Monday, January 30, 2017

Free PS+ Games

I started to write a post on recent awesome free games that I'd recommend trophy hunting, when I had a stab of guilt, followed by wonder:

What do developers get out of cheap or free games on PSN (or XBLA)?

Free game, ladies and germs!
My friend ventured a guess that the free title might be a company's chance at getting their name known. Ideally, they would follow up with a larger title after having established a fan base. Word of mouth is a huge force, and I would stake this blog on it! Marketing is expensive, and if you browse the Playstation Store, there are likely hundreds of titles you've never heard of. You'll also see quite a few indie games that don't even have videos or screenshots. Even worse, games that do have videos, but don't even show gameplay. This lacking piece in the marketing puzzle is a waste for everyone because it couldn't possibly be complicated to upload some in-game footage/screens to help sell unknown titles. While I believe in my friends' recommendations, I also say it would behoove The Big Three (Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) to make sure that any titles sold on their stores require previews, as pretty much only larger studios can get away with selling a title on sheer star power *cough NaughtyDog, I love you cough*

After that, I did a bit of research. Similarly to above method is the free to play model, where the devs give you all or most of the game, and the studio makes its money off microtransactions and/or expansions. Blizzard's MOBA, Heroes of the Storm is a perfect model of this, and is still releasing both free and paid content and updates 3 years later. A great example for PS4 is the puzzle game Gems of War. I played it for over half a year, so an added bonus is that I got to see it evolve with massive overhauls and updates, while the game remained free. I really like the idea of this scheme, but it gets abused too often. For example, the basic version of a particular game is extremely crippled to the point of being frustrating. Lots of mobile games follow this toxic pattern, where you can basically play 30 minutes per day, or you can only build your town to a certain size until you slowly gather resources or spend time to speed the process. Give me a fully-functional game, and I'll judge your programming prowess from there!

The last obvious case for some of these deals is that the games are old, and it's a last hurrah for revenue. Through minimal effort, Capcom can get another $5 for Resident Evil V, or the 2 remaining people on planet earth who haven't done so can nab Final Fantasy VII for dat $7.49 PSN flash sale.

Lookout for these bad boys
The PSN store's search method is abysmal, but there's also an overwhelming amount of content there. The final point I want to make about devs' benefits of releasing cheap or free games is that if you're like me and never want to pay full price, one of these sales will also call your attention to a selection, out of the thousands of games currently available to download. A drawback of this is that if too many cheapskates like me wait until a game is free, or heavily discounted, poor ol game makers aren't going to fare well. We have to step aside and let Baller Brians and Impatient Irenes fork over full price and get those developers their pay dirt at release!

However, just cause these games are free doesn't mean the hardworking devs don't get their duck's butter. Kris Graft at Gamasutra found that each game is negotiated with The Big Three and some devs actually get some cash for their efforts.

So, there we are. While you could all easily argue that the PS+ and XBLA games aren't truly free since you're paying for the subscription, I guess you could call me phony. Well, both Heroes of the Storm and Gems of War are Free without need to register anything, so getchu started on that, and let me know if you find some other awesome free titles out there! I'm itching to write about how productive my January was, but that will be in the next post, mein freunds!





Saturday, January 21, 2017

Welcome to 2017: New Horizons

It's been a while since I wrote about my frugal ways, and I wanted to assure readers that I'm still cheap. What's more: I survived Christmas and actually gave gifts this year.

Let me remind everyone here of certain conditions: For all of 2016, I made $12/hr, working full time. I took off 6 weeks between jobs, and still earned just over $17k last year. I've lived in my own one-bedroom apartment and currently pay rent of just under $800, plus power and internet. Financial vices: I order pizza or go out to eat once a week (I still give tips!), I spend about $20 per month on coffee beans, and there are some video game releases that I just can't wait for.

So with no packaging, and the
console store directly selling it
...why isn't it 25% cheaper?
I still make impulse purchases and have a sweet tooth just like everyone else. However, (my girlfriend and) I cook, I don't own a car, my phone plan is $2.50 per month, I don't order coffee, I shop at thrift stores to furnish my apartment, and I look at investing and frugality as exciting challenges, a little like trophy hunting in video games. I also don't have children, and my partner doesn't expect lavish gifts (poor girl, hang in there :) ) Almost all of my friends drive, so I still get a social life. Also, we all have PS4s, which means we don't have to individually buy every single hot title. Side note, don't buy digital game releases! No one can borrow them, and they're still stupidly priced the same (or more expensive) than a disc that took material to produce. For the most part, Amazon sells hard copies of new releases for $48 + tax, where the digital versions will cost $60 + tax. Why?

Again, my 2016 income was $17,000, which is certainly above the federal poverty level, but also 1/3rd of the US median income. I have managed to sock away $3000, or 17% of it. I'm bragging about this because I think it was hard-earned, but it's also a reminder of all of my readers and their friends to go over their finances every once in a while, and really think about where your income is going. I even made a spreadsheet of all my paychecks and investments (into Vanguard ETFs), and subtracted stock bought with money I already had invested. Just imagine how well I could do when minimum wage jumps to $15/hr, or if I land a better-paying job!?

If you stopped reading and saying, "I can't do this!" or "He's full of shit!" at me having no children, or you just can't give up your daily coffee trip, that's fine. But don't quit before you start! You can still get on the path to being financially fit by reducing some of your vices rather than cutting them altogether. Maybe some of the other suggestions can help you create savings to invest, or limit your spending. Either way, next time you hear someone who makes $40k or more griping about their finances, you send em on over to this here blog post.

Why is this such a big deal? Post your thoughts, or chat me up next time you see me. I'll let you know in a future post why I'm sold on saving.

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