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The Evolution of Game Pricing

The Evolution of Game Pricing

Sep 6, 2013

The game industry is polarized by a wide variety of prices, with a new influx of cheap alternatives to the traditional physical video game becoming widely popular in recent times.

Steam, Valve’s popular download-only service for PC gaming, offers huge discounts in seasonal, weekly, and often daily sales, seemingly undercutting the full retail price for many gamers. Reductions of up to 80% tempt many fans into purchasing games they often wouldn’t normally purchase. This trend can steer fans from buying them at full price, as they can merely wait for the price drop, sometimes in a matter of months.

Gaming apps are currently going for as little as 79p, with other portable titles on the 3DS and PS Vita going for around £34.99. Angry Birds is one of the most popular, having garnered enough fans to warrant its own chain of stores, with seven titles to date cashing in on popular franchises such as Star Wars. Apps can be seen as disposable and cheap alternatives to more expensive platforms, as mobile gaming is not as graphic or involvement-heavy as the home gaming experience.

Companies such as Zynga find people are often very happy to spend money within free apps such as Zynga Poker, and Mafia Wars. Both Nintendo and Sony have had to drop the prices of their portable consoles to combat this influx of smart devices, as a third of people play some form of game in this digital age.

For consoles, the £40 mark is undermined by used games. Microsoft briefly attempted to thwart the second hand market with the Xbox One, with DRM restrictions creating public outcry, and has thus gone back on this decision. Many companies, such as Sony, EA, and Ubisoft, make use of online passes to combat the second hand market, generating revenue for those companies missing out on full retail purchases. However consumers often see this in a negative light, as they have already purchased the game, and to gain full access the cost of around £7.99 to merely unlock multiplayer seems steep, negating the incentive in used items.

The next generation of gaming is nigh, and bringing with it is the price mark of £49.99 retail price for each game, which may deter the public from upgrading to the new consoles, when the back catalogue of the current generation is vast and reasonably priced. Despite this, the current generation began at a similar price, and quickly dropped down to the RRP of £39.99, and even the last generation, including the Gamecube, often had prices of £54.99 upon initial release. The likelihood of PS4 and Xbox One games dropping in price therefore, seems inevitable.

On current platforms, a new concept is emerging with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the first MMORPG on consoles with a monthly subscription, as previous models such as DC Universe were free-to-play. This paves the way for subscription services on consoles, in a similar vein to PC games, creating yet another form of gaining revenue in the industry. Even then, many popular online titles have accepted free-to-play, such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, which received an underwhelming response in the long run as users dropped, creating a free model within a year of release.

It seems free games are only gaining popularity, with titles such as Dota 2 topping the most played list on Steam [1] with over 450,000 players daily, currently beating popular online titles like Team Fortress 2 and the recently released Total War: Rome II. Established PC games such as Warframe and Planetside 2 seem set to find homes on PS4, showing that quality free-to-play gaming is definitely on the cards in the future. Uncharted 3 recently made the multiplayer element of it’s game free to download, showing that even hugely popular and high quality developers are embracing this new model.

With more companies implementing significant amounts of DLC, with season passes to access all content, it seems the industry is adapting to find new ways of gaining revenue. Dropping huge amounts of money on a single game seems more logical when you can extend it’s lifetime with extra episodes, missions, maps, or purchasable virtual content via microtransactions.


[1] http://store.steampowered.com/stats/

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