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The Astronauts: "In 2014, $60 for a game is a little insane"

The Astronauts: "In 2014, $60 for a game is a little insane"

Thu 29 May 2014 2:16pm GMT / 10:16am EDT / 7:16am PDT
DevelopmentDigital Dragons

Creative director Adrian Chmielarz on the lessons of Bulletstorm and the problem with price-points

People Can Fly's Bulletstorm was one of the great 'What If?'s of the last console generation: a brash, knowing, and consistently inventive shooter, full of personality and playful attitude at a time when so much of that genre was mired in the dust-caked hotspots of the Middle East. With the full backing of Epic Games, and Electronic Arts on publishing duties, Bulletstorm had 'breakout hit' etched onto every one of its colour-saturated pixels.

Adrian Chmielarz remembers it well. As creative director of People Can Fly, the launch of Bulletstorm was the culmination of an earnest effort to breathe something approaching life into a staid genre, and by doing so earn a seat at the AAA table. That process had started with the founding of the studio in 2002, had taken its first step with the unabashed and under-appreciated Painkiller in 2004, and after nearly a decade of work the decisive moment was finally at hand.

In early 2011, a few weeks before launch, Chmielarz received a call. The industry's motley crew of analysts had released their sales expectations for Bulletstorm: the optimists said 4 million, the pessimists went as low as 3 million.

Chmierlaz cracks a rueful smile. "Oh boy, oh boy - I would wish for those numbers."

1

To be clear, Bulletstorm did not sell, as Chmielarz puts it, "tragically," but based on its buoyant critical reception it fell far short of its commercial potential. In the immediate aftermath Chmielarz saw EA's marketing as the culprit, reducing People Can Fly's clutch of fresh ideas to dick-jokes for dude-bros. "Things that were, in my opinion, like spices in the game became its main ingredient in the marketing," he says.

Three years on, however, he is able to see the bigger picture. That Bulletstorm's mishandled marketing still grates on Chmielarz is plain to see, but he now understands that there were forces at play in the industry that were beyond the control of even the biggest publishers, let alone a studio like People Can Fly.

"If you want to sell a game for $60, to the player it has to feel like $200"

"Everybody is smart in retrospect," he admits, "and looking back I do think that we were possibly among the first victims of this giant shift in gaming, where the middle-class AAA games began to die - not 'middle-class' by quality, but we didn't have ten multiplayer modes and co-op and all of that. The saying in the industry right now is, 'If you want to sell a game for $60, to the player it has to feel like $200.'

"Bulletstorm was a $60 game for $60. And these days $60 for a game sounds basically crazy, when there are literally hundreds of high quality games out there for a much smaller price - even on console. In 2014, $60 for a game is a little insane."

Chmielarz left People Can Fly in August 2012, just after Epic Games acquired the company. His new studio, The Astronauts, is in full development on its enigmatic debut project, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and it's clear that the company's creative and commercial direction is informed by Chmielarz's experiences in the rarefied world of mega-publishers and blockbuster launches.

2

"Look at Dead Space," he says. "I'm a big fan of Dead Space, I've read all of the books and comics and everything. But for some reason, instead of keeping expectations at 2 or 3 million copies sold and setting an appropriate budget for that, EA wanted it to be another Call of Duty - unless it sells 5 million it's dead. That could be a profitable series, but only if you're smart about the budget and the content."

And Chmielarz believes that this need to turn every successful IP into an cross-platform, transmedia behemoth is leaving money on the table. He understands the value of huge annualised franchises like Assassin's Creed, but in chasing that ideal the industry's biggest and most influential publishers have lost sight of how to create and maintain a mid-sized hit. I mention Paramount Pictures' Paranormal Activity series, which has now produced five films, all of them huge hits with massive audiences, all of them made for a similarly small budget. It displays a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between investment and return than most AAA game companies seem to possess.

"Lower prices would allow us to stop thinking about filler, and start focusing on making the experience just right"

"It's interesting that you mention that, because I researched the same thing and I agree with you 100 per cent," he says. "They [the film studios] don't try to turn every successful horror film into Raiders of the Lost Ark, or that level of popularity. They're very conscious about the budget, and the amount of money they make on Insidious, or The Conjuring, or Mama, it's very profitable for them. It's not amateurish and made by people who don't know what they're doing. They're just focused and they're smart and they're thriving. That's what needed to happen with Dead Space."

Chmielarz is quick to dismiss the notion that he has turned against the idea of AAA games, or that there is no creativity evident in the top tier of the industry. He throws up Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption as an example of just how innovative and immersive a blockbuster game can be, or Naughty Dog's The Last of Us, or even MachineGames' Wolfenstein: The New Order, which he was playing and enjoying until the early hours of the morning before our interview.

The problem with the AAA world is not the games; the problem is the structure of assumptions and arbitrary targets that surrounds them. The AAA industry and its audience are hung up on outdated notions of price, length and perceived value that funnel a wide variety of good ideas towards the same basic set of objectives. It's why otherwise smart and precise experiences like Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us are brimming with combat set-pieces and multiplayer modes.

Gotta tick those boxes. Gotta justify that $60 price-point. And here's the rub: in a digital world, whether AAA or indie, those restrictions should be irrelevant.

"There is a necessity to add filler in AAA games, whether it be collectibles or one more wave of enemies," Chmielarz says. "It's unfortunate, and it's also proof that the world is insane. Because you have players demanding that games are long, but then you look at the data and see that not even half of those people see even half of the game. There's clearly something wrong there, right? 70 or 80 per cent of people never finish the game. That's insanity, right?

"But I think that's connected to the price, and there we go again. Lower prices would allow us to stop thinking about filler for our games, and start focusing on making the experience just right. You have to live with the fact that some players will complain no matter what, but I think that when your game is tight, and the story you want to tell is told exactly the way you want, I think the effect is way more powerful than anyone complaining that they didn't get 100 hours of entertainment for their €20.

"That's exactly what we're doing with The Vanishing of Ethan Carter."

40 Comments

Doug McFarlane Co-Owner, KodeSource

39 36 0.9
Four choices:
- raise the value of the game (more features and options).
- lower the price.
- raise people's bottom price they consider to be a 'cheap' game.
- lower people's expectation of what a game should deliver.
Portable games sure drive down the expected price of games. A buck or so (or even free) versus $60. Too wide of a margin. For basically the same thing (entertainment), from a casual gamer's perspective. I can have fun for hours for a few bucks, or $60? Break out the OUYA!

Posted:5 months ago

#1

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

925 1,560 1.7
Kudos. I came in here fully expecting him to make a case for raising game prices based on some sort of "we need to pay these 1,500 people somehow" argument. Nice to see a reality check instead.

Posted:5 months ago

#2

Andrzej Wroblewski Localization Generalist, Albion Localisations

103 78 0.8
"In the immediate aftermath Chmielarz saw EA's marketing as the culprit, reducing People Can Fly's clutch of fresh ideas to dick-jokes for dude-bros."

What can I say. I always perceived marketoids as the stopping force of this industry. Until they get reduced to salesmen as they should be -- things won't stop plummeting to the bottom of overconscious consumerism and boycott of AAA titles. And then the 20-30-year cycle that started back in the 80s will repeat itself (hopefully).

Posted:5 months ago

#3

Julian Beck HR Consultant

39 45 1.2
Based on the article title I was also expecting something like "prices go down, how bad". But the article and the statements are quite differentiated and contain a lot reflected experience. Also, I love "Bulletstorm" and "Dead Space", maybe their characters and scenarios were never meant to allure a huge crowd of blockbuster customers. I remember a lot more from these games than of many commercially successful AAA's.

Posted:5 months ago

#4

Bjørn Jacobsen Audio Design, Io Interactive

4 3 0.8
60$ !!!! just be happy you live in a country where that is considered "cheap" for a brand new game.

Posted:5 months ago

#5

Adam Campbell Associate Producer, Miniclip Ltd

1,198 1,011 0.8
I think it would be quite interesting if the cost of a game matched the cost of a film on Blu-Ray.

Posted:5 months ago

#6
Popular Comment
Bulletstorm was brilliant, and it's a shame that it was so under marketed. The same could also be said of Ninja Theory's Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, which was superb but also under marketed and therefore suffered in terms of sales. Adrian Chmielarz seems a decent level headed guy..

Game prices hit a bit of a nerve if I'm honest, and It would be nice if games were the same price across the globe..A $60 in the US is a £50+ game in the UK.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Pete Thompson on 29th May 2014 7:38pm

Posted:5 months ago

#7

Shawn Clapper Programmer

34 65 1.9
Some interesting points on diversifying levels of games you publish. I really didn't agree on changing the price of Bulletstorm for more sales though.

I'm of the opinion that if a game is marketed well, then a higher price will sell more copies. Look at some of the over 60$ titles and post kickstarter pre-orders we have seen selling very well. It's just like with Broadway shows; higher price appears higher quality so people buy more copies than if it were at a lower price. Also let's not forget the fact that a lot of people just enjoy spending money. There is no "fair" price, there is only trying to understand the psychology of the purchase.

Posted:5 months ago

#8

Anthony Gowland Lead Designer, Outplay Entertainment

211 733 3.5
Popular Comment
I played all the way through Bulletstorm and the main thing I remember is the dick jokes dialogue and dude-bros characters.

Lowering the budget for a game based on how much you expect to sell (rather than raising the budget and expecting it to cover the cost) is just common sense. Remarkable that the industry's in a place where saying that is news.

Posted:5 months ago

#9

Matthew Handrahan Staff Writer, GamesIndustry.biz

125 121 1.0
@Adam: Adrian made the same point when I spoke to him.

Posted:5 months ago

#10

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

420 999 2.4
Popular Comment
and this is why I think this industry has painted itself into a corner. Games as a product has lost their price point and lost its "value" in the markets consciousness, and now even some game devs themselves are beginning to believe games are not worth much.
It simply astonishing to me how this was allowed to happen. 60 dollars IS NOT a lot of money for a game. Priced versus other forms of entertainment it is down right dirt cheap. I was a buyer in this industry way back,I remember us selling sword of Vermillion for 64.99, and it sold well, and that was in 1990...so 25 years later... suddenly 60 is a lot ? 64. bucks in 1990 in todays prices is 120 bucks.

But instead of selling games for what they were traditionally priced at and accepted at, we have made a run for the bottom, in where now everyone simply cant ask a fair price.. umm no, everyone has to now scrape, beg, plead, and con people into paying us for our product? its kinda sad

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 29th May 2014 9:11pm

Posted:5 months ago

#11

Rogier Voet Editor / Content Manager

71 31 0.4
There are multiple reasons that is hard to sell a full priced game, the marketplace is so competive that between retail, etail and digital sales and enormous focus on pre-orders that the moment the game becomes available. The prices actually go down fast in the first weeks. Price of GTA V € 45, Titanfall € 40, Watchdogs € 42, Wolfenstein the New Order € 35 (and I'm talking Xbox One games not PC-titles). And this has been going one for some years now.

If discounts appear to be constant, people perceive the discounted prices as normal; which will make selling games at a premium even harder. So when Triple AAA games are almost prices as medium priced games, why would you buy those for a little more you have so much more, I think that is one of the reasons those games are hardly made anymore on the consoles.

Combine that with secondhand and slightly older titles which are discounted heavily and you have a landscaoe where premium sales have a very hard time.

Posted:5 months ago

#12

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,611 1,473 0.9
Priced versus other forms of entertainment it is down right dirt cheap.
It's not that black-and-white, though, is it?

Compare:

Farscape Complete, on Blu-Ray. £58. That's 88 45 minute episodes, plus extras. That's roughly 3800 minutes (60-odd hours) of material. For, essentially, £60.

Wolfenstein: The New Order, on Steam. £35. For about 12-15 hours of gameplay, on a single play-through.

It's not hard to do the math, and realise that for some people, games are overpriced, compared to over forms of entertainment. And perhaps that's why people don't value them as highly. Though, as I say, it's not black-and-white. Compare Baldur's Gate or Fallout: New Vegas to Farscape, and the games win. But that's the point - not all games can be considered "worth it" to the customer, and people need to realise that. It's nothing personal, it's just a fact of life.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 29th May 2014 9:58pm

Posted:5 months ago

#13

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

420 999 2.4
It's not that black-and-white, though, is it? actually it sort of is. Movie tickets, sporting event tickets, cable tv cost, internet cost, theme park tickets, etc etc. You can directly compare them to video games and honestly conclude IMHO games are dirt cheap.

The cost of everything I have mentioned above have easily doubled in the last 2o years, while game cost have gone down.

Games are not even close to being over priced. It cost 130 bucks a ticket for one day at Universal in Florida. You can easily blow 60 bucks for a shitty meal at some chain restaurant. 1 movie with a few snacks can cost you a ton, and dont get me started on some of the other stuff.

It really is black and white. The price point was set 30 years ago in this industry, and the latest generations of suits came in with their MBAs and monetization schemes and ruined it for everyone.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 29th May 2014 10:26pm

Posted:5 months ago

#14

Adam Campbell Associate Producer, Miniclip Ltd

1,198 1,011 0.8
I was a buyer in this industry way back,I remember us selling sword of Vermillion for 64.99, and it sold well, and that was in 1990...so 25 years later... suddenly 60 is a lot ?
People have always questioned game prices. I remember people with serious doubts over the prices they shelled out for N64 games for example, it was almost frightening what we saw those carts selling for in a new generation of escalating gaming.

In 2014, games are selling as good and better than ever, with a number of records set. However, with the rise of web 2.0 and social media, a boom in new pricing models and of course, comparison with other forms of media (Film and even TV series), is it any wonder the voices questing prices seem louder?

Posted:5 months ago

#15

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

420 999 2.4
I remember people with serious doubts over the prices they shelled out for N64 games for example but they shelled it out, the price point was set and accepted, and that allowed the industry to exist and grow. Thats my point, establishing the price point in the mind of the consumer. It was set, it was established, and now its all gone. And people wonder why this industry has no stability?

In 2014, games are selling as good and better than ever and that has everything to do with the worlds acceptance and integration with technology in our everyday lives, and nothing to do with the suits who do their damnedest to ruin this industry with their short sightedness.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 29th May 2014 10:34pm

Posted:5 months ago

#16

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,611 1,473 0.9
@ Todd

And you directly ignore my comment re: Blu-Rays. :) Complete series sets at £50 (+/- £15) aren't uncommon, and comparing games to them is always going to make games seem expensive. As an extreme example, I picked up the complete Stargate SG1 - 10 season, plus two movies - for £55. Even Baldur's Gate seems over-priced in comparison.
You can easily blow 60 bucks for a shitty meal at some chain restaurant.
Bare-bones, it comes down to what the customer perceives as value-for-money, and the type of experience they're getting. I could easily spend £100 (about $170) taking my girlfriend out to dinner, and covering the entire cost. Does a game give more value? Of course. Does a game give me a better experience? Of course not. That, when it comes down to it, is the psychology that you have to argue against. Not monetary value per se, but the type of experience and perceived enjoyment.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 29th May 2014 11:04pm

Posted:5 months ago

#17

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

420 999 2.4
repeats of some old shows and old movies on blu ray is not comparable to a new game.
You want to compare them apples to apples, then compare them against game bundles or game sets of old games.
90 bucks for your Blue Ray set, versus 10-20 bucks for all sorts of large multiple old game bundles with way more hours of playtime. Blue ray suddenly doesnt look cheap at all, while games are a steal.

Again, monetary value was set for games, and was set for decades until some suits with shortsighted ideas destroyed it all. Now we have this race toward the bottom. Forcing people to give away games and try to trick or manipulate or beg to get paid. Its sad

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 30th May 2014 12:20am

Posted:5 months ago

#18

Igor Galochkin Game Programmer

15 17 1.1
$60 is a hell of a lot to me (as a gamer, not as a developer). The only game I can recall buying for that much was Guild Wars 2 right after its release in the midst of the launch hype and after 2 years of impatiently waiting. And I regret this purchase.

Even back in the 90s, games were sold for $60 in the West but not elsewhere. I recall myself as a teenager buying Fallout 1 and 2, Deus Ex, Alpha Centauri and many other great games for $2 each from a market stall (price was fixed at $2 no matter what game that was). And at that time you could ONLY buy a pirated game in Russia. Maybe there were some official legitimate stores but I didn't know where to find them and I obviously didn't want to. I suppose it's similar in China, Latin America, most of Asia and well, in Africa (at least in places where they do have PCs). It's better today, though. Piracy is less rampant but still I can't imagine any significant share of people willing to cash out $60 for a DVD.

$60 is a monthly salary in some countries. Now, with digital distribution devs have reached global markets and poor countries where 60 dollars is so ridiculously much that people just wonder if the person asking that much for a DVD is sane. Max price a Russian or Chinese has ever paid for any game in his lifetime is $3 or maybe $10 for a pirated CD/DVD. Now they get crappy mobile games for a comparable price of $1, so surely they don't want to buy them and get them pirated (at least for Android). E.g in vkontakte social network (it covers post-soviet countries) you will find all major Android games, fully unlocked, downloadable APKs for free.

US Americans seem to be the only nation which has been really trained to pay for things they use. Something the rest of the world really doesn't have.

Posted:5 months ago

#19

Igor Galochkin Game Programmer

15 17 1.1
Just think of the population of countries. You have 1.3 billion in China, 1 billion in India, approx 500mil in Latin America, about 300mil in post-soviet countries etc. In total, there are maybe 6 billion people to which $60 is an absurdly, impossibly high price for a DVD.
Then, basically, you only sell to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Western Europe. But even there, what percentage of people earns enough so that $60 would feel fine for an entertainment item? Maybe as a Christmas or birthday present - yes, but as a routine purchase? Most likely, no.
The reality is that AAA games monetize on a small fraction of the "golden billion" while the rest of the world gets these games either thru torrents or on $2 DVD with pirated copies of the game. They will all still play your game, but you won't earn a cent from them.
Perhaps this market could earn more if the prices were more adjusted to what people really want to pay in different places.
When a US developer says "$60 is fine for a game", it's an upper-class or upper-mid class US american talking, who earns $4k-something per month or more.

Posted:5 months ago

#20

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,611 1,473 0.9
@ Todd

Believe me when I say it's not quite as cut-and-dried as you make it sound (I'm posting all this with my "Consumer" hat on, and you're vastly over-estimating the importance of gaming to me). But *shrugs* Agree to disagree. :)

Late Edit:

The above could seem a little inflammatory, on reflection. What I mean is that not every game is worth $60 to me, and even if it were, there's possibly something I would still rather spend that money on. You say Blu-Rays vs games is apples and oranges, but to a consumer, money is money. I love Pushing Daisies, so I bought the Blu-Ray sets of that - even though I'd watched it multiple times before - because I imagined myself enjoying it more than I would Demon Souls (which is what I was considering buying at the time). I still haven't bought Demon Souls.

End of Edit. :)
Again, monetary value was set for games, and was set for decades until some suits with shortsighted ideas destroyed it all.
Was it? I was paying £1.99 (3 bucks?) for some classic budget Spectrum and C64 games in the 80s. Even the Amiga had a budget-priced tier (less classics there, but still some good games). And car boot sales existed in far greater quantities in the 80s/90s. Certainly the RRP was "set for decades", but that doesn't mean all games people bought were at that price (which I know is not what you're saying, but thought I'd make explicit). :)

@ Igor

Do you hail from Russia? :) It's interesting to view Russian Steam prices against US/UK/EU prices, since Gabe Newell has implied in the past that regional pricing angled to the cost-of-living is something that has spurred sales against pirates. (fyi http://www.steamprices.com is a great little tool :) ).

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 30th May 2014 8:34am

Posted:5 months ago

#21

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

925 1,560 1.7
The most important thing to remember is that for most people they only have so much to spend on gaming no matter what they cost. That limit might be absolute (not much spare money) or a point of principle (I have other things I can spend on too)

So you can sell two games for $60 or one game for $120. Neither option is going to affect the bottom line for bigger publishers, and price increases also bring some negative PR with them.

Also, scaling the content to match a higher price just adds more and more risk of failure. I would've thought it's time to scale down now, make more diverse games and charge less for them.

Posted:5 months ago

#22

Igor Galochkin Game Programmer

15 17 1.1
@Morville Thanks for the link. I didn't know Steam has different prices for different regions. In fact, I'm currently on a trip to Moscow, logged into Steam and everything suddenly costs 50% or even less compared to Europe.
Gee, X-Com Enemy Unknown is sold for something close to 6 euros. Well yes that's a price at which all those with a credit card or other way of payment will certainly buy it if they were interested in the first place.

Posted:5 months ago

#23

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,611 1,473 0.9
@ Paul

Damn, that is so much more concise than all my waffle. :)

@ Igor

It's a neat little site, isn't it? :D Though I'd be wary of purchasing anything on Steam when traveling. It's allowed, but some games are region-locked to only run in certain territories/certain languages. Also, Valve might query your purchase (circumventing prices is against the SSA, but as long as they know you travel frequently, they can flag your account to allow it).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 30th May 2014 9:20am

Posted:5 months ago

#24

Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd

454 443 1.0
I remember master system games being around £30, which would be roughly £54-60 with inflation.

You can compare video games to movies if you like, but that comparison does not correspond to consumer's perceptions. For reference, seeing a movie at the cinema costs £10 for roughly two hours of entertainment.

I don't think we're at a point in time where the price needs to be discussed. The video games economy is well sustained, meaning the price points are currently working (both paid and f2p). The economy can change at any point in time, especially as older generations of consumers are phased out and tomorrow's microwave generation, without the pay-first buying behaviour, may make paid games obsolete.

Posted:5 months ago

#25

Rogier Voet Editor / Content Manager

71 31 0.4
I think that a lot of companies forget that the competition goes over multiple levels

First it's free time which is sparse for most people and second it's all other ways you can entertain yourself (sports, other media, dining and a lot of other activities).

Only when someone decides that he actually want's to buy a game, you have the competition between all available games (depending on the platforms the consumer owns) and last you have the competition between the channels available which offer games (stores, etail, digital store fronts etc.)

What a lot of people forget in the value for money discussion is the time-component. If you say a game costs 60 euro and you can play it for 12 hours, so that's great value it only costs 5 euro an hour. That sounds better than a 2 hour trip to the theater right?

But a lot of people are so busy they don't have the time to play 12 hours (one of the reasons games a low completion rate) so the amount of time (or perceived time) of game entertainment can actually work against them if a lot of consumers think they do not have the time available to complete/enjoy a game.

This does not apply for all games of course, MP-driven games like Fifa, Mario Kart and other competive games you can play for just a session (those tend to last longer than you think).

(edit formatting)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rogier Voet on 30th May 2014 10:20am

Posted:5 months ago

#26

Jordan Lund Columnist

39 99 2.5
I can only speak for myself, I barely remember the marketing for Bulletstorm. I do remember downloading the demo and being underwhelmed. I decided the game wasn't for me and I passed on it. I've now seen it for as little as $15 and still haven't purchased it. I've changed my mind of stuff like this before, Rage comes to mind, and regretted the decision. OTOH, Enslaved was a perfectly good $20 game.

I'm rambling. The point is, you can only blame marketing so much if you put out a weak demo. Demo isn't representative of the game? Well, the marketing department didn't code the demo on their own. You can't blame them for that.

Posted:5 months ago

#27

Dan Whitehead Managing Director, Word Play Narrative Consulting Ltd

51 198 3.9
Popular Comment
Comparing games to Blu-rays or DVDs is a waste of time, because in film and television those formats are just one part of a very long retail lifespan. Movies have already been shown theatrically. TV shows have already been broadcast. Often, they'll have been sold internationally to local distributors. Then they come out as home entertainment, and the price charged can be lower because production costs have (usually) been covered by the first run media. Even after that, there are other markets: syndication rights, Pay-Per-View rights, hotel and airline packages etc.

The price you pay for a DVD boxset or Blu-ray movie is low because the DVD or Blu-ray release doesn't have to absorb all the cost of making the content that's on the disc. Games have virtually no ancillary markets, and that's what is strangling the industry. All profit must be made through first run retail sales, often in a very limited window of opportunity before the next big thing comes along and knocks your title into the bargain bin.

The answer isn't simply to monkey about with the price of games on the shelf (or in the download store) but to come up with more and better ways to make money from them afterwards.

Posted:5 months ago

#28

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

420 999 2.4
You guys are missing my point, I am not saying all games need to be priced at 60, Im saying that price point needs to be in place for a full blown commercial release, so that smaller games, indie games can have price points in the 10 to 20 buck range. So that older commercial games can be discounted to 30 or so and still seem like a good deal, so that there is room for mobile pricing in the sub 10 category. You lose the 60 price point, you lose all the price points.

Price points are important, without them you get the race to the bottom as we are seeing. No one wins when games arent seen as valuable commodities anymore. SO what happens when and if the F2P monetization scheme starts failing because people are sick of being nickeled and dimed? Your left with a consumer base who thinks your product isnt worth anything since we as agaming industry have been setting the price at FREE..what then?

Setting and maintaining price points is why business software makes so much money, why because the price points are high, and annual license fees are the norm, in that companies and govt pay for the same software year after year after year.

I just look at what the gaming industry suits are doing and I just see a bunch of shortsighted nonsense that is going to come back and bite us all in the ass.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 30th May 2014 6:53pm

Posted:5 months ago

#29

John Devoy

3 4 1.3
Maybe a problem is that game development seems to be full of wannabee film directors now? Greed is killing the market, companies like EA couldn't bear to see a few $$ they weren't getting so jumped into F2P with the most greedy system they could think of; Actual game play also seems to be an afterthought these days, 'lets create some eye candy then tack on a game'.

Posted:5 months ago

#30

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,611 1,473 0.9
You guys are missing my point, I am not saying all games need to be priced at 60, Im saying that price point needs to be in place for a full blown commercial release, so that smaller games, indie games can have price points in the 10 to 20 buck range
Yeah, I get that - it needs to exist as a cork to prevent de-escalating prices. At the same time, though, it's hard to separate out the fact that there's some software sold at the $60 price-point that really shouldn't be, either because (objectively) it's poor quality, or because it's not very long. Using the argument that "full blown commercial releases" should be at 60 bucks because they're "full blown commercial releases" can get us into a vicious circle where high budgets beget high price points which beget high budgets and so on.

Not that I have any solution for this. :(

Posted:5 months ago

#31

Andreia Quinta Creative & People Photographer, Studio52 London

228 631 2.8
I personally think it's too much of a gamble.

I mean, with other entertainment like a movie or a series you get to choose to experience it first hand either at the cinema or HBO or whatnot. You pay a fairly low amount for it - in the case of cinema - and worst case scenario (a bad movie) you're £10 short, nothing major.

With a fresh AA or AAA game you need to start doing some homework if you're smart about it. Unless you're already a bif fan of the IP you'll want to poke at some youtube videos, previews and possibily reviews if it's out already. Game-wise there's no room for the luxury of mistakes, £45 or $60 is quite a substantial amount of money for students or low pay employees (also students or fresh out of college mayhaps). So gaming-wise I think we still haven't found the sweet spot with bigger publishers, Indies on the other hand are perceiving this and taking advantage by asking anything from £10 to £20 or £25, and these are really well done games some of these.

So why buy a £45 blockbuster defined by greedy investors riddled with release problems due to time pressure when I can get 2 for £20 made by actual passionate gamers with a strong community that doesn't insult my deceased mother every 15 minutes?

Like it's been said here already, the industry leading companies needs to eventually realize that we can also have the equivalent of 20M dollar movies being developed right along side 100M dollar ones.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Andreia Quinta on 31st May 2014 11:51pm

Posted:5 months ago

#32

Jim Burns Research Asisstant

48 85 1.8
What is a shame is game quality has decreased as devs try to find ways to milk more money

Posted:5 months ago

#33

Nick Wofford Hobbyist

180 190 1.1
I don't mind some games being $60, and I don't mind that being a fixed point. But why is there only one fixed point? Plenty of industries out there do multiple levels of pricing. The top tier is for early access, maybe better features, or just plain higher quality. Then you have a mid tier for people who can wait a month, people who don't need special editions, and smaller games. Etc...

This already happens in gaming now, but it's so unadvertised that it might as well not exist. Games can drop in price without so much as a whisper, and never quickly enough to be of any use. By the time a game hits $40, most people who haven't bought it have moved to the point where it needs to be $30. So you put it at $30, but you take too long. Now they want it for $20. Etc...

Publishers need to realize that the people who would pay $60 for a game will do it within 2 weeks. Give it more time so launch purchasers don't feel ripped off (don't drop the price after 2 weeks). But 6 weeks? Definitely. No one's paying $60 anymore then.

Posted:5 months ago

#34

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,157 1,219 1.1
Patience has always been the resource you needed in order to get a game for cheaper than full retail. If you use patience, you get the game used, or from a friend or at a sale. For the same reason all marketing efforts were laser focused on making people impatient enough to buy at midnight and preorder.

How many marketing Dollars to make people buy in the first week and how many to make them buy the game one month later?

Posted:5 months ago

#35

Nick Parker Consultant

298 174 0.6
I joined the industry in 1992 when I started at Nintendo for the launch of SNES. I can't remember how many times we have gone around this discussion on software pricing and comparing it with other media experiences, hell, even the UK government became involved through a Monopolies and Mergers Commission investigation in 1994.

You're all making the right points but in the end it's about consumer perception of prices within each market. The industry needs these prices and the consumer accepts them. You could argue that the consumer has not accepted them, which is why many (more casual gamers) switched from consoles/PC packaged goods to online PC and mobile but if you drill down into the market data, annual software sales on all Xbox branded titles plus all PlayStation branded titles over the last five years have remained within a 11% index delta and average games prices on both brands consoles have remained flat.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick Parker on 2nd June 2014 11:11am

Posted:5 months ago

#36

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,157 1,219 1.1
@Nick
You could also argue that Gamestop built an entire cooperation based on the idea of games being too expensive and finding ways to lower the costs. You don't expand that aggressively because all your revenue goes to publishers.

Posted:5 months ago

#37

Jed Ashforth Senior Game Designer, Immersive Technology Group, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

112 200 1.8
Three of us picked up Bulletstorm at £2.99 on X360 early last year, we played a couple of online games but all I felt about it was that it was juvenile and crass and embarrassing. Swear words can make you look big and clever, but they can just as easily make you look like you don't have a very good vocabulary. It's all about what you do with them. By reputation, my expectation was that this was the 'sweariest game ever' and it certainly delivered on that promise.

I can't blame People Can Fly for their approach, it's a very crowded genre and you've got to do something - anything - to stand out, but it felt more pronounced than just being 'spices in the game' - it was more an overwhelming one-note taste that shut out any nuanced flavours elsewhere, at least from my limited exposure. You only get one opportunity to make a first impression.

Posted:5 months ago

#38

Nick Wofford Hobbyist

180 190 1.1
@Klaus
But that opens the can of worms on used games. If publishers complain about GameStop's practices, those complaints ring hollow when they are the ones who empower GS to undercut them.

Posted:5 months ago

#39

Dan Whitehead Managing Director, Word Play Narrative Consulting Ltd

51 198 3.9
That's not so unusual. Just look at the music industry in the 1980s. A lot of fuss was made about home taping, but the blank tapes and double deck cassette recorders were almost always made by subsidiaries of the record companies complaining about home taping...

Posted:5 months ago

#40

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