One of my earliest video game memories is being at my friend’s house when we were much younger. He had just gotten a new computer game and wanted to show it to me. He played while I watched, and it was still marvellous fun. It was called “WarCraft”. A number of years later, my family got a home computer, internet, and a copy of “WarCraft 2”. We were actually able to link up over our dial up modems and play games against each other, which, again, was wonderful fun. Eventually, many years later, “WarCraft 3” came out, and had these epic CGI cut scenes that bordered on movie quality. So you can imagine my delight when I heard that Blizzard, the creators of WarCraft and StarCraft, were coming out with a new game… World of WarCraft.
Now, I had already been introduced to Massive Multiplayer Online RPGs through another game called Runescape. Runescape was a free game that I downloaded and quickly sunk hundreds of hours into. The graphics were poor, the usability was poor, and the gameplay, to be honest, was quite poor. It was, however, tremendously addictive. The online gaming in WoW, I was sure, would devour my entire life.
But it didn’t. In fact, I hardly even played it at all. Why? Because I never bought it. There were two big problems that prevented me from playing WoW. The first was that the game cost $60, and the second was that it cost an additional $15 a month. It was so successful that Blizzard still holds world records for amount of players subscribed to an MMORPG, and is ridiculously rich because of it. For me, however, the entry fee was too high, and as such, was completely put off by it.
Since WoW came out, there have been numerous other games that have tried a similar model, but I have never been particularly interested. I want to pay for a game once, and then be able to play it as much as I’d like, whenever I’d like, without having it cost me more money. I figured that I would get a better value from a game that I payed for once. While that may be true, what I have recently discovered is that the value of a game comes not from how much it costs to play, but how much time you spend playing it.
Consider two standard computer games. Let’s say they each cost $60. If you buy both, and play both, then they have the same “value”, or time spent being entertained per dollar spent. However, if you quickly grow bored with one game, and stop playing it, but continue to play the other, then the value of the game that you are continuing to play goes up, as the amount of money that you are paying per hour of entertainment goes down.
- $60/30 hours = $2/hour of entertainment.
- $60/60 hours = $1/hour of entertainment.
When you consider an MMORPG, the calculation gets a little more complicated. You still may pay $60 for the game, but now you have to add in a monthly fee. For me, I was awfully concerned that if I did pay $15/month, I would not get my money’s worth unless I spent every night playing that game. However, if you look at how much value you are getting from your other entertainment options, you may realize that you don’t have to play as much as you think in order to get your money’s worth.
- Rent a DVD $5/2 hours = $2.50/hour
- Buy a DVD $15/2 hours = $7.50/hour
- Go to the movies $10/2.5 hours = $4/hour
- Go to a play $30/3 hours = $10/hour
- Go to the pub $20/3 hours = $6.67/hour
- Netflix $8/20 hours = $0.40/hour
So if we go back and look at the MMORPG over a 3 month period, the game will cost us about $105 (60+[15×3]). In order to get to the same $/hour ratio as most entertainment, you are looking at 14 hours a month for those 3 months ($2.50/hour). That’s about half an hour of online gaming a day, or just over 3.5 hours a week. If you have ever played an MMORPG, you know that this number is incredibly low for this type of game. If you wanted to get it to Netflix-type cheap entertainment, however, you would have to play over 250 hours over those 3 months, which is about as much as a part time job.
In the end, MMORPGs can actually be a good value for your money, when you consider it in terms of dollars per hour spent being entertained. In fact, because you are paying for the game, most MMORPGs, at least the successful ones, are constantly creating and releasing new content and updates, allowing you to continue to play a game that does not have an end. Therefore, it is far more difficult to grow bored with the game and abandon it, a pitfall the plagues other $60 titles. While it is true that the time that you invest into video games could otherwise be spent learning a new skill, or working a second job, it is a fallacy to think that buying and playing MMORPGs is a larger waste of money than other forms of entertainment, and even other video games.
Do you play MMORPGs, or other video games? How do you deal with the cost of online gaming?