A reader offers an alternative solution to raising video game prices but is worried that publishers will never do it.
I knew exactly what the response would be, when the president of Capcom suggested that game prices were too low and that something needed to change. Instantly, the internet was filled with violently angry gamers outraged that someone who makes luxury goods – that haven’t seen a substantial price increase in over three decades – would have the nerve to suggest they were undervalued and in danger of no longer paying their way.
When you have the makers of Fortnite tightening their belt, with almost 900 people made redundant, you know something serious is going on. And yet the noisy minority of gamers won’t have it. They immediately started trying to use statics to prove that all game developers are billionaires and there isn’t really a problem at all.
In most cases this anger is an unwillingness to accept you cannot afford something, but the vitriol is disturbing and entitled, as it is with most things gamers get angry about. I don’t say this because I’m rich or anything – £70 is a lot of money to me as well – but insisting that publishers are lying about a problem that has been a decade or more in the making is pointless.
In short, the problem is that every generation games become 50% more expensive to make. They also take longer to develop, which is in itself expensive, and yet the global userbase is not expanding quickly enough to compensate. More importantly, the price is barely changing at all and while some now charge £70 instead of £60 that’s not the case for all (including Capcom).
I think it’s clear that the answer isn’t making games £80 or £90 and I don’t think that’s what Capcom was suggesting. The answer is what we’ve all got used to already: microtransactions, battle passes, DLC, and expensive collector’s editions.
That is one solution, but I don’t feel it’s a good one. No one, including most developers, likes a game filled with microtransactions, and now that most publishers accept that single-player games are a viable concept (most of this year’s top sellers have been single-player) a lot of these solutions don’t really make any sense. That’s why we’ve seen story DLC make a comeback and the push of these early access deals with premium editions.
As the Epic Games problems show, even the free-to-play model is starting to become a problem. To my mind, though, the best solution is very obvious, but requires a major change in the way both customers and publishers think about games – which is why it’s probably never going to happen.
The obvious solution to me, is if games cost too much, and take too long to make, then just make them shorter and cheaper. As great as Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom, God Of War Ragnarök, and Baldur’s Gate 3 might be would anyone really have been that upset if they were half the length – assuming the price reflected the fact?
Bloat has also become a major problem for modern games, and it’s clear it’s there to justify the high prices – but that alone is an indication that there’s a problem. GC’s favourite example, when discussing this issue, is Spider-Man: Miles Morales and I agree with them. Not only is it cheaper than the first game but because it’s shorter the story is much more cohesive and the gameplay doesn’t get the chance to get too repetitive.
I wish it was the model for all modern games, moving forward, but it’s already been all but ignored. Although I was mildly encouraged that both Spider-Man 2 and Star Wars Outlaws are advertising the fact that they aren’t bloated 200+ hour games as a major selling point. Although they’re still £70 each.
In an ideal world, perhaps there might be one 60+ hour game a gen for each franchise and then a number of games could be derived from that, like Miles Morales. The DLC model but standalone and longer and more unique. Graphics have got to such a point now that we really don’t need to reinvent the wheel with each new game, we need to concentrate on the gameplay and story – both of which are improved by being as succinct as possible.
This is pie in the sky, it’ll never happen, but I wish it would. Instead, I fear publishers will now just look for the next magic solution. They’re beginning to realise it’s not free-to-play, so I imagine it’ll be subscriptions next, in conjunction with cloud gaming. When that doesn’t work though perhaps they’ll finally realise that all they have to do is sell games that are half the price, half the length, but twice as good.
By reader Ashton Marley
The reader’s features do not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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