If Apple’s App Store pricing has taught us anything, it’s that once you hit that 69p price bracket, there’s little chance of going back. Cheap games might be great for the consumer, but expectations will struggle to recover and it marks everything above that figure as apparently expensive.
Consumer resistance to higher priced titles is evident.
Perception can be a dangerous thing – I rarely touch anything above 69p on the iPad now unless it’s some music software, and even then, if a game’s racked with 5-star reviews and is topping the charts at that bargain price, i’ll read some articles on it and maybe watch a few YouTube videos first.
Why? Because everything’s that price, from the sublime to the utterly terrible, and that’s the way it’s always going to be now.[drop2]Sony, naturally, know this, and have priced their first round of PlayStation Network games for the Vita accordingly. Yes, I’m sure they could have smashed out at a quid per game, but where do you go from there? What happens when a game follows on in a few months for two quid? It’s twice as expensive, but is it twice as good?
Instead, as we’ve been hinting at (and nudged by those in the know) for a little while, Sony have spread out the price ranges into a trio of brackets: £4.79, £6.49 and £9.99. By doing this they’ve shown instantly that they’re catering for a wide range of figures and ensuring that perceptions are clear: these aren’t throwaway 69p games.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m well aware that there are dozens of brilliant iPhone games at that price, but there’s also a huge amount of not-so-brilliant ones, and it’s hard to figure out what’s what. By starting the prices at £4.79 these games are seen to be higher in quality and more substantial, an effect that’s not easy to pull off without quality titles.
And – I’m happy to say – these are.
MotorStorm RC is the clear winner here. At £4.79 it’s almost a no-brainer, especially when you consider that you also get the PlayStation 3 version for the same price, and when you also think that that’s only 80 pence more than a virtual Sackboy t-shirt, well, we’re assuming you’ve already got money in your wallet.
The others are great too, though. Top Darts I’ve been playing for a month or so and it’s sharp and extremely playable, and Hustle Kings is so alike the PS3 version that it also features cross play. Or at least, that’s what I’ve been told, the version I have has some features currently stripped out.
Stardust Delta might have been spoiled slightly by the news that there’s day one DLC, but even when you factor in the expansion pack it’s still a bargain, and it’s clear that Sony wanted to get three games out at that £6.49 price point in order to a) push MotorStorm a little harder and b) make Escape Plan look like the premium title.
Which, from what I’ve played, it probably is. A quirkly but enjoyable puzzler, Escape Plan sees you controlling two cute characters via the Vita’s two touch screens alone, tapping, swiping and – my favourite – pinching your way through a series of detailed, monochromatic levels.
Something for everyone, then, and with Gravity Rush to follow in a couple of months (last I heard) and a series of third party games (including Plants vs Zombies) on the way too, it looks like you’ll be wanting to ensure you’ve got a big enough memory card, even if you were only planning on picking up physical retail copies of the Vita’s flagship games.
But the bottom line is that I’m happy with these prices. Sony have priced the games intelligently and hopefully they’re a sign of things to come – if future titles can sit amongst these three price brackets they’ll hopefully be on to a winner. It’s not a case of just throwing them out at the cheapest possible rate, because long term that doesn’t help anyone.
You can read more about the launch games in our comprehensive and rather lovely (even if I do say so myself) guide to the PS Vita.