As I'm sure you've noticed the price of gaming in some respects is greatly increased in comparison to previous years, specifically in respects to console gaming. However its not all bad news in the search for a reasonable priced quality gaming.
I guess it all started with the introduction of the current generation of consoles; new breed of cutting edge technology, blue ray capability, faster processors to name but a few of the exhaustive feature list. Particularly with the excessive pricing of the PS3, the entry point into the next wave of home entertainment was significantly curtailed if you weren't an oil baron or a Saudi Prince, the wii of course being the exception. The cost of developing for these gluttonous machines inflated greatly to maximise their potential, and subsequently the cost has been passed on to the consumer. No doubt this has produced a standard of gaming almost unparalleled in quality with the number of triple A titles the highest for many years. The question is are consumers paying over the odds and should they?
Most seem to be happy with shelling out the extra as the monthly sales charts have shown, with those looking for something on the other side of the monetary spectrum heading towards the handheld domain, the preowned market or the wii. And with the introduction of 'platforms' following the run away success of guitar hero and rockband, there seemed to be an epidemic of 'peripheral-itis' and with the arrival on Tony Hawk ride, Beatles Rock Band and DJ Hero, the temporary infection may well be prolonged. This pattern can almost be extended with the increased prevalence of special editions, Call of Duty Modern Warefare 2 being a major culprit (the night vision goggles do look incredibly appealing).
Speaking of CoDMW2, Activision seem to taking the pricing structure to a new level. Collectors editions that seem to be excessively priced and arguably overpriced standard retail versions of the game could mark the beginning of a new era- if the publishers deem demand and quality to be right, then a 'triple A' game will come with a triple A price tag. And don't even get me started on Bobby Kotick.
As the global economic recession hit, multiple studios closed down as a result of project cancellations and failure to secure funds when expensive games just weren't profitable enough. The fear that innovation and originality may be compromised by the success of sequels may be justified, with almost all major titles in the 3rd and fourth quarter being some form of sequel. This may not necessarily be a bad thing; a lot of these games are definitely near the higher end of the spectrum in terms of quality and design, however it may be the signalling of alternative pricing structure becoming a permanent addition to the distribution of videogame entertainment.
Steam have been doing this for a while, and with relative success, releasing great games at great prices, especially with the limited time offer deals. Digital distribution in this format can only be a good thing for developer, publisher and consumer with the only casualty being at retail with the 2nd hand games market no longer being as lucrative with a reduced proportion of physical copies being sold. The limiting factors of course preventing such an industry shift will still be in place for some time, such as Internet availability, and agreements between retailers and publishers. Still, its an interesting development that could see the 'right' type of games reaching a larger audience, and exposing casual gamers to more than "exercise-party-work out-music-bash 10".
Lastly the recent announcements by Sony and Nintendo with regards to the respective recent handhelds and download games could be seen as an extension of the preexisting apple itune distribution service, where cheap affordable applications and games have been incredibly successful in generating revenue. Maybe this is the gateway into the domain of affordable gaming with the shoots of a workable business model being implemented that can be implemented industry wise? Hopefully change is not too far around the corner.