Only one game has ever convinced me to spend more than $600 in it over time: Super Smash Bros (WiiU and 3DS). I’m happy with my spending, and I feel no buyer’s remorse.
Here’s how my purchases broke down:
- Super Smash Bros. WiiU: $59.99
- Super Smash Bros 3DS (two copies): $79.98
- Bayonetta DLC (for both platforms): $6.99
- Ryu DLC (for both platforms): $6.99
- Corrin DLC (for both platforms): $5.99
- Smash Bros-compatible Amiibos (36 at $14.19 each): $510.84
My comfort in spending at that level was contingent on six critical factors:
- The game never presents spending opportunities when I’m engaged in a game session. For me, being asked to pay while I’m in a game session is like being asked if I want to buy more popcorn in the middle of watching a theatrical film. No matter what the size of the screen – I play Super Smash Bros. on both my 3DS and WiiU – I want to be immersed. I want to put on my headphones and let the world around me melt away for a while, whether I’m on the BART or enjoying a little battle time before bed. Nothing breaks this immersion faster than intrusive IAP or ads. Keeping spending opportunities limited to the menu respects my need for immersion, and it also keeps me from making emotional in-the-moment purchasing decisions that I may regret later.
2. When new content is rolled out, pricing is crystal clear. No hard currency, no gacha. I recently purchased Bayonetta as a playable character in the game. I saw a flashy ad online. I was reminded of the content when I logged into the game at the menu with a notification. I was able go to the store and see exactly what she costs, in dollars – $6.99. Everything that came with the purchase was made clear: The character, a new background, five in-game trophies, and ten new music tracks. I didn’t have to purchase hard currency to get her. I didn’t have to submit to a gacha mechanism for the chance of getting her. I could just buy her outright, with the cost listed clear as day. Every time I have made a purchase related to the game, whether it’s been for digital or physical content (amiibo figures), I’ve always known exactly what the price is. This has been particularly helpful when trying to calculate how much I’ve spent in total – I was able to figure out my cumulative spend on the game in less than two minutes.
3. I can play with the content I purchase for the rest of my life. In a live-service world, players are frequently at risk of losing all of their purchases if a game fails to continue to drive revenue for the publisher. Most service games become unplayable in any capacity when the servers shut down. For players like me, this is a massive impediment to spending. I have been able to take for granted that I will always have access to the content I have purchased, provided I keep the device (or disc) it’s stored on. I still have a Dreamcast attached to my living room television (see picture), and I regularly play games on it that are now 17 years old. With Super Smash Bros., the online multiplayer component will be non-functional someday, but I know that I can play to my heart’s content in local play mode. This is a game I’m likely to play with grand-kids, which is a big part of why I’ve been willing to spend more than $60 on it.
4. I can easily see what the spend cap is, and it feels reasonable. I’m not planning to chase every piece of content down… but if I went down that rabbit hole, I know it wouldn’t bankrupt me. It’s frustrating to have to carefully track every single purchase in a typical service game, to ensure that I don’t go beyond my comfort level in spending. But that is an important part of the process, because if you don’t watch yourself, you can inadvertently fall into an unlimited spending hole. If I went “all-in” in Super Smash Bros. (all amiibos, multiple controllers, etc.), I would spend $1,370.11. That might keep me from buying a new computer for a while, but it wouldn’t put me at risk of maxing a credit card. It also makes me feel good to know that there aren’t other players at risk of bankruptcy, either.
5. The content I am purchasing feels like it was expensive and time-consuming to craft. This is the most subjective piece of the puzzle, but it’s important to note. Like anybody else, core gamers place a greater value on things that require great effort to create. When I purchase a playable character like Bayonetta, I know that artists and game designers had to figure how to adapt her moves from a game with a more complex combat engine, and still retain the essence of the character. They had to re-work all of the animations. Get her running on two distinct gaming platforms. Design a fully playable arena that is themed to reflect her world. And after all of that, they generously throw in a set of digital character trophies and a CD’s-worth of iconic music tracks into the package. For eight dollars. THAT feels like eight dollars well spent. Purchasing amiibos also feels like you’re buying something of value – it’s clear that the modelers put a great deal of thought into how to craft these characters as beautiful 3D figures worth displaying in your gaming room. Spending the same on consumables that speed up progress in a builder simply doesn’t feel as valuable… at least, not to me.
6. I can enjoy all of the content with my family. Most – roughly 2/3 – of the amiibos I have purchased for the game are actually owned by my children. They love the figures as much as I do. We frequently play the game tournament-style, battling amiibos against each other. It’s a game that even my five-year-old has been able to enjoy competitively, thanks to these figures.
So there you have it. Nintendo was able to move me – a stubborn, highly-informed gamer who knows that $60 will give me access to the best games ever made – to spend more than $600 on a single title. To recap:
- Nintendo respected my boundaries. They didn’t ask for money during game sessions, and didn’t obfuscate the cost of items.
- Nintendo understood what I value. They delivered a product that I can play forever with my family, and they offered content updates that feel like it took great amount of effort to create.