a 3 story vaulted ceiling and scuttling across a table, and even she would be like, “#^¢* that. I ain’t gonna ask for my money back” under these circumstances.  ↩