Do the games that sell for less than $10 these days, crank out the high quality and challenge that fits the needs of today’s gamers? One would think not. But is forking out over $60 – $70 per game give you a better quality and more challenging one? For several years now, the gaming industry has been on the rise. And with the exception of console games (which this article does not cover), PC games tend to have their “clone” game for a fraction of the cost with very little, if any, loss of game quality or play.
Was it always this way? No. Back in the late 80’s and mostly early 90’s many of the games were 8 – 16 color using simple shapes. They were no means up to the standards and quality of today’s retail games. Yet they sold. A classic among these was Castle Wolfenstein mad by Muse Company. For those of you who graduated in the 80’s know, that this was still during a time of Dungeons and Dragons (the real paper and pencil version) and very few, if any, schools had computers and the computers they did have, usually had some type of game (as they were never used in class). CW was one of those games, and it was a hit.
However, an even bigger game, with WORSE graphics hit the DOS PC and became an instant hit during this time was a simple game called: ROGUE! Rogue was probably the first pc dungeon dweller game that was found on just about every computer regardless of its OS or language. Its graphics were nothing but letters on a keyboard and other ASCII characters for monsters, treasures, weapons and even doors and stairs. The dungeons themselves were random, so no two games were ever alike. The objective – was (originally) to get the level 26 where the great Amulet of Yendor is said to be kept, then grind your way back up to the top. It is not as easy as it seems.
So what made this game such a hit? No graphics to speak of. Definitely no sound. Well one reason may be that the game did an excellent job keeping the player involved and active in the game by all the mechanics. There were so many things to do per level and just about every key on the keyboard had some use, that you were always “busy” with something that it kept you active, unlike games such as (keeping with the era) space invaders where you do two things – move left/right and shot. That’s it. (NOTE: Pac-Man is a different issue all together for another article)
While all those were free games, time changes, as it always does, and soon the world of 3D graphics games came into play (pardon the pun), and all those “cool” DOS games soon faded away. Before Warcraft (not the MMO) became popular, Blizzard had another game called DIABLO. Was an instant hit (of course). If you have never played it, it is, in essence, a glorified version of ROGUE. The only major difference, aside from the graphics being incredible at the time, was that it incorporated a “town” BEFORE heading off into the dungeons. So instead of the ugly DOS text graphics, you had a 3/4 top down view of a character that could relate to. Game price (best guess) $39.99. Then with some controversy, Diablo II came out, with a few other added feature, at about $50+.
Now move up to 2010 (this year). A new game hit the market and was making a stink: TORCHLIGHT. As of May 18th, 2010 the game sold over 500,000 copies since its release in October 2009. And it did not take long for the community in the forums to raise a stink of their own with the “Diablo clone” flames. If one was to Google “TORCHLIGHT VS DIABLO” you would find massive pages of the similarities between the games. TORCHLIGHT can be bought for a mere $19.99 these days. This is believed to be where the sales boost came from. While DIABLO I & II can be bought (separately) around $17 – $20, down from the original price of $40+.
However, if these are your type, another company came out with a game called FATE. Graphically it is closer to TL than Diablo, even though it came out before TL. This game sells for a whopping $6.99!!! And has it all. As a matter of fact, it became so popular that WildTangent came out with FATE II which is the same price and just as good as its predecessor. The graphics of TL are so close to FATE that it could conceivably be assumed that they cloned fate – NOT Diablo!
But with all that aside, if, in this example, most of these games are extremely similar, but priced drastically different, why do people still choose the higher priced? It is believed that many still follow the old saying “… good things are seldom cheap and cheap things are seldom good”1 So paying $6.99 for FATE might make some feel that they are not getting enough “bang for their buck” or at worse, it will not be of the same quality or caliber.