The Covert Rise of The £60 Video Game

Remember heading down to your local video game shop and picking up the latest, must-have game for 20 quid?

No real thought went into weighing up the transaction or the game’s worth, instead you were simply excited to get home and give it a spin for the first time.

Oh, how times have changed.

You need only glance at the fresh-on-the-shelf titles at video game retailers to see that prices have soared. Consoles, the most technologically advanced component of gaming, remain at a fairly reasonable price; as they always have.

The console’s games on the other hand, have shown far less restraint. For the past ten or so years, developers have slowly and subtly upped the costs of their latest releases. Fast forward to today and suddenly the cumulative effect means that a single game will set you back up to a whopping 55 or 60 pounds.

Now some of you may be thinking: ‘Video games have come a long way since they planted their roots. They cost more to develop, produce and advertise than they once did. So rightly they should cost more nowadays’.

And in some aspects you’d be correct. The average cost of producing a video game correlates to its retail price – and currently, to produce a successful AAA title, you’d be looking at spending anywhere between 25 to 250 million.

Take Grand Theft Auto for example. The first installment of the series, released for original consoles, cost under 10 million to put together, whereas GTA 5 (the most recent game in the series) cost close to $275 million – an astronomical escalation in production costs. However, where the first GTA grossed under 50 million net, GTA 5 is on course to become the first ever video game to generate over one billion in sales.

To make a great video game you typically have to be willing to spend an equally great amount of money. Though, some titles manage to slip through the net.

Take Undertale for example – the one-man production team consisting solely of Toby Fox was able to create a massively successful and critically acclaimed game on a shoestring budget.

Furthermore, featured within the game was Fox’s critical analysis of the current landscape of the gaming market in which he slammed modern games’ trend of guiding players through their levels or campaign, removing any aspect of challenge (otherwise known as hand-holding).

With a pixelated environment and characters to match, Undertale‘s creator was able to manufacture a truly beautiful and immersive world despite a lack of 1080p, 40k graphics.

In some ways, you could say that Fox broke the system. Players of the game began to question the necessity of increasingly ‘immersive’ factors in other titles; such as hyper-realistic audio or visuals. Instead, the story and moral of Undertale are what prevailed. Factors that many developers forget or fail to flesh out quite as much as their games’ aspect ratios and aesthetic glean.

Essentially, great graphics and such aren’t all that important. So, is this type of development just an excuse to hike up the cost of games for paying customers? Surely it’s on the agenda. At the very least, it compliments the inclusion of such features as microtransations and downloadable content (DLC) in the same types of games.

DLC is justifiable should the add-ons be developed once the game has finished. Some may argue that even this is a step too far. However, when games release varying versions with increasingly steep costs, it begs the question: why are we paying ‘full’ price?

The likes of FIFA and Call of Duty are quick to capitalise on both their success and younger fanbases by implementing a somewhat obscure ‘pay-to-win’ system in their games. Where phone apps such as Final Fantasy: Frontier or even Candy Crush are more direct in their microtransactions and their functions, FIFA and CoD offer ‘perks’ that indirectly aid their paying players.

EA Sports, Activision and Infinity Ward all generate much of their profit from the online, competitive sectors of their respective games. In these environments, players are constantly seeking to one-up one-another. But with the best equipment or players at their disposal, even the worst of gamers can do better than they might have otherwise.

This vicious circle keeps both the good and bad players coming back to microtransactions with the hope of improving upon their loadouts and resultant luck. All of this meaning more money in the pockets of the game’s creators.

On top of the already heavily inflated prices of games, we are sometimes expected to pay additional sums in order to access the full and unrestricted product. In other circumstances, we feel we must pay up so as to prevent ourselves from being left behind; by those more willing to inject further income directly into the veins of the developers.

None of this is right, and yet we seem have already accepted our fate. There is little that can be done about the steady rise of video game costs, and soon a similar article will be published to this one but with the number changed from a ’60’ to a ’70’.

We can only hope that the renegades like Tony Fox continue to show just how simple and cost effective games can be.