There has been talk lately about how video games may actually be underpriced these days, as unbelievable as that may sound since AAA games are quite expensive already. However, pundits are making their cases as to why the video game industry is now at its current state of having microtransactions and other predatory forms of monetization being shoved down consumers’ throats, as well as horrible working conditions for the rank and file in the industry. I’m no insider, but I’d like to try making better sense of the whole video game price debacle.
As a gamer who mostly relies on Steam sales and sites like Humble Bundle, Indiegala, and Fanatical (formerly known as Bundle Stars) to get cheap games—not to mention has around 600 games in his Steam library—I don’t get AAA games when they come out. For instance, as of this writing, I wish to get Dragon Ball FighterZ, but it just came out and is still at full price (PhP 2,400). Unfortunately, I don’t have what some would call “fuck you money”.
The Case for Price Increase
What’s presented in that video is how there’s a case for increasing the base price for AAA games and what companies do to get more out of each purchase, not how you should be shamed for not spending more to support the industry. It seems like plenty of people out there like to misconstrue it as a call to loosen wallets instead of informing the public of why AAA publishers are doing what they’ve been doing.
It talks about the reasoning behind the $60 video game price tag, why it may no longer be enough, what AAA companies do to make up for the widening gap, and what it may mean to the market in the long term. What many got out of it is if there is a way for companies to keep costs down, they should so we don’t have to keep being bled dry.
This video shows how “keeping costs down” may be harder than you think. There’s so much that goes into the making of a AAA video game that there should be no wonder why $60 may not be enough for these companies. When big publishers say having sold a million copies of a AAA title, it may not be because they just want more money, but because they’re really stretching things thin.
On the other hand, I’m not a certified public accountant and I still would want my games to be cheaper anyway. Even if I do get a hold of their financial statements, I wouldn’t be able to put two and two together even if I had taken four units of accounting more than a decade ago. However, I’m just saying since there have been so much tomfoolery being pulled off by big companies with getting around the base video game price to make more money, I can’t believe it’s just as innocent as games costing too much to make.
Refuting the Call for Shelling Out More Money
I’ve talked about Jim Sterling and his weekly YouTube show The Jimquisition before.
Jim Sterling toots the same horn because it’s worth tooting over and over again. However, it can be said here that he sidesteps the issue a bit and hits the business malpractices as always. Comments are less directed towards what may be done inside the industry itself other than how executives should either stop being greedy assholes or take themselves out entirely on their own accord if they still have a shred of dignity in them, if they ever had any.
He does remind people that the real audience are shareholders who keep those companies afloat. It’s more about hitting quarterly goals instead of uplifting the medium and pushing the envelope. It’s understandable why they do it, but Jim harps on the malice behind the practices that dehumanizes those who hand over their cash for whatever is being offered.
This episode of The Jimquisition was put out before the second Extra Credits video on what goes into making video games. Perhaps he wasn’t just responding to the first Extra Credits video and is just talking more about the points put out by the Gamasutra article. Whatever the case may be, while the points put out here are valid, it doesn’t address the question of what can be done to make game development less expensive that much.
(I wrote this before the video below was put out.)
With this more recent episode of The Jimquisition, Jim Sterling explicitly states beforehand how he’s directly responding to Extra Credits’ videos. There’s a dialogue going on in video form between these two YouTube channels regarding this subject, and it’s good that Jim prefaced it by saying he’s directing his comments at the situation at large and not the Extra Credits crew.
This is one of the better episodes of The Jimquisition in recent memory as it hits its marks and then some. Jim isn’t attacking the games industry per se, but the corporate culture that is dominating it. This is more to do with how these AAA companies run their operations, and that then affects how their games are made.
You can also say that last point was quite the burn, calling on AAA games executives to put up or shut up. Satoru Iwata paved the way, and he’s now challenging the Wall Street-walking big shots of the games industry to do the same. People tend to cringe when they hear “austerity” these days, but perhaps that may be a good thing for the sake of not having to increase video game price.
Of course, this is still not without points of contention worth picking out. What Jim Sterling is saying here is you should be fine if the executives tighten their belts and make games that don’t need to have the latest and greatest in graphics fidelity, and he’s half right. He may be right with how it’s not simply the audience’s fault for expecting that from games as it’s the AAA companies that continue feed that need.
By just following the money instead of paving the way themselves since they’re the ones making the games, they simply create a problem for themselves that they must then patch on top with more questionable decision-making, just like how some companies tend to support their online multiplayer games. The discussion in r/Games on this video is a read worth getting into if you’re actually interested in this subject.
Something (Probably) Worse is Happening Now
If you can’t even buy the thing you need to play the games on, you know you’re in big trouble. Video game price may not be as big of a deal when compared to gaming hardware price.
The price of graphics cards are a major concern at the moment. Never mind the price of games if you can’t even afford the hardware they’re supposed to run on. This is mostly due to cryptocurrency mining, with the recent rise and even more recent fall of Bitcoin to blame for the attention.
Mind you, no one who wants to actually profit from mining would ever mine specifically Bitcoin with GPUs anymore. Bitcoin mining is done mostly with ASICs rigs these days—barebones rigs with specialized processing units designed specifically for jobs like mining Bitcoins.
GPU mining is now mostly for altcoins like Litecoin, Ethereum, Monero, and so on. As more mining is done on those cryptocurrencies, the difficulty goes up exponentially. That would then mean even more GPUs are needed to keep operations profitable.
I’ll talk more about this deeply worrying phenomenon in a separate blog post. In the meantime, all we can really do is cross our fingers and hope the situation on all fronts get better and prices finally go down. It’s not to say it can directly impact video game price, but you can never know in a fickle industry like this.
Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have on the comment section below.
Also published on Medium.