Gaming

I’d pay $150 for a video game in order to save triple-A gaming – Reader’s Feature


Elden Ring – would you have paid £150 for it? (Bandai Namco)

A reader suggests video games need a price increase in order to stay profitable but that they’d still be cheaper than during the 16-bit era.

During the week there was a very interesting reader’s letter in the Inbox, about a former Square Enix guy who went into a lot of detail about the problems the games industry is in at the moment and why publishers feel they can’t just do simple things like decrease budgets. I advise reading the whole thing but the gist of it is that these companies are set up to make games of a certain scale and trying to go backwards to make AA or indie type games doesn’t work.

They’d never earn enough to pay everyone and run everything; plus indie games are even harder to predict than triple-A games. Make a good-looking triple-A game and it’ll probably sell. Make a weird indie game about trying to get a high score in poker and you’re taking an enormous chance.

The publishers could downsize but to do so would involving gutting their entire staff and changing their whole business model into something they have no idea is going to work. So, while they can try and change direction to a degree, and decrease costs, they’re still in the business of making big budget video games. It’d be like someone telling a major movie studio to start making TV commercials instead of films, because they’re cheaper – it’s just not an option.

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The end result of this, as we’re already starting to see, is that less and less triple-A games are being released and they’re taking longer and longer to make. I know it looked like Xbox had a lot in their showcase but that’s as a result of them buying up half the games industry. Plus, most of what they showed would’ve been started long before the current problems.

It all seems like a problem without a solution, a literal evolutionary dead end where publishers can’t go backwards but also can’t carry on as they are. And yet the most common attempt at a solution, in focusing on live service games, seems almost as risky as doing nothing.

There is another solution though, one that can be applied instantly and would solve all the issues in a moment. But it’s one that is almost never even mentioned: make video games more expensive.

Even with the price hike of $10/£10 this generation, video games have seen almost no price increase in their entire existence. Mega Drive and SNES games were commonly around £50 back in the early 90s, which with inflation works out at around £110 today. They could be more too. Anything with an extra chip or gimmick, like Virtua Racing or Starwing (aka Star Fox) could cost anything up to £70, which is a staggering £164 today.

We’re paying far less for far more today, than we ever were in the golden age of gaming and I don’t think that’s appreciated enough. Of course, back then there were less people overall playing games so they had to charge more to make their money back, but we’re kind of getting back to that now.

Companies, especially Sony and Microsoft, keep complaining about a lack of growth, with the figures clearly showing that console growth has been flat since the PlayStation 2 era. The number of people interested in the sort of complex console style games that we all take for granted is relatively small and it’s not growing. So if it take more time and money to make those games you’re only going to lose more and more money over time – it’s simple maths.

Everyone says they don’t want a future dominated by live service titles, smartphone games, and free-to-play garbage but are you willing to put your money where your mouth is? Are you willing to go back to the day when a new game cost £100 or even £150? I am, but if you’re not then console gaming as we know it may quickly die out.

I just checked and a ticket to the cinema, at an ordinary non-London cinema chain, is £16.49 for a 1 hour and 36 minute movie (Inside Out 2, the biggest film when I looked). That’s almost exactly £10 an hour in terms of entertainment. Now, Elden Ring was £50 at launch and according to How Long To Beat the very quickest you could beat it is 59 and a half hours. Although I don’t know anyone that didn’t spend at least 100 hours on it.

Let’s take the shortest figure though, which works out at 84p an hour in terms of entertainment. That means that Elden Ring is over 10 times better value for money than watch a movie – and probably much more if you get into it as much as most people.

Or let’s take an extreme example at the other end of the spectrum, with Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2. That’s the shortest big name game I can remember hearing about recently and that takes a minimum of seven hours to complete while costing £50.

That works out at £7 an hour of entertainment, which is still significantly better value for money than a movie – and yet that’s the absolute bare minimum of what a modern video game offers. I literally can’t think of a worse value for money game than Hellblade 2 (I’m not saying it’s not good, I haven’t played it).

Video games are amazing value for money, it’s just they’re expensive. But you get what you pay for many times over. My suggestion is that if we want to see console games continue as they are then we have to accept a price rise, probably of at least twice as much. That would still be only going back to prices during the 16-bit era, when most games only took a few hours to beat, and as I hope I’ve proved it’s definitely worth it.

Triple-A video games do not grow on trees and I think we’re at the point where we’ve got to accept that we have to pay more for what is basically a luxury item. It’s either that or pay the same (or less) for something that only vaguely resembles the great video games we have right now. And if that means people only buy two or three full price games a year, then I think that’s fine.

I know I’d much rather pay £150 for a game the quality of Elden Ring or Zelda than face a future where everything is free-to-play battle royales and live service games.

By reader Cranston

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 – even it’s better value than a movie (Xbox Game Studios)

The reader’s features do not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. Just contact us at gamecentral@metro.co.uk or use our Submit Stuff page and you won’t need to send an email.


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