Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Online Purchases: It All Adds Up

As a corollary to my recent Xbox 360 console repair, I finally decided to stop being lazy and set my downloaded DRM content straight. I called MS support one final time and they asked me to make an auxiliary Xbox Live Silver account Gamertag (I chose "nuka kola" and if you get the reference then props to you). Then the guy started verifying my entire list of online content purchases, such as downloadable content (DLC) for retail games and full versions of Xbox Live Arcade titles, in order to quantify the amount my account should be credited.

Let's see, I've got.. Crackdown "Gettin' Busy" DLC pack, Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting, TMNT The Arcade Game, Alien Hominid, Bomberman Live, Marble Blast Ultra, Geometry Wars, Assault Heroes, and Contra.

I started adding up the values in my head and wham, it hit me. Not counting the free copies I received of Contra, Hexic HD and Aegis Wing, I realized I've spent $70 on content on the Xbox Marketplace. I guess when it's only $10 here and there, the hit on your wallet feels less substantial. But out of all those titles, I've really only returned to a few of those arcade games after the initial purchase. I'll admit, some of those were impulse buys. I mean, $5 for 4-player online Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action is hard to pass up. Oddly enough, many of these transactions were relatively painless and I always felt like I got my money's worth from them.

When you make large purchases, your mind goes through a process of justification. You almost feel like you're trying to get your worth out of it. If a retail game lasts 12 hours and costs $60, that experience is essentially worth $5/hour to you (equivalent to the price of a movie ticket). Depending on how much you enjoyed it, you may play the game again another time through, or you might play the online multiplayer to squeeze more entertainment hours out of it. In some cases, even if your experience was mediocre, you'll still rationalize that you paid $60 for this and it was a damn good purchase.

However, with these smaller downloadable games, you could spend 2 weeks playing a game and feel considerably good about the $10 you spent. Heck, even after 2 hours, it might seem worth it to you almost instantaneously. Since the price is low, it tends to fly below your consumer threshold and you tend to forget about it. Like picking up a pack of gum at the supermarket check-stand or buying that bottle of Coke at work in the afternoon, you don't really think twice about these little transactions, but they do add up.

I guess the good news is that since my new account will get credited with 5600 points (or $70 in the real world), I can pick and choose which of these games deserve to stay on my HDD and which ones I can do without. This is rarely the case in life and I suppose I should cherish that freedom. With all those virtual points at my disposal, it'll be hard to remain reserved in the online marketplace.

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