Okay, this one's going to get a little math-y, so bear with me. I think it's pretty safe to assume that at some point in everybody's they've been on one end of a conversation that goes a little something like this:
Person 1: Hey Dude/Dudette, I've recently been playing my recently acquired video game console and have found it to be quite magnificent. You should really purchase one for yourself so that you too can bask in its joyous glory.
Person 2: That's an interesting point, Person 1, and I've considered purchasing said doohickey before, but I feel like it just doesn't have enough games to make it worthwhile.
Then either the conversation ends or the two become embroiled in an argument lasting hours and ultimately going nowhere. Either way, the conversation brings up an interesting issue, how many games is enough games to make a system worthwhile? And more importantly, is there some kind of scientific way to determine that number? Well, I sure as hell am going to try.
First off, we need to establish an acceptable cost to time ratio for when a game itself becomes worthwhile. Let's assume that, at the average new game cost of $59.99, that the minimum acceptable amount of time for that game to last is 20 hours. Why 20 hours, you ask? Well, based on my years of experience in the video game retail business, most people feel seem to be satisfied if a game is at least 20 hours long. So, that considered, if we divide the average cost of the game by the desired length of the game we can assume that the acceptable cost of fun is approximately $2.99/hr.
So that gives us a framework in which to determine whether a game is worth the price, but what about a system as a whole? How do we determine how many good games a system needs to be worth it. Well, here's the formula I'm going to use:
- Figure out the number of desirable games on the system in question.
- Figure out the total cost of the games.
- Figure out the number of hours (on average) of gameplay offered by the games.
- Add the cost of the system to the total cost of the games and divide by the total number of hours of gameplay.
- If the result is less than or equal to 2.99, then the system is worth your money.
"But wait!" I hear someone cry, "This formula means that I have to buy my system and all of the games at once!" No it doesn't. This is assuming the ultimate cost, over time, of the stuff you'll buy. As such, it both puts the equation at the higher end of a margin of error, as the cost of the games you want may go down over time, and it allows you to factor in specific future games coming out for the system if you wish. Sure, you may pay the cost of the system up front, but the cost will average out over time.
So, with those things in mind, let's have some fun by looking at the current generation of systems and see which ones are worth buying. Of course, a big factor in this equation is the whole "games you want to play" part, and obviously everybody's tastes vary. To accommodate that scientifically inconvenient fact, I've decided to base the list of games on the criteria of any non-multi-platform game currently available for the system with a Metacritic score of 80% or higher. Yes, I recognize that Metacritic is not the absolute definitive source of what is good, but I'm going to make the assumptions that because the games on this list are so critically acclaimed that most people will enjoy them, and that for every game on the list you don't enjoy there's probably another game available for the system that you will. I'm also going to attempt to figure out, where possible, the average play time (APT) of each game on the list. In general, these will most likely be from GameFAQs Game Statistics section for each game. So, with that said, let's start the run-through.
Resogun (85.80 %) - $14.99 - 9.4 hrs. APT
Total Cost of Games: $14.99
Cost of System: $399.99
(14.99 + 399.99) / 9.4 = $44.14/hr.
Verdict: Not Worth It. The Playstation 4 actually had the fewest games available with a score above 80% of all of the systems on the list. The only others were Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition and Need for Speed: Rivals, both of which are multi-platform games. Even if you take games like Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack into account the system still doesn't work out to being worth it.
Super Mario 3D World (93.44%) - $59.99 - 21.6 hrs. APT
Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (91.08%) - $49.99 - 33.5 hrs. APT
Pikmin 3 (86.59%) - $59.99 - 17.7 hrs. APT
New Super Mario Bros. U (84.47%) - $59.99 - 19.7 hrs. APT
Lego City Undercover (80.27%) - $49.99 - 33.5 hrs. APT
Total Cost of Games: $279.95
Total APT: 126 hrs.
Cost of System: $299.99
(279.95 + 299.99) / 126 = $4.60/hr.
Verdict: Almost Worth It. Strictly speaking, the Wii U doesn't quite make the cut in terms of meeting our cost to time ratio. There are a couple things I left out of the equation, though, that could be taken into extra consideration. First, I decided to omit Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate from the list (despite it having a score of over 80%) for two reasons: 1) Because it's a game that's great only to people with a certain mentality, and 2) The people with that mentality are insane. The APT for MH3U on GameFAQs was over 70 hours, and I personally know people who have put in over 300 hours on the game. Thus if it's your type of game, it definitely gives you a lot more bang for your buck, but it's certainly not for everyone. The other thing to consider is the fact that the Wii U is the only backwards compatible console of the three. If you want to add the Wii's library into the mix, then that adds a bunch more value as well. However, since you can just go buy a Wii for a whole lot less money than a Wii U, I decided not to include that at all.
Technically none, but...
Forza Motorsport 5 (79.49%) - $59.99 - 46.4 hrs. APT
Dead Rising 3 (79.37%) - $59.99 - 24.7 hrs. APT
Total Cost of Games: $119.98
Total APT: 71.1
Cost of System: $499.99
(119.98 + 499.99) / 71.1 = $8.71/hr.
Verdict: Not Worth It. Even if you cheat. So, like I mentioned, the Xbox One doesn't actually have any games on Metacritic that are above 80%. But given that these two are less than 1% away, and as I also said earlier, Metacritic isn't the end-all of determining greatness, I decided to cheat a little in the system's favor (sorry PS4, but that 7% cheat for Killzone is a bit too much). In any case, the Xbox One is still lacking in enough substantial content to justify the system's price.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (93.96%) - $39.99 - 32.5 hrs. APT
Fire Emblem: Awakening (92.52%) - $39.99 - 45.6 hrs. APT
Pushmo (91.50%) - $6.99 - 20.1 hrs. APT
Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (91.27%) - $39.99 - 20.7 hrs. APT
Super Mario 3D Land (90.09%) - $39.99 - 21.1 hrs. APT
Pokemon X/Y (87.89%) - $39.99 - 42.8 hrs. APT
Crashmo (87.46%) - $8.99 - 15.8 hrs. APT
Animal Crossing: New Leaf (86.93%) - $34.99 - 68.6 hrs. APT
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (85.86%) - $39.99 - 23.7 hrs. APT
Bravely Default (85.79%) - $39.99 - 62.8 hrs. APT
Mario Kart 7 (85.17%) - $39.99 - 25.8 hrs. APT
Kid Icarus: Uprising (84.57%) -$39.99 - 30.6 hrs. APT
Shin Megami Tensei IV (89.93%) - $49.99 - 56.5 hrs. APT
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (82.71%) - $39.99 - 27.7 hrs. APT
Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies (82.67%) - $29.99 - 26.4 hrs. APT
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (80.65%) - $39.99 - 40.9 hrs. APT
Total Cost of Games: $570.84
Total APT: 561.6 hrs.
Cost of System: $169.99
(570.84 + 169.99) / 561.6 = $1.31/hr.
Verdict: Yes. Go Buy One, Now. With an enormous list of great games, and a pretty varied one at that, it's no wonder that Nintendo's 3DS is the best selling system at the moment. As with the Wii U, I've left backwards compatibility for DS games out of the equation. At the moment, there's no other system that gives you better bang for your buck.
Persona 4 Golden (94.16%) - $29.99 - 68.2 hrs. APT
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita (88.68%) - $29.99 - 21.2 hrs. APT
Tearaway (88.07%) - $39.99 - 9.8 hrs. APT
Ys: Memories of Celceta (85.27%) - $39.99 - 37.7 hrs. APT
Lumines: Electric Symphony (83.91%) - $19.99 - 12.4 hrs. APT
Super Stardust Delta (82.19%) - $9.99 - 8.3 hrs. APT
Gravity Rush (81.92%) - $39.99 - 22.6 hrs. APT
Uncharted: Golden Abyss (80.66%) - $39.99 - 19.2 hrs. APT
Muramasa Rebirth (80.26%) - $39.99 - 29.1 hrs. APT
Wipeout 2048 (80.21%) - $19.99 - 33.4 hrs. APT
Total Game Cost: $309.90
Total APT: 261.9
Cost of System: $199.99
(309.90 + 199.99) / 261.9 = $1.94/hr.
Verdict: Yes. I have to admit, the Vita was a big part of why I decided to write this article at all. As one of the 12 people in the world who actually owns a Vita, I've always been a little surprised by the people who refuse to buy one because "it has no games". Not true, I reply. Granted, the Vita does have a disappointing lack of games planned to come out in its future, but at the moment it does actually have a pretty good catalog of games to choose from (especially if you count in PSOne classics). Given the choice between this and the 3DS, I'd definitely still recommend the 3DS. But the Vita certainly has some great value and is a fantastic system in its own right.
You may have noticed that I've left out the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii. Well, that's because they've all been out so long that by this point they definitely have enough games to make the systems worth while if you're interested in them. So it didn't really seem worth it to take the time to write out a list like I've done with the current-gen systems. Also, they're technically last-gen now, and to hell with the past.
What's that I hear? "But Raw Danger, you brilliant mathemagician," (Fun fact: not my real name) "I don't care about any of those games and/or I want to buy something ridiculous like an Ouya. Isn't there a more generic way to figure out if the system I want is worthwhile?" Sure there is. Let's say for a moment, dear reader, that you're a somewhat frugal gamer who wants to get the most out of your games. Let's say you go above and beyond and put an average of 3o hours into each of your games instead of the minimum 20. All we need to do is factor in the cost of the system to see how many games you need to want to play to make it worth your hard-earned cash. So...
At 3o hrs per game, the time/cost ratio becomes $1.99/hr for each game. Thus we need to factor in an amount of about $1 per hour of gameplay for the cost of the console (i.e. $30 per game). Taking a bit of rounding into account, that means that you need to have approximately 3-4 games for every $100 your system costs in order to achieve that magical ratio of $2.99/hr.. Simple as that.
Of course, in the end many things like promises of future games, fanboyism, and general hype over a console play a definite role in determining what systems we chose. There's no way to convince a die-hard Xbox fan that the Xbox One isn't worth their money yet. Same with the Nintendo and Sony crowd. And, of course, you may have a different idea of how much a game is worth. I mean, if you want to put it in terms of another media, movies, the average cost for a blu-ray film is $13.32/hr. (for a 90 minute, $20 movie). At that rate, practically any of the systems on here are worth your cash. And even still, some of us find that you can't really put a price on fun. As long as you're enjoying yourself, it was worth the cost, right? In any case, I think it's an interesting exercise in trying to figure out exactly when it is that we think a system is worth our time and money.