A jab at gaming – with love

On price point and videogames

Open letter to the Joystiq Podcast –

After listening to your podcast episode #147, I thought it was important to comment on my interpretation of the current Limbo price point and what role pricing plays in the purchase or scoring/rating of a game.

While your argument is sound that price should not play a role in the scoring/rating of the game, it ultimately plays a role in a player’s perceived “intrinsic” value.

The gaming community as a whole needs to develop qualitative distinctions between the “entertainment” value of playing a game vs. the “intrinsic” value of owning or purchasing a game. Whereas the entertainment value is often easy to understand from a reader’s perspective (which is made easier by wonderfully written reviews at, I often find the intrinsic value harder to interpret.

The new downloadable space created by XBLA, PSN, WiiWare, & iTunes has reshaped gamers’ intrinsic value of games (mostly because when we are done playing, we can no longer share, sell, or trade them). Thus, when we play Plants vs. Zombies ($3)* on our iPhones for > 8 hrs. and play Limbo ($15) on XBLA for 4 hrs., we can’t help but feel that Limbo might be over-priced and detract from its overall value.

Ultimately, your job is the review the entertainment value of game, but the intrinsic value also needs to be addressed in a review (and often is) so that gamers and readers can best gauge the overall value of a game.

Love the show,


PS. Not everyone makes Chris Grant $$$, so spending $10 vs. $15 does make a difference. Happy Birthday Chris, if you’re ever in DC I would love to buy you a beer.

* Plants vs. Zombies for the iPhone was originally $20, but was quickly reduced to $3.


4 Responses to “On price point and videogames”

  1. “Thus, when we play Plants vs. Zombies ($3)* on our iPhones for > 8 hrs. and play Limbo ($15) on XBLA for 4 hrs., we can’t help but feel that Limbo might be over-priced and detract from its overall value.”

    • Sorry, there was more than that. This is where these sorts of arguments break down for me. Limbo is a perfectly tuned experience that not only engages you emotionally but requires constant puzzle solving and non-linear thinking. Plants vs. Zombies lacks the artistic beauty of Limbo as well as the way its perfectly tuned puzzles keep you totally engaged.

      I’m not saying one is a better game than the other, but there’s no comparison. It’s apples and oranges and zombies. Assuming had a day to play one or the other, you’re still going to wake up the next morning with the game finished. For me, I’d rather pay 15 bucks for a haunting experience that’s going to stick with me rather than a time sink.

      Limbo isn’t a worse game because of its price. You could argue it’s marketed poorly, but that’s about as far as that argument can get you.

      • I agree that Limbo isn’t a worse game due to its price. I was trying to argue that price plays a role in overall value of the game. Currently there are not good definitions that score the entertainment or experience from a game separately from the overall cost.

        While I’m sure Limbo is an awesome experience, would you pay $20 for it? $30? $40? At $40 it would still be an amazing experience, but would it have the same value (and would it get the same review scores)?

        Unfortunately, game reviewers have to choose whether they need to have a price-objective experience review or price-pertinent overall value review. I know this argument has been brought up before (and don’t get me started on metacritic), but I think the reviews process can mature and create its own system (Although I have no idea how though, I’ll leave that to you guys).

        Thanks for the response! I love the show and enjoy your time in DC!

  2. I listen to the Joystiq Podcast typically while I am working, so if I’m missing something important here please feel free to correct me.

    While length alone certainly doesn’t affect the quality of the “experience” of a game; you must consider the audience the reviews are written for.

    The average gamer who is reading a review is going to have a fixed amount of disposable income. They want to get the most bang for their buck. Things like length and re-playability are therefore valuable bits of information to relay to the consumer.

    What would happen if next month a new version of Limbo was released with added levels all for $15. And instead of reducing the price on the original version, they left it at $15 as well. How many consumers would opt for the shorter version when both are the same price? I would imagine most would opt for the longer version, due to the perceived value of the longer game.

    Don’t get me wrong, I realize 16 hours of Turning Point isn’t worth 8 hours of Modern Warfare 2, regardless of price. At the same time, length and quality aren’t two attributes that are mutually exclusive. You can have a great game that is long at the same time.

    Bottom-line for me is I appreciate knowing how long a game is expected to last. Perhaps the experience of Limbo is worth the $15 despite it’s short length. Ultimately though, that has to be decided by the consumer, and arming them with more information about the game and what they can expect upfront is much preferable than simply omitting that information.

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