What's a Fair Price for the Games You Love?
“I am convinced that in the future we must change the price of video games – they’re too expensive for the audience. With the cost of development and the retail margins, £40 ($60) is a fair price [to us], but for the consumer it is too much.”
Now, I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks that $60 is a bit pricey for most games. However, therein lies the discrepancy; 'most games'. I mean, think about something like Cross Edge (NIS America SRPG) versus a AAA title like Red Dead Redemption. I don't know about you, but I would gladly shell out my hard-earned cash for a game like Red Dead, as not only does it feature an immersive single-player campaign, along with an excellent gritty Western storyline, but the multi-player mode is just as fantastic - easily worth every dollar that you spent on it. On the other hand, something like Cross Edge, a relatively niche JSRPG, using old-school 2D sprites should not cost $60. Its production values are incredibly low, even by JRPG standards, and the story hardly merits its cost. Unfortunately for the consumer however, it does get the higher price tag - after all, it's the industry standard. When I spend $60, it better feel like I bought something worth it.
“A good price of a game should be around £20 ($30) – but for this price we can’t make a ten to 15-hour adventure,” Compte continued. “So for £20 we should offer consumers four to five hours of gameplay, then after that we can make additional money with DLC (downloadable content.)”
Four or five hours of gameplay? Don't make me laugh. If a developer is going to strip down a game to it's very core, then who's to say that the consumer will still buy it? Instead, many games would end up being regulated to rentals as most consumers would just play it and finish them all within a single session, more often than not ignoring DLC content. Additionally, since there aren't any regulations in terms of DLC, who's to say that companies won't abuse the system? For example, in Tales of Vesperia, the very same Namco Bandai is telling players to go and buy online content just to level up their characters, or pay for additional costumes, things that used to be free. Then, you have people in Japan paying 1200 Microsoft Points for a new song in Idol M@ster. It's just ridiculous and in the end it's the consumer who loses out as the companies profit.
A better business model for them to pursue, if they wanted to go this route, would be to go for episodic content. Just like Telltale games. By releasing several four- to five-hour episodes, instead of DLC, at around a $20 price point, not only would it allow a careful consumer to spend his or her money on a game without feeling like they lost a significant investment if they don't like it, but they would still be able to recoup most of their development costs by fans who would be willing to purchase the entire series.
Doing the math that would be $20 x four five-hour episodes which would equal $80.00. Give the consumer the option to purchase an entire series at around $60 for a one-time lower fee and you still have a fair price for everyone. Space them out correctly, and you might even have more money coming in as a developer for people who didn't originally plan on buying the entire thing in a single batch.
Another thing to do to help generate money, although very unlikely, would be to work out a deal with GameStop, Amazon and/or eBay to get some money on every used game someone sells. While a few companies like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft are going to attempting to try to block out features that would normally be included in a brand-new retail copy, is it enough? GameStop doesn't seem to be particularly worried as they figure that they will just sell more points cards, but we'll see as soon as the programs get their feet off of the ground. Or if that doesn't work, they could just copy their PC counterparts and create unique key codes so that no one could sell/trade them in. Ever.