Deus Ex designer Warren Spector says the videogame industry needs to focus on lowering the price of games in order to foster real growth as an entertainment medium.
"We need to get our price point down because we've been in competition with other media for years, it's nothing new," said Spector said at the Game Developers Conference last week. "We've been a niche medium that over-charges for its product and therefore generates a lot of revenue which makes us a little bigger than Hollywood, which is crazy."
"The key is removing barriers to the creation of content and removing barriers to the consumption of content," he continued. "Allowing people access to lots of it, at the lowest possible price where you can make a profit."
He also expressed disdain for the idea that the high cost of games is justified because they provide more hours of entertainment than other forms of media. "I've always had this anecdotal belief that there's this magic price point for entertainment. And it's not a per dollar charge. No one thinks about how many hours they're going to get out of their entertainment dollars," he said. "If I've got a 20 dollar bill in my pocket I can go buy a book, go to a movie, but I can't buy a game. I can buy a CD, I can do so much even now, but you cannot buy a game."
But he also expressed optimism that despite the current economic climate, the rapid pace of change in the industry is opening up a number of new opportunities for developers. "Five or ten years ago there was a way you did this, but now, there are so many more ways to reach an audience," he said. "It really gives me hope in a weird sort of way that the craziness in this business - the economy and all the lay-offs - it's remarkable how wide the variety of opportunity is."
Spector is currently at work on a new project for Disney Interactive and has a credit list that most developers would kill for, including Deus Ex, System Shock 2, Thief: The Dark Project, Ultima Underworld, Wing Commander and many others. And while I would never think to contradict a man with such impeccable credentials (although I'm about to), I for one do actually consider, in a general sense at least, dollars per hour when I making game-buying decisions. "Value" can be perceived in many ways but when you know a new game is going to shave entire days or weeks off your life it's a lot easier to swallow a hefty price tag.