The Price of Fun

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The Price of Fun

It's time for the game industry to accept that the economic climate has changed and lower the price of videogames, already.

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Amen to the Australian branch bit.

I can't afford games anymore :O

Games are ridiculously expensive over here. What's worse, the prices have been rising for some of the "quality" exclusives. So, I've been seeing $120 games where they used to cap at $100, bar the collectors editions.

And even then, $100 is far too much to pay for a single game.

Shamus Young:
The hardcore pay top dollar to play a game on day one, the average customer picks it up a few months later for a bit less, and more thrifty customers will get the game a couple of years later for cheap, just as the sequel is coming out.

I am a category three here. I think the last item I bought when it came out was Valve's Orange Box. Used to live on used games, at least until EB was bought by Gamestop.

I like picking up group packaged games. One can get some pretty decent titles or get an entire game series for fairly cheap. Steam's Weekend Deals (and specialty deals) are also a bit appealing, as they offer a range of games at a reduced price.

Well I don't know if I can agree with this at all. I will say that this generation of video games should of stayed at the 50 dollar cap USD instead of hiking up the price to 60 dollars USD for 360 and PS3 games.

If there is anything interesting I will say that the video game industry does well because their prices are very solid and have stayed a decent and consistent cost in the American markets. Sure there are some special editions that were released back in the day that did cost an arm and a leg but the same can be said with today's game titles as well such as Halo Wars limited edition for 74 bucks just for a reskinned troop unit.

What I do question is the content that is being provided in games being associated with the cost like Mr.Young mentions that I will agree with. Now that most of us are no longer kids we do ask ourselves the magical question, "Is my money worth it for this game?" Now instead of just having an allowance we have full time jobs or going to college if you grew up from the third generation of video game consoles having to balance rent, insurance, housing, and other bills to maintain a lifestyle of comfort(or discomfort).

It is a lot harder for me to justify buying any games because I have more important things that my money will be needed for. Instead of just buying a game like Dawn of War 2 I have to ask myself "Will I be able to eat tomorrow?" instead of "This looks like a good way to have some fun. Even if the prices go down I will still have to ask myself that question and this isn't even considering asking more adult questions that analyze the game in ratio with my time, my most valuable asset.

While I'm discomforted by the increased cost of video games for the 360 and PS3 I still think that the video game industry has done well by keeping costs consistent. My main worry is the road the video game industry is taking to be like hollywood. This would mean that production costs will become so high that it will cause another spike in video game costs or for all I know something worse.

Great article, very enjoyable to read but I don't agree with all of it.

They charge 50-60 bucks for a game simply... because. Whenever I read some interview in a gaming magazine with a Sony or MS rep talking about how "Rising development costs are driving game prices higher," I get really mad. Any first year economic student will tell you that the development cost of software doesn't factor into the selling price. People pay $5 to see a $100 million dollar movie; there is no bean-counter behind the scenes saying they need to sell X tickets for Y dollars to break even. It's a whole different balance sheet.

So when they say next gen games cost more to make thus they are higher priced, that is complete bullshit. They are lying through their lying liar teeth.

Honestly, I think if they priced every game $20-30 they'd sell three times as many. How many people do you know with a mountain of $15-20 DVDs they bought on a whim? If a game didn't represent such an "investment" to the buyer, they would debate a lot less about which ones they buy.

amazingly good article, bravo

Whether game prices have remained consistent depends on how long a view you're taking. Going by consoles only, I don't recall much of a price change between the switch from cartridges to discs, and in fact they're now charging more for the disks than even the carts with added memory. I guess that's inflation (?), but I think prices should have come down, if anything, and appropriately I refuse to pay $60 for a game. I haven't yet bought a game at full price this whole generation.

On that note, there is some implementation of Shamus' call in the market, but I have to work at it, exploiting sales and checking the weekly fliers for all the stores (Target, Best Buy, formerly Circuit City) for price drops. It's annoying, but I got the Orange Box for $15 a few months ago, so I'm satisfied. Any store that did this as a matter of course would have a loyal customer in me.

It might just be me, but lately I've noticed games in general going up. For a while most games topped out at $60. Then they all started at $65. Now just about every new game is AT LEAST $70, if not more. I wouldn't pay $70 for bloody Gears of War, let alone Afro Samurai. Maybe it's some sort of "if we increase the price enough, each copy will make more money!" It's like that Simpsons episode where Lisa designs the doll. Sure, they may only have sold a single doll. But it's all worth it.

Assuming the girl is willing to pay $50,000 for it.

In my country, games does sort of go down in price after a while. Pretty much every game I own have been on sale as used. I bought Final Fantasy XII for 1/3 the price I would have to pay had I bought it as new. Some games I've bought for the full price, but I can't think of any instance where I haven't seen it on sale as used later. I will however note that I mostly buy console games and rarely computer games.

Lord_Ascendant:
amazingly good article, bravo

^This.

I think what they should do is offer discounts if you buy the game when it first comes out. If you purchase a new DVD the week it comes out, it usually sells for $5-10 less then it's regular price. I don't see why that method couldnt be applied to video games. It would increase initial sales, probably drive up presale numbers for Gamestop type stores, and help the gamers.

I think this would have a better chance of happening than a declining price system for two reasons. One, the game companies want you to buy their game now, not six months down the road. If you are onboard from the start, you are there for all the DLC or expansion packs(also at full price). Not to mention you become part of the marketing. "Hey man check out game x, it's great", etc.

Second, I think it would be hard to regulate when the prices drop. Look at a game like Wii fit. I don't have the numbers but I would venture a guess that it will be doing better sales in month 8 then a game like Gears of War. So do you leave it up to the companys to decide? It's already in their hands, and they don't. The retailers are limited in how much they can slash prices.

It's a fantastic idea in theory, but some people would end up losing money, or fear that they MIGHT lose money somewhere down the line. If living in America has taught me anything it's that alot of solid ideas get crushed 'neath the heel of greed.

Well, at least for the PC market and in this corner of the world, games can be purchased at discount after a reasonable period of time. Otherwise - well, except by pirating - I couldn't afford the hobby anymore. As a student with about 50€ to spare each month, you think thrice if you really want to blow it for a game at release, risking you might end up with some ridiculousy short, bug riddled or otherwise unsatisfying game.

And so the bargain bin, ebay, sales at steam and impulse, gog.com together with mods and the special el cheapo publishers here which sell games a year or two after release for 10€ at retail is the real alternative for me to give up gaming or becoming a permanent resident at the pirate bay. And except ebay, I'm still giving good money to the developers/publishers so they are borderline lunatics to not embrace this but driving the more honest people away from the hobby and less honest people to piracy.

And the Australian prices are a blatant ripoff, there is no need to suggercoat that. The prices in Europe are mildly higher then in the US but this is somewhat justified by localization to German, French, Spanish and so on. In Australia they sell the exact same game, in the exact same box for the double amount of money.

I send money home to family in mother Australia so they can buy video games. We have very little in old country Australia.

The prices in Australia are absolutely ridiculous now. Along with the sudden increase of a lot of gaming gadgets.

I can barely afford to buy games now like I once could.

" The bargain bin tends to be filled with cheap shovelware, low quality games, awful movie tie-in titles, and "collections" of simple games that can be found for free online. Once in a long while you might spot a hit from a few years ago mixed in with the dross, but all too often it feels like digging for gold in asphalt using a shovel made of your own money. "

Very true; and that's how I discovered Freelancer and Morrowind GOTY.

On the other hand, poor decisions like giving deus ex IW and FEAR a chance made me see that "I will try it before buying it" is a perfectly good excuse :(

Very good article. I don't pirate games - heck, I don't even rip music - but I won't pay the prices for new games, preferring to eke out more from those I already own. When will publishers learn that the law of diminishing marginal returns takes longer to kick in if the price of alternatives remains too high?

Strange thing is I seem to remember Atari 2600 cartridges being around £30-40 new, and yes, that included ET. I don't think console games have really shot up over the past 30 years or so, not if you compare them to most other forms of entertainment.

However, with them nudging £50-60 now, I'm feeling perhaps they're spending too much on cut scenes , licensing , celeb voiceovers and the like, when perhaps they could release them £10 cheaper with lesser known voices etc.

Anaphyis:
In Australia they sell the exact same game, in the exact same box for the double amount of money.

As an Australian, I can tell you you're wrong. No... we pay double the price for an inferior product. We get the water-down, censored bullshit, and the publishers still expect us to pay $AU100.00.

As for the article, I totally agree. There's nothing more I can really say.

stompy:

Anaphyis:
In Australia they sell the exact same game, in the exact same box for the double amount of money.

As an Australian, I can tell you you're wrong. No... we pay double the price for an inferior product. We get the water-down, censored bullshit, and the publishers still expect us to pay $AU100.00.

As for the article, I totally agree. There's nothing more I can really say.

Touché. And tell me about censoring, I'm German. Fortunately, crossing the border to get a uncensored game for a better price is a bit easier then crossing an ocean.

Unfortunately its getting worse. Some developers don't want used games sold in stores cause its hurting their bottom line.

Comparisons with the movie industry miss a key point: a single customer could, if they wanted to, watch a different movie start to finish every night. The same is not true of games. For example, I have plenty of disposable income but there are good games which I want to play but won't buy because I've got hundreds more hours of play in the ones I already own.

Consequently discounted games hurt the games industry a lot. As prices drop, people do not spend more on games, they just play more games.

And no, the industry are not just greedy. Studios go bust all the time. And indeed the trend is for studios which are short of cash to innovate less. This is just bad.

Agreed about the Australian pricing, though. It's really harsh. Very glad I don't live there.

Good article.

Actually, it makes a lot more sense than I expected at the very first mentioning of declining price. A lot of games are doing this as the "greatest hits" version, and to an effect, virtual console releases. I initially thought it is dumb--and that people will simply wait longer for the price to drop before they buy it, causing the publisher to lose money.
But then I realized that even among my friends, a lot of people actually upgraded to Vista on their 256MB RAM machine because it was new and shiny. (Which resulted in total crash upon boot up, as I snicker in the background, but that's besides the point.)
There are more than one type of people. We have seen the people who are even willing to take days queuing up just to get a console or a game. They will be willing to shell out a little more money for brand new games, whereas the rest of us might want to pay a little less.
Or at least, I don't want to pay 60AUD for a USED copy of Pokemon Diamond. Honestly--the damn thing is almost 2 years old, and it's selling at the same price as when it was brand new. Retailers are full of BS. Thank god we can actually buy games online now.

Well written. I guess this is the reason that the PS2 is still hanging in there. Its hitting this untapped "budget game market".

In the Uk there seem to be loads of "2 for £30" type offers on older games. I think its because we have competing game stores on the highstreet.

Im shocked at the price of Aussie games. Since the invention of the internet why do they still buy games in Australia?

I think GameFly is getting more business due to economic times and continued high prices of games. I've used GameFly before, but now more than ever is it tough to get a title that is even a few months old, let alone a new release. I'm looking at games from November as still having "High", "Medium" or "Low" chances of shipping, whereas previously if it wasn't in its first month, it was most likely available.

I wonder how publishers will start feeling about services like GameFly in the future?

At least in the PC market, I'm not sure there's any good reason to buy a game at launch price rather than discounted down the road.

Why buy before the early adopters have suffered through all the bugs and a patch has been written.

I believe lowering prices on key titles will help sales in the long run. I don't exactly live paycheck to paycheck, but my entertainment budget does. I get a certain amount of money between paychecks that can be used getting lunches at Herfy's rather than brown-bagging, buying games, saving towards presents for whoever has a birthday coming up.. It is a lot easier to talk myself into paying 20 dollars for a game than 40.

I was very happy to buy overlord after reading Shamus' recent articles on it. Now I just have to find time to play.. I just got started on neverwinter nights, after all.

bjj hero:
Im shocked at the price of Aussie games. Since the invention of the internet why do they still buy games in Australia?

I really wish it was that easy. Sadly here in Oz we have a major issue with backward internet services as well.

In our house we pay 70 dollars per month for 30 gig (plus the cost of the phone land line) that's shared between 3 people, my dad uses about 10 gig for work, my mum about 2 gig id say and that's 18 gig left. I would definitely buy games through steam or something if we had the downloads to support it.

However, i think overall the game shops are becoming smarter, recently when killzone 2 came out most of the game shops dropped the price of the game straight down to 88 dollars to compete with JB Hi Fi (which is a big electronics depot type store here that sell everything you can imagine at fairly cheapo prices). Of course after a week or 2 they put them back up to standard 110-120 dollar prices. I found a copy from k-mart for 84 dollars, which seems to indicate that if you shop around you can find a better deal.

The funny thing is the game shops always used the excuse of the Australian dollar, though before the recession it had climbed to something like 97 US cents, which means we were paying double US prices for no good reason apparently.

This is one area that I feel very fortunate. The latest game I purchased in stores was Battlefield 2 for $5 in the United States. It wasn't too long ago that BF2 was one of the most popular online FPS games for the PC. I got it for a bargain.

Of course, I suppose most people are concerned about console video game prices instead of PC game prices, so maybe my positive experiences are irrelevant. But then again, I stopped buying console video games half a dozen years ago for precisely this reason. Why spend so much money on video games (and the console system to play those games) when a PC you need anyways can play games that cost $5 or less and are just as fun?

If it turns out overpriced console video games are popular because of some addictive property, then I must count myself lucky for having sidestepped that problem long ago.

Pricedrops seem to depend on the system. When I bought my PS2 it took a long time until I bought the first full priced game for it (though I can't remember which one it was) and still got plenty of games, when I got my 360 I had trouble finding anything decent at a price that wasn't plain insane. Nintendo is very resistant to pricedrops anyway, you don't get their games cheaper without store markdowns but third parties seem to be somewhat more willing to drop the price. The PC, now THAT is bargain hunter HEAVEN. The pyramid (pyramid-shaped bargain table, 10€ for every game on it, some even cheaper) has tons of AAA titles on it, Bioshock for a tenner, Company of Heroes for another, etc. There's a DS pyramid but it consists exclusively of third party titles with a lot of crap (at 20€ each). What falls out of the pyramid probably ends up in the Green Pepper line which I haven't looked at in a while.

However there's still more to the price policies.

Iwata once chastised publishers for being too willing to have pricedrops which devalues the product in the mind of the customer and makes them less willing to pay full price than when they know they'll have to pay full price no matter how long they wait. It's working out... somewhat. I do buy Nintendo titles at full price but I'm much more likely to not buy a title because I find it less interesting (I don't have Mario Kart, Brawl or Strikers for the Wii). No idea what the net result is.

I think the 70€ price for titles on the HD consoles (compared to the 50€ price on the Wii and PC and 60€ last gen for everyone) has a dirty little secret: The core gaming market is not growing. A game simply cannot sell many more copies now than it would have last gen except now the core games are way more expensive to make. The 70€ price is a bit of a crutch there, as sales numbers cannot go up much the increased price means more revenue.

IMO the only way for the core gaming industry to survive is to cut budgets. I don't really care about lengthy cutscenes and such, that's a lot of money to be saved. Look at a game like EDF, it's made on a very small budget by cutting down on the amount of absolute content (the data) while maximizing the amount of effective content (what the player will perceive as content). Then again cutting money by making games less cinematic and more gamey is not a core market philosophy and probably just means leaving that market so it wouldn't really be the survival of core gaming as much as the survival of HD gaming.

Prices drop pretty sharply and always have done. This year I've bought new copies of Dead Space, Prince of Persia & Fallout 3 for under £15. All of them bought on the internet, because shopping for electronic media on the highstreet is (and has always been) a terrible idea.

KDR_11k:
€70 price for titles on the HD consoles

Non-British Europeans are getting seriously ripped off at the moment. Not only do they have to contend with the already substantial PAL prices but the srength of the Euro against the Pound has meant that a lot of new games cost twice as much in France or Germany as they do in the UK (e.g. on release, Killzone 2 cost £29.99 on the British Amazon but €64.99 on French Amazon). Crazy times.

Grampy_bone:

Honestly, I think if they priced every game $20-30 they'd sell three times as many. How many people do you know with a mountain of $15-20 DVDs they bought on a whim? If a game didn't represent such an "investment" to the buyer, they would debate a lot less about which ones they buy.

I agree. I used to have a whole stack of Megadrive and the PS1 and 2 games whereas I only have a handful of PS3 games. I do still have a lot of PC games however and that is purely because it is easier in Australia to find PC games at a reasonable price. For console games, I shop around in independent stores, swap games with friends, buy second hand etc etc.

The only brand new game I bought from a store recently was Resident Evil 5 for AU$84 which seemed like a good deal altho the game is ok, but hardly amazing so I don't think I'll be risking a whole $84 again anytime soon.

For PC, I am particularly keen on Steam and hope that a game I want will be added to it so I can wait until they have a half price special so I can grab it like I did with L4D or Dawn of War 1. Otherwise I just cant afford to buy very many games.

Although that said, Steam are guilty as anyone of price gouging by having some titles such as Fallout 3 (US$70) and CoD4 (US$60) at insane prices for ages. AND STEAM DO NOT CLEARLY INDICATE TO THEIR CUSTOMERS THAT THEY USE US DOLLARS EVEN WHEN YOU ARE BUYING FROM AUSTRALIA. They could probably get taken to court for that kind of deception.

It's a shame because something like Steam could be the way to go for PC games anyway. Eliminates productions costs (of DVDs, boxes etc) and distribution costs and I also assume the various publishers can get a much better margin out of Steam than from EB and co.

And it's better for the environment which is a marketing angle they seem to have missed somehow.

But yeah, going back to what Grampy Bone said, if games were all $30 instead of $90 I'd probably just buy three times as many and be less annoyed when one turns out to be pantzors.

The other thing with Steam is that until about a month ago, Ubisoft wouldn't sell games via Steam outside of the US. There're still a bunch of titles that we Aussies can't get a hold of.

The one bit that really surprises me still is that the DS games still go for $50Au-$70Au. That's rediculous for a game that'll take 6 hours to beat and 2 hours to get bored of.

The impetus is wholly on the retailers to lower prices - I work for one, and games like Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros, Twilight Princess, they're all still $100Au. Nintendo don't drop their prices. At all. And yet, they're creaming everyone else. We still somehow get more 360 games traded back than Wii games.

Something's seriously wrong with the videogame retail industry in Australia.

Likely other countries, too, but I don't live there, so I can't comment.

I haven't checked recently, having not bought a game recently, but last time I checked, I can get all new releases for £40 or under. (At a stretch £45.)

I'm just wondering where all this money that gets spent on developing a game goes. Because they're claiming their costs are rising but I'm not seeing any increase in quality. In fact most pc games these days are rehashed, buggy, console ports or are simply dreadful. So it would seem to me that developers aren't getting their money's worth when it comes to development costs because the games are getting worse and the prices are rising.
If I'm paying more for my games I want there to be a corresponding increase in quality.

Things I don't want to see when I fork up $100+ for a PC game:

- Game finished in under 4hrs
- Graphics that look like they're 5+ years old and run slow (cough*gta*cough)
- An X-box controller with letter key assignments when I configure my keys (or even worse no letter assignments and just the alternate xbox assignments)
- Press start on the title screen
- CTD out of the box requiring a 500mb patch to fix
- Requiring an online login to save the game
- Press x,y,a,b or any other console control to continue, exit etc.
- A menu only navigable by the keyboard (come on we're not in 1990 anymore)
- Mouse not working properly

I can name at least a dozen games that have one or more of these faults that have been released in the last 2 years.
So the developers have a lot to answer for when it comes to pricing. I like the idea of downloading from steam, however here in Australia our internet is a joke so it takes days to download games and there's no way to know how much you actually pay because its all in USD.

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