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Game Prices — a Historical Perspective 225

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
The Opposable Thumbs blog scrutinizes the common wisdom that video games are too expensive, or that they're more expensive than they were in the past. They found that while in some cases the sticker price has increased, it generally hasn't outpaced inflation, making 2010 a cheaper time to be a gamer than the '80s and '90s. Quoting: "... we tracked down a press release putting the suggested retail price of both Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64 at $69.99. [Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumer's Association] says that the N64 launch game pricing only tells you part of the story. 'Yes, some N64 games retailed for as high as $80, but it was also the high end of a 60 to 80 dollar range,' he told Ars. 'Retailers had more flexibility with pricing back then — though they've consistently maintained that the Suggested Retail Price was/is just a guide. Adjusted for inflation, we're generally paying less now than we have historically. But to be fair, DLC isn't factored in.' He also points out all the different ways that we can now access games: you can buy a game used, rent a game, or play certain online games for free. There are multiple ways to sell your old console games, and the competition in the market causes prices to fall quickly."
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Game Prices — a Historical Perspective

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  • More missing. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by santax (1541065) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @03:38AM (#33821650)
    The much higher production cost and lower market hasn't been factored in either. I can remember back somewhere in 198* that msx games were 80 guldens here (that about 30 euro now) and those games had prints of about 1000-5000 pieces. How do you mean it's getting cheaper? No it isn't.
  • by julesh (229690) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @03:44AM (#33821676)

    1. Console game prices have always been higher than PC (and, earlier, home computer) game prices. When most of us complain about game prices, it's the PC games we're complaining about.

    2. The real-terms cost of other forms of entertainment have dropped over the same period. At least where I am, a chart CD used to cost £15 and is now more like £10; according to the Bank of England inflation calculator [bankofengland.co.uk] [horrible flash thing] that's £25-£10 reduction, or a drop of more than half in real terms cost. Other forms of entertainment have reduced similarly. So, by comparison to the competition, games *are* more expensive.

  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @04:06AM (#33821792)
    If you wanted War in Russia by SSI, it was GBP80 in 1981/2. To put this in perspective, I worked in a bank then and my take home pay was about GBP140 so we're talking 2-3 weeks pay.
    The real killer though were the carts for that console which took the same game carts as its equivelent in the arcades and they were GBP250 each.
  • by XAD1975 (1628499) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @04:37AM (#33821928)
    It would be interesting to compare the prices broken down in percentages. How many %s for R&D, production costs, distribution, marketing, profit margin before tax, etc. I would suspect that over time, the costs have shifted towards marketing more than real innovation factors.
  • by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunityNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday October 07, 2010 @04:44AM (#33821962) Homepage

    As the summary points out more nicely, the article is half-assed at best.

    Downloadable content can be very expensive. For example, Call Of Duty: World At War was something like $55 new, but immediately after buying it you had to spend another $25 on DLC if you wanted to play multiplayer without having to queue over and over.

    Although I just got my PS3 yesterday, I suspect many games are like this now. This leads me to believe that we are, in fact, paying much more than we did in the past for video games.

  • by PhrstBrn (751463) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @05:23AM (#33822132)
    Console games are licensed, PC games are not. I don't know how much it costs to publish a game for the Xbox360/PS3/Wii, but it's more than zero. Publishing a game for the PC costs nothing in licensing fees.
  • Common Wisdom? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jlf278 (1022347) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @09:24AM (#33823596)
    I find it incredibly hard to believe that "common wisdom" says games are trending more expensive. I've owned about a dozen systems staring with the Atari Pong (which had no games to purchase. You could play pong...and pong with multiple paddles...and it was amazing). When I finally got to the age where I was purchasing my own NES games, I remember shelling out $50 a game. Obviously with inflation, that'd be signiicantly more than the $60/game price you see now ($50 for wii). Worse yet, I bought Mega Man a couple years after it first came out and Toys R Us was still charging $50! These days 6months to 1 year after release, you can pick up most games for $20 or so. Even pre-orders are regularly priced $10 or $20 off. And if you consider the used games market (eBay, not gamestop), downloadable games, old game compilations, etc. you can easily build a solid (if antiquated) collection that you'll never have enough time to fully play and enjoy. Finally, going back to Atari and NES games now, it's easy to see how (nostalgia aside) game quality has improved drastically. Comparing Sky Kid to Halo Reach is like comparing apples to a michelin-starred 5-course meal.

    As an aside - I have a very fond memory of spending hours and hours looking through my entire collection of Nintendo Power magazines compiling a list of 20 or so games I wanted to buy used. At the time, there were no used game stores where I lived, but my dad knew of one in Colorado where he flew out for business infrequently. So I gave him my list of games and waited an excruciating week for him to come back. He did fairly well, scoring at least half the games on the list (probably the cheaper ones). And I was blown away when he told me he got them for under $200 total. I excitedly jammed them into my NES one after the other - a big mistake at the time. Anyone familiar with the prime days of the NES knows that you play one game at a time until you've squeezed every last bittersweet drop of entertainment out the cartridge. You were supposed to beat the game several times, often requiring playing the first board 800 times due to difficulty and lack of game saves. And before my foray into used games, that's exactly how it worked because games were actually quite expensive. None could boast 100 hours of content, maybe 2 hours of content that took 100 hours to beat without losing a life (contra) or 10 hours of content that you played through 10 times (final fantasy).

  • Re:N64? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2010 @04:08PM (#33828930)

    Pff, yeah, if you compare the worst prices of the past with the average prices of today. Genesis games were pricey, as were N64 and a few lesser known consoles. But the NES games were like $30, PC games in the mid 90s were usually around $40. (In the late 90s the PC games were technically $50 but would almost immediately be on sale for $40 anyway).

    Alas, your fond childhood memories must bow to statistics. In that time we've gone from cartridges full of expensive chips or boxes full of expensive heavy floppies, to extremely cheap optical media. (Well, the most successful handheld is still using chips, but the chips are pretty cheap these days and the games are still only like $40). Development costs for some games went up by some large multiple, but the size of the gaming market (the number of copies a popular game will sell) went up even more. Seriously, Phantasy Star IV didn't break a million sales, but some stuff today has passed 20 million. Even with the biggest recession in 70 years.

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