September 16th, 2006  |  Published in etc

At some point in the past six months, I dropped Joystiq from the reading list, so I’m going to admit right up front that I didn’t see the small item about game economics and the Nintendo Wiithat sparked Penny Arcade’s vicious rebuttal until I read said rebuttal:

It’s fun to think about the author tippity-tappin’ this one in while he eats light bulbs in the last car of the circus train.


I did, however, put Joystiq back on the list just in time to catch the strangled and high-pitched squeals that constituted a counter-rebuttal, and the accompanying reader revolt in the comments.

The Official Dot Unplanned verdict on the exchange: Calling a game system “the more rational choice” because it’s built of more expensive components isn’t indicative of misapplied freshman economics so much as it is possession by the same evil spirit that’s forcing us to sit through unending rehashes of the same old games because it’s “rational” to want more pixels on the screen than, say, a better game experience. Saying “all other things equal” is supposed to constitute a wily escape hatch, but it’s actually the rhetorical equivalent of the New York Times editorial board ending every column with “Or we could be wrong.”

The economic theory hand-waving is even more thick-headed now that Internet gaming is firmly entrenched in video games. A rational actor has several things to weigh now: How good are the games, how important is the eye candy and how many of my friends have the same system. Hardware’s in there, sure … but anyone who’s been actually playing games that are dependent on hardware for any length of time understands that the past is littered with “superior” choices that had crappy games and lack of interest.

The Internet factor is why, if I’ve detected even a flicker of interest in games in your eye, my solemn investing advice to you over the past year has been “Get a Nintendo DS. F’real. It’s totally AWESOME!” I’m doing what any rational actor in the games market does who knows his pool of potential online opponents needs to be expanded to include other slow-witted 30-somethings instead of just anonymous ferret-reflexed teenagers: Trying to fluff up the network. It’s why Gus Mueller would still be a totally righteous dude even if he’d never thought up VoodooPad and gifted it to a sad and grey world. Not that Gus is slow-witted, but I bet his reflexes are worse than the little creeps who’ve been mugging me at Tetris.

It’s why if *you* rush right out and add a Wii to your entertainment center, *you’ll* be a totally righteous dude. Even if you’re a chick!

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