What BioShock: Infinite’s Release Says About the Video Game Industry

I previously wrote a post that listed the video games that I planned to pre-order for this year and BioShock: Infinite was not a part of it. A couple of my readers asked me why I didn’t include the game on my list. While I know that the BioShock series is one of the most critically acclaimed franchises of all time, it all boils down to what a gamer is willing to shell $60 for. Unless you’re obscenely wealthy or extremely impulsive in finances, you just can’t buy all the great games out there. I only pre-order or purchase games on day one under two conditions: (1) I’m loyal to a specific developer/franchise (2) It’s a really, really intriguing game that fits my genre interests. Otherwise, all the other ‘great’ games just have to wait until a used copy or sale pops up. Recently, Tomb Raider and BioShock: Infinite was on that queue.

Then, BioShock: Infinite came out and the internet was down on its knees. Critics weren’t just calling it ‘great,’ but a video game that’s so perfect… it defines a generation. Now that’s not something you hear everyday. It’s one thing to be a critically acclaimed video game, but another thing altogether to be spoken of as God’s gift to the video game industry. Next thing I know, I ordered the game on Amazon shortly after its release.

Now, I’ve learned quite a deal about the video game industry and its consumers over the past couple of days. I pre-ordered Sims 3: University and held out on buying Tomb Raider for a while despite its stellar reviews. I’ve also been reading a lot about the pros and cons of having used games in the market in light of the recent Xbox Durango reports. There’s also news about some of Square Enix’s popular and critically acclaimed titles not meeting sales expectations. Consequently, the release of BioShock: Infinite served as as a tipping point for all my recent thoughts on the industry to spill into one central question: How good does a game have to be for it to be a financial success?

Surely, my experiences can’t speak for the majority of all the gamers out there but I feel like I’m not as different as everyone else in light of all the news. In a coffee table conversation, I would certainly agree with my peers that Tomb Raider and Sleeping Dogs are indeed excellent titles. Apparently though, that’s still not enough for me to buy them at $60. I only bought Sleeping Dogs for less than $20 recently and I’m currently waiting for Tomb Raider’s prices to go down a bit. Sadly, it seems like other gamers more or less share the same sentiment when I read an article about Tomb Raider and Sleeping Dogs underperforming in the market. Critics and fans seem to agree that they loved these games, but it simply just wasn’t enough.

It’s too early to tell if BioShock: Infinite is a financial success, but it’s hard to argue otherwise considering the massive ethereal success the game has received from both critics and fans. Here’s a game I never really had any interest in until now, and I’m willing to spend $60 right off the bat. It makes me wonder if consumers won’t simply settle for ‘great’ anymore whenever they shell out that amount of money for a game. Perhaps, gamers expect a piece of video game heaven for $60?

It may seem a bit high maintenance on the surface. However, it’s quite a fair and understandable standard to have. $60 is a lot of money, and I know it’s not cheap to create a blockbuster game but it’s still a lot of dough for the average consumer. What more for me? I’m a college student living with a $200 dollar allowance a month and a bit of cash from my part time job. I can’t afford to buy every game that I think is nice. $60 equates to six hours of labor working on my job (without tax) at the University and that’s nearly half of my monthly allowance. Therefore, when I buy a video game for $60, it better feel like eating a succulent rack of lamb with a bottle of Chardonnay.

We are living in an exciting age of innovation in the world of technology and I believe this is just the beginning of better things to come. Yet, could the high price of video game titles ruin the potential and growth of the video game industry as one Mashable article suggests? In a New York Times article, Ken Levine of Irrational Games noted that: “it’s getting harder to ask someone to spend $60 on something that’s merely a good effort.” It has to be “different and really special,” he added. Hopefully, the video game industry could find a way to continue creating blockbuster titles like BioShock: Infinite without putting too much pressure on a gamer’s wallet in the near future. Not all video games can be as unique as BioShock: Infinite, but that doesn’t mean they’re not amazing at all like Tomb Raider. Finding ways to cut costs in production and retail price can benefit the producers too since they won’t be pressured to meet  such a high sales quota. In effect, competition would encourage more top quality titles instead of locking developers in a ‘get rich, or die hard trying’ scenario which often results into the untimely demise of several developers these days.

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