Publishers have made plenty of noise already about the cost of developing for the PS5 and Xbox Series X. And in Australia it looks like everyone’s settling in at $100 for their next-gen AAA titles.
There’s been plenty of chatter already about whether next-gen titles are going to come with a small price bump to pay for the expected increase in development. 2K were first out of the gate, announcing that the next-gen versions of NBA 2K would ship for $US69.99 – which in publisher maths translates to $100 here.
And where the juggernaut of NBA 2K goes, many follow. Checking retailer pages this morning reveals that other publishers – particularly Ubisoft – are targeting the $100 price point for their AAA titles. Games not sold as big-budget experiences, like the re-release of Planet Coaster: Console Edition, are going for a more regular $79, while Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is priced at $59,
EB Games are known for their high RRPs, but The Gamesmen are following suit. The PS5 edition of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is going for a staggering $120, while the PS5 re-release of Overcooked is shipping for a sizeable $80.
Part of the reason for the price increase is historical stagnation in the cost of new video games. Yoshio Osaki, the CEO and president of IDG Consulting, said in July that the cost of producing a game for the next-generation had soared by 200 to 300 per cent, even though game prices remained unchanged since the Xbox 360 and PS3 days.
“While the cost of development and publishing have gone up, and pricing in other entertainment verticals has also gone up substantially, next-gen software pricing has not reflected these increases,” Osaki told Gamesindustry. “$US59.99 to $US69.99 does not even cover these other cost increases completely, but does move it more in the proper direction.”
Of course, none of this comes as any comfort to people who have found themselves without a job amidst the global recession. Even in Australia, where games are typically sold for $69 – and some titles, like Fallout 76, went for closer to $50 at launch – the prospect of having to pay another $10 or $20 isn’t ideal for anyone whose budget and savings have been heavily squeezed throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s especially the case when you consider some of the games, like NBA 2K, are charging a much higher premium without dialling back the egregious, casino-like microtransactions that come with it. And that’s with NBA 2K being even more expensive by default – the base edition is going for $109.95 locally, or $149.95 if you want the “Mamba Forever” Kobe Bryant cover, and all the various virtual currencies, virtual Gatorade boosts and skill boosts to basically blaze your way through the game’s singleplayer career.
Now, of course, these prices are all operating in a bit of a vacuum. For one, there isn’t a whole lot of other titles to drive competition amongst all of the publishers, so it’s easy to charge a higher premium. But will that still be the same case come November, when Ubisoft has to push Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla up against Cyberpunk 2077? If Cyberpunk absolutely slays out of the gate – which a cursory look at CD Projekt Red’s stock price or investor reports indicates it probably will – then $US79 or $100 might not be such a reasonable price.
Alternatively, Aussie retailers might just take things into their own hands and discount PS5 and Xbox Series X games aggressively. $68 or $69 has been the standard this year, but even games like Fallout 4 were discounted to $59 before launch, which is insane when talking about a game successful enough to ship 12 million copies in a single day.
Still, at least in the initial phases, get ready for everything related to the next-gen consoles to cost a ton. We already know manufacturing costs for the consoles have spiked. And with the coronavirus pandemic forcing delays and making development even more expensive than it was already going to be, publishers and developers are going to recoup that costs one way or another. Typically, that means higher prices, microtransactions and/or battle passes, but if we’re all being realistic, it’s probably all of them at once.