Here’s something you don’t hear every day: Games should be expensive. In fact, games are cheaper now than they’ve ever been. Not only are indie, downloadable games available as a cheaper alternative to full $60 titles, but even full-priced titles are cheaper than ever when accounting for inflation.
The standard price for a video game has been $59.99 since the launch of the seventh generation of consoles. In 2006, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 games ran for that price, and have continued to remain consistent for nearly ten years. Interestingly enough, though, if prices of video games kept up with inflation, they would cost nearly $72 today, an increase of 20%.
Meanwhile, the development costs for video games is only increasing. Kotaku has done a decent job of collecting game cost data up to 2014, and there is a pretty clear trend. The cost of game development is increasing drastically. Whereas in the 2000s many retail titles may have cost a $10 to $30 million to develop, recent game budgets have soared, many hitting higher than $100 million.Wikipedia’s list also does a good job chronicling development budgets, and if you sort by pure development costs (not counting inflation), each of the top 20 most expensive games was developed in the last ten years.
Games are getting more expensive, but we’re not paying the developers for these more expansive games. As a result, developers have turned to all sorts of methods to eke out as much money as possible from the player.
Not only is downloadable content (DLC) commonplace within virtually every major release nowadays, but so are season passes and day 1 DLC. Game companies are unable to recoup their development costs, and must go about collecting money another way.
Unfortunately, most of the time, this DLC rarely adds as much value to the package as it charges.
Take a look at the latest Call of Duty game, Call of Duty: Black Ops III. In its base game, Black Ops III not only had an entire single-player campaign, but also a plethora of multiplayer modes and 12 multiplayer maps. That was just the base $60 game. Meanwhile, each DLC pack, consisting of just four maps, runs the player $15. Essentially, for a quarter of the price of the entire game, a player receives just a sliver of the content.
Obviously, less people will buy the DLC than the full game, so a higher price helps recoup costs from those that don’t regularly buy DLC.
But, imagine if the cost of the DLC was shared by everyone who purchased the game – so the price of a game would rise – but as a result everyone would get the DLC. What if the next Call of Dutygame, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, were $70 instead of $60, but everyone got the season pass included in their game? Surely, Activision would recoup the same amount of revenue (DLC usually sells to a comparatively small percentage of the overall player-base), and meanwhile everyone would receive a substantially larger amount of content.
Unfortunately, it is tough for companies to raise the prices of their games in such a competitive market. With most games running standard at $60, any price lower often seems like cheap shovelware (people are wary of a $40 or $50 price-point). Meanwhile, if a company actually decided to release a game for $70, it would seem relatively expensive, and would surely suffer in sales compared to other titles.
This is unfortunate, because a higher price-point would allow developers much more freedom in development and to focus more on creating quality and holistic content rather than fitting into a smaller budget.
Meanwhile, I hope that one brave game company takes the plunge. Perhaps even the developer could offer the base game for $60 and a version with a season pass for $70. Wouldn’t a substantial share of people be willing to pay just $10 more for a game if it included all future content?
I may be alone in saying that I want a higher price for video games, but I surely am not unique in saying that I detest the nickle-and-diming by current video game companies when it comes to DLC.
For $10 more per game, wouldn’t you like to rid the world of pesky additional content?