The next-gen hype train is rolling, and we’ve already seen several new reveals. We’ve even finally seen what both platforms look like! But one thing we aren’t informed of yet is pricing. We don’t know what either console will cost, nor do we know the pricing on accessories and new controllers. We also didn’t know what games will cost… until recently. 2K Games seems to be the first willing canary in the next-gen software pricing coal mine, and it looks like a ten-dollar jump from the usual sixty bucks. Obviously this will be a noticeable change for many gamers and their budgets. But is it a change that should have happened already?
The first game with a new price point is 2K Games’ NBA 2K21. This is a standard, annual sports release as we’ve seen over and over again. Aside from all the different special edition options, yearly sports titles have never deviated from the usual $59.99 video game retail price. That is, until now. NBA 2K21 will have a price tag of $69.99, a full ten dollars up from the usual. And that’s only for the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions; the current-gen versions releasing soon will all be the usual price. In addition, there will also be a $99.99 Kobe Bryant-themed special edition that comes with both versions (or a voucher for next-gen).
Up until now, we haven’t seen any prices for stand-alone next-generation video games. In fact, most games we know about are cross-gen titles that utilize either Xbox Smart Delivery or another solution to provide customers with free upgrades. That makes those games sixty bucks as usual, but only if you pony up for the current-gen version ahead of time. We haven’t actually seen what the price will be if you don’t pick up, say, Marvel’s Avengers until the next-gen release date. We also haven’t seen any of the next-gen exclusive titles on the way have price points attached.
Video games are expensive to make, and video game developers continually struggle to break even on those costs. And publishers see most of the benefit anyway, especially when games double their budgets with massive marketing campaigns. But developers live or die on the critical and sales success of their efforts. Considering the cost of labor, and everything else, you could make an argument that video games are not selling at a proportionate price, especially considering inflation and the rising cost of living. On the other hand, you can also argue this would be less of an issue if executives didn’t soak up so much of a company’s profits. It’s a nuanced argument for sure, but as everything stands in the short-term, the price hike is probably overdue.
We’ve seen various attempts to compromise with players, as publishers offer special editions of their games that come with various extras for a much higher price. Sometimes that means DLC, and sometimes that means physical items such as trinkets or collectible statues. And people have shown their willingness to buy those, as the perceived value of the product matches the higher price. But those are risky and unreliable. And with the current state of the world and economy, asking gamers to pay more for the standard releases is also a risk. Ultimately we’ll see what happens, but the hard reality of the situation is there are several imbalances in and outside of the industry, and they all need solutions an extra ten bones won’t solve.