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Will video games cost $80? Why they should, and shouldn’t

black spider-man with money all around him

Gaming can be an expensive hobby and according to a major company’s CEO, it’s going to get more expensive with $80 games becoming the norm.

2024 may go down as one of the worst years in the history of the games industry. Major publishers canceled a long list of upcoming games while tens of thousands of developers got laid off due to budget cuts. Meanwhile, newly founded studios are finding it harder and harder to obtain capital.

Not helping matters are the rising costs of game development. While indie games can be as visually striking as A Plague Tale or as stylized as Witch and Lilies, expectations for AAA titles grow. So do the costs, which now enter into nine-figure territory too often.

A game like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 on the PS5 reportedly cost $300 million and future licensed Marvel games may not get cheaper. Some critics expressed shock at this, as one of the criticisms of Spider-Man 2 was that it didn’t feel that different from its more budget-friendly predecessor. With rising development costs comes the possibility of inflated prices for video games.

Will games cost $80 soon?

Analysts and executives are predicting that video games will start costing $80 at some point in the future, possibly soon.

One of the latest to speak on the matter is Embracer Group CEO Lars Wingefors. Embracer was one of the most-talked-about companies in gaming across 2023 and 2024 due to massive layoffs and multiple cancellations of projects from beloved IPs. He discussed the idea of raising the price of games, and the idea of a dynamic price tag.

“I’m not saying you can’t increase the price, but the reality is no one has tried it. If you create an enormous RPG, for example, with 100 or 150 hours of gameplay, very polished and a unique experience, would the consumer be willing to pay more? If they would, they would have more products potentially coming to market but no one tried it,” Wingefors said in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz.

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Accounting for inflation, games are cheaper than they were.

Gamers have bristled over price increases for video games in the past. In the 1980s, games for the Atari 2600 cost $30 to $50. Pricing in the 90s settled around $50 to $60 for the N64 and other consoles from that generation. Adjusted for inflation, the pre-2000s era is the most expensive in gaming history, owing to hardware costs. However, the $50 to $60 price tag remained steady throughout the 2000s and 2010s, which makes that era one of the “cheapest” ones in gaming’s history.

In July 2020, 2K Games became the first publisher to price a standard next-gen game at $70 with NBA 2K21. Although the PS4 and OG Xbox One titles cost $60, the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles increased the price to $70. In essence, gaming has returned to the price it’s historically always sat at. However, increasing to $80 in today’s global economy could be too steep, especially for those living in less-privileged countries.

The major trouble is that the cost of developing the games has risen astronomically.

Should video game prices be lower instead of higher?

Recent gaming success stories suggest lower prices may be worth considering rather than a uniform increase in video game prices.

Two of the biggest video game industry success stories of 2024 thus far are Palworld and Helldivers 2. While the standard price for a new game is $70, Palworld launched at $30 while Helldivers 2 started at $40. Palworld hit the second-highest player count in Steam history and its Xbox version also likely enjoyed a strong reception, despite patching issues. Helldivers 2 may go down as the most successful new multiplayer release of 2024.

There are explanations for their price points. Helldivers 2 expects players to purchase battle passes over time. A small team made Palworld with stock Unreal Engine assets. Regardless, both were likely helped by the lower cost of entry.

Grand Theft Auto 6 was developed with a massive team for years and probably should have a price tag that reflects this. The trouble is that if GTA6 has a higher price tag, every other game will likely follow suit.

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Written by Gab Hernandez

Gab Hernandez has a particular love for video games that give players control over the narrative direction, such as Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Disco Elysium. Gab spends just as much time playing games as they do gushing about them online to anyone who will listen. Their work has also been seen on TheGamer, Gfinity, and Wargamer, and you can follow them on Twitter / X at @HardlyWorkinGab.

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