THE COST OF FUN

When did video games get so expensive? In the past two years or so, the top end of a console game was usually $60. I’m now seeing games at $65 and in some cases $69. I know first-hand that budgets for games have been steadily rising for many years now but it seems odd that in this type of economy, games have gotten more expensive.

The majority of the people who work on a game have absolutely no say in how much people should be paying for it. At least where I work, it’s up to the marketing guys to decide price tag to slap on the box. I remember when I was working on skate., I was in a team meeting when the marketing people told us our title would be priced at a premium which back then was $60. We were told it was because the work we were doing was worth it. I maybe biased but it was hard to argue that point.

PC games are indeed cheaper and sometimes by 50%. Unfortunately, playing a PC game means playing it my 24″ monitor versus my 50″ TV. It also means there’s no community involvement since the game isn’t on Xbox Live or PSN. So while it is cheaper, it’s not exactly the same experience.

I should go ask the marketing peeps why the top end pricing has creeped up lately.

2 thoughts on “THE COST OF FUN”

  1. I respectfully must disagree! Video games have gotten much cheaper, particularly when you consider the phenomenal effort that goes into making a modern triple-A title.

    Here, for your perusal, are scans I made from the games section of a summer 1991 Consumers Distributing catalogue:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/brookjones/3988406758/sizes/l/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/brookjones/3987649757/sizes/l/

    The system prices are generally lower than today’s*, but notice that the game prices themselves are virtually unchanged — from a “bargain” $45 for the then-four-year-old Legend of Zelda to the “full-priced” $60-$65 for new hits like Battletoads and Turtles II. Then you have Sega’s “premium” 16-bit pricing with a handful of games for $80, and then the eye-wateringly-high price of $98.88 for Strider and… Toe Jam and Earl. Yowza.

    The really crazy thing is that all those prices are in 1991 dollars, so if you adjust for inflation:
    $45 in 1991 = $61.96 in 2009
    $60 in 1991 = $82.62 in 2009
    $80 in 1991 = $110.16 in 2009
    $98.88 in 1991 = $136.15 in 2009
    (http://www.bankofcanada.ca/en/rates/inflation_calc.html)

    In other words, in spite of the relatively small teams and shorter development cycles of that era, 1991’s “bargain” titles still cost nearly as much as today’s brand new triple-A games ($~60-65)… and everything else cost $80 or more in today’s dollars. (And of course the $40-50 GameBoy and Game Gear games they’re advertising work out to $60-70 today… and offer depth and polish probably equivalent to a $4.99 iPhone game!)

    This doesn’t even account for the fact that games are now (often) discounted much faster than they used to be… the advent of “Greatest Hits” lines means we can get solid games within a couple of years at a deep discount. Future Shop has a 2 for $40 sale on right now for PS3 Greatest Hits like Uncharted, Resistance, MotorStorm and Ratchet & Clank — all 80+ rated games from 2006 or 2007. And Microsoft just announced that 2008 hits Left 4 Dead (89%) and Street Fighter IV (93%) and 2007 smash GTA IV (98%) will be released as discounted “greatest hits” titles this fall.

    So if that $65 or $70 price tag is bumming you out, take heart… you’re still getting BOTH “Modern Warfare 2” and “Uncharted 2” this fall for less than what a single copy of “Toe Jam & Earl” would have cost your parents in 1991. 🙂

    (* and actually, with inflation, the system prices are not far off today’s equivalents; and of course these systems didn’t play CDs/DVDs/Blu-Rays or include hard drives or network hardware…
    Genesis: $150 -> $207
    NES: $110 -> $150
    GameBoy: $100 -> $138)

  2. Brook, that’s some good research. Even though I’m old, I forgot about how expensive games were back in the day.

    I suppose I’m bummed about the relative short-term increase in price.

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