Price cuts and video games

In an announcement that was confirmed earlier this week, Microsoft has officially announced that its Xbox 360 console price will drop across the entire line. For those who are keeping score, the Elite version will go for $449.99, the Halo version for $39

In an announcement that was confirmed earlier this week, Microsoft has officially announced that its Xbox 360 console price will drop across the entire line. For those who are keeping score, the Elite version will go for $449.99, the Halo version for $399.99, the premium version for $349.99 and the core version for $279.99. And while I applaud Microsoft for making some headway in reducing prices, why can't the same be said for the entire video game industry? Why are prices so high? Forget movie theater tickets, the real robbery is found on video game shelves at Gamestop and Best Buy.

If you haven't already noticed, the video game industry is taking us for everything we own. Why should I pay $60 for a new version of Madden when it's the same game with a few enhancements here and there? Let's be honest with ourselves: $60 video game pricing is one of the biggest robberies in technology.

I understand the argument that as video game development costs rise, prices must rise as well, but I have a feeling development costs are just a slight consideration when companies decide on pricing. That's not to say that I have an issue with paying $60 for a video game, but what I'm saying is some games have no business being $60.

The video game industry needs to move towards a graduated pricing scale that is realistic about the prospects of sales.

The first step in deciding pricing is (of course) evaluating the total cost associated with a title. I can't imagine a game like Elder Scrolls: Oblivion will cost less than a game like Madden because, after all, an epic title should always cost more than a game that is basically an update of the prior year.

Once the total cost is budgeted, common sense needs to play a role. If your game is a low-budget title with a derivative storyline and spotty gameplay, why in the world would you charge $60 for it? It'll be killed by the review teams people will stay away from it like the plague. But if it was priced at the lowest feasible price, don't you think sales would increase?

Granted, there are a few games on the market that do retail for a lower price than the norm, but each title is becoming more sparse by the minute. I remember the days of $39.99 Playstation games sitting alongside $59.99 Nintendo 64 games. And while the pricing difference was always attributed to the cost of the Nintendo 64 cartridges, did anyone believe for a second that the price couldn't have been lowered by $10?

And while I disagree with the pricing structure in the industry, there's no stopping it. People buy games for $60 and if a Limited Edition comes around the corner, they'll buy it for even more.

But unfortunately the price gouging doesn't stop at video games themselves. Companies are now charging $10 for armor and ludicrous sums of money for maps that will enhance your experience for about an hour at best. And just because companies lay on the claim that these sales are for the developers who worked so hard to make the game, it doesn't mean those developers are necessarily seeing any of the money from that $10 sale.

I'm a firm believer in giving developers credit where it's due. Video games are great today because they are made by men and women who spend hours and nights in a dark room trying to get that last bug out of the second mission. Video games are great today because those men and women who are outside of the corporate hierarchy feed a passion into each game they develop. The solution to price gouging in the video game industry is not to ignore higher priced games or purchase used games so you can get them at a discount. The true solution to video game price gouging in recognition of the developers.

I would be more than happy to pay $60 for a video game if I knew that the people who took the time to make the game were being the credit they deserved. How many games are released each month under the moniker of a EA or Microsoft or Nintendo while the people who actually created the game remain anonymous?

The time has come for the video game industry to change the way it does business. Video games are not created by a company, they are created by passionate men and women who get very little for their troubles and that's a damn shame.

The future of the video game industry should reflect recognition and respect for developers. Each game should give credit like a movie gives credit to its director. I'm tired of price gouging and anonymity -- those days are over.

Those days should have been over years ago.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.


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