Solving the Sixty Dollar Situation


(This is another edition of </RANT>, a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)

I am rather annoyed by developers who have recently been damning the sixty dollar price point and claiming that games are too expensive. It’s not that I disagree with them, I am just sick of all this talk without any action. Recently, Todd Howard at Bethesda said that he thinks the average price of a game ought to be around the $19 mark. His thoughts were somewhat echoed by Twisted Metal director David Jaffe, who called $60 a “shit ton” of money. Both developers seem to agree that the $60 average MSRP is a substantial investment, one troublesome enough to comment on. Unfortunately, they both agree in one other area — that their respective games, unique among the others, are “worth” $60.

It’s quite obvious where this rant is going. I’m preaching to the choir here, and I know it, but I want to vent because it frustrates me no end. For Todd Howard or David Jaffe to say that games are too expensive does not impress me. At first, I’m tempted to rejoice and congratulate them for speaking out in favor of the consumer, until I remember that they haven’t done a thing to solve a problem they’ve just knowingly identified. Paying lip-service to the consumer is not laudable, and criticizing costs while refusing to lower your own is a rather cowardly way of gaining kudos from the gamer community. I say this as someone who respects Howard and personally gets on with Jaffe (I love the guy!), but if there’s a stated problem with the industry and people are unwilling to fix it, what the f**k is going to get accomplished?

Here’s the deal — games ARE too expensive. Publishers love to whine and bitch about the used game market but refuse to lift a finger to fix it. Rather than make games more affordable, their solution to used games is the online pass, a method of extracting more money from gamers and ensuring that secondhand games are a less attractive prospect for people who possibly can’t afford a $60 game in the first place. What does it solve, to make used games as expensive as new ones? F**king nothing, that’s what. Publishers, however, are too set in their ways and too damn craven to reduce prices — the one true way to undermine used sales without punishing anybody.

It’s funny. We talk of innovation all the time. Games need to innovate. They need to be unique. We need new ideas and new creative forces. Yet for all that talk, and for all the publishers that exploit the sentiment, nobody wants to innovate in the one area that would truly make games better for consumers — prices. With mobile gaming introducing incredibly cheap costs for increasingly better experiences, the age of the $60 game is becoming more and more old fashioned. It’s very obvious that the market is trending toward cheaper games, but publishers don’t have the balls to make the leap forward. They need to, but they can’t comprehend being the one to assert it.

Todd Howard and David Jaffe may think that their statements criticized a problem, but they did not. If anything, they were little more than examples of the actual problem — companies who are too proud to make that first step forward. It’s a step that needs to be taken, but it’s not a step that publishers have the courage to make. Yes, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will sell very well at $60 and consumers will consider it a worthy purchase, but imagine the statement that could be made if Bethesda nutted up and charged $40, or even the $20 price point that Howard himself thinks is financially viable. Imagine what that would do for the industry. It would be unprecedented, and it would scare the shit out of rival companies. It would be a competitive move the likes of which we’d never seen, and it would change the way we look at game prices. But of course, Bethesda isn’t the solution to the problem, it’s a part of it. There’s no way the company could even entertain the idea of “degrading” itself to such humiliating lows. It’s far too illustrious for that. So we have yet another company that complains about prices while asserting that it doesn’t need to fix the problem itself.

If you want a really damning example of just how spineless these publishers are, look no further than our good friend Electronic Arts. EA CEO John Riccitiello once said himself that videogames were too expensive, and that it was something the industry would have to deal with in the next five years. You know when he said that? He said it in f**king 2007. Here we are, four years removed, and has EA dealt with the problem? Well, let’s take a look at Origin, its proprietary PC digital storefront. Let’s take a look at Mass Effect 3, which is available to pre-order for $59.99. Let’s take a look at Battlefield 3, which is available to pre-order for $59.99. EA itself, four years ago, admitted the $60 price structure was an issue, and here it is in 2011 with a chance to set its own prices on its own terms … and it’s charging $60. In the PC market, no less, where $50 is the average for a high profile game. Was this EA’s solution? Not to reduce prices, but to bring PC prices up so they fell in line with retail? Utterly f**king pathetic.

Ironically, it’s Namco Bandai, those famed DLC scam artists, that have come closest to getting it right. Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom was original scheduled to retail at $59.99, until a last minute decision brought it down to $39.99. Now, it’s true that the game still didn’t sell well, but I’m willing to get it sold better than it would’ve done. I’m also willing to bet that new IPs from cult developers, such as Shadows of the Damned and Singularity, would have sold a lot better if they’d been given a price that consumers felt they deserved. Because at the end of the day, only the big hitters — the Call of Duties, the God of Wars, and the Halos — are deemed worthy of $60 in the eyes of the majority of consumers. It’s just a shame Namco promptly forgot this idea when it came to its other titles of 2010.

We need tiered pricing and we need it soon. $60 is a stupid average these days, unless you’re up there with the AAA titles. If you’re not Rockstar or Activision, you shouldn’t think of charging $60 for your game. A new, untested IP for a developer that lacks a mainstream following should have an MSRP of $40 at the most. Lesser titles should come out at $20, and should be proud to do so. Publishers wonder why the used game market is so popular, while expecting gamers to willingly gamble $60 on untested IPs. I can’t even begin to describe how idiotic that is without my brain turning to goo and escaping through my tear ducts. GAMES INDUSTRY, YOU ARE MAKING ME CRY MY OWN BRAIN!

My advice to developers or publishers who want to talk about the $60 MSRP as if it’s problem is this — if you have no intention of rolling up your sleeves and helping to solve the issue, then just Keep. Your. F**king. Mouth. Shut.

Stop talking. Start doing. You’re the only ones with the power to help.

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14 Comments on Solving the Sixty Dollar Situation

DarkCanuckistan

On August 9, 2011 at 6:45 am

F**kin’ eh, right Jim!
I can’t tell you how many games I’ve passed on initially in the past few years only to pick them up a few months down the road when they’ve dropped in price.
Futureshop (a Canadian retailer owned by BestBuy) occasionally does a promotion where they knock $10 off a new release for the first few days after it releases…it always sells like bloody hot-cakes!
Being a PC and console gamer, it is likely that I would frequently buy two versions of a game if they came out at more reasonable prices.
As it is, with the increasing adoption and publicity of quality cheap indie developed games and huge numbers of cheap or free mobile and tablet games, the stubborn greed of the major publishers will cost them in the long run.

nichole

On August 9, 2011 at 8:14 am

Shadows of the Damned was good, and was not worth the $60 I paid for it. And I’m probably already effed on the trade-in value since it sorta flopped. That’s why my next purchase was used, Prototype for $17. See what you did there, game publishers? Exactly what Jim said. Screwed yourself out of a sale.

dr spaceman

On August 9, 2011 at 9:53 am

What’s funny is that had Majin been initially advertised at $40 i might have bought it. i didn’t notice the last minute switch, and was not interested in spending $60 so it fell off my radar.

i would buy tons more games if they were cheaper, as would many gamers. i have only bought 2 games this year, because i just don’t want to spend $60 when i can get it a couple weeks later from gamefly or buy used.

I really hope things change, and one publisher takes that first step. It just seems like too many are run by people who just don’t give a about their consumers.

Martie

On August 9, 2011 at 10:01 am

Jim is right on the money. Last time I paid full price for a game it was F.E.A.R 3, and it wasn’t worth it, even at the pre-order price of $50. This debate has been going on forever. The best argument I’ve heard to date was when someone compared the gaming industry to the movie industry. Way back when VCRs were around, VCRs were expensive, sometimes clocking in at $400 or more, but the tapes and movies were cheap, with the most expensive new release being $30. Most movies, even at that time, cost millions to make. That system of pricing still holds true today even with the new Blu-Ray format. Some publishers throw in the nonsense argument of the time and money that goes into making a game to justify the price. This argument is caca. Even though the cost and dev time of a game may have gone up, it doesn’t come close to the cost of even a low budget movie.

dr spaceman

On August 9, 2011 at 10:14 am

@Martie

And, blu-rays almost always come with a dvd and a digital copy nowadays. for $20. C’MON GAMES!! GET YOUR TOGETHER!!

SupremeAllah

On August 9, 2011 at 10:42 am

Most of that I agree with. Except your last line where you say that certain publishers like Rockstar or Activision should be able to charge 60 bucks.

Why should Activision get to do that, when all they do with their major series is sell us the same exact repeatedly? How the hell does the same game 5-6 times justify a full 60 bucks? Especially when it isn’t like they started from the ground up on any of the COD games since the first Modern Warfare. And of course, their 15 dollar DLC packs to further assrape their consumers.

Long ago, it was my understanding that the reason the 60 dollar price point was in effect for CONSOLE games, is because of Sony and Microsoft respectively doing that on their own accord, publishing fees or some other type of BS reasoning. So, why the same for PC games, which weren’t subject to that whole aspect(as PC’s aren’t ran by any one company, like how Sony controls the PS3 and Microsoft controls the 360)

Not to mention the fact that games can be purchased by means of Steam, Origin, and other sources in which they should be cheaper since a) digital copy means no money spent on producing the box for the game, the physical copy of the game… and b) there is ZERO shipping cost.

So, why the hell are we still paying max price for digital content? These people are just banking horribly while brutally tearing apart our collective anuses.

SupremeAllah

On August 9, 2011 at 10:46 am

Oh and remember when some SNES and N64 games used to be up to 75 dollars?

But back then the claim was the production cost of the cartridges themselves.

savedr

On August 9, 2011 at 11:51 am

Yep, and it was bull then, too. I can tell you this, I am now a pretty committed PC gamer. I bought a system with an awesome video card that lets me play anything I through at it at high rez, high detail. Know what I paid for my last two brand-new condition games? Ten bucks apiece from Steam on special.

Because I have a great system now, but that doesn’t mean I can automatically afford $60 games. So I don’t; I buy all my console stuff used, all my PC games years late at 50% off, and I have more to play than I can keep up with… without ever spending $60 and regretting it.

Mike

On August 9, 2011 at 12:12 pm

I have been gaming since the days of Pong. The major publishers like EA like to make the argument that the justification for charging these ridiculous prices is the cost of development and production etc. However, to me anyway, the biggest counter to this kind of BS is simply to look at the EA Sports line of games. We ALL know that Madden, NCAA etc are simply rehashed year in and year out while being based on ancient engines with very minor changes, mostly rosters. Where are the development costs there? It’s no different than the oil companies, cable and insurance companies with monopolies. EA owns most sports licenses so they charge what they want!

Garyn Dakari

On August 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm

@savedr
Agreed. 60$ is a ridiculously stupid price for almost any game, and I’ve never payed anywhere near that amount. I sometimes wait years for games to get a large enough price drop before I get them, simply because I normally have less than 200$. With less than 200$ in all, there’s no way I’d even consider paying 60$ for a freakn’ video game. I just buy used, wait a few years for a price drop, or more recently, get them for a really good price on steam :)

Mcfee

On August 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm

LOL!!!!!

sweepar

On August 10, 2011 at 2:12 am

you guy got it better than as in australia the average game costs $110 AU (about $114 US at current rates)

Rick

On August 10, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Here in NZ, most new games sell for NZD$110 to NZD$120… That’s USD$90 to USD$98!

USD$60 is a bargain!

darkness2199

On August 26, 2011 at 10:18 pm

yup $110 just a for a new game that rather get pre-own but but cause of the drm and online passes i will really just pass on games completely the damn price is way too much