The iPad is turning me into a cheapskate

So I’m a gamer, right? You’re probably a gamer too if you’re reading this blog. We’re used to spending $60 for a new console game, maybe $50 for a new PC game. Every so often Steam has a big sale and we all start buying games just because they’re marked down to $10: “I’ll probably never play it, but at $10 I couldn’t NOT buy it!”

Enter the iPad (you could sub in iPhone or to a certain extend, an Android phone). Suddenly our sense of values get thrown all out of whack.

Angry Birds is all the rage on the iPhone and iPad these days. I finally got around to downloading the Lite (ie, free/demo) version. It’s basically Boom Blox without the Wii controls. In other words, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, very addicting, with irreverently cute characters (you use a slingshot to project the titular birds at pigs who’re protected inside structures of varying degrees of flimsiness. Why? Because the pigs stole, and presumably ate, your eggs).

The Lite version is only available for the iPhone. Of course it runs on the iPad, either at actual size or blown up 2 times to match the size of the iPad. Because the graphics are pretty simple it looks fine at 2X.

Anyway I decide this is enough fun that I want the full game. At least I’m pretty sure I do. I think a lot over whether its worth investing in the full game. Will I really play it enough? Once I decide I will, I have another decision. The iPhone version is $1 while the iPad version is $5. I’ve heard that the iPad version is identical to the iPhone version, just with crisper graphics.

Hmm, is it worth paying FIVE TIMES as much just for slightly better graphics? I spend a lot of time thinking about this while I sip an iced coffee and munch on a donut. Total cost of the snack I’m consuming while I ponder? About $5.

And suddenly I realize how weird it is that I’ll spend $60 on a console game that I know lasts 8 hours or so, but I’m agonizing over spending $5 on an iPad game. If a console game drops to $40 that’s cheap as heck, but an iPad game at $5 feels expensive. But will the console game over you 8 (or 12, at full price) times the enjoyment? Who knows? Enjoyment is really hard to quantify.

In the end, I splashed out the big bucks for the $5 iPad version of Angry Birds and the crisper visuals are well worth the extra money in my opinion. But after all was said in done I just felt bewildered by my own behavior. Why was I stressing out over a $4 difference in price? What is it about the iPad that the perceived value of games is so much lower than the perceived value of games on the PC or consoles?

7 thoughts on “The iPad is turning me into a cheapskate

  1. For a lot of us, the $50-$70 range of AAA or even B title games has been on the fringe of too pricey.

    For me particularly, it’s about how much content there is attached to the game. I’d happily pay those prices for a game with legs, like Half-Life (or anything with good mod tools that support community-made content), but for games where I might spend a few evenings with and then I’ve completed the single-player campaign? $1-$10 seems like a much better price range for most titles. $15-$30 for exceptional (yet short, ala Portal) titles.

    I don’t think I’m cheap. I understand the huge development costs, but that’s exactly why I complain that too much is spent on licenses, new-tech and gimics. I’m willing to pay the bigger dollars for significant content. Why are so many sequels complete reworkings of the gameplay? What most of us want from a great game is a incremental approach and more story to play through.

  2. I’m in the same boat. I see a lot of nice apps for 4.99 or maybe even 6.99 and I hesitate.

    But for me, I have two excuses. First, I know that nothing I have bought for the iPad so far has really kept my interest for more then a few days. Second, I know that as soon as I drop that cash, something ELSE that looks interesting to me will appear for roughly the same price, and the cycle will begin again.

  3. Just to be clear, I wasn’t implying that anyone else was cheap. This was a post about my spending habits and how I find it curious that I apply a different value scale to games on the iPad than I do to games on the DS, PSP, Wii, PS3, 360 or PC. I’m not judging anyone, including myself.

    I used to use movies as a ‘yardstick’ for value. If a 2 hour movie cost me $8 (this was a while ago, before ticket prices went through the roof) than it was costing me $4/hour to enjoy the movie. So a $50 PC game had to offer ~12 hours of fun to be worth it.

    I no longer think applying that kind of yardstick works. I have different values for different kinds of entertainment. And it appears different values for different delivery mechanisms. Plus, I never go to the movies these days. 🙂

  4. Nice bit of personal introspection, and not at all uncommon. I do the exact same thing, and I make (and try to sell) games for a living! But what you touch upon here is at the heart of the casual gaming, and even the entire game industry – a complete shakeup of traditional business models. A few years back, when Amazon came in and said “We are going to sell all games on our marketplace for $9.00”, indie game makers across the nation cried, because up until they they could hope for at least $15.00 to $20.00 for a decent indie game. Nowadays, even $9.00 seems high for a quote-unquote small game.

    I think this ties directly into the perceived value expectation that I touched on when I chatted about sparkly ponies awhile back. On my aging Blackberry Storm, there are relatively few apps, and even fewer of them for free. The thing is, if I see one I like, I don’t hesitate to drop $5.00 for it because my mind has established “$5.00 is about what blackberry apps cost”. Because that is about what they all cost. But on my iTouch, I’ve quickly established that “games are free, and only occasionally should I buy one, and if so I should never pay more than $5.00 for it..” And mind you, I could be talking about the exact same game, on two different platforms, and have different pricing expectations for it. That’s how strong the “percieved value” psyche is — that it transcends all rational logic and comparitive pricing.

    Before I completely hijack your blog post with a blog in the comments, I want to throw in one more bit of food for thought. iPhone’s “games should be free” expectation is the number one reason that you’re going to see an even stronger proliferation of facebook like games on the iPhone now — things like We Rule, We Farm, and Farmville. Because for millions of people that have never played traditional computer games, they already have the expectation that “the game should be free, but it’s okay for me to have to buy stuff in the game to progress”. And for that, *I* say.. bleh.


  5. If you’re anything like me, you probably have at least 3 pages of apps/games, most of which were free. When so much is available for free, why would you pay $5 for it? Especially if it’s not necessarily a game you’re playing for the sake of playing the game as much as something to do while you don’t have anything else to do.

  6. Price is the reason I have not bought Starcraft 2. That $60 for a PC game is just too much for me. But I do plan on buying Madden 2011 for $60 as for me sports games just are replayable as heck.

  7. Everyone I know with an iPad or an Andriod is obsessed with this game, and it annoys me to no end. Then I think: Is this what people feel when I ramble on about WoW?

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