Gamers may need to brace for a new console generation filled with more expensive games. While it seems unlikely either the Xbox Series X or PS5 will launch for a “cheap” $400, the games made for them may be bumped up as well.
2K has announced that NBA 2K21 will cost $70 on PS5 and Xbox Series X, while remaining $60 on PS4 and Xbox One. It’s just one game for now, and yet many assume this is a “going first” moment, and that after about 15 years, we might see game prices jump $10 across the board.
This is a bad idea for a multitude of reasons, even if it’s easy to see at least the initial logic of it.
So, the obvious notion is that through inflation alone, a $60 game in 2005 (when that price point started), would cost $78.77 today. So even with a $10 price bump technically games are still priced behind inflation. On top of that, game budgets for most $60 games have increased dramatically over the last few generations, and more revenue is required to support them.
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And yet I can think of a whole bunch of reasons why gamers will reject this price point, or at the very least, make a lot of noise about it (as they tend to do).
First of all, we are very close to moving to purely digital game distribution with the amount of games purchased digitally rocketing up the last few years in particular. There’s even a PS5 launching that flat-out doesn’t have a disc-drive, and given that it will probably be cheaper, I’m guessing it will be the more popular model.
But gamers have not really seen any of the costs saved with digital distribution passed onto them. There is no physical creation of a disc or box needed anymore, there are no trucks or planes to load them onto to ship them all over the world. And in the case of digital stores, ie. Sony selling PlayStation games or Microsoft selling Xbox games, there is no retailer cut from the likes of Best Buy or GameStop. And yet digital game prices are almost always identical to $60 box copies, if not higher, considering you can’t buy used.
Past that, however, many gamers have gotten used to huge games being either cheaper than $60 or completely free. You have games like Overwatch or PUBG that cost $20-40 new at this point, or some of the biggest games in the world like Fortnite, League of Legends or Warzone are completely free. Asking people to pay $70 for a new title in the face of that trend seems like you’re asking for a huge sales dip that will not be offset by the price increase.
Furthermore, there’s been a sort of understanding between players and developers at this point that $60 games are staying $60 because of all the added revenue streams that have been added over the last decade. Microtransactions and DLC, mainly. Look at a game like Destiny 2, which launched for $60, and then had two $15 DLCs, two $40 expansion and six $10 seasons, in addition to having a cosmetic store in-game. There’s nothing $60 about that, in practice.
Finally, we are seeing the rise of subscription services like Xbox Game Pass which are offering brand new titles for…effectively nothing, just a monthly subscription. This is the logical evolution of the space when we glance over to what’s happening with movies and TV, where consumers in those forms of media get access to hundreds, thousands of hours of content for $10 a month via Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, etc. That is where gaming is moving as well. $70 games seem to run way counter to that, and the only “worse” value in the entertainment industry I would argue are expensive $15 movie tickets for a two-hour show, though at this point, it’s unclear if the movie theater industry is even long for this world, given the state of things.
Despite inflation, I do not think this price hike is warranted nor a good idea from a marketing standpoint. There are too many cheap or free options in the industry right now and too many ways for games to make way more than $60 after launch, and everyone knows that. $70 is not the right move, even if a cabal of companies agree among one another to hit that new high water mark this generation.