What’s it like to launch in a recession?

For better or for worse, the world economy is in downturn, with the US and UK particularly hit. And many pundits predict this may be just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, it hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that we seem to be on  the start of a recession, if not worse. Banks are tumbling and the after-effects are being felt throughout our economies. So much for credit default swaps.

And Warhammer Online has just launched. Will the economic problems have a knock-on effect? I suppose we’ll never truly know.

Before my first MMO, I blathered on about how I would *never* pay a monthly fee for a computer game. It seemed so.. unintuitive compared with what had gone on in my life before. Pay for a game I could play for many hours and over and over again if I wanted, or use MUSHes for my RP kick – which were free to play. But then I got hooked to Dark Age of Camelot and began to appreciate that spending under £10/month on something I played for multiple hours each day was actually pretty good financial sense.

I feel the same way now, with WAR’s costs and financial pressure hitting people elsewhere. It’s £9/month for something that will keep you enthralled and entertained (or even hopping mad). That’s 1.5 trips to the cinema at my local. 1 trip if you live in parts of London. Or.. a few pints, 2 packets of cigarettes. And it has no associated costs, other than the existence of a PC good enough to play it, and the cost of the original box. It actually ends up saving money, because my time is tied up when I might want to go out and do other stuff.

However, if I were economising and I looked around at my monthly spends, I imagine that little £9/month would be a tempting target. After all, I have a bunch of games on my computer I’ve never played, or didn’t get very far through. They’d entertain me. It seems to be such an innocuous figure that I could live without, and can be resubbed to at any time. So there is some pressure there.

There’s been quite a few stories about how videogames are recession-proof recently. Historically, apparently, entertainment factors well in times of economic gloom. There was a boom in the cinemas in ’30s America, for example. Seeking Alpha calculates the average non-MMO game represents entertainment value of around 60 cents per hour compared with DVD rental at $2/hour and is thus well-placed to actually withstand any recession. He’s talking about stand-alone games for consoles or PCs, but if I was to calculate my hours played so far in Warhammer Online and extrapolate I can guarantee it would be a much lower figure than 60 cents for an hour’s play.

So, I think there won’t be too much fallout from economic factors just yet. And I’d argue that actually at the start of a recession, if you have a computer that can run it and you like it it’s a good way to spend those entertainment pounds and really, if you do need to look at economising and the subscription comes up in discussion – work out how many hours you spend playing and think what you’d be doing otherwise.

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6 Responses

  1. Well it doesn’t seem to be causing too many problems so far. According to this link:

    http://kotaku.com/5053422/british-sales-charts

    War went straight in at #5 on the all platform sales charts for this week. Pretty decent considering Nintendo generally has about 90% of the top 10. (IanC makes a cheeky appearance in the comments section too)

    Thanks for an interesting read though, the cost/hour equation does tend to work very strongly in these game’s favour.

  2. it’s IanC not IainC though… (someone called Ian Charles apparently)

  3. According to warhammer alliance site, and his own name on there, its IainC.

    And usually, games actually are pretty recession proof. They usually even perform better than normal during a recession. Why? People stay home and get entertainment for cheap.

  4. I doubt it will do much harm, maybe even help.

    MMOs are about the cheapest form of entertainment out there, and you can do it from home. I would be really surprised if an escapist fantasy game suffered too badly during rough times.

  5. Nono, I meant the “cheeky appearance” on that post was by IanC (http://kotaku.com/people/IanC/) not IainC 🙂

  6. D’oh! Didn’t spot the missing i. (I’m pretty sure there’s an eye related pun in here somewhere, but it’s far too early for me to spot it :p )

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