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Sony announced the the first annual PSN PLAY event Friday, vying to replicate the success Microsoft has had with its annual The Summer of Arcade sale. PSN will offer four games at retail, with a fifth game free to players who purchase all four. Pre-orders start Tuesday, August 9; and the event will last until Monday, September 19.

Sony goes further, giving players a free PS3 theme along with an unannounced “special gift” with each pre-order. Playstation Plus members will also get a 20% discount off every purchase during the event. This sounds like a good deal on the surface. But, I tell you, my wallet is terrified. Let’s break it down and do the math.

The first thing I noticed was the language surrounding these campaigns. I liken it to a croupier’s smile. It’s meant to be inviting, friendly. Yet, it’s only a facade and behind it lies the coldest, most calculating mind.

Notice that to Microsoft, The Summer of Arcade is a “party” and to Sony, PLAY is an “event“. Who doesn’t love parties or going to events? They’re fun! At the same time, respectively, it’s not a party and it’s not an event. They are both sales. They’re aimed at your wallet; and one would deduce it’s only festive and eventful when you’re the one receiving the dollars in said wallet, instead of liquidating them.

I trust that I’m stating the obvious. You’re a discerning reader who visits sites like Gamer Limit because you’re interested in more than just mindlessly buying and playing games. Through your practiced reading, you have gained the valuable skill of sniffing out the proverbial BS. Albeit, it’s a clever play on language. Hats off to the marketers.

With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding these festivities, however, someone is bound to take the bait. Both Microsoft and Sony have levers built into these sales that will then influence the behavior of more than one gamer out there. Call it Gamification 101.

A short re-cap — Gamification is the act of introducing game mechanics into things that are not games, i.e. a business process or transaction. That’s what Microsoft and Sony have done with their respective sales. To be specific, they’ve introduced achievements. When you buy all four The Summer of Arcade games, your achievement is a free copy of Crimson Alliance. Similarly, PLAY offers mini achievements in the form of PS3 themes and “special gifts”, along with the ultimate prize, PAYDAY: The Heist.

While I’d go for a free game myself, especially the Gauntlet Legends-eque Crimson Alliance, it’s not reaching a special checkpoint or completing a side-quest that gets me that achievement. It’s spending my hard earned money. Both Microsoft and Sony are exploiting our gaming sensibilities with their campaigns — the one thing they know will get the masses hooked into giving up the cash. It’s one thing to throw a bunch of flashy advertising at you for mere enticement, it’s another thing to get into your brain and play with your psyche.

So, how much money does one have to spend and on what?

The Summer of Arcade

  • Bastion – 1200 microsoft points*
  • From Dust – 1200 microsoft points*
  • Fruit Ninja Kinect – 800 microsoft points*
  • Toy Soldiers: Cold War – 1200 microsoft points*

* The lowest level of microsoft points once can buy is 1600 points, at approximately $20 a pop. This means, one is spending $60 on this “party”.

PSN PLAY

  • Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition – $14.99*
  • The Baconing – $14.99*
  • BloodRayne: Betrayal – $14.99*
  • Renegade Ops – $14.99*

* The total comes out to a little under $60. They sweeten the pot with PS3 themes and unnanounced gifts, as well as a 20% discount for Plus members. In total, with a 3 month Plus membership and the discount, one is paying nearly $66.

After all the semantics, theory and math comes a question: “Am I willing to spend $60 on these titles?” Of course, the answer is based on taste. As far as this year’s The Summer of Arcade is concerned, it is also based on hardware with Fruit Ninja Kinect. Albeit, it’s equivalent to a retail game with value in the eyes of the beholder.

Remember, there are many other games coming out this year, including but not limited to Dead Island, Batman: Arkham City and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Herein lies a greater dilemma and another question to ask: “With all the other anticipated games coming out this year, does this make sense?”

In the end, Gamer Limit cannot answer these questions for you. Neither can any other of the media outlets. It’s just that sometimes, I feel, that these media outlets should provide you with a deeper look at the mechanisms behind what we call news.

  1. avatar Chris Carter

    I like how Valve handled their sale: they offered free DLC to users who completed actual in-game achievements, and not, as you said, a wallet based achievement.

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