For the last decade, a standard edition of a full retail release of a new video game has been $60. The price point was somehow agreed upon as the new standard ever since the PS3/Xbox 360 era (Wii games were at $50 during that time).
With the start of the PS4/Xbox One generation, I fully expected the standard price to go up to $70, an increase of $10, which had been the norm from generation to generation.
PS1/N64 games were $40 when released, up to $50 for the PS2/GameCube/Xbox era, and then the aforementioned $60 price point for the PS3/360. With time comes inflation, which raises costs to produce games, which should by all measures raise the standard price point for a game… except it didn’t.
Now, as someone who does not make a lot of money, I’m not complaining. I just find it odd that the prices have maintained for so long.
How did publishers come to these price points? Before Sony threw its hat in the ring with the PS1, prices for games were not “standardized.” I was a child playing the games my parents bought me in the 90s, but I’ve been told and have seen old newspaper ads where games ranged from $35-$85!!! Holy crap! Why was there such a gap?
Did publishers believe in the higher price point because they thought their game was superior, so it better have a higher cost to purchase it? Were corners cut on the lower end titles? I’m not sure, but let’s circle back to why games should be more expensive.
It’s quite simple really. The cost for a game publisher to create a triple-A, blockbuster game that (they hope) sells millions of copies is approaching the budget of Hollywood blockbuster movies.
Think about it, most of these games have teams of a few hundred people working together to make this game. Mind you, these people aren’t just any average Joe they bring in off the street. These men and women have college degrees and many years experience designing games. Then you have the voice actors, who also do the motion capture for most of these big titles. Games like Uncharted, The Witcher III, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Grand Theft Auto V have all had talented actors work on these projects; and they’re not paid in peanuts.
Even after the game is finished – which can take years – you still have all the advertising campaigns and the physical copies need to be produced and shipped. It’s a huge process that a lot of gamers, including myself, forget even happens so that we have a disc to pop in or a game to download to our console’s hard drive.
But now I’ll tell you why I think the consumer cost of a standard edition for a new game hasn’t increased, and there are a few reasons.
First, we have the digital age of games. Every game can now be downloaded from your console’s digital store directly to your hard drive. No need to go to a brick and mortar store, wait in line, hope they have a copy, and purchase a disc. If you have the hard drive space, the funds, and a high speed internet connection, you my friend can have it on your console. Because of the continued rise of digital sales for video games, I do believe the publishers like EA and Ubisoft have been able to keep prices down because they don’t have to ship every single copy of every game they make, and that helps their bottom line. I understand these are businesses and not charities, but if that means that their reduced costs benefits the consumer, then I’m all for it.
Next, a lot of these games have DLC to purchase, be it new levels, multiplayer skins or weapons, or even the dreaded season pass, the extra content that used to be unlockable on games is now purchasable. It’s a shrewd business move, but one that I feel has helped keep the industry thriving and has even brought about innovation. Yes, because of DLC companies also brought about microtransactions, but look at what it’s brought us: The Last of Us has a wonderful side story with Left Behind. Minerva’s Den for Bioshock 2. All of the free game updates that the makers of Rocket League have added are awesome and have helped to round out the game and make it more fun, and the cars that you can purchase with real money are really cool. So DLC isn’t all bad, it just needs to be done right.
Finally, and this is the greatest reason in my opinion, is the rise of the independent game makers. Indie games helped usher in the digital age. Games like Fez, Super Meat Boy, Limbo, and Braid are all games that you cannot buy physically. Because they don’t need to produce physically, and because most indie games are made by very small teams of just a few people, the prices for the games are astronomically low compared to triple-A titles. Fez is only $14.99, and it’s a fantastic game. Shovel Knight (which is available physically) was only $14.99 when I purchased it in 2014, and has since added two expansions with a third and final expansion on the way.
These games garner a lot of attention and sell very well, and because these small teams find ways to innovate and compete with the big boys, the big boys take notice and are forced to keep their prices lower.
After all that, I still think that the price for a game should go up. It’s been over a decade since the last standardized leap, and if an extra five to ten bucks will help improve the quality of new games, then I’m all for it. I want publishers and developers to be able to take risks and try new things with video games, and if publishers see more dollar signs coming their way, I believe they’ll give more attention to ideas that aren’t just another spin on the Call of Duty formula, but may actually push the industry forward in a new, amazing direction.