There is a simple fact we video game fans must accept; we have one of the cheapest hobbies out there. Since many of us start out in the hobby so young, the prices of games seem exorbitant. But as we grow and graduate into making our own money, the truth becomes apparent.
For over 15 years, the price of a new video game has been set at 60 US Dollars. Once every seven years we have to shell out 500 bucks for a new console; if we assume the average gamer buys 3 Triple-A games a year as well as the console, that averages out to 130 USD a year.
But for most consoles we buy, the mega corporation selling us our distractions lose money on the hardware. While this may seem counter-intuitive, they expect this lost revenue to be made up in software sales.
Since the launch of the seventh-generation of consoles, AKA the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, games have held their static price of 60 USD. And since then, the US economy has had two “once-in-a-lifetime” recessions, the minimum wage has increased by $2.10 an hour, and the cost of producing AAA games has skyrocketed.
As always, only one gaming company is brave enough to push the envelope of how much consumers should pay to buy into their glorified microtransaction-storefronts. 2K Sports, heroes of MTX and defenders of profit, have once more risen to beat back the hordes of unwashed gamers into submission. Those brave crusaders of capital gains announced in July that the Next-Gen version of their blockbuster game NBA 2k21 would release at $70.00.
While many find their blatant commodification of a dead man distasteful, with the premium edition of the game being called “MAMBA FOREVER” and featuring box art of Kobe Bryant, I for one applaud 2K for their brilliant marketing. Turning a tragic accident that cost the lives of nine people, including a 13 year old girl, into profit is no easy feat. And yet the heroic executives of 2K have proven themselves equal to the task.
Yet the leaders at all the other major game publishers have so far been reluctant to follow 2K’s lead. No other company has thus far announced a similar price hike – aside from Activision, which just announced it this week.
While I found myself reveling in the bacchanalia of moral bankruptcy along with 2K, even so my mind drifts to those poor wretches who will suffer. Those sinners condemned to damnation, who every year must atone for their transgressions. Their crime was to hope against hope that maybe this year 2K wouldn’t put slot machines in a basketball game. I am of course speaking of the hopeless romantics that are Sports Games Fans.
There is no other niche community in gaming who is simultaneously both so ignored and exploited as Sports Games Fans. Except for fans of The Sims; how many overpriced expansion packs can you make EA?!? This is what you are doing with your exclusive Star Wars license? A Sims expansion set in a galaxy far, far away? Make KOTOR 3 you fools!
Ahem, excuse my outburst.
Nevertheless, my point stands. 2K is targeting this price hike at a fanbase that has loyally bought the annual iterations of this franchise. A fanbase that has swallowed every MTX scheme thrown at them.
And just like a PTA Treasurer embezzling money; they are going to get away with it. Because those fans being targeted by this price hike have nowhere else to turn for their virtual basketball kick. 2K knows this, and they plan to exploit their consumers for every penny they can. And there is nothing we can really do about it.
Oh sure, 2k21 might undersell a little this year because of the price hike, but I have no doubt that it will turn a neat profit for the publishers. And that is without even considering how many whales they will be able to harpoon with their MTX systems.
This is a gamble for 2K, but not a considerably risky one. Worst case scenario, the game undersells and next year they bump the price down back to 60. But more than likely, NBA 2K games will continue to be $70 year after year.
What is yet to be seen, is will others follow if 2K’s gamble pays off. While the question for now must remain in the purview of soothsayers and fortune-tellers, there is a question we can try to answer. Should they increase the price?
To cut right to the chase, they probably should. From a pure business perspective, it makes sense to charge as much as you can for your product. With the Video Game industry being one of the few to flourish during “these uncertain times”, the message the executives got from quarantine was simple; People will pay a lot to be distracted from the world right now.
This will probably be the new status quo, and while it will cost us the consumers, there is one group this could help. We have ignored them for this entire article, but they are the most important people in this story.
The Games Industry is a passion industry, which means every single developer loves games and has a desire to make cool games for others to enjoy. This also means that because of that love, developers are often mistreated and exploited by their employers. They are underpaid, forced to work long overtime hours, and in some cases endure harassment from both coworkers and consumers. When they complain, they are simply shown the door, and promptly replaced by a fresh underpaid drone.
If this ten dollar increase means developers are paid fairly, that they won’t have to skip their kid’s birthday because they are understaffed and need to get a game ready for E3, I say bring it on. If this money is allocated to the people who work and suffer the most for these games, it is money well deserved.
But it won’t be passed onto the developers. This won’t magically solve Crunch or make sexual harassment disappear. The money will be pocketed, and the standards and pay will stay the same.
Because this ten-dollar increase is not about us the consumers, nor the developers who create these worlds. It is all about the potential profit. And profit doesn’t ever change anything except the paycheck of executives.