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.