The Playstation Store: a revolutionary online service dedicated to delivering sub-$15 experiences direct to our hard-drive. The knot in the middle: "These games look like they should be PSN downloads," forum posts complain, "$60 retail release. Not worth it. I'm not buying." The topic at hand: since when did we judge video game value at face surface?
Not everyone's had a chance to play Modnation Racers yet. I'm privileged. That game is incredible and I've already sunk more hours into it than many other of this year's high-profile releases (Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for one). So what is it about the games aesthetic that's chopping value off the title? The forums really are unanimous in exclaiming the game should be a $15 PSN release, but why do people think it?
It truly boggles my mind when I start to pick apart Modnation Racers' feature-set: a full career mode with voice acting and cut-scenes; a complete track, character and kart editor, with online publishing functionality and deep stat-tracking; an online hub-world adapting in real-time to the game's most prominent creators; four-player split-screen local multiplayer; a complete online career with levelling, lobbies and varying game types; thousands of unlockable stickers, objects and devices to make creations unique. It's a retail game in every sense of the word, but it strikes me that people don't appreciate that value. It can't, therefore, be game content that's tainting value appreciation - something else.
Modnation Racers is a kart game like Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (a retail game which has surpassed one million copies) and Mario Kart (a retail franchise which has become one of the most iconic series' in Nintendo's library). Therefore the pricing qualms can't be a circumstance of genre either.
And that means we're left with aesthetics. Modnation Racers is an incredibly stylish and attractive game. No, it's not going to rival God Of War III and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for PS3's graphical crown - but there's a strength to Modnation's art direction that provides plenty of personality. It's not brimming with identity like LittleBigPlanet, but it has a charm all of its own. It's pretty.
A similarly identifiable game is 3D Dot Game Heroes - a bright re-imagining of retro adventure games for the Playstation 3. Interestingly, 3D Dot Game Heroes carries a slimmer $40 price-point, an admission of the game's relatively slighter scale. Still, the forum posters sound the alarm: "This should be a $15 PSN release." Yes, 3D Dot Game Heroes has a varied 30-hour campaign that riffs on nostalgia, but it also has more variety than many of the other $60 titles out there.
To contrast, I recently reviewed Lost Planet 2. A $60 game from Capcom. It has a co-op campaign and online multiplayer. It hasn't faced the same criticisms as 3D Dot Game Heroes and Modnation Racers — it's faced rather sterner criticisms regarding its actual gameplay choices, but let's put that aside for a moment. For argument's sake, Lost Planet 2 has a perceived value that 3D Dot Game Heroes and Modnation Racers don't - even though it has relatively less content, and is a substantially inferior experience. It's hard to contrast the three games as they're all so different, but I'm left assuming that value really does lie at face surface. Think back to all the other retail games that have been critiqued for their price-tag before release: the XBOX 360's Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and Viva Pinata; the Nintendo Wii's Super Mario Galaxy and No More Heroes. Regardless of their respective sales, critical reception and content - all noted games were perceived to be worth less than the sum of their parts. And they all have one thing in common - they have a thoughtful aesthetic.
It strikes me that only grim and gritty can seek the $60 price-tag. Inject some personality and, well, that's a $15 PSN game, right? It really is about time people got over this.
Twiggy is an anonymous PushSquare columnist who has been spotted in three major cities across the globe. Its rumoured hes on the run from the British monarchy.