AU Diary: The Magical Price Point

AU Diary: The Magical Price Point

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After playing an hour or so of Capcom’s new XBLA puzzler Flock, I got thinking about the psychology we bring to our digital purchases. Why do we baulk at paying $10 for a downloadable game yet we’ll happily fork out ten times that for a “proper” retail game?

Flock’s a bad example, I’ll admit. For a start, it’s 1200 Microsoft Points – or $19.20 of your real money points – which is higher than the norm for the service. It’s also a distinctly average game that I would find it hard to recommend no matter what it cost.

Browsing through the other 1200 Point titles, the only one I’d bite would be Braid. I want to play Castle Crashers or Banjo or Penny Arcade or R-Type, but 1200 Points seems too much. The weird thing is, I’m more likely to buy an 800 Point game I’m less interested in – such as Age of Booty or Galaga Legions – than a 1200 Point game I know I’d like.

It’s this same strange psychological barrier that finds me eager to grab Noby Noby Boy, but hesitate over the more expensive Echochrome, despite being well aware of which one I’ll spend more time with.

I get it looking through the Virtual Console range on the Wii as well. The NES games feel right at 500 Points, but 800 for a SNES game? I’ve bought Castlevania NES instead of Super Castlevania IV, even though I’m sure the latter would provide more enjoyment. What’s wrong with me?

It gets even worse when I compare these downloadable games to full retail releases. Twenty bucks for the hugely replayable Castle Crashers is, logically, a bargain when something like Wanted: Weapons Of Fate costs five times that. So why am I so reluctant?

Do you have this same psychological barrier when it comes to downloadable games pricing? What’s your sweet spot when it comes to XBLA or PSN games? And why do we treat downloadable games differently to boxed retail games when they’re very often just as good?


  • I use my internal “Gears of Waromiter” which I invented. If a DLC game gives me more than 6 hours of enjoyment (6 hours being the average time for a single play through the Gears 1 single player campaign) then its worth meager $10-$20 theyre charging.

    Titles like Castle Crashers and Braid are well worth the money.

  • for me, it often comes down to the fact, as an under 18 (16) ms points are a major hassle and normally either require ms point cards (exspensive hard to get) or a credit card (a hassle)
    soi the lack of “real” money makes it harder to buy things willy nilly.
    i think it is more a thing, people have physical money and have complete control, digital it’s all electronic so people have less control on the money

  • If its not in your hand, it just doesn’t feel as valuable. We’re also used to playing games on our browsers for free. Smaller non-retail games that are downloadable I think just strike in our brains as being short time-waste time games (that we’re used to playing free) and so we’re reluctant to pay larger amounts. It takes a lot of experience with DLC before you begin to realise that the asking price of a XBL game may be be worth exactly what they’re asking.

    The most expensive game I ever bought on XBL would probably be Lumines and its expansions. I justified it by saying that it was originally a retail game and therefore was going to be more expensive than other Live only games.
    Since then, I’ve become the proud owner of Castle Crashers… Now there’s a game that’ll teach you the excellence of non-retail games 😉

  • I think alot of it comes down to perceived value for money. When you buy a game in a store you get the game, a little booklet or two and the case, whereas online purchase nets you a game downloaded to the hard drive. Another idea here would be that it’s easier to return a store bought game, if you don’t like it, or don’t want to play I any more, to recoup a sliver of the cost of said game. Also it makes it easier to share with friends, giving them the game to play at their leisure. Personally I haven’t bought anything at the PSN Store yet. Not because I wouldn’t like things, but it’s hard for me to justify playing older/Indi games when I have the $100 games sitting in front of me. On that note, I lap up any downloadable content that is free, but am disinclined to play money for little game changes. While I can understand paying for DLC such as the nights of the nine for Oblivion, new items/mobs/places to see etc, but it doesn’t exactly seem worth it for say a new skin for the character, or a small cosmetic change.

  • It really comes down to the presentation and pre-release coverage of the game; for myself at least.

    I would have happily paid $30 – $40 for Braid, it was that good, and I think most people knew it was going to be, so parting with the cash wasn’t too hard.

    I think if you’re having second thoughts about paying $10 – $20 for a game, you really don’t want to play that game. Most of the time games that you’ve given 2 thoughts about, generally aren’t very good, or in some cases I’ve found I’ll know the game won’t give me much enjoyment in terms of longevity, so that turns me off almost any price.

    Echochrome as an example; wouldn’t get a cent out of me, but Fez on the other hand pretty much owns my wallet at this stage.

  • I apply the same rules to full priced games that I apply to downloadable games: I’ll get it if the price is right.

    For example I wouldn’t buy Resident Evil 5 at its current price of ~$99 around the place but if it game down to $70 I would pick it up even though I’m not entirely interested in it.

    Being someone that has bought multiple psn games (silent hill, SSHD, flower, eden, monsters, MK2, Pain, Wipeout HD, etc) I find that the sweet spot is under $10. I will hesitate for anything that is above the $10 mark unless I’m certain that the game will be value for money.

    Although, I’ve definitely been bitten a couple of times with the price point vs value (I’m looking at pain). I’m not sure if I made sense with above (at work and tired) I would definitely say the sweet spot for downloadable games is $10 or less and full price is $70-80. If a majority of the downloadable games were less than $10 I would have much much more.

    Another way to view downloadable and full price games is as eating out. If its as much as a cheap meal I’d buy it likewise if its worth the value of a 3 course meal, I’d buy it.

  • To be honest it comes down to perceieved value of the game or pack your purchasing. I know that developers spend hours on these DLC or DL games but some prices are not worth it.

    COD5 map pack 1 on PS3 PSN is $15.95. Now for that I could by a full PSN game. Same thing with the burnout DLC which is also very expensive.

    I mean fair enough the PSN games costing anywhere between $10-30 (not including stuff like the DL version of burnout and SOCOM). But the map packs and stuff at close to $15 each. Thats just a rip off.

    Personally I think that Map Packs shouldnt be more than $8 (which R2 map pack is). The only game that has got the price point about right is Resistance 2 (currently) in terms of DLC. The skins are about $2 which is a fair price point. Whereas Burnout Paradise cars, indidvually, can range from $4-$6 each. I mean come on if R2 can do a MAP PACK for $8 why do I need to pay $4 to 6 for a freaken car.

    I mean even some of the stuff in the HOME shops is expensive.

    I hate to say it but it looks like all the developers are taking the road of HIGH PRICE POINT and LOW SALES NUMBERS.

    Where as LOW PICE POINT and HIGH SALES NUMBERS could be MORE benefitical in the long run. Even though they would equal each other at first the LOW PRICE POINT would definitely increase SALES in the long run.

    If you live in Sydney, the Cross City tunnel is a price example of how you should have set a LOW PRICE POINT to get the people to use the tunnel and get them addicted and then slowly hike up the prices. But no they chose the HIGH PRICE POINT and LOW usage way. Hence why the company that actually use to control it is either in receivership or gone (cant remember :P).

    Downloadable games is not the issue in my opinion because they are full games and you can normally get a demo and decide. If the game is good then I will buy it no matter what the price. However DLC is a totally different issue where developers could potentially increase LIFETIME sales by selling it at a LOWER PRICE POINT.

    Maybe I am making no sense to you guys. To put it simply…. would u rather increase ur potential customer base or get have a small market base average price.

    I think that map packs (if they only have 2 maps) should be below $10.

  • Ebay is the best example of this stupidity.

    Recently I’ve been tryign to purchase a DSlite and a PS3 console on ebay. I thought I should be able to get one reasonably priced below the RRP of retail stores. I was so wrong.

    I constantly came up against other bidders on DSlites pushing the winning cost past $200. What the hell? Big W have DSlites advertised at $188 which other competitors can pricematch. There is no shortage that im currently aware of either O_O

    Seriously, If you want to throw your money at everything, go do it in a retail store. I go to ebay because I want it cheaper!

  • The reason why alot of people baulk at buying downloadable games (especially the expensive ones) is simply because it’s a download, not a physical copy. If they don’t like it they can’t get a refund, exchange or even sell it.

    I have no problems paying 8 to 12 dollars for a game on XBLA or PSN, but when it starts getting in the range of 16 to 24 dollars (as far as I know Flock is $23.95 on the PSN) I start thinking about whether it’s actually worth it.

    Finally, why would you pay to download a full game like burnout or Gran Turismo 5 Prologue off the PSN when you can buy the exact same game but a physical copy for exactly the same price. It’s downloadable which means there’s no manufacturing costs for the packaging so it should be cheaper, but it’s not. What’s the deal with that huh.

  • For one thing, the fact they use “MS Points” instead of money. I’m happy to slap down 10 bucks on an indie title on Steam because, well, it’s 10 bucks. But what the hell is 800 points? I have to get on the internet and go to the value calculator for that. If it’s DLC for a game I love then I’ll pay whatever the points are, but spending them on a game I might only play for 10 minutes, that’s not really something I want to do…

  • For me it’s a little bit different. XBLA games under $20 are impulse buys. I don’t research them in the slightest, and for the most part my first look at the game is through the xbox console. Generally I sit down and think, I want a new game. I browse XBLA and buy one regardless of the cost.

    When it comes to brick and mortar $80+ games, I have generally researched the game before purchasing. I have never walked into EB Games and bought a game I haven’t seen before. And generally, I’m heavily anticipating the games release to buy on day one.

  • A friend of mine taught me the greatest golden rule of gameing iv ever heard.

    If you spend more time playing the game then you did earning the money to buy it then its worth it.

    i tend to go with twice the time but still that means if u make $20 an hour u only need play castle crashers 2 hours to make it worth it and thus its only woth buying GH:WT in a box set with drums if you intend to spend at least 30 hours on the game to make it a worthy investment …not that hard to do.

    when you look at it like that u see just how good value games are even at the rediculous aussie pricing

  • @will

    Thats not the best rule of thumb to use… It’ll take me 3 hours to pay for full price retail game like say Fracture or Transformers.. but an hour into both games, I was wishing I was dead. I finished neither and traded them both in…

    Quick note in my defence of playing crap: I won both so I didn’t lose money on that garbage. But the point remains valid. Time spent playing a game doesn’t necessarily denote quality of the game.

  • @Will

    That’s the exact same rule I use (and also why I like buying TV series rather than movies).

    I bought High Velocity Bowling on PSN, played it for ~an hour and got bored. Although I didn’t play it that long it only cost $12 so I’m not too worried (I throw down $5-10 for lunch without thinking when I can just make a sandwhich – so why worry here).

    It all comes back to people perceived notion of value. People complain about new games costing $100, but you can spend well over 20 hours on a good game, so for $5/hr it’s good value.

  • When I look at a download game I understand it’s a quarter of the cost of disc-game, but to look at it I question if its development cost was 1/100th. So whilst it might offer me the same amount of gameplay time, I won’t value it as highly as something that’s more technically impressive.

    I also think that disc-games are as much about selling an experience as much as selling game-play–like watching a movie. Download games are clever but don’t offer that same experience.

  • I’m a sucker for the Steam weekend sales. Anything at or under $10 gets me every time.

    I even bought Lost Planet when it was reduced to $5.
    That said, the first time I drew the line was for Tomb Raider: Anniversary. I couldn’t bring myself to spend $5 on that.

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