Here's the Thing

That $70 Sword of Damocles

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #130. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.


So here we are, on the cusp of yet another console generation (the ninth, I think?). And here we are again, again, almost 15 years after the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 started popping up in homes (I believe this was the seventh generation?), arguing about videogame suggested retail prices again. Here’s the thing: while I’m not excited about the idea of paying $70 for a new game and would love to pay less, I also don’t think it’s an unreasonable or unrealistic ask.

Many of the arguments against this price hike, I get. $70 is a lot to pay for a game, as is $60. Money is tight for a lot of people, so making games even more expensive will limit their options even further. AAA games need to get their budgets (both development and marketing) under control rather than pass the buck on to the consumer. It’s going to force people to wait for a sale. And when I say I “get” these arguments, I mean it. I completely understand and even agree with them. But as far as I’m concerned they still aren’t adequate excuses.

I completely agree that $70 is a lot to ask for a game, but I also remember paying more than that (yes, more) back in the 90s when I bought Super Mario RPG, brand new, from a Toys R Us. It came to around $83~$84 after taxes. For a Super Nintendo game in the 90s. That’s about $130 in 2020 money. It’s an extreme example, sure, but even just looking at seventh gen games and their $60 price tag, that was almost fifteen years ago. Adjusting for inflation that would be $79 in 2020 money. My point is, we’ve basically paid a lot more for our games in the past.

I understand that this doesn’t help when it comes to accessibility issues brought about by personal budgets, but a lot of people (myself included) often wait for those inevitable AAA game sales so I don’t see this being the kind of big issue I’ve seen some people make it out to be. And let’s be honest here, if we’re already waiting for $60 games to go on sale it’s not going to make much of a difference to wait for a $70 game to go on sale. Maybe the sale price will be slightly higher compared to a $60 game, but the older AAA games get the cheaper they sell for 6+ months down the road.

[pullquote]Why not up the suggested retail price to $70 and distribute the development and marketing funds (and sales) more fairly among the people who worked on the game?[/pullquote]

As for the AAA budget argument, I agree completely. Major game studios and publishing companies spend irresponsible amounts of money on games and marketing – largely brought about by ever-increasing customer expectations, but that’s a rant for another day – and way too much of the money spent is not going to the people actually making these games, which is super unfair. The people who make these games deserve, and have long deserved, to be compensated fairly for their work. And by-and-large they super aren’t getting fair compensation now. Give less money to CEOs who don’t actually do anything (except maybe make things worse), give more money to game developers, artists, writers, QA testers and everyone else who actually works on the game. 100%, full stop. But I also have to ask, why not both?

Why not up the suggested retail price to $70 and distribute the development and marketing funds (and sales) more fairly among the people who worked on the game?

Look, despite all my soapboxing and ranting and raving, I don’t have all the answers. Or even some answers, really. But what I do know is that none of the arguments I’ve seen against upping the cost of soon-to-be-current generation games by $10 have been all that convincing. Even without major publisher involvement or even if a game studio isn’t the illustrious house of a beloved (and popular) franchise, games cost a fuckton of money to make. And quite honestly I think it’s only fair for the people who play them to be willing to pay a little more for them every decade and a half or so.


Rob Rich has loved videogames since the 80s and has the good fortune to be able to write about them. Catch his rants on Twitter at @RobsteinOne.

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