Metal Gear Solid V is still shrouded in a certain degree of mystery.
Until now, one of these mysteries has been exactly how the prequel chapter Ground Zeroes ties in with Phantom Pain, the latter of which is regarded as the "main" Metal Gear Solid V game. Would Ground Zeroes be playable as part of Phantom Pain, somewhat akin to the tanker mission in Metal Gear Solid 2? Would it be a downloadable title? Would it come on a separate disc, but be packaged with Phantom Pain, or would it be a completely separate release?
If you went for the last option, you'd be correct. Ground Zeroes is being released next spring as a standalone game, but not for the usual retail price of $60. Instead, it's being released on both current-gen (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) and next-gen (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) platforms as a digital download, with the current-gen versions, strangely, also offering a physical version.
The current-gen versions will cost $19.99 for the downloadable version or $29.99 for the physical packaged version; meanwhile, the next-gen version will cost $29.99 and be available as a download title only. The reasons for the lack of physical release on next-gen aren't altogether clear, unless it's simply part of Sony and Microsoft's attempts to push people in the direction of digital rather than disc-based releases.
The $10 bump in price is not at all unprecedented in the tech space, however; iPad owners, for example, have long been accustomed to paying premium prices for "HD" versions of games that are fundamentally identical to their lower-resolution iPhone counterparts -- it looks as if next-gen console owners will be paying a similar "resolution tax" for cross-generation games, at least while PS3 and 360 are still on the market and continuing to enjoy new releases. It remains to be seen whether this is due to higher licensing costs for physical games on next-gen systems or simply Konami, in this case, feeling the next-gen versions' improved performance and presentation is inherently "worth more" than the experience you get on PS3 and 360.
The aim for Ground Zeroes is to act as a "bridge" between the linearity of past Metal Gear Solid titles and the open-world experience Phantom Pain offers. Konami claims it will gradually introduce the new concepts found in Phantom Pain little by little, leading some to ponder whether Ground Zeroes is little more than a demo or glorified tutorial mission. The $19.99/$29.99 price point implies that Ground Zeroes will be somehow a "lesser" or shorter experience than Phantom Pain -- working on the assumption that Phantom Pain will be a $60 release, of course -- but we'll have to wait until next spring to see just how substantial the prequel game really is; there's certainly a lot of narrative time to cover between Ground Zeroes' 1975 setting and Phantom Pain's 1984, but how much of that will be realized in interactive form?
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