The lights are on
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As discussed in our feature on game monetization [in issue 230], with the advent of freemium games 99-cent apps, and downloadable content
expansions, premium console games face one of their toughest challenges yet.
How do publishers convey value for a $60 game in a world where a larger
percentage of titles are free or available at a fraction of the cost?
I don't just speak for myself when I say there is a
market of gamers who are willing to pay more for an experience that goes above
and beyond the call. The popularity of games like the multi-billion dollar Call
of Duty franchise proves that. Those same gamers also prefer experiences that
are devoid of invasive ads or built solely for the purpose of taking dollars
out of their pocketbook rather than delivering unadulterated entertainment to
fill their valuable free time. The real question is, will the traditional $40
to $60 price tag for console games still be acceptable as we enter the next
generation of hardware?
In my mind there is no simple answer, because every
entertainment medium - be it movies, TV, or video games - is an
exchange. I give them money, they keep me joyfully occupied for a period of
time, and when it is over I deem whether the exchange has value or is a
rip-off. This is not qualitative judgment of product in the classic game review
sense; this is a consumer interaction graded in the rawest of forms: Was the
fun worth it?
With free games, it is easy to get to the tipping point
of making it a positive value for the customer, but I've still had free
experiences where I felt ripped off because my time is valuable. Bad games are
bad no matter what the cost. Great games make a player feel like every penny
spent was worth it, no matter the cost.
The solution sounds simple: Game publishers should
offer games at a value-appropriate price. Small, simple games (hell, even giant
MMOs) can be free. Small, simple games (hell, even giant MMOs) can be
expensive. Determining the value and formulating a strategy for selling and
marketing your game is a right every game publisher should have. Unfortunately,
on consoles they don't have that power.
The platform holders - in this case Microsoft,
Nintendo, and Sony - charge publishers and developers a set fee for each
game and enforce pricing standards. In effect, they take the decision of
whether or not the game is a good value proposition away from the creators.
Want to make your game free-to-play on Xbox Live? Too bad. Thinking about
porting that App Store game you sell for 99 cents over to Vita at the same
price? Sorry, that needs to be $12.99.
Publishers and developers are not free to make these
decisions in the current console game environment, and if it doesn't correct
itself other game platforms where the creators are empowered to define price
freely will win the battle - not of price, but of value. Premium games
aren't in danger of extinction, but archaic control over game pricing should
Email the author Andy McNamara, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.
i think skyrim is amazing
skyrim should NOT have got game of the year!!! la norie should have
I think that prices should go down, however if they go down too much no buisness will be made. That means shutting down major gaming companies the usually make the best games. So they should bring them down, but base the prices on the quality of the game, and the amount of money put into it.
I agree with you Andy. We will see how the next generation will fare with the current price points. I hope Nintendo will take the jump (as they have done before in other areas) but their pricing policy is even more strict than MS or SONY so anything goes, really.
I can understand their point of view though. If "app-games" start flooding the consoles with a much lower price point, the few AAA titles they have will become much harder to sell without actively drawing in new crowds.
Time will tell.