The value of videogames (or, why I think Untitled Goose Game was a rip-off)

by @edent | , , | 10 comments | Read ~227 times.

I have a limited amount of time on this planet. I also have a limited amount of money to spend. Therefore, like any Homo Economicus, I have a rational desire to get the most value for money for my time-wasting distractions.

So, after months of memes, I bought Untitled Goose Game on the Nintendo Switch to play over the Xmas break. I baulked at the price - £18 - but figured since everyone else on Twitter enjoyed it, I would as well.

I settled down to play it one afternoon, picked it up the next morning, and was staggered to discover I'd completed it! I am not good at video games. I didn't look up any walkthroughs. The game is short, and pretty crappy value for money.

Goose is fun while it lasts. It's not-quite innovative, the puzzles mostly consist of move Thing A to Place B. It's charming and silly. I did enjoy it while I was playing. I suppose the best thing I can say about it is that the whole thing is too short to be repetitive.

(If you think you've read this blog post before, you're right. 5 years ago, after seeing the Internet fawn over a cutesy puzzle game, I wrote "Is Monument Valley Overpriced? Yes." I don't learn my lesson, do I?)

So, does the Goose experience represent value for money?


£18 for 5 hours' of entertainment is about the same price-per-minute as a couple of cinema tickets to see the latest Star Wars movie. It's cheaper than going out for cocktails, or a fancy meal.

But it's vastly more expensive than reading a book. The average book I read tends to have a value of about £0.50-per-hour.

OK, but videogames are a different experience to other forms of entertainment.

Goose's £3.60/hour pales into comparison to any of the thousands of free games available on mobile. Many of them are just as fun and innovative. And, did I mention, much cheaper.

My wife plays a lot of open-world games on the PlayStation 4. A second-hand copy of The Witcher, Spider-Man, or any other recent AAA game costs around £20 and offers literally hundreds of hours of gameplay.

Novelty as value

There's another aspect - how much do you value original experiences.

I'd rather go to a new restaurant than eat in the same place twice. As my Untappd data shows, I've never met a new beer that I didn't want to try!

Goose is novel. I've never played as a mischievous bird before. So, reluctantly, I accept the Ludic Value argument.

Shared experience as value

And, I guess this is the real reason I see the new Star Wars movies on their opening day. I want to share the experiences with my friends. I don't want to have to dodge spoilers, I want to understand the cryptic memes,

So, this is the future. I can go and read "Moby Dick" for free, and maybe I'll be able to find some dusty social-network where people endlessly discuss Herman Melville. Or I can have a moment of zeitgeist which relies on a mass of people simultaneously experiencing novelty. That's (part of) the reason people buy new books, watch new films, and play new games - even when there's an infinite amount of better, cheaper entertainment.

It's football, isn't it?

I've never understood the sorts of sports fan who say "We won against Melchester!" - obviously they had nothing to do with it.

But they had a shared experience. One which evoked feelings of tribal loyalty, the drama of success and failure, and the soap-opera of personalities. The value isn't in the winning or losing - it's in the discussing with friends, reliving the good times, and feeling part of a community.

I guess I don't have that gene, so will go back to playing obscure, single-player games, with no community, for free.

10 thoughts on “The value of videogames (or, why I think Untitled Goose Game was a rip-off)

  1. Enjoyed it, but already have Game Pass on Xbox where I’m playing multiple games and it came up on there…

  2. Try @subsetgames title FTL. Worth every penny and put over 200 hours into it. Replayable. Drm and drm free versions. Great team and runs on really modest hardware.

  3. But yeah, I couldn't justify buying it at that price tag. Will wait a few years.

  4. Alex B says:

    I was tempted by it being £15.49-£10=£5.49 on Epic over the holidays, but I balked at that because reviews indicated that it was good, but very short. Like you, I remain excited to role-play as a mischievous goose, however.

    On the other hand, I played Fallout 4 obsessively over a free weekend, and committed to buy it when it fell below £10. When it did, I bought it, and installed it... then didn't play it for months. Eventually, the GOTY edition came out, and I resolved to wait until it, or the DLC I was missing fell below £10. The GOTY edition hit that point first, so I bought that too... and still haven't played out since that free weekend! Meanwhile, of course, the GOTY edition has occasionally been even cheaper.

    On the other hand, a pint of beer in a pub costs £4-5, and lasts me 30-60 minutes. I don't agonize at all about the relative value when I want a pint...

  5. ocdtrekkie says:

    I honestly enjoy shorter games more. The “good” of the experience is concentrated, not spread out over an artificially long period of time.

    One of my all-time favorite game purchases: Portal 2, which is like a six hour experience.

  6. Ha! I think I should have taken that approach 🤔

  7. James Whatley says:

    I think I picked it up for about £13 on Switch and I thought that was an absolute steal. Yes it's short but a) it's fun, b) it's cheaper than a night out (per your comparison), and c) I like supporting indie developers who come up with fantastic original ideas.

    On a similar note, I picked up the REALLY SHORT Sayonara Wild Hearts the other night. Finished it in all of about 2hrs. The game was under a tenner in the sale. I felt it was short once it was through but I didn't experience any buyer's remorse after the fact. Again, I felt happy that my money had gone to an(other) indie developer making awesome original games.

    ALSO: Check out Sayonara Wild Hearts 😉

  8. sillypunk says:

    I got so much joy from that game and I didn’t even play it.

  9. Agree – I was disappointed with the length of the game once I bought it myself

  10. I got a Switch at Christmas, bought the Goose, and completed it quickly. It was also a hit at family gatherings and it made me laugh a lot.

    Definitely quality over quantity, it finished with a laugh and did so before the joke outstayed its welcome 🙂

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