Dick Smith is planning what might prove to be the mother of all games sales, the latest in a series of bargain gaming sales by stores across Australia. All have been massively popular, and I think that clearly demonstrates one thing: no-one is very happy paying $100 or so for a game.
Games aren't a core Lifehacker concern, but they're a big deal at our sister publication Kotaku. And throughout this week there has been massive traffic to posts discussing el-cheapo games deals. First there was a 50 per cent off deal at Harvey Norman (though that did limit you to two titles). Then there was a 20 per cent off deal at JB Hi-Fi which runs through until Sunday. And finally, word leaked of what looks like an exit from the gaming market altogether by Dick Smith.
Everyone likes a bargain, and as the editor of a site where saving money is a key concern, I totally understand why people are keen on these deals. But even allowing for that, the frenzied level of interest seems a little unusual. And then I remind myself: a new release game can easily cost $100 or more.
Sure, a console game these days represents thousands of hours of development and can potentially offer you hours more of entertainment. But it's still a large chunk of money. It's more than a monthly broadband subscription for many of us, or the equivalent of a month's worth of food if you're especially cheap.
A game is a non-essential purchase. It's a luxury. And if you can score a luxury at a bargain price, it's very tempting. But if we're all hanging out waiting for the bargains and big retailers are concluding it will be better to dump selling games altogether, that suggests that there's something wrong with the model and things will need to change.
Arguably, in some ways things already have. Mobile phone games cost far less and can provide just as much entertainment (says the man who has wasted more time on Plants vs Zombies than on any other game in recent memory). The games industry is looking increasingly like screen entertainment: a series of blockbuster sequels to known titles at one end, and innovative independent work on a much smaller canvas.
If you're a keen gamer, then exploiting every one of these sales makes sense. But something, I suspect, is soon going to give.