Are Games Too Expensive? Part One

My old man was once just a single signature away from buying a computer game shop. Not a video game shop – back then they were computers, not consoles – but a proper, fully fledged shop – it sold monitors, keyboards, mice and – yes – games. He didn’t, and I can’t for the life of me remember exactly why he didn’t, but that’s history long in the past.

I often wonder how my life might have turned out if he had, it was a decent location and then, at the advent of the Amiga / ST era, things were really starting to kick off. The industry was maturing, the general public was staring to accept this whole new medium of entertainment and – crucially – the price of games was starting to rise to all new levels.

Gamers long in the tooth will remember, as fondly as I do, a game called Armour Geddon. Ignoring the rather ridiculous play on words, this was a game that featured 3D vector graphics and an almost entirely open-ended structure that invited the player to plan out their own research strategy and defense systems as two players battled against the computer AI.

[drop]It was also about twenty quid, and thus – at that stage – completely out of my price range. I remember, vividly, splitting the cost with a mate and picking the game up from John Menzies in town before rushing home to play it. Here’s the thing, though – as far as I remember the game supported two Amigas linked together – which leads me to remember we had to buy another copy.

However, part of me thinks this might not have been the case.  As kids could we have afforded another disk?

To get the most of out it you needed to team up and have an Amiga each – so the irony, looking back, of having a full computer / monitor combo spread over two rooms of a modest semi-detached, yet not being able to splash out another twenty quid, seems ridiculous, but then pocket money was hard to come by and whilst parents might have bought the machines in the first place, they certainly didn’t buy the games we played on them.

Are we as a public justified in ripping off a publisher because we can’t afford the games? Legally, no – of course not, but are  games really worth the asking price in the first place? Nowadays if we see a brand new AAA title at that sort of price we don’t think twice – it’s a bargain – but then, that was a serious investment and one that we couldn’t make twice.

I don’t buy a lot of games these days – I’m generally done with a title after it’s been reviewed (and rarely return to it) and think seriously about handing over £40 for a game that I can’t help feeling is, in most cases, overpriced. It baffles me that people are happy to pay upwards of £50 for a game, but then it’s all just down to perception of value.

Take, for example, Call of Duty. Activision can charge what the hell they like next year for what would arguably be yet another iterative update on a franchise that’s surely well past its prime. And people will buy it – because, to them, it’s worth the money. They’ll play online for hours a day and – in some cases – won’t play anything else for months.

To me, an ageing old fool in his thirties who remembers panicking about handing over seven quid for Jet Set Willy to the man behind the counter in the shop my dad nearly bought, it simply doesn’t make any sense. I guess it all just depends on what disposable income you’ve got to splash on these things, but for me – with flashbacks of Armour Geddon – these things are damned expensive.



  1. Well, five minutes ago I was perfectly content knowing I was going to be parting with 40 quid for the Saints Row The Third Special Edition tomorrow. Played it at a mates house yesterday and had loads of fun with it. Now though, I’m questioning whether its worth 40 quid. Thanks nofi :P

    • Bought it for husband as a Christmas present, and I swear the storyline only took about eight hours to complete. Not worth £40 IMHO, but luckily I got it for less than that in a pre-Christmas sale. Sorry.

      • I may have completed the Main Story fairly quickly, but I know for a fact that I will be playing it for much longer than that. It is too dang crazy to put down!

        I can do WHAT? with a WHAT? sure lets roll… Wait… that looks fun fun I wonder if THAT will work…. yup.

        Sorry for my lack of wordsmithery there! Back on topic. Some games I would happily pay £40+ for (a new burnout/fallout/Elder scrolls/GTA) there are others I still want to play but think £20 is still a bit too much (alice:madness returns/rage/any cookie cutter shooter)

        I guess what I am saying is, I all depends on what you want play, and how badly you want to play it!

      • Yeah but thats apparently only half the missions, sidequests and stuff. and I will be doing co-op with my friend so theres a fair bit of longevity for me anyway.

  2. My simple answer: No.

    I rarely pay top whack for a game, only if I really want it at launch. Just wait a couple of weeks and nearly all games drop down to the £20 zone. In today’s market, it’s all about shopping around and use the internet to your advantage.

    Let your money work for you!

    • Exactly. It’s not rocket science, RRPs are never actually used. GAME try and charge £40 odd but if you’re clever you can get the game a few weeks later for about half that. Like I did with UC3, £22 from GameStop, COD MW£ £25 from Tesco and InFamous £17 from GAME.

    • I think a lot of games are way out of their price range comparing to the quality of the product. Then again – they do get cheaper a lot faster.

      Can games get cheaper on day one? Not really, we’ll probably see 10-20% of a price increase in the next generation.

      Developing games is too damn expensive for what some of them are worth.

  3. For the most part I don’t think they are. These days you (mostly) get a lot of game for your £35-40. Back in the day I remember paying £59.99 for Super Mario 64. There was also a time where Rise of the Robots cost £55. If you’ve never heard of Rise of the Robots then count yourself lucky. “Music by Brian May!” the box exclaimed, forgetting to mention the gameplay by Satan himself.

    • I lol’d so bad, probably more than I should of.
      Thanks :D

    • Well, the standard price for a Nintendo 64 game here in Norway was about… £64. ;-P No wonder I only managed to buy four games for it.

      So I really don’t mind paying a bit less than £30 today (which is what I usually buy my games for) as that’s far, far less. I really don’t like paying more than £40 though, unless it’s a special edition or something.

  4. Obviously things are more expensive now than 20 years ago, but you also get a lot more bargains now than back then. I don’t remember any Megadrive or Gameboy games being 25% of their launch price within a month or two of release.

  5. I guess it all depends how much we value a game. I put in over 31 days on MW2 multiplayer alone – which probably represents the best £40.00 I’ll ever spend.

    The most expensive “standard” edition game I ever bought was Street Fighter II: Special Championship Edition at 60 quid.

    In general terms, I don’t think they are too expensive. However some could perhaps be cheaper – when you consider MW has used the previous engine; and FIFA is probably just tweaked each year (compared to the original outlay for motion capture and player-likeness drawings/scanning). However that said there are licencing costs to pay each year for such game, so it’s hard to say. I do sometimes question the marketing costs of some games, such as ridiculously OTT launch events.

    Digital download games annoy me though, as the lack of production costs do not seem to be reflected in the price we pay.

    But since I never consider the price of a game that I want, I guess they can’t be too expensive.

    • It’s all about the worth of the title (as you say). For years, the industry has enjoyed some freakishly fixed pricing with titles. Thankfully, we’re starting to see the final erosion of it all as there are some franchises which still floor me with how they sell but that’s more personal. However, that doesn’t hold true for many, many games that have had an RRP of £40 when most consumers would easily tell you that they simply weren’t worth such a cost.

      Steam, PSN, XBLA (and maybe instrumentally, iTunes) are showing us that the full gamut of pricing isn’t far off. Look how well Wipeout has done on the PSN. Staggeringly good game that was under twenty quid as of day one (I think).

      Child of Eden (360) was disgustingly priced and the PS3 release set to rectify that.

      On the flip-side I’m more than happy with truly massive games (like Skyrim) might actually cost more than they do now.

      Let’s finally see the consumer enjoy games from 69p to £60 (or more when you look at subscription gaming like World of Warcraft) and everything in between.

  6. Depends, I’m content with the prices I pay for games as I’m choosing to pay for them, not being forced too. I will always pay full whack for a Total War game, for instance, yet with something like Call of Duty I’m willing to wait until it goes down in price.
    I paid full price for 4 disk based games last year: Total War: Shogun 2, Saints Row the Third, Skyrim amd Battlefield 3. I don’t regret any of those purchases. Also bought several PSN games, and by far and away Chime: Super Deluxe is the best £6.29 I’ve ever spent.
    So, are games too much? For me, on the highstreet/stores online, no, they’re fine, if anything I think I’m lucky to be able to get games like Enslaved (new) and OpFlash: Red River (pre owned) for just £17.21. However, buying the Digital versions of games is often wayyyy too expensive, just look at full PSN games for instamce: wasn’t Red Faction Armageddon £59.99 when it came out on the store? The prices just are not competitive on there and until they reduce them to be inline with high street prices, they do cost too much. Steam games not in the sales also suffer from this problem, just not as badly.

  7. I don’t think games are overpriced considering what most cost to develop, and you can get some of your money back by trading them in when your finished with them.

  8. Isn’t quite a lot of what makes games more expensive the fact that retailers have quite large profit margins? Can’t be sure of that though. I saw a breakdown of the price once, was fairly interesting.

    I never pay top whack for games. A fortnight later they’re always at least a tenner less.

    • I think game make £2 for each new game sold.

      • Damn, no wonder they push the preowned stuff so much.

      • 5% as a retail margin doesn’t sound right at all, I’m sure they aren’t paying £38 wholesale for something they sell for £40.

        If they are talking about net margins after all their premises and staff costs are included then I can see that being about right. The supermarkets work on net margins around that level and they don’t seem to suffer too much.

        As a tight git I don’t pay more than £25 for a game. GT5 for under a tenner my best bang for buck purchase.

      • Game make £10 each game they sell. Students get 10% discount on software so they’re not gonna sell them at a loss, and staff get a 25% discount. £10 on a £40 game is the profit that they make.

  9. Pretty sure I paid £30+ for a few Amiga games (Syndicate springs to mind), and definately paid £50 for a few SNES games (Stunt Race FX anyone?) so is the new price point of £40, dropping to £25-£30 and then down to £18 within 3-4 months really that bad? I know there’s a few games that just don’t drop in price, like the COD series, but I’m more than happy with the current situation.

  10. I think games such as Skyrim,Fifa,Call Of Duty,Battlefield ect are worth the £40 as most people wll inves more than 40+hours into the game it’s self but to charge £40 for title’s like Saw,Thor and tie in games to movies is just stupid in my eyes! I paid £40 for quite a few games this year and was generally happy my only real regret was paying £40 for L.A. Noire as after you have played the main story which towards the end gets awful you have nothingto do…literally so i would generally say yes £40 is worth it quite alot of the time

    • Totally agree with you on this, Ive got my money’s worth out of the like’s of fifa cod and battlefield already and im happy to pay £40 for themm but they are the minority compared to the rest of the games out there, some games are average at best and i wouldnt even waste my time renting never mind paying £40 for. The big name titles should stay at £40 and then the rest should be priced around £25-£30

    • Yeah I totally agree, if you know that your going to be spending a large amout of hours enjoying a game, then to me its worth the £40.

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