Does an $80 price tag for games actually matter?

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Before the PlayStation 5 launched in South Africa, a press release was sent out to media that contained the single line, “Exclusive titles from SIE Worldwide Studios will be priced at launch from R1 299.99 on PS5”.

That was all the way back in September 2020 and recently there have been rumours that new titles from EA would fetch $80 or the equivalent in regional currency.

As with most issues surrounding the increase of prices, there has been a negative reaction to the prospect of paying more for games, but does the box price of a game even matter anymore?

Ownership or rental?

The answer to the question above really depends on several factors including what your financial position is, your platform of choice and how you as a person prefer to game.

As somebody who primarily plays games on PC, I have a plethora of free games that I have amassed over the years on Steam, Ubisoft Connect, and EA either through giveaways or sales.

But if you were to cast an eye at the 195 games on my Steam library you might be surprised to find that I only play a handful of those games. I could promise to plough through my backlog of games, but honestly, those 195 games serve only to make me feel like I’ve collected something. Further to that, I have actually wasted money because I’m not playing that mountain of games.

Even games that I have purchased have likely been played once and then uninstalled.

The reason I’m explaining this is because to me, owning a game doesn’t really appeal to me anymore and for games that I do want to play I would far prefer testing it out before parting ways with my money.

Take Outriders as a recent example. While I enjoyed the brief time I spent laying waste to enemies, it’s not a game I want to spend money on as there are too many questions for me as to how end-game will be handled, whether updates will be delivered regularly and more.

But that concern evaporated last week when it was announced that Outriders will be included in Xbox Game Pass for console. While I don’t own an Xbox, I do subscribe to Game Pass for PC and given the trend of console releases eventually coming to PC, I suspect it won’t be long before Outriders is available as part of Game Pass for PC.

So, is there really a need for me to dive into Outriders right now? No and if I really wanted to I’d quite honestly save up for an Xbox so that I could enjoy more launch day releases of popular titles.

And this is where the $80 price tag doesn’t matter and makes sense at the same time.

Gaming subscription services and game streaming services are becoming ever more popular and while we’re sure developers and publishers are making money by putting titles on these services, getting money directly from a customer is still likely something shareholders and other stakeholders enjoy seeing.

Let’s also not forget that developers are people and need to pay bills so paying for a game directly supports the developer and publisher.

So the $80 price tag doesn’t matter because, let’s face it, subscription services are a more appealing way to spend your money.

Sure, you don’t own the title but folks plough money into Netflix every month and hardly complain about not owning any of the content.

Gaming is going in a similar direction and with that in mind it makes sense that publishers and developers would charge a premium so that you could enjoy the game for longer than it may be available on a subscription service,

Quite frankly it comes down to your personal preference, but do you really need to own FIFA 2021 when in a few years you might not even be able to play online because support for the game has ended? We don’t think many folks will.

Unfortunately for PlayStation fans, the best you get right now is PlayStation Plus which means you still need to buy most of your games. While it would be nice if Sony looked to its peers and emulated them, that doesn’t seem to be happening just yet and we won’t speculate on whether it ever will.

An increased price tag could actually be good, for indie devs

Indie games are great. We won’t be moved on this fact because quite frankly, independent developers give gamers so much value we feel bad about how affordable the games are.

Take Dodge Roll’s Enter the Gungeon. The game was released in 2016 for R159 and since then the game has delivered content drop after content drop for free. While there is DLC you can purchase that adds new content in Exit the Gungeon, a microtransaction gun and the original soundtrack you could buy the base game and pour nearly 1 000 hours into the game for less than two months of a Game Pass subscription.

Recently, Supergiant Games’ Hades has been setting the world ablaze and that game is also incredibly cheap at R150.

While both of these developers could charge more for these games we also believe that the world isn’t ready to pay more for an indie game, no matter how much time went into creating and supporting it post release.

We’d hope that if AAA publishers start charging more, indie developers and publishers could raise the ceiling on what they charge for games as well.

This may ultimately mean a price increase for game subscription services for Game Pass but we can’t expect games, or subscription services to have a fixed price for a decade while demanding more and more from developers.

Yes, it isn’t great to have to spend more money on games but the point is that you are no longer expected to buy a game outright before you can play it thanks to the variety of avenues through which you can access games.

The way in which we access games has evolved and if we aren’t willing to move with that evolution we are going to react negatively to news of price increases.

The core of the matter here is that in 2021, we have enough choice to decide how we want to play or buy games and I hope that this trend of wider choice continues.

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.