'Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes' could begin disturbing trend in gaming

Hideo Kojima has earned himself plenty of credibility for his video game contributions. He is the architect responsible for Metal Gear, one of the most widely known video game franchises in the history of video games. But how much credit do gamers extend Kojima and Metal Gear publisher Konami? Is it enough for gamers to sign off on publishers releasing demos with a premium price tag? “Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes” is about to test that theory. Ground Zeroes is being billed as a prologue to the upcoming “Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.” It is a $30 game that was actually recently reduced from $40 on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. While any new Metal Gear release would normally be cause for celebration, this one stinks of greed as Konami clearly wishes to capitalize on giving gamers a taste of Metal Gear before the entrée is ready. The primary storyline in Ground Zeroes is rumored to last a scant two hours. Side missions and extra content supposedly push the time investment to somewhere around 10 hours.



A game’s value is obviously subjective to the individual, but a gamer that might only like to play the primary storyline may find $30 a hard pill to swallow. Video games featuring episodic content have become more common lately. Telltale Games has been making high profile episodic games for years. “The Walking Dead” was a massive hit and its 2014 sequel is proving to be even better. For less than what it would cost to buy Ground Zeroes, you can buy complete seasons of “The Walking Dead” video games featuring five episodes. You’ll get a full game from beginning to end. For all intents and purposes, Ground Zeroes is a premium-priced demo, and a vertical slice of a game that won’t see the light of day for at least another year. Konami, who's no stranger to the concept of selling a demo, is smart to want to keep Metal Gear Solid at the forefront of gamers’ consciousness while also making money off them, although his tactic is not quite as bold as that of Ground Zeroes. One of Kojima’s other creations, “Zone of the Enders,” might never have gotten a sequel if the first game hadn’t come with a demo of “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.” Many gamers were so eager to play more Metal Gear that they bought “Zone of the Enders” just for the demo disc. It was a modest success. I don't doubt that Kojima just wants to put Metal Gear games into gamers’ hands. But the approach is suspect. It isn’t like Phantom Pain was stuck in development hell and they needed a way out to recoup budget costs, or was it? We likely won’t ever know the truth behind that. However, Ground Zeroes and Phantom Pain were announced at the same time. To get the full value of Metal Gear Solid 5, a gamer will have to shell out $90, assuming current retail pricing stays the same by 2015. A successful release of Ground Zeroes can be a good thing. Gamers get more Metal Gear for the first time in six years, and it helps Konami as they struggle to find retail hits. But Ground Zeroes could be Pandora’s Box. Once opened, there are plenty of publishers that might see creating $30 prologues as a solution to their bottom line, especially as production budgets continue to soar. That is detrimental to gamers and an industry that is constantly looking for ways to squeeze a dollar out of them.

Reach the reporter at michael.jerome.martin@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NefariousMike

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.