Price is Right
One of the things
I believe is that gamers pay $300 for a home console because that’s what they’re
used to doing. They pay $50 for a game because that’s what they’ve done for 20
Economists tell us that inflation hits everything, from food to computers to
movies to motor vehicles — everything you can imagine. Gamers say otherwise
simply because it hasn’t affected the price of their favorite entertainment
medium. Not now, not ever. Game prices rose based on the manufacturing — not
development — costs. Therefore, a brand-new game cartridge could cost as much
as $70, even if the game’s budget was under $500,000. However, a multi-million
dollar RPG manufactured on a $0.50 CD will retail for $50 or less. DVDs are
costlier than CDs, but the price has gotten so low and competition has gotten so
high that publishers are afraid to raise costs when they don’t have to.
But let’s hold on a second. When do they ever have to raise costs?
Microsoft and Bungie could’ve spent as much as $100 million to develop and
promote Halo 2 worldwide. No one knows the exact figure. Regardless, we know
the costs did not reach beyond the expense of a major motion picture.
Microsoft’s sales figures — $300 million ($50 x 6 million copies) — far exceed
the ticket sales of all but the most successful films. Deduct the expenses and
Microsoft still walks away with more than $100 million.
EA, Konami, Namco, Sony, Nintendo — they all have had multiple games that
achieved that kind of worldwide success. Lots of publishers have.
Why is it then that some publishers are not content with the successful,
gamer-appeasing price tag of $50? Why is it that some publishers look at how
willingly we spent $60 for a collector’s edition of Halo 2 and think, "What if
all games sold for that much?"
Let’s ponder that for a moment. What if all games were $60? Just as overall
music sales are higher when CDs retail for $12.99 instead of $19.99, game sales
would drop. I’d be less likely to take chances. Less likely to pick up a game
like Lumines and buy it on the spot. I have a hard time doing that when
brand-new games cost $40 or $50 — a higher price would deter me from doing it
We’d still buy the Halos and Metal Gear Solids of the world, so I’m not going to
deny it. And although we love those games (and Tekken, Resident Evil, Gran
Turismo, and several others) more than the rest, it’s the "rest" that the
industry survives on. The games we play in between the few that are good enough
to garner a rating of 9.8 out of 10, including the disappointing sequels that
pop up every year.
Sometimes those games become our favorite in the genre. NFL Street Vol 1.’s
score showed what I thought of it at the time of writing the review — I had no
idea I’d end up playing it aggressively for another 11 months.
No matter how great these in between games are, they cannot survive on a higher
price tag. I know this and you know this, but there are those who don’t.
For the next generation, publishers are looking to snag an extra $10 from every
gamer who can’t live without the next Grand Theft Auto-calibre game.
It’s a mistake. A foolish one that will backfire on many of the so-called "big"
games. With a few exceptions, you can never, ever determine a game’s success
before its release. That said, how can you determine the price based on what
these publishers are proposing?
Let’s not forget how many highly-anticipated failures that have been released.
However, Halo, Grand Theft Auto, Metal Gear Sold, etc. — they can get away with
it. Gran Turismo can get away with it. These are important games. But can a
game that’s almost as big get away with it? Not a chance.
We live in a world where DVD movies can be purchased for a measly $15 the first
week of release. I got The Incredibles and four beautiful lithographs for $20.
Some of my favorite music CDs cost $7! Game costs are big, but so are their
profits. Only the crappy developers suffer. Only those who disappoint us
suffer. And if they announce a $60 price tag for Xbox 2 software, gamers are
going to be less likely to take a chance on a no-name title than they already
Just think of what would have happened if 3DO and Acclaim were still around.
Can you imagine them charging $60 for an Xbox 2 launch title?
To all the publishers out there who still aren’t convinced, think of retailers
like Target, Wal-Mart, Meijer and FYE — big stores with a lot of space, but not
enough shelf space to store the over-priced software you plan to ship them.
They won’t be too happy when Game X is collecting dust and taking up valuable
shelf space because no one wants to spend $60 on a chance.
That’s what this is, a chance. That’s what it’s always been. Maybe this will
make our job as reviewers more important in the future. As happy as that would
make us, we would never want it to happen at the expense of games — or at the
expense of gamers’ wallets.