TotalGaming.net

Oct 19, 2004

I’ve been eyeing The Political Machine, a game that would allow me to play out my political fantasies, a lot lately. Given its timely subject matter and rather positive reviews, it’s right up my alley. I’d love to add it to my always growing stable of games. However, I’ve run into one issue that has, so far, stunted any immediate purchases. I haven’t determined the form or packaging that my purchase of The Political Machine should take. Let me explain.

The Political Machine is one of many games out there available for purchase outside of normal retail channels. That is, instead of running off to Best Buy or EB, I can purchase it directly from the developer. While that alone isn’t what I’d called unique, the delivery mechanism, which includes installing an application to do all the heavy lifting for you, is a bit different. There is no box to open or manual to hold under the light. There’s no shipping in the traditional sense. You ask for the game, put down your credit card, and you have it.

From a technology standpoint, I find this appealing. Patches are delivered more or less automatically. The $5 I would hand to UPS remains in my pocket. To its credit, the rules of use, especially as the pertain to digital rights management, are very flexible and open. You can back up your games whenever or however you want. You can install the software you attain on any PC you own. I’ll miss the comfort of a box on my shelf but I’ll get over it. There’s little room anyway. However, none of this speaks to my problem.

The problem is that The Political Machine is available standalone or as a part of a bigger package called TotalGaming.net. This is where my temptations come in to play. TotalGaming.net allows you to subscribe to a library of games. Rather than purchase only one a single game, I can get a bunch of them. But, of course, the price is higher. I have not yet decided if the increase in price is worth the additional games I’d receive and, presumably, play.

The studs of TotalGaming.net, in my opinion, are Galactic Civilizations and The Political Machine. This opinion stems from personal interest. Galactic Civilizations is a spiritual successor to the Master of Orion series, a series that once caused my room to glow with the light of a computer monitor well into the night. The Political Machine, fills an immediate gaming desire.

Celtic Kings and Robin Hood appear to be good games but I wouldn’t consider them reasons to make a purchase. They would be a bonus. If they happen to show up on my desktop, I’ll check them out but my level is interest is more like that of a demo than genuine excitement. Disciples 2, another game on the list, would approach the stud category if I didn’t already own the game.

All in all, it’s a good package but it isn’t a cheap one. $89 is the current asking price. Owww. I tend to think of my gaming purchases in chunks of $50 or, lately, chunks of about $20. Ninety dollars is a lot to plunk down in one sitting, especially in a year where so packed with great releases.

Timing is also an issue. I’d love to have The Political Machine right now but the other games could really wait. My gaming itinerary is nearly full. The recent crop of sports game from Sega have my fingers bleeding. Come November, I’ll be defending the earth with a crowbar one day and dual needlers the next. Christmas is coming and the gaming goose will be getting fat. However, quite the opposite will happen to my wife, as she has plans to deliver another brave sole into this world.

Throw in the fact that The Political Machine is available for $20 and the math demonstrates my conundrum. My calculator says that the games I really want cost $80 ($20 for The Political Machine, $40 for Galactic Civilizations and $20 for its expansion), just $10 less than the full asking price.

That extra $10 buys me two games I’m unsure that I’ll play to any great extent and — here’s the kicker — any game released by StarDock in the next year. Is it worth it?

Well, I might have a better idea if I knew what was coming down the pipe, despite the fact that release dates are very rarely worth the pixels they’re displayed on. $10 for two games and a player to be named later sounds like a great idea. $70 for games I have no hope of playing immediately is much more dubious.

For the moment, I’m leaning towards the single purchase. If I muster the interest at a later date — perhaps when game releases are a bit more thin — I’ll pick up the whole kit and caboodle, kissing the value of my initial purchase away in the process. In between now and the time I enter my credit card number, I think I’ll open the question to a more qualified audience. What do you think?

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