Time is money

What does value mean to you?

The Last of Us series is never far from the headlines, and seems to generate controversy like few others (hey wait don’t go, this isn’t all about The Last of Us I promise!). But the uproar over the recent remake’s £70 price tag has been loud even by Last of Us standards

Naughty Dog’s new remake is undoubtedly a full-scale PS5 production, rebuilt from the ground up for the console and as complete a remake as you could hope for, according to Digital Foundry. But of course the game running underneath – the mechanics, the performances, the score and everything else – had already been made.

Sony argue the remake is a AAA production in every sense, and the results certainly reflect that, but should we really be paying £70 for an upgraded game that’s only 9 years old and is still actually playable on the PS5? The majority of reviews say yes. But of course, many don’t agree.

In my opinion price shouldn’t be factored into a review. Not only because a game’s price (and content) will vary dramatically over time as the review invariably remains static, but because each person’s financial situation and reasons for wanting a game is different. A good review should tell you everything you need to know about the game and give an informed opinion on the experience it offers. It’s up to the reader to determine whether that experience is worth the current asking price.

Those who have never played The Last of Us in its previous form are getting one of the best and most influential games of modern times in full PS5-sized glory for Sony’s PS5-sized price tag. Those who have played it before will have to decide for themselves whether the upgraded visuals are worth buying the game again. Still, with so many games remade and remastered with minimal effort (a subject covered in The Week in Games previously), it’s at least good to see one given the lavish attention the original deserves.

We often assign value based on a game’s length, and that’s problematic. It’s £70, but it has a 60 hour campaign and an additional 100 hours of side missions – it must be worth the money, right?

But how much of that time is actually enjoyable? How much of that time actually stays with you?

Indie games by nature are smaller and usually quicker and cheaper to produce, and that is reflected in their asking price, but many of the best reviewed games of all time are indies lasting no more than a few hours. Those experiences are worth just as much to me as the longer ones.

Of course I’m not suggesting indie games should cost £70. Merely that the value of a game is completely dependent on the player. I know if I’d paid £70 for Journey and whichever Assassin’s Creed was around then that – looking back now – it wouldn’t be Journey I’d felt I’d wasted my money (or time) on. For many, the opposite would be true.

When I look back at my favourite games I never think about how much they cost me. I think about how worthwhile the experience was at the time and how much of it stayed with me.

To the Moon (a 16 bit-styled narrative adventure from Freebird Games) is only about 4 hours long and it changed the way I think about video games and the stories they can tell. I played it over seven years ago and its scenes, characters, and achingly beautiful score have stayed in my thoughts ever since.

You can’t put a price on that.

This article is an extract from The Week in Games newsletter.

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