When you think about video games industry people, who do you think is most likely to agree with each other? Maybe people who both work for the same company, like Shuhei Yoshida and Cory Barlog. Or, to some degree, people who compete with each other but make the same kind of video game. You can imagine the people who make the Call of Duty games and the Battlefield games would agree on some things then.
But could you imagine Phil Spencer, the Microsoft executive in charge of Team Xbox, and Masahiro Sakurai, veteran game developer, saying basically the same thing? But that’s pretty much what happened this week.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last October 26, 2022, Phil was asked about the prices of video games. In particular, there were questions about why video games were priced at $ 70. The interviewer acknowledges that the price of games hadn’t changed for years, even decades. But she also pointed out that it’s a particularly bad time for this change to be happening given volatile market conditions. So, how does Microsoft justify the prices for video games to be at this level.
Here’s a transcription of what Phil had to say, slightly edited for clarity:
“For the price point on retail for video games, you said it hasn’t gone up in a while. And for creators, the cost of building the games has gone up. THe hours of enjoyment that you get in a vidoe game is pretty strong. If you looked at, I don’t know that the people do this math, but the hours of enjoyment versus what I spent. But people can play video games for hundreds of hours. So I still believe in the value of video games.
We have a subscription called Game Pass, which allows people to build their library of games that they own in a different way. You can pay a monthly subscription, $ 10 or $ 15, and get access to hundreds of games. We think it’s important to offer our customers choice in how they build their library, especially as you say at a time where economic uncertainty is putting families under pressure, energy issues in Europe, putting families under pressure. And we look at gaming as a real option.
For us running the business, we have to look at the return on our business, the cost of the business. We’ve held price on our console, we’ve held price on games for us and our subscription. I don’t think we’ll be able to do that forever. I think at some point we’re going to have to raise prices on certain things.
But going into this holiday, we thought it was really important that we maintain the prices that we have because we think, as you said, consumers right now are more uncertain than they have been in a long time. And I want our medium of video games to be something that they find attractive.”
In a stunning but illuminating coincidence, Masahiro Sakurai chose to talk about the exact same thing in his latest video on his YouTube channel.
In a video called The Price of Games [Grab Bag}, Sakurai had this to say about the price of video games;
“Aren’t video games a little expensive? It’s a question I hear often. I’d like to be clear that this is my own personal opinion, but I’d say, They’re really cheap!
From an adult’s perspective, there just aren’t many things that offer all those hours of fun for such a reasonable price.
Of course, this may vary depending on what country you live in. For example, in Japan, movie tickets are especially expensive. But whether you’re grabbing a bite or a drink with friends, going ot the theater or a movie, gambling, taking a vacation, staying at a hotel, sampling local delicacies, whatever it may be- if you want to have fun, it’ll cost you a pretty penny.
In comparison, games give you dozens of hours of enjoyment, costing around 70 dollars at most, even for AAA titles. Whereas smaller games might cost as little as 10 dollars. There are plenty of free-to-play games you can enjoy at no cost at all, too. Nothing cheaper than that.
Most of all – and this is something I’m keenly aware of – each of these individual games likely required teams of people to create. In terms of scope and content, games are tens, even hundreds of times bigger than they used to be, yet prices have largely remained the same.
Just making a game requires a large team you have to support, and it can cost plenty more to actually market and release it. Considering everything that goes into them, I can’t help but think how cheap games really are.”
Perhaps it isn’t really a coincidence that both Spencer and Sakurai were talking about the same thing. It’s certainly true that more people are questioning why video games have been going up in prices, when you factor into that the knowledge that many games also come bundled with additional purchases, such as DLC or even lootbox and gacha elements, that compel players to keep paying. Subscription models like Game Pass are seemingly a way to get around that issue, but the broader issue of the flat $ 70 cost of video games remains.
That a business executive and a game developer came to the same conclusion about the price of video games isn’t a coincidence either, of course. The public may not be as aware as they would be when you talk about making music or movies, that making video games is a huge undertaking. Not only in terms of how much it cost, but in terms of how many people work on such a project, and that their livelihoods are on the line with the success or failure of their games. Even indies can have as many as five to ten people working on them. While it’s true some games are one person projects, the amount of workload that would place on that one developer is monumental, and in most cases, unreasonable.
It’s certainly some food for thought, the next time you look at the next game you think of buying at the video game store aisle, or in the storefront in your favorite game console.
Source: WSJ, YouTube