You did it. You spent many hours, and probably a few curse words, getting to the end of the journey. But what now? I’ve found that I ask myself that a lot at the end of some of the best games I’ve played. One gets so involved in the universe of a title that being removed at the end feels like that first move away from home. Therefore, the idea of replayability is an alluring trip back into what you already know. Months ago, I wrote an article about aspects I consider important in a game, with the ability to be rewarded by playing again a strong element. I think that if a developer offers incentives for returning to a game, then that doubles the value of that game.
The most prominent kind of replayable element is downloadable content, or DLC. Players play their favorite games, then they get to see a new chapter, a continuation of the story, or something new altogether a few months after release. From a business perspective, DLC is a smart idea. Announcing DLC for a title before that title is even released ensures added value into the game. Also, the developer ensures additional income for a product already sold. Some consider this greedy, but I believe in the basic principle of business: maximize income while minimizing cost. If I can build something, sell it, then make more money after the initial transaction, I certainly will, and I think that’s what many developers are realizing is a good idea. Another perk is that DLC gives developers time to create more ideas or add more wiggle room for their current ideas. Finally, it builds a sort of anticipation after the credits roll. If you know something is coming after the end, there is a possibility you’ll want to see it like a sequel to a blockbuster movie. DLC is the obvious choice for replayability these days.
However, the basic issue still remains: Should gamers have to pay for more to the game? Why don’t the developers include everything in one
big bundle? Well, that’s an interesting discussion. I’ve already laid out the business perks of doing DLC. But I can also admit that having that immediate gratification of instantly being able to start over for more rewards is enticing as well. Take Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, for instance. Beating the main game unlocks side missions that add just enough diversity in the gameplay to make them just as interesting as the main story. Personally, I think that this was a very smart move on director Hideo Kojima’s part, considering that the main mission is two hours long on a slow playthrough. Adding more for the player to do helps distract the gamer from remembering that they just paid $30 for a two hour test game. Good business sense and focus on the players.
Other games do this same thing. One of the popular things to do, especially with games that use a leveling up mechanic, is to start the story over with what you’ve earned the previous time. Batman: Arkham City was a good example of this. The developer, Rocksteady, allows the player to start the game over, in a harder setting but with all the tools that Batman earned the previous time. This lets a gamer try new ideas and prove to themselves that they are Batman.
One of the last things to mention about replayability reasons is actually one of the most simplest ones: the experience. Some games are just so good that you have to play them again. And again. And again. This is exhibited by my third playthrough of the whole Mass Effect series. In my experience, if it touches you in your emotions, you should pick up the controller again. The action of playing a game again is the cheapest satisfaction of replayability available. It certainly is something I’ve done plenty of times.
With the economy still somewhat on the mend, gamers need strong, convincing reasons why they should buy, and keep, a game. This has been my course of action for a while: a short game with a short shelf life deserves nothing more than a Redbox rental. I do my research and figure out the most cost-efficient way to play it. I see replayability as important, even more so than other elements of a game. If you feel the same, let me know what kind of games were your favorite to play again.