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Stir: Game Prices

I figure the best place to start talking about video game prices is to find out just how much it costs to produce a modern day, multi-platform video game.  According to a recent study by M2 Research, the average cost to develop a video game is skyrocketing.

Prior console generations had development costs ranging between $3-5 million per platform. M2 Research estimates more recent development costs for these 7th generation consoles to have soared, with the average costs running $10 million for one platform and $18-$28 million for multiple platforms.

DigitalBattle.com has compiled a list of the most expensive video game budgets ever, all of which are far above the average.  Some were huge successes and others – not so much.  (See the images and captions below.)  These rising costs plus the state of the worldwide economy took its toll on game studios in 2009 forcing widespread layoffs and several closings.

Now let’s see what our writers have to say about GAME PRICES.  Let’s Stir.

WHAT OUR WRITERS HAD TO SAY

APB by Realtime Worlds - $50 Million Plus Millions In Ongoing Content Development

Jose Adrovet | Gui J | Profile |
I think you should get game coupons in your towns local paper. So I can be like ” Hey honey, here is $10 off Halo Reach – it’s right next to the Papa Johns 2XL pizzas for 19.99.”  Then we hug and she smiles at me because we are in love and we then go and cut the grass so our lawn looks nice when the pizza guy comes over. 

Sarah Brannan | FFXPrincess | ProfileTwitter |
I would really want to know how much it costs to make a game before I decided. I highly doubt that all of that money goes back into making the game, but I could be wrong. If most of it is just profit, then yes, it should be lowered immensely. They will sell more games that way.

Final Fantasy 12 - $48 Million Not Including Marketing Costs

Steven Buccini | PickaNumber123 | ProfileTwitter |
I think games are relatively priced for the value we receive from them.  A lot of people don’t understand just how expensive developing games really is.  $60 is a perfectly acceptable price to pay for a top-tier game.  Movie titles?  Not so much.  They should be priced lower, around $40, to reflect lower production values.

However, I don’t agree with the concept of paying $10 for a map pack or the rumors of subscription services to play online.  Some games, I play online only occasionally.  There is no way I can pay $5 or $10 a month for 3 different games on top of Xbox Live to play online.  That is getting a little ridiculous.

Paul Campbell Jr. | Zero-Strike |
Here in the U.S permier games are about 60 dollars, but you will get some “under the radar” games that are 50 or 40 dollars. I remember back a couple years ago they were 50 bucks and the world was a much happier place.

Gran Turismo 5 - Over 1,000 Cars, Over 5 Year In Development and Over $80 Million

Scott diMonda | WCC5723 | ProfileTwitter |
Game Pricing from my stand point is that I am willing to pay $60 for a game, but let me note that not all games are worth the $60 price tag on them.  I have some games in my library that I have should have only had to pay half ($30) for but that goes  to show just because there was a lot of buzz surrounding the game doesn’t mean it will be good. ( I have not implied any games here to protect the innocent)

Now I will touch real briefly on DLC pricing.  Some of the DLC offered is just highway robbery.  What ever happened to having it in the game or maybe some free DLC and than have some paid DLC come down the pike.

I am sympathetic to the fact that it takes a lot of resources and money to make a game, but a lousy game is never worth the money.

Ben Griffiths | squeaky bumtime | Profile |
Gaming is still in its infancy as a mainstream industry, relatively speaking, and I think the unpredictability of game pricing reflects this. Here in the UK, a huge-selling game like Modern Warfare 2 will currently cost you at least £40, having not depreciated at all since its release. Bioshock 2, on the other hand, can be yours for less than £10 if you know where to look. Unless a game achieves both exceptional long-term sales figures and rave reviews, simply waiting a few months before you cop it can net you a pretty huge discount. The drop is less marked for multiplayer-focussed titles but it must be something of a worry for any small publishers wanting to invest large amounts of money on development, not to mention the retailers who face the difficult decision of how best to stock their shelves. You certainly wouldn’t expect the price of a new film or a book to go down by 75% within its first year!

Grand Theft Auto 4 - Over 100 Hours Of Gameplay And A $100 Million Budget

Nathan Hardisty | Bananahs | ProfileTwitter |
Prices need to fall or grow higher in order for the industry to sustain itself any longer. Five years ago, you could not play a console game for more than 100 hours online. That’s changed, and now I can play Call of Duty Online for as long as I want. I can play sports games online for as long as I want with one purchase. Subscription based models are going to happen, if so, game prices will likely drop. I think games are way too expensive and you wonder why Valve games sell so much is because they always do special deals every now and then. Everyone hanging on to Steam checking for the latest deal, I’m not sure why every publisher has followed suit.

William Johnson | StylelessKnave | ProfileTwitter |
For me, prices have always been an issue, even with cash to burn. There have been times when on nothing but a hundred dollars, I’d go out of my way to pay eighty for a PS2 version of Marvel vs Capcom 2, that I would trade back in, and then find it a few months later and pick it up again. It was a vicious cycle. Now that I’m a little bit older, it’s still not the price that I worry about, but it’s the idea that “What if I trade this game in, and then feel like buying it again later?” Sixty dollars a game, is still a bit steep to me, but it’s more that there is always an overflow of games, to the point that I will become backlogged on the things I really want. It’s frustrating not being able to just cop games right from the release date, but it makes me also handle my money better. My plan for this year, is that in October, I’m getting New Vegas, and I dont plan on getting another AAA, new game or whatever until Brink in 2011. The price of games definitely have me looking at my wallet differently now. And the same goes with downloading.

Halo 3 - $55 Million To Produce, Then Microsoft Spent $200 Million Promoting It

Tym Kaywork | vttym | ProfileTwitter |
I’m amazed that with production costs as high as they are, and the fact that game prices have stayed the same for decades now, that anyone complains about game pricing. I think there’s room for movement on some of the smaller downloadable games out there, but I honestly have no issue with pricepoints as they exist right now, and even think they are undercutting the market value a bit.

Stewart Loosemore | Stigweird85 |  ProfileTwitter |
Game prices are up for debate, yes the RRP can seem excessive, I mean £50 for a game that only lasts 2-3 hours is overpriced, yet a game that lasts 20-30hours could be argued as underpriced. Value is in the eye of the beholder, what is good value to you may not be for me. What I have a problem with is exchange rates, more often than not a company will take an American price, change the dollar sign to a pound sign and that’s the conversion. Another problem I have with prices are preowned prices. How can anyone justify charging £5 less for a preowned copy of a game especially when a game store has probably only payed someone else peanuts when they bought it from somebody. Also when a game store sells a Preowned game it is practically all profit, they don’t pay the developer a single penny. It’s profiting from someone elses work and effort

Killzone 2 - Unconfirmed Budget Estimated Around $56 Million

Rane Pollock | Gemini Ace | ProfileTwitter |
Game prices have always been a tough subject for gamers. There are the people that think that we should pay developers for their hard work. I agree with that sentiment, but what about those games that are obviously sub par? Should we reward them for mediocre work? Occasionally a game comes out at a “budget” price (Deadly Premonition for example), and it’s refreshing to see a company actually acknowledge that they didn’t make the most amazing game ever but they still want people to play it. How many people picked up Deadly Premonition for $20, noticed some bugs or thought the game was ugly, but still didn’t regret their purchase because it was at a budget price? Gamers are the first people to cry foul when a game doesn’t deliver the goods, and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would complain about a less than AAA game coming out at a less than AAA price.

What worries me is the push towards digital distribution. I like having a physical disc. I don’t like the idea of buying a digital copy of a game for the same price as a physical copy. It costs less to get me the digital copy since there’s no brick and mortar stores, no shipping, and no game case. So why aren’t those savings passed on to the consumer? Because that’s the whole reason they want us to go to pure digital. More profits for them, less everything for us. We don’t get to trade, loan, or sell our digital copies. How can we allow them to take those things away from us without them giving something in return?

If you think these large corporations our best interests in mind when they push the industry in a certain direction, you are sadly mistaken. It’s a constant battle we need to wage against the powers that be. If we give an inch, they take a mile. If we allow them to continue to charge the same for less product, we are idiots. We need to stand up and say no. It’s us against them. All they want is access to our bank account. All we want is good games. Let’s make them work their asses off for our money, just like we work to get it in the first place.

L.A. Noire - Yet To Be Released But The Budget Is Somewhere Upwards Of $50 Million

Mervyn Robinson | Rut3g3r | ProfileTwitter |
Gaming is expensive, but I don’t think it’s excessive. I used to insist on pre-ordering the collector’s edition of every new title that piqued my interest and that put a dent in my credit card, but I eventually realised that I was essentially paying for the hype. Game prices decay very quickly, and if you’re willing to wait you can get even top titles for very reasonable prices. I live in Glasgow, Scotland, and my local supermarket is selling Bayonetta, Bioshock 2, DJ Hero etc for a third of the launch price. The only ones that don’t really change are the first-party Nintendo titles, in which the public interest doesn’t seem to wane. Gaming, like most other things, only really costs if you insist on having the latest and best. I’ve always got a ‘to play’ pile to keep me busy, so why waste money?

Jeff Schenning | JeffS49 | Profile |
Though I have no problem with buying games I’m really excited for at full price right when they come out, there are so many titles vying for my $50 or $60 that I tend to reach my limit quicker than I might like. Buying older or used games curbs this cost significantly, but buying used is hardly ideal (there’s been a lot of discussion about this recently; suffice it to say I’d rather be supporting the game developers than my local GameStop).

It’s my hope that if / when digital distribution services like Steam start to become the dominant medium for game purchases, the used game market will disappear and games will devalue over time at a more reasonable rate. Steam’s current pricing experiments with game sales are also providing some data that suggests that the fifty / sixty dollar mark may be too high for the purposes of profit maximization, which is certainly good news for consumers (source). Of course, digital distro brings with it a whole boatload of other issues that I don’t want to get bogged down talking about here (DRM for a big one), but I think it’s promising from a pricing perspective.

And hey, if you’re really strapped for cash, it turns out the internet is a magical place where people churn out hundreds of homemade games for free.

Metal Gear Solid 4 - Four Years and $60 Million To Make

Jordan Silverthorne | Silverthorne | Profile |
$60 may be the norm this generation, but I think publishers are starting to realize that not every game can be moved off the shelf  at that price.  AAA titles like Halo and Modern Warfare will sell no matter what, but the prolific used game industry has proved that there is remarkable price sensitivity on most titles; people are willing to sacrifice factory-sealed quality in order to save $5 or $10.

D. Demitrius Smith | DDSmitty | Profile |
I’ve got a crazy idea: games should be priced according to average play time. Square has an epic 60+ hour RPG, I’d be willing to pay $60 for that. But an 18 hour shooter? I think $45 – $50 would be fair.  And for MMOs… well, I don’t play those because DCUO is not out yet. I’ll have an opinion in that area later…

Too Human - Development Problems Caused The Budget To Spiral To Over $60 Million

Patrick Talbert | AzraelPC | ProfileTwitter |
Note the following: PC games (on DVD’s, mind you) start their price point at $50. Yet the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the EXACT SAME TITLE are $10 more. This blows my mind. It’s the same software being run on different platforms. Simply baffling.

Mark Withers | moko7t8 | ProfileTwitter |
You’ve hit on a topic close to my heart. Game pricing in the United Kingdom has changed dramatically in the last 24 months.  (See Day One Purchases)  Just this week has seen the recently released Crackdown2 and the Limited edition of Kane & Lynch 2 reach the £17.99 price range which represents more than 50% off already. OK so these two game are not exactly game of the year material but armed with the knowledge that this is a regular occurrence UK gamers are holding out for the first month before purchasing a game.

The RRP for a game in the UK is just too high and no-one I know pays anywhere near the £40 RRP for any game. Steam has demonstrated the attractiveness of properly priced games with record sales (and profit figures) for most games that feature in their sales.

Special editions are also increasing in price with each major release. More useless tat for even more money.

I could talk all day about game pricing but I think whoever sets the price needs to take their head out of the sand as no one has an impulse purchase at £40 but £20 usually results in adding to basket and clicking buy.

MY FINAL STIR

Chris Forbis | MensaDad| ProfileTwitter |
I feel that most games are priced too high to purchase “blind” without playing them first.  A $60 gamble might get you a game you love or a shelf dwelling disaster.  I rarely buy games on day one.  The exceptions are games that I know I’m going to enjoy and get many hours of gameplay out of – such as Red dead Redemption and Fallout New Vegas.  Games that fall a little further from certainty, like Aliens vs. Predator, will be rented first (Gamefly) or purchased used when the price is such that it is worth the gamble.  I really like the way I can rent a game from Gamefly then decide to keep it for a discounted price.  This try before buying process really works for me and has certainly lead to my spending more on video games that I would otherwise.  Downloadable games are quite different.  Dropping $5, $10 or $15 on a game that is getting a lot of “buzz” isn’t nearly as big of a gamble, especially if I can play a demo before buying,  so I tend to purchase many Xbox Live Arcade and Indy games near their release date.

The rules for Stir are simple.  I pick a topic and ask the Platform Nation writers, editors and staff to send me their opinions.  Thanks go out to all the Platform Nation writers who contributed to Stir this week.  They are all part of the best writing team in the industry and I couldn’t do this without them.

Now, drop down into the comment box below and let us know what YOU think about GAME PRICING.

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