Why 1990s SNES Games Were So Damn Expensive

It's easy to forget now, but back in the 1990s, many video games had the same price on the sticker they do today, which when you account for inflation reminds you that they were super expensive.

But just why did games cost so much? This infographic from a 1995 issue of British magazine Super Play breaks it down. For those outside the UK "VAT" is a consumer tax, but everything else is the video game business fighting over the spoils. Nintendo's cut is as obscene as the developer's royalty is disappointing.

Note that this division doesn't necessarily apply today; manufacturing costs are much lower, for example, as are retailer cuts. But for the mid-90s, they're obviously pretty spot-on!

EPISODE 58 [Retro 2011, via VGJunk]


    I still remember Street Fighter II costing $140, but that's O.K. because I also remember Neo-Geo carts costing $300.
    Kids have it lucky these days.

    But look at the quality most games gave. Hours of enjoyable gameplay. These days you get buggy rushed games that require hotfixes and expensive DLC and only a couple of hours of gameplay then you turf it and rage on kotaku.

      There were still buggy arse games but generally they werent game breaking.
      From memory, Doom had a bug where you couldnt get the the yellow key in one level, so you couldn't progress.
      But really, I dont see any difference in the quality of games from now and then, as I dont use my nostalgia glasses to give me a biased view.

      Games these days have a larger code base with more developers working on them. Bugs happen, which why higher quality QA is need.

        Time vs scope also comes into play with QA. QA can find a million bugs but if the publishers and devs dont want them fixed or dont care... then the bugs dont get fixed.

        I see a lot of people saying QA dropped the ball on this or that game... but really you cant blame a quality assurance team unless you've gone through the bug list.

    Oh wow, a link to my blog! Thanks!! :-)
    Go visit it, retro game lovers!

    Also remember that what a price was back then is probably equivalent to about double to 4 times as much now. People get it way too easy these days, and i despise anyone that complains about now days prices.

    It's disgusting how much larger the publisher/retailer cut is than the developers. I guess that's just capitalism for you: a system of middle men.

    I think in australia the disributors make the bigger cut, compared to the retailer anyway. I used to buy games in a few retail jobs over the years and a $99 game usually cost the business about $78 before gst.

    Now rebates and price protection (price drop reimbursement) helped abit, but compared to alot of other products that is low profit margin (we used to make more money on accessories) Old games usually ended up going out the door at a large loss, before they became outdated/unsellable. At least sony swapped old stock for new.

    Ha, I knew I recognized that image from the article list. Another excuse to pull out my Super PLAYs again :)

    wow 30% of the product was the retailers. considering we still have RRPs of $110 plus in some stores you'd imagine if anything the margin has increased.

      it i 25% now, providing the game is sold at full RRP. A $99.95 RRP title costs theretailer $75.

    4.6% to developers? Surely the biggest cut should go to the people who actually made the game. You would think.

    explain to me how with the publisher cut and the retailer cut why the PC game market place isnt booming ... developers can throw a game up on steam with a bit of marketing around it all they need to worry about is paying valve/gabe. ... am i wrong?

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