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Competitive Pricing of Games

I remember watching T.V today and seeing a commercial multiple times for MX vs. ATV Alive, and hearing the song Alive by P.O.D seemed like an obvious but sort of cheesy choice at the same time. When the commercial was wrapping up, a $40 price was brought up on the screen. I was surprised by the price; it told me that someone else besides me is fully aware of the success that can come from a$40 game. I’m not sure of the reason that made the publishers decide on a $40 price, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they did it because they recognized the potential of having a competitive, non-standard price.

I always think of other games that started at $40 like Borderlands and Batman: Arkham Asylum, and look at the success they were able to obtain from the low starting price. I distinctly remember the Borderlands launch; it was $40 at a few retailers for the first week and almost impossible to find. Previously to its launch I paid no attention to it, but a friend recommended that I pick it up since he was so sure that game would be fantastic. Ironically he didn’t buy Borderlands until months later, and I was going from store to store trying to find just a single copy. There was a shortage of the game across Canada, all because 2k Games dropped to the price to a more appealing and affordable price.

It almost seemed like a dream for 2k, a new IP was selling so well that it even caused a shortage of copies across Canada. Now that Borderlands is an established franchise with the reputation of having great DLC, 2k wouldn’t be as reluctant to spend more on their inevitable sequel. But the idea of the sequel brings up a question; will 2k sell Borderlands 2 at that magical $40 price, or will they rely on their fan base to dish out another $20 for a potentially better game? From a business perspective, selling for $60 would prove most profitable in the short run, but might not bring that huge growth in sales if they were to once again release for $40.

What I hope to see in the future or even as soon as the next generation of consoles, are publishers pricing their games based on worth, not the standard market price. Looking at Brink for example – put aside whether the game is good or not – and break down what the game has to offer; a multiplayer focused experience with class customization and a handful of maps. It lacks a single player component (and no multiplayer with bots doesn’t count) so I would probably aim for somewhere around $30, where consumers wouldn’t feel like they’re overpaying for the amount of content available to them. Determining the right price is difficult for games like Brink, and even moredifficult for single player games.

Now I don’t want to see single player games priced based on its length, almost like each hour of playtime is equal to a dollar, they should be sold at a price that leaves players satisfied when the credits roll. You’re always going to have those gigantic games like Fallout and Final Fantasy where you’re most likely to get your money’s worth, the problem is with those compact games like Alan Wake or Enslaved, where determining a price is almost impossible. That’s where standardized pricing becomes the easiest and safest solution for developers selling their games. Until someone takes a risk and figures out the best and most clear way of determining a game’s worth, there will always be standardized pricing, and those rare $40 gems.