Monday, September 4, 2017

Star Citizen's $400 Flying Monocle

Yesterday I read an article on MassivelyOP about the newest ship Star Citizen developer CGI offered in a post-GamesCon concept sale, the Origin 600i. The sale, which ends today, offered two variants, the Origin 600i Touring version for $375 and the Exploration variant for $400. CGI published a Q&A page and the same question and answer stood out to me that the MassivelyOP writer highlighted:
Q. The 600i is a supremely expensive ship for its size and role, especially against the larger Carrack and cheaper Constellation. Why is this? What benefits are worth the increased expense?

A. We are building a universe, and part of that means we can consider aspects that a standard game does not, such as value and desirability. When we look at vehicles in the real world, its apparent that more functionality does not always mean something is more expensive, and vice versa. In the Star Citizen universe, a sleek, luxury ship created by Origin will bring certain connotations with it, in the same way most people would find a sports coupé more desirable than a family sedan, despite the fact it has less seats and cup-holders.
The overall backer reaction is less than pleased, especially since a lot of players purchased the ship before the CGI published the Q&A. The following response from a poster named Captain Miller seems typical:
"I love how they use the 'buying a sports car vs buying a family sedan' when in fact if the family sedan handled supremely better, was just as fast, had more cup holders, leg room, and every unnamed feature imaginable, then no one would buy the sports car.

"What makes it a sports car is that it handles better and is in another class in terms of speed. This isnt the case, so they are essentially saying you are paying $400 for looks, and nothing else. It will be worse in every other way. Sad..."
My first thought after reading the article was, "Monocle!" The answer reminded me so much of CCP Zulu's defense of the pricing structure of the NeX store when it launched in June 2011:
"People have been shocked by the price range in the NeX store, but you should remember that we are talking about clothes. Look at the clothes you are currently wearing in real life. Do you have any specific brands? Did you choose it because it was better quality than a no-name brand? Assume for a short while that you are wearing a pair of $1,000 jeans from some exclusive Japanese boutique shop. Why would you want to wear a pair of $1,000 jeans when you can get perfectly similar jeans for under $50? What do other people think about you when they see you wearing them? For some you will look like the sad culmination of vainness while others will admire you and think you are the coolest thing since sliced bread. Whichever it is, it is clear that by wearing clothes you are expressing yourself and that the price is one of the many dimensions that clothes possess to do that in addition to style and fit. You don't need to buy expensive clothes. In fact you don't need to buy any clothes. Whatever you choose to do reflects what you are and what you want others to think you are."
I think Matterall summed up the situation best in his recent retrospective on the Summer of Rage:
"Following Zulu's remarks related to Fearless, he moved on to the issue of pricing in the NeX store. Considering the NeX was limited to clothing for the new full-bodied avatars roaming the Captain’s Quarters, Zulu referenced clothing in real life. Namely, the difference between $1,000 jeans from a Japanese boutique compared to similar jeans for under $50. The point was that tastes and willingness to pay to express yourself differed from person to person. However, the selection of items was very limited and players were outraged over some 'deluxe' items such as a monocle valued at upwards of $70 worth of Aurum. That high-priced monocle is also why the outcry over the NeX store was known as 'Monoclegate.' However, what many players heard was a CCP Dev saying that some consumers' willingness to purchase $1,000 jeans was the justification for overpriced merchandise in a virtual store."
Now, do I expect Star Citizen backers who have spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on Star Citizen, to abandon the game now? No. So in that aspect, the situation is not the same. But I do find amusement from some people's willingness to spend $400 just to look good instead of spending the money on performance. I guess Star Citizen really is a sandbox after all.

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