September 24, 2021

Link’s Awakening: The $60 Question.

There have been concerns that The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Remake will be $60. And that many are concerned it’s not worth that kind of price.

Of course, the cost of games is an eternal question in this industry and it’s one that’s never really going to go away. Particularly in terms of depreciation; your shiny new $60/£50 game will be worth considerably LESS than that in a years time, and by the end of a console generation worth substantially less than that again.

So is a Link’s Awakening remake worth a full retail price?

Personally – I think it might be. Short of a catastrophic catalogue of cock-ups, Link’s Awakening is still an excellent video game. It can be downloaded on the 3DS via the Virtual Console, and it’s still considered by many (including me) to be one of the best Zelda games ever made. Few games from that era – or at all – have continued to hold sway, or have remained so high in our good graces, which speaks volumes on just how remarkable this game was to begin with; there aren’t many 26-year-old video games that feel like they haven’t mechanically aged a day.

Ahh, Link's Awakening. My favourite game ever. The hours I wasted and still waste on this game...

But will it be a $60/£50 game? I have some doubts.

Nintendo has some form with this; Splatoon was launched at £35, as was Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. There are a number of third-party “mid-tier” titles as well, such as South Park: The Stick of Truth. Nintendo is usually quite good at working out when a game could do better, or be more saleable, pushed into a mid-tier pricing bracket. That’s not to say they get it right all the time, nor that they make some odd decisions – Pokémon Let’s Go! still for me feels like it would have done even better pushed down a pricing bracket.

But then again, Let’s Go! also sold 10 million copies across both Pikachu and Eevee iterations. People are prepared to pay that kind of money for these games, that much is clear, even if there are good arguments to be made to the contrary.

The deeper question is more interesting; how many games ARE worth a $60 entry fee? Even if it’s a standard retail price, should all new games automatically sit within this hallowed top-drawer price tier?

That’s of course a much more complicated debate. Some will argue games are worth whatever people are prepared to pay for them. Others will point out various complicated machinations of how and what games should be entitled to sit at the upper end of the scale. Others will no doubt even scoff at this debate too – $60? Have you not been paying attention? Very few new games are actually $60, especially when you roll in season passes, forced DLC options, gated microtransactions and complicated “collector’s editions” where you still have the opportunity to be short-changed.

Couple this with numerous games falling in price mere weeks from launch, where others still struggle to find an audience even when they’re being given away, and the whole thing becomes messy and convoluted. Can there ever be a de-facto formula for deciding which games are worthy of being pushed at $60?

WARNING: Cheap Shot.

And, as I’ve argued before – even if you could find that formula… wouldn’t it be kind of boring to suddenly see every major company going through a checklist of conditions just to make their game fit inside that bracket?

I do think it’s an interesting debate to have – I think it is a good thing when people are forced to stop and think about the current status-quo and ponder if they are contributing to a system in which they are taken for a ride, or getting their moneys worth. But I equally don’t think there are any good answers – or decent solutions.

One of the biggest problems with having this kind of discussion online is that everyone insists on being right, coming to a conclusion that people can sort of agree on but is only superficially capable of penetrating the issue. And Sif help you if there’s a whiff of disagreement.

Which brings me back to Link’s Awakening.

If I were involved (and I’m not) I’d argue for the $45 (£30-£35) pricing tier. Breath of the Wild remains stubbornly at that $60 price tag – and it continues to be a hot seller for the Switch, now being the series best-selling game. Pushing a 2D top-down Zelda at the same price point… I don’t know. I think avoiding that kind of furore and inviting people to compare and contrast would be better in the long run.

Also, in a mid-tier bracket, I think Link’s Awakening would fly off the shelves. It’s a game with real pedigree, a game which has survived twenty-six years and five console generations and a game which many still talk about with real reverence. Pitching it at a mid-tier level just makes it easier to sell, pushing it into more of an impulse purchase.

But even at $60, it’d take a terrifying series of blunders to make something like Link’s Awakening not worth the expense. When people are still discovering this game close to thirty years later – and when so many are still playing this game after all this time – you’d have to concede if any remake or remaster is worthy of being a $60 release, surely Link’s Awakening is if not right at the top then at the very least in the top ten.

Of course, it’s complicated. Because whilst I’d justify it to myself… there’d still be a small niggling doubt in the back of my head. And that’s terrifying, because the original IS my favourite game ever.

That being said, if it’s as good in the remaster as it still is in its original form, I don’t think I’d harbour any doubts for long.

I’d just, if I was Nintendo, rather not have people even ask the question in the first place.


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