Games are a passion and a hobby for millions of players worldwide. As is clear from even the most cursory glance at the comments on any post here at Kotaku, gamers feel very strongly about their content and its makers.
They are also a business. An exceptionally large, very valuable business. The most recent ESA report [pdf] asserts that US consumers spend over $US25 billion dollars annually on gaming.
So where is the wall where gamers ultimately rebel against adding to those billions? The upcoming release of Mass Effect 3, featuring controversial day one DLC, is proving to be a fertile ground for the argument.
Forbes, a business and economics-focused publication, is not where one would ordinarily look for gaming news. And yet it is there that a contributor makes the economically-focused argument that players have created the seemingly endless problems with DLC themselves, by proving — angry words aside — that they are willing to pay for it:
The truth is, if items like map packs, DLC missions and pre-order bonuses didn't sell, they wouldn't exist. Plain and simple. With each new bold "affront" to gamers, these companies are testing the waters to see just how far they can go with an a-la-carte model. Do you think if no one had ever bought the first Call of Duty map pack, that they would have kept making more? Now the game sells $US1B worth of $US60 copies in two weeks, with every player knowing full well that twelve more maps will be coming in another three packs for an additional $US45.
He then admits that he personally finds the Mass Effect 3 DLC to be a good enough investment to pay for, and that he looks forward to playing it, but concludes:
All this said, there is a limit. Eventually companies will find a breaking point where they are simply taking too much away from games and charging too much on top of the original price so that it drives consumers away. As soon as the numbers stop adding up, the practice will reach a plateau.
The problem is that we're not there yet, and though each new step forward takes us a little closer to that cut-off line, we simply haven't shown these companies that what they've done is truly that hurtful to us. If it was, these products and games simply would not sell, and the practice would be scaled back. And that isn't what's happening.
Every player's individual limits are, of course, in a different place. Some fans will pay nearly any price for their favourite franchise right at launch, while others prefer to wait a year or more and purchase fully collected editions on sale for half price. But even while many will quite accurately shout, "It's not my fault, I haven't played along, I'm not buying it all," it's clear that there's something to the argument that enough players still do.
The $US50 price point for new games fell by the wayside with the rise of the current console generation. $US60 has come to be fully tolerated and $US70 looks not to be the straw that will break the metaphorical camel's back. Where, then, will we see new game prices finally plateau?