XBLA: While We’re Bitching About Prices…

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the increase in pricing on XBLA for the average game. I have a few issues that need going over.


  • The premium priced titles of 1200+ MS points are vastly outnumbered by smaller, cheaper games.
  • The 400 point, achingly simplistic dual-stick shooters shoveled out at the inception of XBLA are hardly a decent point of comparison to weightier offerings like Braid and Battlefield 1943. So yes the prices appear to be going up, but so is the general quality level of the top games on offer.
  • We’re really just paying for the right to play the games, physical media is a by-product of how it is usually conveyed to us. In other words, these are games and just because they’re downloadable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay a premium price. In a perfect world for game developers there would be no physical media or second-hand market, because that represents a loss to them.

Bearing in mind that I love having a solid copy of every game I own over downloads and I’m a total cheap-ass, that was pretty hard for me to say.  What bothers me (and always has about MS points and XBLA) is the pricing structure. I’m sure I’ve said this before but if you buy a 1200 point game you’re not paying $14.99 (£10.20) for it, because you invariably have to buy 1500 points: $18.74 (£12.75). Unless you have the self-control of a Franciscan monk, those extra pounds, dollars and pennies get spent on odd Rock Band songs, themes you probably didn’t need and soon an eye-patch for your avatar. Microsoft know this, otherwise the price points would be different (500/1000/1500 point games) or the bundles you can buy would be different (400/800/1200 etc.)

It’s the third-oldest trick in the book and it’s remarkably effective, because for every one of you reading this with the discipline to buy 2100 point cards and sit on their caches of juicy space bucks for months on end there are fifty of us (myself included) who leap on the first shiny thing that catches our eye so we can throw our change down like it’s burning a hole in our pocket. Sony is just as bad with their £5 minimum wallet transaction, which becomes infuriating when you’re 8p shy of a Littlebigplanet costume. There are all sorts of ramifications on display here about the current economic crisis, but I’ll just say this. I don’t mind paying for DLC, it costs what it costs, but I DO mind buying MS points I clearly don’t need.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to continue my scouring under the couch cushions, that rent won’t pay itself you know.

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  • That’s a great piece. I will concede that the quality and scope of XBLA titles has gone up just as the prices have. I do take issue with the few instances when a game comes out and is broken and/or unplayable. Castle Crashers comes to mind.

    Great point about the point tiers, also.

  • Everyone complains about not being able to buy 400/800/1200 but i dont see it as a problem. I know every month or so ill be buying something on the marketplace so its no big deal to have some points lying on my system.

    Downloadable games are not as useful as real ones. Especially on consoles where you have no control over what you own.

    On PC I have no problem buying games off Steam because they have a great DRM system and i know if 5 years i can still play those games (and at the least have the actual files accessible to me).

    On Xbox 360 ive spent well over $300 on XBLA games/DLC and as far as i know i could be completely screwed when the next console comes out.

    $15 for Braid is about 99x too expensive. For 1943 its about right. Any other $15 XBLA game is a ripoff

  • Patrick

    The xbla prices do not bother me at all. First, its a universal system for all markets.

    Second, you buy chunks of points so your credit card doesn’t get loaded up with multiple microtransactions everytime you but a them, song, video, gamer pic pack, or game. Its the same reason sony has a minimum transaction, so people are not making individual charges for avatar clothes.

    Third, no matter which way you decide to break up buying points, not everthing is going to fit into nice even numbers. You can adjust the blocks of points to match game prices, but then everything else like movies, themes, and avatar clothes would still leave you with points left over.

  • @Vincent Lynch (racingfreak92) You make a good point will we be screwed when a new console comes out. Something to think about for sure.

  • starcade

    I can’t point to a number of factors for the increase.

    I think Sony increased the bar on size and effort put into their download only offerings, which caused Microsoft to follow suit. Remember the original XBLA releases were limited to 50MB size. I believe Castlevania was the first to break that limit

    Microsoft has long insisted that games on their network feature multi player (almost all do), or better graphics if it’s an older game (almost all do) and achievements (all do). So instead of offering a simple translation with an emulator, developers have had to put some effort into their XBLA releases.

    For some reason there was a bit of rumbling on the boards when arcade conversions were appearing quite frequently, although these were some of the biggest sellers. People requested original titles. So I think we’re see a lot more original titles these days than in the past, although arcade versions still appear from time to time. Original titles require the most effort.

    I think Microsoft and third parties long struggled with pricing. Although I don’t agree with one price for all games, I think this was settled upon to make life easier [for them]. There are clearly some games that are not worth the cost, although there are some games that are worth the cost. Battlefield 1943 is a testament that you can release a great game as download only. And I’ve always thought Team Fortress 2 would have worked well as a download only game. But I’d also like to state that should be lower cost offerings.

    Having bought a lot of the XBLA releases, I’d like to see Microsoft offer permanent price reductions on older or lesser selling titles. Right now they have deals of the week, which is great, but you never know what’s going to be offered or when, and it appears to be a one time deal. It’s basically designed to spur sales for the moment.

    Also I wish Microsoft would have videos of gameplay for games before you download. I think in some ways the NXE kind of made it harder to find games. It’s organized, but tedious and slow when searching the catalog.

  • Don’t worry MS guys, Nintendo sticks it to us this way also and the Wii games cost about as much as the xBox games do and are way worse!

    Not that, that’s going to make you feel any better, but at least you don’t have to deal with polygons and triangles for people any more.

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