If you didn’t already know by now – I have a strong stubbornness towards the purchase of digital content. My previous article I don’t pay for binary outlines my premise on this. However, after a lengthy discussion with a fellow retro-gamer, David Lott, my passion for this topic was awoken once more. So without further ado, let me explain more reasons on why I do not pay for binary, and why you shouldn’t either.
If it wasn’t already clear from my title, Muroidea are a large superfamily of rodents, including gerbils, voles and rats (amongst others). Rat’s are often described as sneaky, dangerous, determined and contagious, which I believe fits the description of Google’s Stadia platform rather well.
Google marketed the Google Stadia towards a demographic looking for a hardware-free alternative to console gaming and PC’s. The premise is that of a Chromecast, controller and nothing else. The games that you play on the device are streamed from powerful servers, meaning you never have to own a console to play them. It sounds fantastic until you look into it with a more logical mind.
All companies market with a sense of planned obsolescence – a “policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so that it becomes obsolete after a certain period of time.” Obvious examples of this are iPhones, in which you cannot (easily) change the battery, or whereby the iOS version soon becomes too old to run certain applications. Other tactics include releasing devices that are less capable that they need to be so that the second generation of devices look or perform better.
From this we can rest assured that the Chromecast Ultra that is used to stream up to 4K media will be obsolete in a few years as we enter the dawn of 8K media and faster internet speeds – generating long-term sales for Google.
The other issues, that are more concrete, are the pricing strategies behind this service. The Google Stadia Premiere Edition includes the Chromecast Ultra and Stadia Controller for £89.99 in the UK. Wait – I thought no hardware was required?
On top of this the subscription price for the service in the UK is £8.99 a month – a little over a standard Netflix subscription. It is dubbed the Netflix of gaming too, so the games are free right? Wrong. Whilst the service offers a couple of free games a month, much like Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus, the other titles are largely not free and require you to purchase them.
Google Stadia – Head to head
This is where the pricing starts to escalate. As a example price comparison that was taken on 18th January 2020, every title compared (16 at the time) was largely inflated over it’s physical counterparts. Here are a few examples from this list which was originally highlighted by a Stadia community member sambartle:
|Title||Google Stadia Price||Physical Price|
|A.O.T. 2: Final Battle||£54.99||£36.85|
|Assassin’s Creed Odyssey||£54.99||£17.99|
|Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2||£39.99||£15.99|
|Mortal Kombat 11||£49.99||£26.06|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition||£49.99||£15.59|
It is evident from the table above, that Google Stadia’s prices are an average of 222.9% that of their physical counter-parts for the current generational consoles. The highest delta in pricing is a staggering 320.6% of the physical version, even though some of these titles are also rather old.
Ready Player One
Let us look at two hypothetical examples of a console gamer and one which uses streaming services.
Player One purchases a brand new Xbox One X console for £299. Over the five years he owns this console he acquires an average of 12 games a year (one for each pay day as he needs to watch his money). During those five years he owns a console and 60 physical games which he bought for an average of £15 a game. In total he has spent £1,199 and has a shelf booming with amazing titles. In 40 years he will still have his console, and he will still have his 60 games.
Player Two purchases a brand new Google Stadia kit for £89.99. Over the five years that he has this device he also purchases 60 games at an average of £49.99, and also has paid 60 months of an £8.99 subscription. In total he has spent £3,628.79 and has a Chromecast which is burning out and a nice controller to show for it. This is not including the times he had to increase his broadband connection speeds and the times he went over his mobile data allowance each month. In 40 years, when Google no longer supports the servers, Player Two is left with a Chromecast and a nice controller.
Steam for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android is no better than Google Stadia. Price comparisons taken on the day of writing this article showed Steam selling Dirt 5 at the discounted rate of £44.99 whereas I was able to find the PC variant for less than £29.99 in several places, and even the digital download code for £24.99.
Fuser, a new game from the creators of Rock Band and Dance Central is priced at £54.99 on Steam whereas it is available for £44.99 physically (the higher price tags are because this is a new game).
Steam also has a monopolisation of sorts of the “PC Master Race” as they are often dubbed. Few retail stores, even GAME, sell physical releases for PC-based games. Steam now has a firm grip on this platform and the generations that are coming into the gaming community. A young person entering the gaming world with a PC will know nothing different than Steam and it’s digital spawns.
Children nowadays will see that they can get lots of titles relatively cheap (to their perception) and there is always the ‘bank of mum and dad‘ to buy you that DLC. We will have to wait until these kids go off into the world and see that companies are in fact ripping them offDavid Lott, retro-gaming enthusiast
Microsoft Game Pass is a slightly different story, and is in fact a service that I subscribe to. The model in which it works is more comparable to that of a 1980’s video rental store. Not only is the price negatable (£10.99 which includes the £6.99 Xbox Live Gold subscription fee), but you are not using the service to purchase or own games.
Xbox Game Pass instead offers around 100 titles a month that you can play for free until they are removed from the platform. The way I see this is just like an expansion on my monthly fee, allowing me to rent games and ultimately try them out – like full-version demo’s.
Once I have had my wicked way with a game I can then decide whether I want to buy the physical version or brush it under the carpet of distant memories. One point for Microsoft.
Microsoft – whilst they have their Game Pass seem a little more switched on. However they of course have their digital store where games can be purchased. This along with PlayStations equivalent are still something to avoid.
My opinion still stands that digital gaming is not only damaging to the consumer but also to the industry. I will never pay a company for digital titles, and the day that the industry becomes 100% digital is the day that I no longer get new games to play or collect.