They're the biggest games of February 2015. They both failed to live up to their hype. And they both cost upwards of £49.99 at full retail price on PSN or Xbox Live -- £54.99 in the Case of Evolve.
Or to put it another way: they shouldn't cost upwards of £49.99.
In an age when numerous new business models are emerging and thriving, when gamers have more choice about how to buy into and engage with their hobby than ever before, Evolve and The Order: 1886 prove that AAA games pricing is stuck in the past, and it needs to change.
Let's talk Evolve. For the record, Evolve can actually be fantastic fun when played under optimal conditions; playing alongside or against a team of equally-skilled allies with plenty of experience, headsets and local knowledge. Unfortunately, the fun is fleeting. Even the slightest imbalance in matchmade skill, experience and willingness to communicate, not to mention bad luck, can lead to Evolve matches being frustrating or worse incredibly boring, which is to be expected when the asymmetrical multiplayer premise is better suited to budget agile downloads aimed at a passionate niche audience, not a big fat AAA title with a monstrous asking price.
But then we come to the DLC. £54.99 won't buy you a complete game, a quick look at the store reveals a ridiculous slew of cosmetic and important content, some of which is in the season pass, some of which isn't, and all of which carries the whiff of freemium business about it. The fact that maps will be free is very welcome, but even then, Evolve is trying to have its cake and eat it too, costing full whack yet then encouraging you to pay for content that, frankly, should already be included or added via patches considering the steep up-front cost of getting involved.
What annoys me most of all is that there are plenty of asymmetrical multiplayer games out there. Loads of 'em. Evolve isn't a radical new idea, since the likes of Natural Selection 1 & 2, Primal Carnage, Depth and many more already offer players a fantastic competitive experience with cleverly imbalanced sides. And dinosaurs. And sharks. Do you see the pattern? All of these games cost less than £20 on Steam -- often considerably less -- because they offer niche experiences for a niche audience at an appropriate price. And that's before you factor in all the free-to-play MOBAs that technically offer asymmetrical multiplayer too.
Evolve could have easily gone down this route, perhaps costing £14.99-£25.99 and offering extra content for those who want it. It could have even gone down the free to play route. Its DLC would have made sense in that context. But no, 2K had to charge £54.99 because that's how much AAA games cost, while their competition run rings around them by offering significantly better value.
Then we come to The Order: 1886.
Most of you already know that the gorgeous yet railroaded campaign can be completed in somewhere between 5-8 hours, but as Brendan pointed out yesterday, its length isn't really the problem. After all, great games don't have to be long or even offer any unlockables to be worth playing over and over and over again -- just look at the likes of Max Payne and Vanquish, for example -- while a truly magnificent game can be worth buying at a steep price even if you only play it once and remember it always.
The problem is that much of The Order: 1886 isn't a game at all. It's a cutscene, forcing you to watch unskippable cinematics or plod along exposition dump corridors, that can't ever play out differently each time or even offer you any interactivity whatsoever! Meaning that, in fairness, its length becomes an issue again as so little of it is genuinely engaging gameplay.
For fifty quid.
There's nothing wrong with singleplayer-only games or short and sweet experiences, or even hyper-linear games. But by the same token, over the last few years many publishers and developers have taken steps to release them at cheaper prices, whether as digital downloads or episodic titles that can be downloaded and consumed on your terms. Quality is important, but quantity is a part of value too (whether expressed as open worlds, branching campaigns, unlockables, multiplayer, replay value or just being good enough to be worth replaying countless times), and gamers now expect to be offered a decent amount of raw content for £50+. And quite rightly too, in my opinion. We work hard for that money. Many publishers and developers realise this and take it into account, yet The Order: 1886 is still £49.99.
Because that's how much AAA games cost. Even if the benefits of digital downloads -- not having to change discs -- are arguably still outweighed by the lack of resale value, gifting, lending and ownership.
We're now in an age when publishers and console manufacturers can be more flexible than ever in terms of how they structure, market and sell their games as digital distribution becomes even more prevalent and numerous new business models prove their viability. Games can be sold for differing amounts depending on how much they're actually worth, on a case by case basis, not just pidgeonholed into the tired old £49.99 or £54.99 price brackets because that's what AAA games cost. Some games will still be worth paying that much for, of course, but... seriously, though, Evolve is £54.99.
There'll always be a cheap deal to be had from high street retailers, online stores and serial key resellers, and thank goodness for that. But it's time for console manufacturers and publishers to wake up, smell the coffee and move with the times.