It's official: No Man's Sky is simply too expensive. Charging 60 dollars (allegedly, we still don't know for sure) for the grand, procedurally-generated space-faring sim is an abysmal decision, especially since it's both an indie game and one made by, it says here, a team of around 15 people. How dare they. The nerve of those bastards, astonishing really…
Sorry, I had a moment there – perhaps thanks to the paint fumes wafting in from the upstairs office, a fugue of sickly death, undoubtedly a slow assassination attempt – where my brain stopped functioning, lucid thought replaced with a big bluescreen, a gigantic 404, a total capsize. But then again, perhaps it wasn't the paint. Perhaps it was because I keep reading that No Man's Sky 'can't' be more than 15 or so bucks, or whatever a band of armchair CFOs decided it should be years ago, because it wasn't made by some gigantic conglomerate and was actually made by a small team.
What? What the fuck does that even mean? What are these arguments? Where did they come from? (The internet, obviously.) Who amongst you band of feckless, season-pass and collector's-edition addled consumers decides which companies get to charge The Dollars, and which don't? Is there a club, like the Freemasons or something, which sets forth how much people can and can't charge for goods and services based upon literally Fuck All Knowledge of Anything?
Well, it seems that way. Now listen – LISTEN – I'm not arguing that 60 bucks, and whatever it will be over here, isn't a lot of money. It is. And I'm not even saying that video games pricing doesn't need to take a little look at itself to see if it needs changing, because it probably does. But the righteous indignation about No Man's Sky's so-called 'indie' development – and the small team that made it – isn't sound reasoning: it's gibberish. Mad, forum-level gibberish, one that speaks almost purely of entitlement and Video Game People doing what they do best: moaning, and being generally unreasonable.
Can you imagine if this sort of reasoning was applied to any other commercial good made – as in physically crafted – by a small team? Imagine a Video Game Person walking into a shop to buy some trainers, a set of Nike Air Max perhaps, which carry the RRP of about three million quid. (£76.99.) Imagine them brazenly striding over to the shop staff, asking how much they cost, nodding intently, yes, these look good...
...then, suddenly, a realisation, a flash of brain activity. 'How many people made these trainers?' Video Game Person bellows into the face of the assistant. 'How many?' Unsure what to say, the poor salesperson meekly responds that they can't say for sure, but that the shoes were probably made by a child chained to a sewing machine somewhere, and while that in and of itself isn't a great thing, these trainers were fantastic...
'ONE CHILD! HIDEOUS. DISGUSTING. THESE TRAINERS SHOULD BE 15 QUID MAXIMUM, THEN, DON'T YOU AGREE? FUCKING INDIE TRAINER DEVELOPMENT TEAMS, WHERE DO THEY GET OFF, I THOUGHT THE WITNESS WAS BAD. I SHALL GO TO THE INTERNET WITH THIS.'
And so on, and so forth. I'm getting a fireplace installed in my house next week. The fireplace was made by one person. It's going to cost 400 pounds just to get it fitted, which is obviously not great, but in the end it will be worth it. Perhaps, though, instead of admiring the craftsmanship, the work that went into it, I should deploy my Video Game Lizard Brain, and when the man comes around to fit it, I should enquire as to where the rest of his team is? Fucking thing doesn't even have online multiplayer. And I'm expected to pay for this, me, Captain Entitlement?
Should I decide that I want to buy a hand-finished Patek Philippe watch, which costs more than a car, does that then mean I need to get down to Geneva and personally demand to see the team that made it? I swear if it's fewer than a thousand people I'm gonna find Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe and kick their fucking heads in, regardless of whether they've been dead for hundreds of years. All Things Must Pass? Great album, but is George Harrison really expecting me to pay the same for this stuff as his Beatles work? There were four of those bastards, after all. You wouldn't catch McCartney doing this sort of chancing little thievery, which is how we got Wings, after all. Proper band.
No. None of these things would happen. Because that would be even more absurd than the arguments that Video Game People of the Internet are having right now. Value is relative, of course, and value propositions are different to different people. It is fine to speculate, even rue the high cost of titles. Games are expensive, and I'm not just talking about relative to music or movies – the common comparisons – or taking inflation into account because you paid a million quid for Street Fighter 2 Turbo or Virtua Racing back in the 90s. I'm talking compared to eating and making sure you've got enough fucking money to take your kids to school. Or yourself to work. Or putting the heating on.
Still, that doesn't mean that Hello Games, by virtue of team size or development background, has done anything out of the ordinary here. There's a bizarre blind spot – or perhaps wilful ignorance – in games where people are happy to shovel money into the ever widening maw of big publishers, yet think they're getting ripped off when smaller teams ask for the same amount of money. Ask yourself: was Assassin's Creed Unity, or Syndicate for that matter, a better game for having hundreds if not thousands of people work on it? No. Of course not. And – just quietly – Sony is promoting this game to the fucking hilt. Sony, that unassuming indie publisher.
No Man's Sky may well end up being a bust. It may be great. It may merely be OK, or any number of combinations of the above. For the individual, its worth will be dictated by how they experience it, what they bring to it, what it says to them. Team sizes, on the other hand, say little of importance here, and certainly nothing which can be discerned without playing the fucker first, or by having an outdated idea of what constitutes 'indie'.