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On game pricing.

There was an article in the Guardian yesterday about how we’re probably going to see increases in the price of computer games since the cost of games production is increasing massively. The next chapter in the Call of Duty series, Modern Warfare 2 (AKA COD6?), was an example used as it’s RRP has been set at £55 – about £15 more than typical RRP for console games – and the games company folk are on record as saying they’d see prices go as high as £70.

Now, i’d be very surprised if anyone but diehards would stump up £55 for a game, let alone £70. Yes, Mr Games Company, you might have had success with higher-than-usual prices for Rock Band et al but with those the consumer knows they’re at least getting additional peripherals. Everyone i know who has pre-ordered Modern Warfare 2 has done so via websites offering the game for £40-45 or, in other words, about what they’d normally pay for a game.

Hiked up prices aren’t a new phenomenon though. When i was a kid, you were either in the Sega MegaDrive camp or the SNES camp. I’m fairly sure they sold pretty evenly (at least working from memory of who had what at school) but then the SNES games started selling at £50-60, while MegaDrive stuck at around £30-40. And what happened? The kids with MegaDrives continued getting new games, while the SNES lot saw a distinct drop-off in numbers of games they received come Christmas and Birthday time.1 It couldn’t and didn’t last though. When the PlayStation came along, where’d the RRP get set? £40 or thereabouts.

I like to believe that the consumer will, in the long run, show the games industry that £40 is the magic figure. That it is the most we’ll pay for a tape, cartridge, disc or download, no matter how much they have to fork out on development. Remember, we buy games to have fun, not to keep some company afloat.

No, i reckon the only way developers will make the extra money they seek is through something they’re already doing – Downloadable Content. There are very few games now that don’t have some sort of downloadable add-on. The current Call of Duty game, World at War, for example, is now upto it’s third Map Pack (each being a collection of “levels” for playing the multiplayer games on) – something console gamers will pay about £8 a pop for. Consider that Map Pack 2 had something like a million downloads on the XBOX360 and we’re talking £millions in additional revenue for something that PC gamers can download, and even create themselves, for free.

Yes, the money lies in over-priced game add-ons, not in over-charging for the games themselves.

  1. Of course, 10 year old Me was a MegaDrive fan so maybe my recollection is a little biased.