Image by pvera via Flickr
I have a very simple rule for video games: I need to get no worse than $2/hour of entertainment. Above that, it is approaching the cost of a matinee movie ticket around here, which is already too expensive. What this usually means is that regular releases at the $60 mark need to give me absolutely no less than 30 hours of entertainment. Any game that does better than that, especially if it hits the $1/hour mark, is a complete success.
I have games I have put 100s of hours into:
- Fallout 3
- Fable 2
- Grand Theft Auto IV
- Saint’s Row 2
- Forza Motorsport 2 and 3
- Tiger Woods 2007
- The Orange Box
- Dead Rising
Those games are the keepers, you just leave them around because in a worst case scenario of boredom you can pick one up and replay it once a year or so.
30-hour games are different. At that mark, either I have played through twice, or I played through once and there’s no incentive to go back even to finish the achievements. I kept those around since Alex Esoterica used to swap games with me and I thought it was nice to do that kind of favor to somebody else.
Then Amazon showed up.
When Red Dead Redemption came out, I was bored right as I finished the first play through, which took me very little time. Amazon was too happy to offer me $40 for the game, and shipping it to them was free. $60 game, I put about 20-30 hours into it, then recovered $40, that’s 30 hours for $20 on a game that was OK but was not great. The $40 are issued as an Amazon credit, which is as good as cash if you like to preorder games.
Also, preordering games on Amazon usually involves some kind of bribe in the $10-$20 range. Crackdown 2 was a piece of shit, but Amazon gave me a bribe for preordering it, and paid me $31.25 to return the game. Oh yes, and I used the $40 from returning Red Dead Redemption.
Fable 3 was not a piece of shit, but Amazon once again tempted me to return it at the 30-hour mark for $32.25 and the preorder involved a bribe for $20.
The problem now is that I am being spoiled by both ridiculously long games like the Fallout series (still haven’t bought Fallout: New Vegas) and by over-generous trade-in values from Amazon, which makes me spend too damn long trying to figure out what to play next. For example, I was ready to discount Call of Duty: Black Ops because I simply won’t touch the multiplayer mode, and the single player campaigns are short. But it is a hell of a lot harder to say no if I can count on putting at least 30 hours into the single user campaign and still manage to return it to Amazon for $30 or so. One thing is for sure: it kills any motivation to ever pick up a game at a retail store.