Does Spending More Money On A Game Make You Feel Obligated To Play It?

Do you feel more obligated to play the games you buy for $60 than the ones you snag during Steam sales? On this week's Kotaku Splitscreen, let's discuss.

First, Kirk and I talk about the news of the week on Lindsay Lohan, Shadow of War and Todd Howard. Then we talk about Far Cry 5's nihilism and Ni no Kuni 2's idealism before taking some listener questions (50:36) on games as a service, GPU recommendations, and the Xbox Game Pass. Plus: How much does a game's price affect your enjoyment of it?

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Fredrik asked:

Hi, Jason and Kirk!

Avid Splitscreen listener here. Best part of my Thursday/Friday commute to work is listening to you guys gab about the games industry.

After hearing about Microsoft's decision to start building a $10.95/month game library where every new Microsoft game will be included, I started thinking about how that might impact me and how I relate to my games.

It really comes down to this - whenever I have bought a game I have felt a strong need to play it through. Maybe not to completion but I certainly make sure to get my moneys worth. Whenever I have gotten a game for free (gifted or, ehm, otherwise) I rarely feel that same need to complete it or even to give it a thorough once-over.

I have thought hard about why that is and today I stumbled over what psychologists call the Endowment Effect, which is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them.

And that pretty much sums up my fear of monthly paid services where I get access to a multitude of games. I'm actually afraid that it will take away some of my enjoyment and need to finish the games available to me. Which kinda sucks to think about.

What do you guys think about this?

Kirk: I can't speak to what Fredrik feels, but I can speak to how it makes me feel. I totally understand that feeling of, "Well I bought this so now I'm gonna play it." My relationship to that is a bit different - I get a lot of games for free from work. There are times when I buy a game, and when I do, I always try to play it and get a lot out of it.

A recent example is, on PS Plus last month, Bloodborne and the Ratchet and Clank remake were both the games you could download, which is great, those are two really good games. I never played that Ratchet and Clank game... but I knew it was good, and they're pretty fun. I downloaded it, because what the hell, it's free. And it's just sat there on my PS4 and I haven't played it. It's similar to when people buy stuff on a Steam sale and it's almost like you got it for free, you got a game from four years ago and it's $2, and then it just sits there and you don't play it. Because it doesn't have that need.

I guess my one thought about that is: If that's the thing that makes people play a game, that's a weak [reason]. Really you should want to play a game because it's good. So removing that isn't necessarily a bad thing in my view. Maybe people will feel less beholden to play a game because they just dropped $60 on it, and instead they will have the option of playing whatever game they like the most.

Jason: I think there are two questions here. One is: Does it make you feel more incentive to play a game if you spend $60 on it as opposed to if you spend $2 on it? And I think the answer there is yes. The other is, and that involves the Endowment Effect, are you getting more tangible enjoyment out of a game if you spend $60 on it as opposed to if you didn't?

Kirk: If it makes you feel good to play a game you've spent money on, then that's great.

Jason: Have you found that it makes you feel good to play a game you've spent money?

Kirk: I don't know. I don't really know.

Jason: I'm just thinking of games I bought recently, and when I spend $60 on a game it just makes me feel more obligated to play it, but it doesn't necessarily affect the enjoyment, I don't think.

Kirk: I'm thinking of other things in my life. There are times when I'll buy an expensive desk, or an expensive chair, and I'll take the time to really make it work perfectly and get the exact right one, and there is that feeling of satisfaction of, "Yes this was expensive but look how perfectly it fits into this thing I set up."

Jason: That's so different.

Kirk: But there is this kind of, "I own this thing and it was expensive," and that's part of the feeling of satisfaction.

Jason: That's different than a $60 video game.

Kirk: Yeah I know, I'm trying to relate it out because I don't have a great answer for the video game thing. I don't really get that feeling for video games, but I do get that feeling for life, it is a real thing, so I can understand how someone might have that feeling with a game.

Jason: I think that feeling is more for tangible objects than it would be for a piece of interactive entertainment. It's an interesting thought, though.

For much more, listen to the full interview. As always, you can find Splitscreen on Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Leave us a review if you like what you hear.


    Funny this popped up today. last night I installed Marvel Strike Force on my phone to check it out. At the same time I was cooking dinner so left my near 4yr old daughter to do some battles. Came back 5 minutes later to see she had purchased $33 of premium currency... So yes I now feel obligated to play the damn game.

    Not really. If I have a pricey game and don't like it I will refund it. The only time I got done on this was FO4 taking so long to reveal that it was just more of the same horseshit and Gaben kept my money. GABEEEEEEN (and Howaaaaard!)!

    I want to know where people are finding $60 games :( Games haven't been that cheap in a decade.

    Do I feel more obligated to play games that I spend more on? No. I haven't played much of Doom despite it being an $89 game... mainly because I just didn't enjoy it.

    But I have played hundreds of hours of terraria, even though I only paid.... I think it was about 9 or 19 or something.

      Importing UK copies of games makes them almost always sub 60. The last time I paid more than 60 bucks for a game was the 90s when I was an idiot kid spending my birthday money at EB Games.

      Ozgameshop has been pretty good for me in the past.

    I don't usually buy games without research so no, if I spend $100 on a game then it's because I really want to play the game in the first place

    It's different for subscriptions which is what the user question talks about (really sounds like MS doing a EA Access) and yes I feel some what obligated. for me it's basically paying for a service... if i'm not using said service why am I paying for it

    Exact opposite - amazing deals on games inspires me to play them. And often love them.

    Max Payne 3 for $4.95? Loved it. Handsome Collection for $17.95? My GOTY (several Y’s too late). Picked up Pillars of Eternity for $30.95... to the detriment of my RRP copy of MHW.

    I’m weird.

      I bought lotr war in the north for .70c and played it through in a few days like a maniac. Best money I've ever spent.

    I'm the same if I pay RRP or Sale price, For example, I bought the Dying Light Enhanced Edition yesterday for $32AUD on the Xbox sale and deep down I know I am going to complete the main game and DLC to 100% before I can move on to the other stuff I bought.

    The only game that can keep me away from new games I buy is Warframe. :D

    Does it make me obliged to play a game? No. I dont spend money on a game unless i like it. I wont spend money on a game just to enjoy it, Because that means the game isnt very good in the first place.

    Feeling "Obliged" to play a game just because you spent money ingame tells me the game isnt very good if the only reason you are sticking with it is because you spent money in it.

    typically a game I buy is one that I really want to get started on. if it's free or really cheap then it usually ends up waiting because I lived long enough without it before it can wait till I'm done with something I'm already playing.

      Same here. Most of my games I buy on sales as I'm not desperate for new games (my pile of shame is large) - but on rare occasions I will buy a game new or at a small discount and they are games that I really want and will play a lot e.g. Witcher 3 I played to the end including the DLCs so money well spent.

    I generally only splash out bigger amounts of money when i know i will get mileage out of it.

    For example, i waited a few years for Pillars of Eternity and it's expansion to drop to about $30 total and having almost completed it last week it was one of the best CRPG experiences i have ever played.

    My general rule of thumb is a dollar to hour ratio, e.g. I've spent about $100 to play DBZ Fighter Z and it's DLC, so i hope to get at least 100 hours of game time to make the purchase justified, which should be easy since story mode, training and online play can easily take 100 hours or more.

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