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Businesses The Almighty Buck Games

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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  • N64? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Give me a break.

    Genesis. Phantasy Star IV. $99. Pfft.

    Love the modern baaaawing about game prices. You kids have *no* idea.

    • Yeah, the N64 have been expensive, but C64 games were cheap in their time. I remember saving up my pocket money for 2.99 (pounds that is) tapes. There were premium titles, but they still never realyl cost more than 10 quid. About 22 pounds in today's money.

      So really, about double that isn't much of a problem, given how much more effort goes in and how much more enjoyment I get out.

      • by jamesh (87723)

        I had an Amstrad CPC 664 in the 8 bit era, and it because fairly obvious even to a 9 year old that games were a fair bit cheaper on tape than they were on disk (possibly because Amstrad had made an unfortunate choice of 3.25" disks which quickly became very expensive, but more likely it was just a 'whatever the market can bear' thing). So i'd buy them on tape and copy them to disk - a single disk could normally hold anywhere from 10-20 tape games per side. At the start the games were trivially protected wit

        • Didn't the Amstrad use a 3inch disk? I remember seeing a machine that did data conversion across disks/tapes and when I asked about anyone ever wanting data from Amstrads he said "Oh, the 3inch drive? It's cheaper than a blanking plate so we just stick one in but not bother wiring it up."
          • by Joce640k (829181)

            Yep. A special 3-inch disk (which were much better made then the 3.5" PC ones)

            • by jamesh (87723)

              We used to live by a dirt road often frequented by trucks (so dust everywhere), and had a few hundred 3" disks and at the time myself and my siblings were all under 15 years of age, so not necessarily the most careful of people, and I only remember having one failed disk ever.

              This contrasts sharply with the 3.5" disks these days which can't be trusted to successfully carry your data from one side of the room to another (admittedly, any disk drive these days is likely covered in dust, and old, and the data d

          • by jamesh (87723)

            Didn't the Amstrad use a 3inch disk? I remember seeing a machine that did data conversion across disks/tapes and when I asked about anyone ever wanting data from Amstrads he said "Oh, the 3inch drive? It's cheaper than a blanking plate so we just stick one in but not bother wiring it up."

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amstrad_cpc#Floppy_disk_drive [wikipedia.org]

            I always thought of it as a 3+1/4" disk but most of the literature these days calls it 3". The drive might have been cheap but in Australia we were paying $11/disk in the final days that we owned it.

      • by grumbel (592662)

        Yeah, the N64 have been expensive, but C64 games were cheap in their time.

        A little, but not even remotely that much: C64 prices [kultpower.de] (prices in DM, multiply by two to get EUR)

        Prices there range from 20EUR-33EUR, not much of a difference compared to days PC prices today. A look at the Amazon.de best seller list shows me prices ranging from 15EUR-55EUR. With a game like Mass Effect 2, just nine month on the market, selling for just 16,40EUR. I find it a little hard to complain about that.

      • Ah, you UK folk with your tapes. Admittedly the 1541 didn't have high penetration in the UK which explains why you lot were playing cheap ass platformers and arcade titles when in the US C64 RPG's and adventure games were a bit more popular. IIRC the average C64 RPG would sell for $49. Course, it probably came on 2 disks, with a big manual, and a cloth map.

  • More missing. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by santax (1541065) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @02:38AM (#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.
  • Yeah (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2010 @02:41AM (#33821660)

    Not a popular fact here on Slashdot, but true. I've mentioned this many times when people were complaining about game prices.

    When I was younger the standard price for an SNES game was 129 guilders, which equals 59 euros. Nowadays new console games also cost 59 euros, except Wii games which are normally 49 euros. Accounting for inflation, games have gotten much cheaper. Also, I'm not sure about this, but I get the impression games hit the bargain bin much faster these days (except big sellers like Mario Kart and Modern Warfare).

    My problem with game prices is the difference between US and EU prices. We usually pay in euros what you guys pay in dollars, so we pay much more (even if you take into account that the EU price does include sales tax).

    • by RogueyWon (735973) *

      I can't speak for Euro-based comparisons, but I do know that the US/UK games price comparison is more complicated than it seems. The UK does, at first glance, seem to get a bad deal on high-street games sales. While highly dependant upon the exchange rate, UK RRPs do tend to look around 25% higher, in my experience.

      However...

      I go to the US several times a year and always tend to pick up a few games while I'm out there, particularly if the exchange rate is good. What I always notice is how much slower US hig

    • (except big sellers like Mario Kart and Modern Warfare).

      Mario kart has nothing to do with sales, nintendo just NEVER drop prices or anything, i'll bet you that if you can find an original GBA game from nintendo in shops, it'll still cost at least 90% of what it did at introduction

  • by julesh (229690) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @02:44AM (#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 cheesybagel (670288) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @03:37AM (#33821924)
      Console game prices were initially higher because you had to account for the cost of manufacturing the cartridges. However today all consoles use DVDs or built-in storage of some sort so that cost is no longer justified. But the games still cost a boatload. The justification is that the production costs are higher.
      • by PhrstBrn (751463) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @04:23AM (#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.
      • by grumbel (592662)

        Console game prices were initially higher because you had to account for the cost of manufacturing the cartridges. However today all consoles use DVDs or built-in storage of some sort so that cost is no longer justified.

        Meanwhile production costs for games have sky-rocketed, also the market has increased and a hell of a lot of other variables have changed, to many to really account. What matters is how much you as a gamer pay for a game and that price has pretty much stayed the same for 20 years or even go down (even ignoring inflation).

        The only thing that really has increased is the price for the hardware. I bought a NES for 144DM (~75EUR) and a SNES for 266DM (~130EUR), those prices weren't on launch day, but the SNES w

    • chart CDs used to have at least 20 tracks on them... now they've been dropping the number of tracks right down to just enough to qualify as a CD for the CD chart...
      • by julesh (229690)

        chart CDs used to have at least 20 tracks on them...

        Really? When I think back to the stuff I bought in the 90s, I don't think many had more than 15. Also, until relatively recently, CDs were limited in run time to 74 minutes, and with the average length of a song in the late 80s/early 90s being about 4 minutes, fitting on 20 would have been unusual.

    • by RogueyWon (735973) *

      PC game prices used to be more expensive as well. I still have the original boxes for a few old PC games, with price stickers still intact. Their Finest Hour (1989 flight sim) cost £50. Ultima VII cost £40. The original X-Wing cost £45. So too did TIE Fighter. The B-Wing expansion pack for X-Wing cost £30. Gunship 2000 cost £50. Even before you adjust for inflation, it's clear that in the UK at least, PC games have gotten substantially cheaper. I can't remember the last time I

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday October 07, 2010 @08:28AM (#33823644)

      Not all forms of entertainment have dropped. Ticket prices for movies and concerts have increased by substantial amounts, even adjusting for inflation. Back in 1980, a console game would cost you about $30 ($77 adjusted in today's dollars). A movie ticket would cost about $2.50 (about $6.50 in today's dollars). Now, unless you're buying some sort of special edition, console games cost a lot less that $77 (and that's even more impressive considering what it costs to develop a game today vs. what it cost in 1980). But movie tickets cost a lot MORE than $6.50 (and god help you if it's in 3D, you'll need a loan for that).

      And concert tickets...jesus, if you even have to ask. I can remember paying $25 for good concert tickets (for mainstream bands) just 20 years ago. Today it's crazy what you pay even for tickets to no-name bands' concerts.

  • by Xest (935314) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @02:47AM (#33821698)

    PC games have definitely become cheaper. I remember in the 90s paying £40 for some games (I paid £44.99 for Warcraft II as it was the cheapest I could find it at on release!), usually though they were around the £29.99 mark with the odd £34.99 game. At the start of this century they seemed to all pretty much go up to £34.99 as standard, but in recent years the trend has reversed, and £24.99 seems to be common for new releases, sometimes even lower - £22.99 or so.

    I've never historically been much of a console gamer, although did own a few consoles I never bought more than a handful of games for them until this generation. I've noticed XBox 360 games used to be £39.99 or thereabouts as standard on release, but nowadays they seem to be closer to £34.99 a lot of the time, sometimes only £29.99. Major releases are still usually higher, and Call of Duty tries to sell at £44.99 because Activision are a bunch of profiteering twats, but then, supermarkets in the UK Sold MW2 at £28 on release night so it shows it pays to shop around so you can avoid the Call of Duty tax if you buy it. Certainly the general trend seems to be that in the 5 years since release, 360 games are, on average, a bit cheaper now.

    Of course there are stores that'll get you games a little cheaper than these prices, but I'm referring to the usual advertised price from the typical non-discount mainstream stores for the most part because it's hard to compare to the discounted prices when they vary so wildly from title to title!

    • by nem75 (952737) <jens@bremmekamp.com> on Thursday October 07, 2010 @03:50AM (#33821982)

      PC games have definitely become cheaper. I remember in the 90s paying £40 for some games (I paid £44.99 for Warcraft II as it was the cheapest I could find it at on release!), usually though they were around the £29.99 mark with the odd £34.99 game. At the start of this century they seemed to all pretty much go up to £34.99 as standard, but in recent years the trend has reversed, and £24.99 seems to be common for new releases, sometimes even lower - £22.99 or so.

      For whatever reason the UK seems to be special in this case, computer game prices there are way lower than in the rest of Europe. So much so that some publishers ask Amazon.co.uk to not ship certain games to the continent (at least they did this in some cases last year). Anyway, when I buy new games I buy in the UK, it's way cheaper than in Germany e.g.

      • by Inda (580031)
        I ship a lot of my games to European countries after a sale on eBay. I even charge stupid amounts of postage and the buyers seem happy to pay.
      • by Spatial (1235392)

        It's awesome: I got Metro 2033 + Red Faction Guerilla for 15 euros.

        Between AUK and Steam sales, I can't remember the last time I paid more than 20 euros for a game.

    • I do, and there was a time where you could only find the carts at an actual Magnavox dealer (1978/9ish). I've always brought up the fact that games like Thunderball sold for $49.99 back then - around $170 today! Incredibly expensive - but that didn't stop us from managing to obtain about 30 games or so by 1982.

      So yes, I would say even console games have become quite cheap in comparison - especially since you can now get many of them second hand.

    • by sa1lnr (669048)

      "(I paid £44.99 for Warcraft II as it was the cheapest I could find it at on release!)"

      One word, Blizzard. Their games were always more expensive, everyone else was more or less around the £30 mark for a full game and £20 for an expansion.

      The first Diablo was the same £45 when everyone else was at £30.

  • by gravos (912628) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @03:05AM (#33821780) Homepage

    Remember that even if the real price of new games rise, that doesn't mean a gamer is in a worse situation than he would have been in the past. Quite the opposite in fact.

    Today you can play thousands of older titles for very low prices. There are probably 10 times as many freeware games available today as there were 30 years ago. You can get on youtube and watch "Let's Play's" of virtually every popular NES and SNES title for free. Many of these games are only surpassed by current titles in the graphics department.

    In other words, it's a great time to be a gamer even if you don't buy a single "new" game.

    • Also, there are hundreds of indie games which generally come in under £10, and can be excellent.

      Looking through the new releases on Steam for Mac (where older an indie games make up a bigger slice of the pie I will admit), the prices are as follows £5.09, £2.99, £7.19, £6.99, £5.99, £15.99, £12.99, £8.99, £12.99, and £3.99. This doesn't seem expensive!

    • by Nyder (754090)

      ...You can get on youtube and watch "Let's Play's" of virtually every popular NES and SNES title for free.....

      Explain to me the part where I want to get on youtube and watch videos of people playing video games. And please convince why this would be better then actually playing the video games myself?

  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @03:06AM (#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.
    • 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.

      Say what? What arcade games were on cartridges that could be plugged into an atari 800?

      • >Say what? What arcade games were on cartridges that could be plugged into an atari 800?
        No. There was a Japanese system that was used in arcades that had great big carts allowing you to use the same cabinet/hardware but changing the game every so often. They brought out a home version that took the same carts and they were veeery expensive.
      • by Joce640k (829181)

        I think he's talking about the Neo Geo - a programmable arcade machine for the home (with prices to match).

  • 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 dangitman (862676)

      I would suspect that over time, the costs have shifted towards marketing more than real innovation factors.

      I'm not sure why you would suspect that. Have you seen the credits for a modern game? Massive amounts of talent there. Meanwhile, back in the day, the games were created by one or a handful of people - while the elaborate box art and marketing had little to do with the game.

      Most famously, there is E.T on the Atari 2600, where they paid a massive amount of money for the marketing power of the E.T brand, but the game was a primitive piece of shit, even for its time, that was rushed to market. The 80s was full

  • by Jay Tarbox (48535)

    As a teenager I paid $75 for The Ancient Art of War at Service Merchandise. I think MS Flight Simulator 1.0 was around that price too.

  • I remember how much people complained about the price of the Playstation 3 when it first came out... (I still don't have one, or an Xbox 360, or a Wii, in case anyone wants to call me a fanboy.) I guess they forgot about the NEO-GEO. Hey, $599 is a pretty big chunk of change, no denying that. But the NEO-GEO home console debuted for $649...in 1990. (Which would make it over $990 in 2006 money.)

    On the subject of game prices, NEO-GEO home cartridges were $200 and up at release, and the arcade operators wer

  • The significantly higher costs of game production and distribution, along with the drastically inflated dollar? Hell, incomes are not exactly higher, but prices sure are steady, despite decreasing costs. They make easily twice the profit per sale as they did back then.

  • From the article:
    "Yes, some N64 games retailed for as high as $80, but it was also the high end of a 60 to 80 dollar range,"

    I never recall paying more than $59.99US for an N64 game (maybe one of the games that came with something else in the box, but other than that), and have a number of receipts still sitting around to verify that (prices below from ebworld.com from a couple of purchases in 2000. I would have posted the full emails, but slashdot's filter kept being upset with it).
    People now always seem to

  • Games used to have good reason to be expensive back when the technology was new expensive to produce. I remember many PC games in the 1990s being in the $40+ dollar realm, at least as new releases. But after the PS2 came out, games settled down to a general maximum of $30 ($29.99) for most titles... led by consoles, and aped by the PC releases of the time. Starting with one of the GTA games (I think it was Vice City) prices crept steadily upwards. First there was the occasional new release at $39.99 when ev
  • I paid $80 new at Toys R Us for Civilization for the SNES. It was worth every penny, but the reality is that it shows you after nearly 20 years prices have actually gone down and production costs gone up (remember that we didn't need all the artists and level designers like we do today). On top of that, you look

  • I can remember paying over $75 for Zelda back in the day, and remember my parents refusing to get Phantasy Star for me because it was insanely expensive. Some games were cheap, I can remember several Data East titles on the C=64 that I picked up new at Babbages for under $15. The biggest thing to remember is that those games do not come anything close in comparison as far as production quality and content goes, many aren't nearly as fun IMHO but they are still far more expensive to create. In comparing t

  • Common Wisdom? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jlf278 (1022347)
    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
  • bet it would show you use to get a lot more for your money in the past.
  • Steam sales.

  • When games were new and novel (like my C64, Atari 5200), I expected very high prices. Call it early adoption, if you will.

    Inflation occurs, but the price of video games should DECREASE relative to inflation over time as they become more efficiently developed and distributed.

  • for $2-3 at KB Toys in the 80's.

    Now, tell me where you can buy a game in a store for $2.00 nowadays.

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