Monument Valley - the hyper-praised indie game from UsTwo - has just hit a bump in the road. It wants to charge users for new levels.
This particular review has been doing the rounds on Twitter.
Yes, it's hyperbolic and ranty - but it is the absolute truth. Monument Valley is overpriced.
Now, don't get me wrong, it is a gorgeous game. Sure, it's a bit derivative of the Xbox hit Fez. There's no story to follow except for some cod-philosophy which tries its best to be deep, but ends up sounding like a teenage girl writing inspiration quotes over a picture of a dolphin. The sound design is subtle and compelling, the animations flawless, and the game mechanics are excellent.
It looks amazing. For an hour.
Seriously, I don't play many video games, but I sailed through in sixty minutes. At level 10 I found the first real challenge and then... poof! The game was over.
That does not represent good value for money. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it was pretty dreadful.
You user doesn't care how many people worked on the game. They don't care that proper sound design is expensive. They don't care that your landlord put up the rent on your swanky London studio.
@edent Cheaper, longer lasting and more satisfying than a cup of coffee.
— Chris Ross (@darkrock) November 25, 2014
We live in times of desperate austerity. When you say "well, it's only the price of a cup of coffee!" you utterly fail to realise that for many people Starbucks represents an unobtainable level of decadent spending.
People have hard lives. After working two jobs, slumped on an endless night bus home, they want relief from the pain and tedium of the working day. Pulling out an old phone - perhaps a hand-me-down, or one bought in happier times - they want to spend what little disposable income they have wisely. Something that gives them bang for their buck.
Renting a movie, like Transformers, works out at £1.30 per hour of enjoyment. Twice as cheap as Monument Valley.
Reading a book, knitting, chatting on the phone with a friend - all cheaper.
As the reviewer said - there are many games which are just as good looking as Monument Valley, with far longer play times. Often for free.
Earlier this year, I asked people what they thought of Monument Valley.
@edent Yes for the design aesthetic but the game is pretty short.
— Ian Dow-Wright (@_ianw) May 21, 2014
@edent in about thirty years experience of gaming it stands out for me as one of the most complete experiences. Absorbing. Full of wonder
— Chris Taylor-Davies (@CTD) May 21, 2014
@edent Yes. And you can help to raise the baseline app pricing model above the unsustainable free-99p level that is hurting the industry.
— kai (@kaigani) May 21, 2014
The last post, from my friend Kai is the one that interests me most. It speaks to a sense of entitlement that I think is prevalent within the creative industries (I include myself in that group). What we're doing is special - and deserves a special price. To most people, what we produce is fairly worthless, quickly consumed, and just as quickly forgotten.
It's like paying for a cocktail in a swanky bar - you're not really paying for the booze, the buzz, or the mixologist's time - you're paying for the entire experience. That's fine if you literally have money to waste - but for most people, it's just not worth it.
Monument Valley is a shallow game, priced at those people who value a delightful transitory experience rather than those who have a reasonable expectation of longevity.