Why do we buy the games we buy?

I approached some of the videolamer staff a few weeks ago and presented them with the following –

“I want to write something on our motives for buying games but decided that simply asking ‘Why do you buy the specific games you buy?’ is too open ended and abstract a question. Instead, if you list the last three games you bought and explain why you bought each I think that will make it easier to figure out why you buy games.”

Here is my list, followed by some responses.

Happy Arbor Day

1) Okami – I try to support games I perceive as very creative, which is why I bought this, Shadow of the Colossus, Psychonauts, and still want Odama. The amazing reviews did help convince me to buy Okami instead of a different game that’s very original (or at least original looking).

2) Phoenix Wright – I have a thing for very Japanesey games, as long as they aren’t too obnoxiously anime. I also like adventure games and want developers to make more of them. Finally, a friend or two told me I should play Phoenix Wright. (Because of a screw up with Amazon, I actually never received this game. Man, life is tough.)

3) Rocket Slime – I very much enjoyed the half of Dragon Quest 8 that I played. Square-Enix is pretty reputable and I enjoy action RPGs, plus I needed a single player DS game to take up my time. Rocket Slime fit the bill, got good reviews and even had a strategic tank battle mechanism to boot. I’m a big SRPG guy.

It’s interesting how two of these three purchases were bought as much to support things I like as they were for the specific games. Phoenix Wright and Okami represent kinds of games I want more of. Two of the games also seemed much more appealing because of their high reviews in magazines and sites. Phoenix Wright had more mixed reviews but friends told me I’d like it. Formal and informal recommendations probably matter a lot to me.

1) Final Fantasy XII – I didn’t think I’d get it right away, but as people from all kinds of forums – many of which tend to be more anti-Square, because it’s popular – said that it was great, I went with it. It got good reviews from a lot of sites, but I didn’t really trust them at first.

2) Culdcept – This game looked really interesting when it first came out, but I held out on it until now. This purchase was entirely word-of-mouth, I didn’t read a single review. Jay just recommended it to me.

3) Kessen II – I borrowed it from a friend and tried it a while back, and it was a pretty good game. When I saw it for $10, the price was right. Not to mention I will buy almost anything from Koei that isn’t a pure action game.

Gears of War look out, there’s a new heavy weight graphical champion in town.

I tend to trust word of mouth a lot more than reviews, as my tastes tend to be a bit less mainstream than most. I’ll only take chances with games if they’re fairly cheap.

Starting with the oldest…
1. R-type final – I respected the developers decision to end the series by choice rather than being forced to. I’ve recently become interested in shooters (as I really appreciate the challenge) and R-type is a seminal series in the genre.

2. Okami — A lot of the same reasons as Jay. Reviews were excellent and it looked really creative. Also, I liked the idea of your actions being largely creative rather then destructive, as it represents a departure from most other games, in other words innovation beyond interesting graphics.

3. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance — I’m a pretty big fan of FFT on the PSX (not to mention SRPGs in general), so I had always been interested in this pseudo-sequel. I was discouraged by certain things I had heard (admittedly this was largely from Tactics obsessors on message boards and was thus biased) but recent recommendations, including on the site, convinced me I should pick it up.

I frequently make the decision to buy pretty early in the dev process. If something catches my eye I’m likely to buy it once it comes out unless reviews are universally terrible. I think the reason for this is that I’m generally more interested in playing a game that is unlike anything I’ve played before (the type of thing that catches my eye) even if its mediocre, than I am in playing a shiny new version of something with gameplay I’ve seen a million times. Recommendations, especially from people whose opinions I trust, are also valued highly.

Hmmm, it’s actually been a long time since I did buy anything. My inner urge to buy everything has subsided, but with the Wii coming out that may change. Anyway…

Harvest Moon- I liked Animal Crossing’s tree fruit gameplay, but needed more substance. Harvest Moon was the next logical step. But, as we all saw, it was a waste. I traded the game in soon after.

Now included in every case of Donkey Konga 2 – The 80s.

Donkey Konga 2- I saw the game w/bongos combo in a Wal-mart for only $20. I’ve always liked the idea of the game, but never had the funds to try it. With a price like that, I had to go for it. And it’s really fun. I’m happy I took the step.

1080 Avalanche- Also based on price. I heard the semi-straight forward reviews the game had, but it still sounded fun to me. But there was no way I was about to pay $50 for it. I actually found it used for $6. At that price, I couldn’t afford NOT to buy it.

Tony Hawk’s Underground – By buying this I have copies of all the Hawk games but Underground 2 and the brand new Project 8. And since a roommate has Underground 2, I can still play it. So yeah, 6 bucks to help complete my collection of the series isn’t too bad.

Guitar Hero 2 – Because this will be played more than anything this year in my room.

Tekken 5 – Because I got a bitchin’ arcade stick for thirty dollars.

The motivation behind buying games, at least within our group, varied but there were some reoccurring themes. Interest in a specific game series or developer’s work is a driving force for most of us. Some of us buy games to support the underdog or support creativity, though this is usually only after we find out the games aren’t terrible. Even I don’t have unlimited patience for Stretch Panic type games (which was creative but bad). Factors like low cost, for collections sake and packed in hardware also came up. Most of us are interested by professional or friends reviews of games so it is safe to say low cost alone won’t sell a game.

I hope to follow this investigation of motives with another sampling of gamers answering the same questions. Do things like a game having a cool commercial and awesome graphics make casual gamers buy games? It’s also possible those things make us buy games as well, but we are good at rationalizing our purchases. How do you decide what games to buy?

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