If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly looking for the next excellent gaming experience. Unfortunately for those of us on a modest budget, desirable titles are released with pretty much every passing month, without even mentioning the bumper Christmas period. That means some titles inevitably fall by the wayside; you watch helplessly as reviews are released and seemingly everyone else on the planet enjoys their shiny new game. Like that meme of Squidward looking through his window, only with less talking fish.

All hope is not lost though as you, being the savvy customer you are, know that prices are like bowling pins; made to fall. The next big sale is just around the corner, you will have your hands on the prize soon enough. Metaphors and dead memes aside, the competition we see in the gaming market today really is a good thing for us consumers, since it drives developers to try as hard as possible to grab our attention, with higher quality games and (thankfully for our wallets), affordable prices.

Case in point, I recently picked up Star Wars Battlefront 2 as part of the Xbox EA sale. Originally, I was put off by the mixed reviews of the game, unwilling to pay full price for something mired in such controversy. A year down the line though, sure I’ll throw a fraction of the price at you and see what I missed out on. Clearly, I was not alone in this thinking, as every online lobby I joined was littered with low-level players, or ‘scrubs’ as I kept being called. Unsurprisingly, I suffered a lot of defeats, seemingly aggravating my team-mates along the way too. 

That got me thinking: is any of this actually worth it? It’s not too much fun losing, I’m at a severe disadvantage with equipment and joining a community in decline. Naturally, the answer to most of my issues is simply to ‘get good’ (another thing I constantly heard from fellow players), but the financial commitment I’ve made to this game pales in comparison to the other titles on my shelf, so what will drive me to do so? On the opposite side of the coin though, I don’t just want to add to a company’s bank account for no reason, especially EA; God knows they’ve already got enough out of me from FIFA alone. 

Of course, single player games evade most of these problems by being almost entirely self contained. Battlefront’s campaign still looks, sounds and plays great, but frustration seeps in when you feel as if you’re missing out on the more substantial part of the package. For something like DOOM 2016 though, where the focus is clearly on the solo experience, sales are obviously nothing but great value. Hands down, the best deal I’ve ever seen was Celeste being released for free as part of Games with Gold this past January; yes I’m talking about Celeste again. As a platform not only to reward players, but to expose players to both an amazing game and a developer on the rise, these kind of schemes have no equal.

The conundrum of entering multiplayer games post launch has been playing on my mind for a while now. It’s damn hard to build an online meta that can both constantly reward and entice long-term platers to stick with the title, whilst also feeling accessible and not completely overwhelming to new players. But, at the end of the day, video games are meant to fulfil some kind of power fantasy, providing the innate satisfaction that comes with succeeding and completing tasks, overcoming obstacles with skill. This pre-requisite doesn’t lessen just because someone payed less for a title, the experience should be the same and I should be hooked just as intensely as someone who picked up the game on release day. 

As services such as the Xbox Game Pass begin to make games more readily available, becoming part of the bundle before price reductions occur, this should start to be more of an archaic problem relatively soon. Plus, like I said, there are often a whole bunch of newcomers who enter into the game simultaneously, so there is always at least a little fair competition to be found in these online matches. The fact of the matter is though, especially in titles featuring one on one competition, it really is a roll of the dice whether or not you are just walking into a public humiliation or not. 

So, where do I stand now? Well, I don’t know, is the simple answer. Whist I’ve convinced myself that reduced price single player games are absolute steals, whereas online ventures are almost always a waste of money, I just know that come the next Steam sale all logic will fly out my head and I will once again be enticed by those low, low numbers. Is reduced play time an acceptable substitute for reduced price? I suppose that’s down to you as an individual. For me though, I’ll always be wondering what could have been. Thus, I’d rather stick to loving a few full-priced games deeply, rather than spreading my affection thinly over many cheaper experiences. 

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