Games: too expensive for impulse buys

Mr Biffo’s column in the new issue of EDGE (it’s not online, sorry) raises the thorny issue of game prices among other things, and he makes some good points – the gaming industry is right that films get income from the cinema before they hit DVD and games obviously don’t, but the industry doesn’t tend to mention that even the biggest, shiniest, most expensive game has a budget that wouldn’t cover the catering bill on a typical movie – that sort of thing, but I think he’s hit the nail on the head when he suggests that at £50, games are too expensive to take a punt on.

I’m currently loving Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (it’s very Japanese, and I mean that in a good way) but I swithered before buying it – the demo didn’t put across the sheer nuttiness of it, and if I hadn’t read EDGE’s fairly glowing review I probably wouldn’t have bought it at all. I’ve got Rainbow Six Vegas waiting for when I finally finish LP, and that’s it.

I’ve spent ages looking at other titles but again and again, the price puts me off. At £40 to £50 I’m not willing to take a risk on a game I’m not sure I’ll even like, either because it’s terrible (Perfect Dark Zero), tedious (the 360 version of Far Cry) or just something I’m not into (Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter).

Part of the problem is that there are some truly terrible games out there. That’s not just a matter of taste – while I don’t get GR:AW, I can see why others love it – but of plain truth. I give you Sonic The Hedgehog on the Xbox 360 which, according to the gaming press and the entire internet, would be an atrocity at £5 but is a threat to the very fabric of humanity at £50. A quick look at Rotten Tomatoes or any intelligent games magazine shows that there are many, many more.

There are options, though.  If I lived nearer a GAME shop (and I’m assuming they still do their “if it’s shit, bring it back” exchange thing) I might take more risks, but I don’t so I don’t.

Pre-owned games would be another option, or at least they would be if the games shops weren’t so greedy (Pre-owned! £39.99! Bastards!).

Trade-ins would be good if the difference between the original price and the trade-in (or the trade-in and the mark-up when it goes back on the shelf) wasn’t so big. And there’s always eBay, or there would be if my account wasn’t still suspended due to an eBay cock-up. Oh, and eBay prices reflect reviews, so if a game comes out and everyone thinks it’s crap then you’ll be lucky to sell it for 2p.

The problem with all of those solutions is that they don’t bring in any more money for the game publishers. When someone buys a new game at £50 and then trades it in or eBays it, and I buy the pre-owned copy, and play it, and trade it in or eBay it, and someone else buys that, and… three, four or more people are playing the game but only one person’s generating cash for the publishers. When I exchange a full-price game because it sucks, I get a full refund and buy something else, so I’ve played two games but only paid for one.

I know some of you are gamers; what do you think is the right price point for a game? £50? £40? £20? Would lower prices encourage you to take more risks? Should we be allowed by law to punish the people who knowingly sell us bad games, with RRP determining just how much punishment we’re allowed to dish out?