Halo 4: The End of an Overpriced Era?

I found myself deep in thought upon completing Halo 4’s campaign this weekend. Unlike most gamers, I wasn’t pondering the fates of the Master Chief or Cortana, or musing upon what might be coming our way in future installments of the series. I was wondering if this was the last console game I’d be paying $60 for.

I enjoyed Halo 4. 343 Industries got the gameplay right. The new Promethean enemies are a great change of pace from the flood, and their weapons pack a satisfying punch. The game is stingy with ammo, leading to a near-constant need to scavenge a new weapon on the battlefield. Vehicle sequences were spread out well, keeping Warthog rides from becoming as stale and overused as they felt in some of the previous games. Halo 4 is a fun, challenging entry in what’s always been one of my favorite series.

That said, $59.99 plus tax was too much to pay for it. I’m an extremely anti-social gamer, so I could care less about Halo 4’s multiplayer. My time in the campaign clocked in somewhere around 9 hours. I didn’t find the story compelling enough that I want to check it out again, and I likely won’t get the itch to play some more Halo for a few more months. Nine hours for sixty bucks? Bad value, and a bad decision on my part. Despite my respect for Halo 4, it simply didn’t contain enough of the things I like in a game.

We are–supposedly–coming to the end of the current console cycle. One need look no further for proof of this than the 2013 release schedule. So far, there isn’t much: DmC, Dead Space 3, and Bioshock Infinite headline Q1, and the rest of the year’s schedule has yet to be set. All of those games will end up in my GameFly queue, but none of them are full-price purchases. Same for Dragon Age 3; I thought Origins was alright and I enjoyed Dragon Age 2, but the story of the series isn’t compelling enough to make me want to open my wallet. The same will hold true for Halo 5 whenever that drops; Halo 4 felt like a complete, finished story, and I don’t see any danger looming over the universe that makes me interested in what’s coming next. When you come right down to it, I value a good story more than any other part of a game, and I don’t see any sure-fire can’t-miss narratives coming down the pipe.

I had to think long and hard to come up with even two upcoming games that might tempt me to open up my wallet and hand over three Jacksons; neither has a firm release date. The first is Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, a post apocalyptic game utilizing the talents of Mark Richard Davies, former lead designer of my beloved Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The other is Persona 5, because I’m obsessed. The Last of Us, however, is a Playstation 3 exclusive, and there’s no guarantee that Persona 5 will be available for my console of choice, the Xbox 360–which likely means I won’t be paying full price for either game, despite my interest.

My experience with Halo 4 further solidifies my opinion that modern games are too expensive. My job pays well, but when you do the math after taxes and benefits are removed from my paycheck, I just traded four hours worth of work for nine hours worth of gameplay. That’s half a day’s labor for a game. That’s far too much, and when you realize that those who make even less might be trading a day’s worth of labor or more for a bit of escapist entertainment, that $59.99 price becomes even more outrageous. Video games are certainly luxury goods, but new ones are still too expensive–and I’d wager that a lower price point would lead to more full price sales and more profit for the developers. And that, of course, would be better for everyone.

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  • Garrett2U

    Speak for yourself, I already have 34 hours of game time on it!

  • Yankes2k

    He is speaking for himself, that’s why this is called an “Editorial.”

  • Kaizin514

    Yea, and not to mention, he stated he could care less for multiplayer.

    Ultimately, it all comes down to the user. Roughly 9 hours of campaign isn’t worth $60 to one, but to someone else, maybe they would pay $90. Maybe multiplayer is worth $60 for some people, Call of Duty is a prime example, where some people find single player to be a tacked on experience.

    I, personally, would have found $60 to be right around where I would pay for single player of Halo. A lot being because I love the story but some being because I will at least dabble in multiplayer enough to justify the cost to myself. Now, I have yet to buy Halo 4, but did borrow from a friend to slam through the campaign, I spent my $60 elsewhere on Assassin’s Creed 3. Being a poor college student takes its toll, lol.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1196194483 Kevin Mercado

    Good for you , as for me cause i can’t speak for everyone else have i no issues with paying $64.19 to be exact for my games or even the 104.00 for certain LE game bundles . love my games & love to game & seeing as how my expense & budget are well managed i will continue to do so.

  • mike

    What about the spartan ops missions? you don’t have to play them multiplayer and with 10 episodes with 5 missions each that is sure to tack on hours of story driven gameplay. obviously this is your opinion, but I just wanted to make sure you gave 343 the credit got continuing to develop a story within the Halo universe. What if that looming threat to humanity is discovered in a spartan ops mission, wouldn’t that be a shame to miss?

  • jinzo

    “when you do the math after taxes and benefits are removed from my
    paycheck, I just traded four hours worth of work for nine hours worth of

    That’s makes no sense. It’s no one’s fault that you don’t play multiplayer or co-op or even care about the story enough to play the campaign twice. I’ve been playing halo 3 since 2007 and stilll play it from time to time, that’s 5 years of worth of experience for $60, so I’d say it’s definately worth it for me.

    I agree with you about games being expensive but you chose an extremely horrible example. Halo 4 is probably the only game out this whole year that’s worth $60. Multiplayer is near perfection, the normal campaign has 4 player co-op to play it again and again, spartan ops is basically another campaign they’re giving you, you can make and customize maps/gametypes how ever you like, which adds infinite value.

    Point is, you chose not to invest your interest in about 75% of the game because you’re “anti-social” and made your judgement just on the campaign itself, why didn’t you just rent the game for $10 then? that would surely be worth it. I don’t care much about persona and would rather just borrow last of us but i’m not gonna pay $60 for them and then say “pshh not interested in single player so they’re not worth it”. Value comes from sentiment and the amount of content so you can’t ignore a portion of the game and call it “expensive”.

    That being said most games are over-priced and the standard should just be $40. Halo 4 is only worth $60 IN COMPARISON to other games which is why u picked a bad example. Now if you take a game like tekken, $60 for 2 people fighting over and over again? come on….

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Mclean/563177261 James Mclean

    It is worth the price. Just because you do not play multiplayer doesnt take away from you buying it as part of the overall package.

  • Jack_Green

    It’s almost crucial to participate in multiplayer to get your money’s worth out of games these days. The bigger games companies may not need the full price on their games however smaller budding companies certainly would. You only addressed the argument from a business perspective in one line, and this is just a hunch. Big games such as Halo or Assassins Creed probably make most their profit at launch where people do buy them full price for £45 or $60.

  • Jack_Green

    Good point buddy, also it’s important to take into account that the game was made with costs going towards creating the multiplayer/ and other online functions therefore they have to charge everyone for this portion of the game. They can’t just lower the price if you are only going to play single player. Unless they sold different parts of the game seperately.

  • http://thecontrolleronline.com/ Scott Grant

    I’m a big fan of the whole Halo 4 package, but it would be interesting to see how games like this would sell if they were broken up into multiple sections and sold that way (a la Starhawk, Killzone 3). I think the sales numbers of a multiplayer only package, or a campaign only package, may paint an interesting picture.

  • YachtCaptainColby

    That, sir, is a very interesting idea.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.norris.3990 Kevin Norris

    Until gaming figures out what it is and stops trying to be everything to everyone (both tennis and paddleball with each new title), we’re going to have this problem. And games can’t pretend to be both and yet not deliver on everything and not expect criticism.

  • krelwy

    it does make sense. he didn’t want to play multiplayer, so he got 9 hours of gameplay for 4 hours of work. it’s his experience. YOUR experience doesn’t negate his. it doesn’t matter if you play halo 3 for 1000000 hours, it’s not about your game time. it’s about his. You say halo 4 is a bad comparison because for you the price is justified. But the price isn’t justified for the author of the article, and that’s all that matters. You then go on to say that tekken isn’t worth the money, which may be true for you. perhaps you don’t care about fighting games, that’s all well and good. different strokes. it’s just two dudes fighting over and over to you. Halo, to me, is just a bunch of dudes shooting each other over and over, whereas I have put many, many hours into perfecting combos and playing against friends and strangers online. The amount of time I have put into tekken far outweighs the $60 i paid for it.
    If I hated multiplayer and bought a multiplayer only game, yes the fault would be mine, but that doesn’t mean that the price I had to pay to play a game i couldn’t care less about was justified to me.