Yesterday I polled our viewers to see what you thought of the industry standard of a $60 price tag for most games, and there was a good amount of variety in your votes and responses. The winning option, and the one I personally agree with, is that only a few games should be priced at $60 these days. The rise of frequent discounts, cheap gaming services, and a steadily increasing (in terms of quality, quantity, and affordability) indie market makes it hard for me to justify dropping $60 on a game. That said, there are definitely games that are worth the full price purchase, and I believe the industry still has a long way to go before it stops being the standard.
In my ideal video game world, a $60 price tag would denote a game that provides an extensive, immersive, unique experience that sets itself apart from other games. I have no problem with a high price for games like Grand Theft Auto V, Destiny, or The Legend of Zelda in which the developers took time to craft a large game world with an expansive campaign and plenty of additional content to dig into once you’ve completed the main objective, but annual releases (especially with sports games like Madden or FIFA where most of the new content could easily have been added in as DLC) and games with very short primary campaigns that count almost solely on their multiplayer modes (which could also be added in as DLC) to push sales frustrate me, and I can’t justify the purchase.
Of course, everyone has a different idea of what does and does not count as a quality game, and many of the franchises that I believe are overpriced and fail to offer a good value are annual top-sellers. Franchises like Call of Duty and Madden are still able to sell millions each year, so there’s no motivation right now for their respective publishers to lower their prices. Like it or not, $60 is still proving to be a competitive price for these games, and we won’t see a change in pricing models for them until that’s no longer true.
However, other franchises and genres in general could (or at least should) see a shift away from that pricing model in the near future. As a Wii U owner, I look at a lot of the quality games on the console and think to myself “I want that, but I’m not paying $60 for it.” This is especially true of platformers like New Super Mario Bros. U and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Sure, Nintendo always releases quality products starring characters I’ve fallen in love with since childhood, but when I can find dozens of well-designed 2D platformers on services like Steam or the eShop for $20 or less, having Mario in the game just doesn’t seem worth the high price tag. I played Super Mario 3D World at E3 last year and loved it, but I didn’t love it enough to pay $60. When Nintendo put the game on sale for $40 last week I instantly made the purchase, and that could be true of a lot of other games too. I can’t help but wonder how many platformers, 2D games, or “retro” styled games miss out on sales because their developers underestimate the competition from indie developers and fail to price them competitively.
I think a big problem with the industry is that there’s this false sense of there being two categories of games: big AAA experiences worth $60 and little download-only games worth $10. In reality, there’s a lot of games that, in terms of quality and content, fall in between those two categories, and I hope to see the market start to reflect that more going forward. As they say, “you vote with your wallet,” so when you buy a game at launch for $60, you’re telling the developer that they’ve priced it fairly. However, if enough people wait for a price drop or sale to offer a better value (as 50% of PC gamers now do), developers will hopefully begin to take note going forward and rethink the $60 industry standard.