Versus Mode: Can libraries extend the value of a video game?

Paul doesn’t know that I’m doing this, so we’ll see if he responds.  He and I have been a tad busy this summer with a variety of things, so we haven’t been as active with our Versus Mode as we would have liked.  This is my first attempt to revive the series.

In a recent post, Opposable Thumbs explored the topic of what appears to be the shrinking gaming dollar.  These days, games for the XBOX 360 and PS3 cost around 60 bucks each.  That’s a lot of money for a video game, and in some cases, the games are shorter, not longer, than the games of the previous console generation.  Do the newer games offer additional value to merit the $60 price tag?  Do the fancier graphics make the price tag easier to swallow, even if there is not as much gameplay?  These are some of the questions gamers have to wrestle with when deciding if and when to buy a title.  Personally, I have yet to get a PS3 or a XBOX360, although I will likely get a PS3 someday.  I’m holding off for a cheaper price on the console and also cheaper prices on games.  Most of my games that I have on my PS2 and my PSP were bought as greatest hits titles with the discounted price of around 20 dollars.  WIth the cheaper prices, my dollar goes a lot farther.  As an example, I recently paid 15 bucks for Ratchet & Clank:  Going Commando.  The game took me about 20 hours to beat, so I definitely got a huge return for my buck.  While I don’t necessarily get to play the brand new titles as soon as they are released, if I wait  while, I can get two or three games for the price of one.

By contrast, a new version of Ratchet & Clank is available on the PlayStation Network as a downloadable title.  It currently lists for $14.99.  The game is not to be a full game, but merely a shorter experience.  The full version of the latest game, Ratchet & Clank:Tools of Destruction, retails for 60 bucks.  While the downloadable title offers a good experience, the question is whether its worth the money.  As Opposable Thumbs says:

But, for all that is good about the title, there’s no getting around the fact that the game is short. My first run through, with most of the secrets uncovered, ran just over 3 hours. That’s $14.99 for 3 hours of gameplay. To me, there’s nothing wrong with that; Quest for Booty is a highly-polished title from a great studio with some unique ideas. I could regurgitate the arguments comparing the price of the game to the cost of a movie in the theaters or a cheap meal, but the fact of the matter is that no amount of protest will prevent some people from skipping over a $15 game

As with most blog posts, the comments in the post are good to look at for getting some insight into this debate.  The question as it applies to libraries is this: Should more libraries be circulating video games in an effort to extend the value of a video game?  Isn’t that what libraries are all about?  Don’t we buy books, movies, music, and other media so that more people may use them as often as they wish?  Won’t our dollar go a lot further if libraries buy a game and have it played so much that it won’t play any more?  I can understand why many academic libraries are hesitant to buy games as many still think they are not research material, but how do we get past this barrier?  How do we realign our budgets to allow the purchase of games at the expense of books, movies, or cds?

2 thoughts on “Versus Mode: Can libraries extend the value of a video game?”

  1. This is a great question. From the perspective of the academic library I work in (and those I’ve worked for in the past) I don’t think I could justify collection dollars on video games unless they were specifically requested by faculty. However, that may change as our digital technology and culture program begins to embrace games and identify them as a media that creative professionals need to understand.

    For public libraries, I would think that answer to the question would require some data on the install base of console systems in the community. Is the PS2 still king? What is the demand for 360 titles vs. PS3 titles? I would imagine that the answers to these questions would vary widely from community to community.

    The other issue that strikes me here is how this schedule of purchasing will affect the developers’ bottom lines. I’m cheap, but as a long-term gamer I have an interest in supporting developers who make quality games. Thus, even though I have no time for gaming this fall and precious little budget, I’m still considering purchasing STALKER: Clear Sky, Fallout 3, Left4Dead, and Spore just to make sure the distributors know that people will buy quality games. First week sales are important to the financial success of titles. I’ve even given thought to purchasing a 2nd copy of the Witcher, even though the new content is available free to owners of the original. I’d just hate to see quality, original, and creative game design go financially unrewarded while 2nd rate movie tie-ins bring in fortunes.

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