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The $60 Standard Needs to Die

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The last time I bought a game for $60 was back in March. It was Mass Effect 3, a 40-hour RPG and the third game in an interconnected trilogy, with really entertaining multiplayer thrown in for good measure. There is no doubt in my mind that I got my money's worth with that one. Since then things have been much different. I use Gamefly, I hunt for sales at least once a day, and I have a stable of recent releases that I've waited for weeks or even months to drop in price.

As this generation of games comes to an end, I can't help feeling that the $60 standard retail price needs to end with it. Perhaps games like Asura's Wrath would have been more successful if they were sold at a fair price. It took only the slightest ounce of consumer awareness to spot $60 Asura's Wrath as a rip-off from a mile away, yet Capcom would not budge. I waited months to finally settle on a $35 copy I got on a sale that lasted for all of five seconds.

Capcom seems to be particularly clueless in this department. I've been eyeing Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor out of morbid curiosity for a while now. The game was almost universally panned as a broken product, but as a fan of the series, there was a price for which I could still be persuaded to buy it. Capcom has yet to meet that price though, as I haven't seen the game go lower than $40 when it's clearly worth no more than $20 on a good day.

Asura's Wrath Image

Lollipop Chainsaw is another frustrating example. That game reeks of B-grade production values and it's only about six hours long, yet it still typically sells for $50-$60. Great review scores or not (and I actually think the game is pretty awesome), there is a point where price becomes a factor. You'd have to be ignorant or plain dumb to think that game is a good value at full retail price.

The lack of fair prices is particularly glaring in the face of Steam Summer Sales, $15 digital games with just as much content, and a pile of games that earn the $60 price tag on the horizon. As I wait for recent releases to be sold at a fair price, there are a ton of other games offering better values and vying for my attention. 

What's worse is that I know I'm not the typical gamer. I don't just play the best games, I play any game I can get my hands on. It's more than a hobby for me, but lately my thirst for knowledge is at odds with my wallet. If they can't even convince the handful of crazy people like me, what hope do these games have?

Steam Summer Sale

The notion that every single retail game is worth $60 is just wrong. Publishers have held this notion as truth without any evidence to back it up. When there are games on phones for 99 cents, Triple-A PC games on sale for $10, and enough free-to-play games to keep you occupied for months, the $60 standard is shown to be the load of crap that it is.

Let's be clear though, I'm not arguing for cheaper games overall. What I think we need is for games to be priced at the value they can honestly back up. Is Skyrim worth $60? You bet your ass it is! It may be worth more than that, and if a publisher can justify a $70 or $80 price tag for their game, I'd like to say they should be allowed to do that too, but I don't trust them.

In our current climate there's an overwhelming sense of mindless greed. Mass Effect 3 may be a $60 value, but it's bolstered by manipulative DLC and a microtransaction model that's meant for free-to-play games. Season passes for DLC content are peddled as values, but when the prices for the individual packs are set in conjunction with the bulk rate, that value starts to feel more like bribery. Top it off with the ridiculous obsession with pre-order bonuses, and the industry starts to feel more like a used car lot.

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What's worse is it isn't working. Many game studios aren't surviving under the bloated, high-budget, huge-team, $60 game model. It's almost becoming normal for a game developer to be chewed up and spit out after a game's release, even if it's a relative success. I don't mean to get all doomsday here, but that doesn't sound like an industry that fresh blood will jump to stake their careers on.

That said, the big problem is that a lot of games are coming out at prices that simply don't make sense. I don't think I'm the only one sitting on a game that I want to play, and that's the real problem. When gamers are so disenchanted by the price of games that they won't buy one they're genuinely excited for, it's time for something to change.

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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