In 2005, Microsoft ushered us into an age where video games cost $60. Initially, we complained as games were only $50 on the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. Eight years later and we’re now complacent with the new price of games. Will that complacency give in to publishers asking for even more money with next-generation games?
Kotaku reports that Microsoft has confirmed that Xbox One titles continue to cost $60. Sony hasn’t committed to a price yet, but the company has indicated in the past that the price will likely remain the same. What about third party publishers though? Would they push game prices up to $70? None of them are saying.
When games prices went up to $60 in 2006, publishers said the increased cost of making games warranted the price hikes. Will increased development be used again as an excuse to push the price of games up to $70? That may not necessarily be the case.
Sony told Kotaku that they are trying to reign in game budgets on the PS4, but games are still going to cost $20 to $50 million to make. To make back that money, publishers are going to have to sell either a million copies at $60 or $70, or sell two million at $40 to $50. The former is a more realistic scenario as physical game sales continue to decline in the face of digital sales.
So, where does that leave digital distribution? Sony and Microsoft (and Nintendo to a lesser extent) have all made a big to do about selling games digitally. Sony is already experimenting with pricing on digital platforms by cutting a few dollars off of a Vita game’s digital price compared to its physical price. There’s been no such change to the PS3’s digital content prices though.
Some argue that Sony and Microsoft would be wise to offer digital copies of games for a lower price than the physical copy. It makes even more sense for Microsoft as physical copies on the Xbox One are largely meaningless as they only exist to activate a license and install data to a hard drive. Ditching the physical copy in favor of just buying it online should net the consumer at least a small discount to encourage a method of buying games that brings in more money than the traditional retail model.
In the end, I find it hard to believe that Sony or Microsoft will raise the price of their own games. For years, Sony offered PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games for $10 less than third party titles on the platform. Worst case scenario, we might be seeing something similar to that again with Sony and Microsoft selling first party titles for $60 while third parties jack up the price to $70.
If that happens, will gamers lie down and take it yet again? It’s hard to say, but the reaction to the PS4’s lower price compared to the Xbox One should be sending signs to publishers that gamers react positively to lower prices. If they want to continue offering games at $60, publishers should start to reign in their own development costs instead of running amok with budgets while passing on those costs to consumers.[Image: Dwight Burdette/WikiMedia Commons]