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Businesses The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

Large Publishers Pointing to High Prices 138

Despite Mark Rein's recent statements to the contrary, has word that Activision, THQ, and Take Two are all indicating that they may be charging $59.99 for next gen titles. From the article: "This strategy is likely to see a two-tier structure emerging for game pricing, where premium titles command a premium price point of $59.99 or more, while less important games are sold for between $39.99 and $49.99 - much closer to the current price point."
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Large Publishers Pointing to High Prices

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  • Two words: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheRealJFM ( 671978 ) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @03:27PM (#11968038) Homepage Journal
    Price fixing.

    Costs of distribution are far lower today than they were maybe 10 years ago, and systems like steam and perhaps bittorrent mean its possible to launch a game on very little revenue - these consoles have broadband adaptors after all. Why the price hike?

    Well the fact that three publishers have announced it at the same time makes me wonder if there is something dodgy here.

    Any refutements or evidence in this one?

    Can't see it turning out well though: Nintendo were previously thrashed on price for the N64, and they were only able to return to somewhere close to their previous revenue by producing an incredibly cheap console.
  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @04:57PM (#11969148) Homepage
    Please, someone explain to me how, less than 15 years ago, a *full-priced*, years-in-development, state-of-the-art game cost in the region of 10UKP ($20). That same game would take many WEEKS, if not MONTHS, of game-time to complete if you dedicated yourself to it, many of them much more than that.

    [[[Me, my dad, and my older brother once spent night-after-night trying to complete Nonterraqueous and only managed it through sheer brute-force cooperative mapping of the game and many weeks of intense play... Typically, the next week someone else sent in the first ever map of Nonterraqueous to a computer magazine and had it published.]]]

    That older game would be programmed by (sometimes) a single-person or at most a small team. That game would interface direct with the hardware (no OS) and take full advantage of the entire machine's capabilities. It would be programmed in the lowest-level language available and be massively MANUALLY optimised to make full use of the available speed and resources, both of which were available in only miniscule amounts.

    That same game would be ported, without the aid of cross-platform tools, to numerous platforms (with similar optimisations) and sell for the same price on all platforms. That game would be fun, virtually bug-free, engaging and keep the average gamer with a large software library occupied for years and years.

    So why do modern games now cost RIDICULOUS amounts (way above equivalent inflation and way out of pocket-money territory even for modern youth) when they can be completed in a few DAYS of playtime, be in development for the same amount of time as the older games and sometimes never even appear at all.

    Admittedly, any game today usually have a larger team behind it and more of a PR push but that must be cancelled out by the comparatively ENORMOUS gaming market of today, the low cost of duplication, the ability to take advantage of massive libraries of pre-crafted code, audio, artwork, the proliferation of available programmers, computer artists etc.

    Modern games are also now written in much higher-level languages than older titles, which are easily portable across many platforms, using a massive framework of standardised operating systems and hardware interfaces with well-established controlling libraries (DirectX) etc.

    The modern games are buggy, boring, bloated and absent of decent gameplay. Processor power and resource availability has soared far beyond anything the older gamers could ever dream of, yet the games are sluggish and ugly even on the "recommended" hardware.

    I haven't played a game in years that engaged me, 90% of them having a single, oft-repeated premise that has been done to death and they provide nothing new but eye-candy that gets in the way of the game.

    I've actually got to the ideal point now... I have a massive library of older games and I do not buy modern games much anymore, maybe only once or twice a year, and even then usually from the budget range.

    My computer is DELIBERATELY several years behind state-of-the-art so that the only games I can be tempted to run are ones which have been on the market for a long while, allowed me to weed out the chaff and buy the one, single, ground-breaking game of the era.

    My last (impulsive and un-researched) game purchase was UT2003 and I installed it, completed several of the ladders and got bored and uninstalled it. Yet Counterstrike is on my hard disk (in fact, I have about 10Gb of installed Half-life games BUT NOT HL2 or CS:Source) and I'm currently engaged in a few games of OpenTTD. The best pieces of software I own are a Spectrum emulator and DOSBox.

    I have often wandered into my local game store and walked out again after not being taken by any of the games, even after test-playing many of them.

    Why do companies even THINK that people will pay for the rubbish they churn out, except possibly by mistake? Black & White was, for me, the last game purchase I made near it's release date... it was
  • Diminishing returns (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sylver Dragon ( 445237 ) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @05:05PM (#11969261) Journal
    I have to wonder how much this will really help? Personally, I only buy a few games a year anymore, and I'm somewhat selective in doing so. Usually, I'll try to wait for games to hit the bargin rack, or I'll wait for a friend to buy it, finish it, and borrow it from him. I'll grant that there are some games that I will buy at full price, but those are getting to be fewer. This year, the only game I'm looking at paying full price for is Rainbow 6: 4. And that assumes that it hits this year, and doesn't have a ton of bugs at release. The sad part is, I'll probably only play through it in co-op mode with some friends, whom I've played through 3 with. We just enjoy that sort of thing, and we all need to have our own copies.
    The other problem with the prices climbing higher, is going to be piracy. Let's face it, pirating a game is easy these days. And all of the silly key codes are doing nothing to slow it down. Do a quick google for "half life 2 cd key" and you'll see what I mean. Granted, this won't help people with online play, but if all they want is the single player version, then it'll get the job done.
    At some point, higher prices are not going to result in higher returns. Too many people will wait for the price to drop or outright pirate the game. Are we there yet, who knows, but we'll probably get to find out soon when the companies start charging more.

  • by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75@y a h o o . com> on Thursday March 17, 2005 @06:01PM (#11969854)
    >They have to make the costs up somewhere.

    hooookay, how about on the order of magnitude more sales they make nowadays.

    Atari 2600 units sold worldwide: 29 million.

    Nintendo 64 units sold worldwide: 36 million.

    Xbox units sold worldwide: Under 20 million.

    Console sales have hardly changed at all in the last 25 years. Game sales have increased, but so has the number of game developers. (Remember, in the early Atari days, there was no such thing as a third-party developer. In fact, Atari sued Activision - the first-ever third party developer - to try to kill that entire industry.) So there is more competition, the rate of inflation has far and away outpaced game prices (look up $29.99 - the standard price for a new Atari 2600 game - in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1977 to now), and development teams have increased in size from in many cases one person to in some cases more than one thousand. Many more games are coming out - a greater percentage increase than the increase in sales - and costs have skyrocketed.

    I'd say publishers are justified in a $10 price increase. Does that mean I'll pay it? Maybe not - there are literally hundreds of current, great games out right now for all systems at $20 or less, and I'm sure the same will be true for next-gen consoles after the initial rush wears off. But if they feel they need to make an extra $10 per new game in order to hire a few more coders to get the workload down to a reasonable level (remember how we've all been talking about how overworked everyone is in the game industry?), then more power to them.

    Of course, that's assuming they don't just pocket the money as extra profit, but honestly, the gaming industry is running at bare minimum right now in terms of manpower, so at some point a price increase was pretty inevitable.
  • by evilmousse ( 798341 ) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @06:15PM (#11969975) Journal

    Aren't game sales what we were discussing? Aren't the console statistics a little slanted since each has been in the market for different amounts of time?

    I've honestly been having a hard time finding satisfactory data for this.. I do see that many of the all-time-sellers aren't necessarily modern-generation-games, but what I'd really like to see is the AVERAGE number of sales for a game on each console. Plus I'd like to see a cost-breakdown for then and now. I fully concede that development costs are higher now, but material and distribution costs are much lower, sales (as near as i can figure) much higher. I'm not sure just what those vectors would add up to.
  • Re:gouging? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DeanMeister ( 868655 ) <> on Thursday March 17, 2005 @06:38PM (#11970140)
    Games aren't getting less fun, your just not interested in the kind of games they're offering. If your still playing your SNES games(and dont get me wrong they're great) and not enjoying alot of newer games thats because the gaming medium is a completley different beast than it was 10 even 5 years ago. Your going to have to expect a different type of game and a different experiance.
  • Hmmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Elranzer ( 851411 ) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @10:54PM (#11972014) Homepage
    1. Activision, THQ, and Take Two are all indicating that they may be charging $59.99 for next gen titles.

    Well who buys games from these guys anyway? This is just another nail in their coffin. IT would be a bigger deal if it was Nintendo, Electronic Arts and Square Enix saying they are going to charge $60+.

    2. The possible main reason for the pirce flux is probably the cost of Blu-Ray or HD-DVD on the PS3 or Xbox Next, as oppossed to just cheapo DVD or whatever cheap propietary disc nintendo will use. Other than that, development is no more complicated than making a game for the PC, yet for some reason PC games are generally less expansive than console games (epsecially games released on console and PC simultaneously, see EA games). And we know that even with the next gen of consoles, PC gaming will still be ahead of consoles and always more complex. Once Xbox Next, Revolution and PS3 come out, shortly there will be graphics cards for PC that overshadows them. So "new console development" is no excuse.

    3. I have a feeling that if Nintendo can always manage to find a way to keep the prices of their new consoles $200 or less at launch, they will find a way to keep their Revolution games $50 or under. This may be a good thing for them, if PS3 or Xbox Next games will be $60 and up.
  • by Meagermanx ( 768421 ) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @10:59PM (#11972051)
    My problem is when you have top quality RPGs and other games for fractions of the cost of new games (THPS2 used on PS1 is $1.50 at ebgames. You can get FFT for like, $11.00, so I don't see why people would pay $40 for FFTA. I recently purchased a DVD case copy of Max Payne with slightly scuffed up packaging for $5.00) why would I spend $60 on an inferrior new game? Why spend money on a new RPG which COULD be okay, or even good, when you can play Diablo 2, which some crazy people say is better than Diablo, Baldur's Gate, or the Best Game Ever, IMHO, Fallout, for a small fraction of the cost? I don't see why anyone would buy DOOM 3 if they haven't played Quake 2, Half-Life, or any of the other truly great shooters out there. $20 is the most I will pay for any game. If it's higher than that, I will watch garage sales, bargain bins, and eBay. I pretty much shop directly out of the bargain bins (I'm a cheap bastard ;)). If I see a game cheap, I buy it. If it's too expensive, forget it. If you want cheaper games, speak with your wallets. Don't buy the $60 games. Buy the $30 games. Buy lots of $30 games. The companies will think "If we sell this game at $30, we sell four times the copies than if we sold it at $60." That's the ONLY way you can lower the prices.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"