A few weeks ago I purchased Borderlands 2: Game of the Year edition from the steam store. I already own the original game and a lot of the DLC that followed its release on another platform, but I needed something to play with my partner, primarily a PC gamer, and the cost of the game with all the additional content included seemed reasonable. However, after tallying up how much the content originally cost, I couldn’t help but see game of the year editions as a business practice that are entirely unreasonable.
Borderlands 2: GOTY is currently £34.99 on Steam - it contains the original game and every piece of DLC content that came after its initial release. According to Steam the cost of this content purchased individually is £78.90 – that’s a difference of £43.91. Looks good on paper right? Well think of it this way – what if you rushed out to buy Borderlands 2 on day one and you loved it so much that you then spent money on all of the DLC Gearbox staggered out over the next year. Maybe you bought it all individually or perhaps you saved a little money by purchasing a season pass albeit a season pass that doesn’t have all the content that the GOTY edition does. Then, a year later the game you invested so much in is re-released with all that additional content included for the price of the vanilla game - a good deal for those yet to play it, but not so reasonable for you who already bought it.
Here’s the thing – game developers need money to survive, especially in today’s market where big name developers like THQ and 38 Studios declare bankruptcy seemingly overnight. For this reason you might think that the existence of game of the year editions is justified, it’s a way for developers to see more return on their games so they can stay in business. However, within this argument lies the reason as to why this sort of practice is wrong. If nobody went and bought a game on day one and instead opted to wait for a better value bundle edition, which is increasingly becoming the more popular choice, then the developer of said game would not exist to release that bundle. Making games is a costly endeavour and developers need those early adopters to buy their game and their day one DLC just to make up the cost of development, let alone turn a profit. They are an invaluable asset to the survival of a game company – to reward late adopters with better value deals in turn punishes those who support a game and keep the developer afloat – it’s insidious and a blatant show of disrespect.
The worst thing is that we as gamers are trapped in this situation. There are two options open to us when faced with purchasing a game – to buy it straight away or to wait for a bundle deal or the inevitable steam sale. The second choice is obviously the more sensible of the two, so why don’t I stop inventing issues and just do that. Well, I can’t – we can’t because, as I’ve already said, without early adopters game developers simply don’t survive. If we want to keep seeing games from our favourite creators we need to support them, but if we do that we are making them so popular that the proverbial slap in the face that is the game of the year edition is bound to follow. So the choice becomes - participate in this insipid practice or stop buying games altogether, and none of us, myself included want to do that.
So what’s the answer? I really don’t know. Right now game of the year editions, while a morally bankrupt practice, are seen as the best ‘value for money’ option to most gamers. Perhaps in time as the trend continues and more people hold off on buying games, instead waiting for the better deal, then developers will get scared as their profits begin to shrink and they’ll stop so brazenly disrespecting their audience. I’m sure a few more developers will declare actual bankruptcy before anyone wants to admit it’s wrong, morally and economically, but hey – you can’t make an omelette.