Video games are fun and they can achieve different levels of entertainment. Some games have excellent stories and others excel at gameplay or multiplayer experiences. Video games can range across different genres, soundtracks, and visual looks. There is a game for anyone’s taste and gaming style, it’s just whether or not that game will gain enough visibility for its audience. In the end, video games are a luxury that requires both money and time investments and those requirements aren’t set in stone either. Some games are completely free but bar you from gaining progress without an influx of cash. Most games have a set price point that the publisher or developer deems appropriate to make a profit. We’re starting to see new changes in the video game landscape of what dictates a certain price for certain titles. I want to look at a particular group of games that brings this conversation to light: Pyre, Sonic Mania, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Lawbreakers.
Sonic Mania and Pyre ($20 Under Tier)
These new games are digital only titles that are both priced at $19.99 MSRP. Sonic Mania and Pyre are smaller titles that often get lumped into the indie game category. Indie games are known to have smaller budgets because they are developed by smaller teams that often times don’t have the support of a big publisher. This isn’t true for everyone. There are initiatives in both EA and Ubisoft which explores smaller indie-esq games in the marketplace. Pyre is made by Super Giant Games and they have always sold their games around a $20 price point. They make enough money to support the cost of development using this price point. Sonic Mania is made by SEGA which is NOT an indie game but the game is aimed at a smaller audience and is a labor of love to fans of the Sonic series. Research and marketing dictated that Sonic Mania should be released at a $20 price point which has to cover costs for marketing, budget, labor, and etc.
Both games are able to achieve a high bar of quality and content that in turn leads to people buying those games. We live in an era in which smaller games are able to thrive with a big jump in profits. Just a couple of years ago, a $20 or under game would get you access to arcade games like Tetris or Pac-man. Those games are certainly great but the amount of content you get from indie games have changed what $20 can get the customer. We’re starting to see this new level of quality at this price and a small studio can become a huge hit seller overnight! This tier is perfect to play games that experiment in all manners of ways of what video games can be. The pay wall of this tier is easy enough for people to take chances on smaller titles and not feel bad if they made a bad purchase.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Lawbreakers ($30 Tier)
This is the most interesting tier to buy a game that hasn’t fully been explored and we’re starting to see small ripples of what a $30 game can be. When a game is sold at $30, people will often assume that it’s either a budget title, an updated version of an existing game, or an early access title. However, HellBlade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Lawbreakers are two brand new games that launched this year at this price point and both are neither budget titles, a ‘Super’ version of an existing game, or an early access title. These $30 games aren’t full fledged $60 video games but are reasonably priced and marketed as smaller titles, each with an amazing unique hook.
People complained that both Titanfall and Overwatch were $60 multiplayer only games that didn’t need a to be priced so high because they lacked single player content. Lawbreakers’ Epic Games Studio seem to agree that a multiplayer only game should release at a $30 price point to lower the bar of access and build a bigger player community around the game. We have the opposite of Lawbreakers with Hellblade, which is a single player focused game that is smaller in scope but delivers a short but concise game-play experience. Both games have the production values of full fledge “AAA” game but with a smaller budget and focused vision of what each game is trying to achieve. This goes against the norm when comparing it to games that add fluff and padding at $60. Padding can often involve repetitive fetch quests, a series of random enemy battles, collecting 1000 feathers and anything that artificially extends game time.
Games At The $60 Tier
The average $60 game may hold 100+ hours of content but often times you can see how they artificially extend game time; often diluting the overall experience. Even Uncharted 4, which is an amazing game, could have been a better game if it was cut a bit shorter. Publishers are scared that if ‘X’ game isn’t ‘X’ long enough, then it will not sell at the $60 price tier when compared to all the other $60 games. However, this may be a blessing in disguise for consumers because we might start seeing all forms are price configurations that will shake the market.
There has been a rise of $40 games like Uncharted: Lost Legacy, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, and others. Imagine if you saw a game for $45 or even $37, what does that mean? It means that studios and publishers are starting to really consider what they believe their product should cost and it could lead to better prices for video games as a whole. For now, I believe that this new $30 price point will start to flourish and proliferate the quality of what used to be considered a ‘budget’ game. Hopefully, we can start seeing publishers start to expand their game line up with smaller and polished games at all kinds of price points.