Do you remember when those days when you could buy a game and it would have all of the content installed and ready to go with no extra costs? Good times. These days, however, it’s beginning to feel like that when you buy a game you are simply buying a base game, the foundations of something bigger. Then you’re expected to continue paying out for additional content, to build upon those foundations, so you have a worthwhile game to play. An increasingly popular way of doing this among video game developers today seems to be encouraging consumers to purchase extra bits of plastic shaped like figurines.
Leading examples of this include Disney Infinity, Skylanders and Nintendo’s Amiibo, all of which require figurines to unlock new characters, areas and challenges within their respective games. Each figurine usually costs about £10-12 and come out in waves of three or four at a time, with the precedent being set for new figurines being released around three times a year.
So the question has to be asked, is it worth it? For a game that initially costs between £30-40, it seems extortionate to pay three or four times that amount every year just to keep up with all the new content which, let’s be honest, you’d probably hoped for when you purchased the game in the first place.
You’ll also notice these are games that are predominantly aimed at children. What child doesn’t love Disney characters? Or dragons? Or Pokémon? These little figurines are essentially toys in their own right, though with a much higher price tag. This leads to the question of ethics. Bringing out pretty little toys in order to make a game work is just going to make children badger their parents for the newest figurines every few months, something which I’m sure many parents had hoped to avoid by buying the original game in the first case.
You may also notice that the average price of £10 – £12 that these figurines sit firmly in the ‘pocket money’ market, making them affordable for children and ensuring their continued enthusiasm by encouraging them to buy the whole set. One could argue this technique is used on both children and adults every day, but it is unlikely for children to think of this when they’re desperately trying to add Elsa or Woody to their figurine collection.
Of course, there’s the argument that these figurines allow game developers to build upon and improve the game. After all, if you want to extend a video game’s shelf life, you need to keep it fresh. But there are multiple titles based solely around the principle of buying these figurines and it seems to be purely a way of ripping off the consumer. So I have a request for all game developers – stop trying to take us for every penny we have! We have plenty of other games out there to play and, in all honesty, the children would probably be just as entertained, if not more, by a regular toy that unlocks their imagination instead.