The Price is Wrong, Bob: Only a third of PC gamers pay full price

Shawn Knight

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In a nutshell: Are you the type that avoids pre-orders and day-one launches, and instead prefer to wait for a sale before adding a new game to your collection? If so, you're not alone. According to a recent survey from Atomik Research and Ultra, three-fourths of PC gamers believe AAA PC titles are too expensive.

What's more, only 36 percent of those surveyed said they acquire PC games at full price, meaning the remaining majority prefer to wait for discounts or bundles, or otherwise obtain games for free.

Game prices are a hot button issue for many, and likely will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Arguments for and against current pricing structures and marketing tactics are aplenty. The Internet hasn't helped – and really, it's only made things more complex with additional variables.

Before the Internet, the gaming market was pretty straightforward. Developers didn't ship a game until it was ready, DLC wasn't there to tempt devs to intentionally leave out content in hopes of an additional payday down the road, and games were sold as physical products that had resale value.

The pendulum has since swung in favor of game makers. Now, it's common for devs to launch games before they are ready for market because they know they can fix things later with patches. DLC squeezes even more money out of consumers for content that, at least in some cases, should have otherwise shipped as part of the main game. Physical sales are practically dead (or are a total joke). Further complicating matters is the rising MSRPs of new AAA games, but I digress.

Discovery is also apparently an issue for some. The survey revealed that 36 percent of respondents struggle to find new PC games. YouTube, word of mouth, and promotions were cited as leading avenues of discovery, with the survey noting that Steam is the most familiar PC game store followed by the Epic Games Store.

Ultra plans to release its complete PC Gamer Study in January 2024.

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Companies have taught millions of gamers that buying a game at launch is a big mistake.
Most often, day one buyers get a game with a ton of bugs, lacking features, less content, for a higher price.
If companies want gamers to pay full price, then they better start offering a quality product at launch.
 
The idea that entertainment content comes out at a higher price and gets less expensive over time was well established with books & movies long before the first video game.

But video games sure have innovated by making the premium-priced, day one experience so much worse than the later editions. To add to all the problems above, there's also almost always DRM at launch (sometimes removed or toned down later), and now there's sometimes exclusivity to an unpreferred store like Epic.
 
I never pre-order and I almost never buy anything in month one. AAA titles are the worst and the biggest reason I do this. They have all become paid betas, with glaring bugs and missing features, and I won't reward that. The majority of games purchases I make don't happen until there's significant discount available since for most of them, the number of hours of entertainment I get from them is much less. The only games I purchase when newer are multiplayer ones that my friends are playing, and even then I don't pay MSRP.
 
Most of the highest grossing games of all time are free to play with microtransactions. So the price there is $0? At this point games that are sold for a fixed MSRP are a subcategory of the larger gaming landscape.

I'm old fashioned in that I like paying for a game 1 time, and owning it forever. Having a complete experience from the beginning. But I don't think that business model is very profitable, and I'm surprised it's still going when most other entertainment products (music, movies) have gone to the subscription model.

I guess with music and TV series it's easy to release a new track or episode every week, but with games that sort of episodic delivery has not been successful.
 
I never buy a new release, usually only after the game is a year or more old ... unless Steam has a major sale, then I might change my mind. Considering the number of units sold, most game makers could sell at 1/2 price and still make a fortune. Just goes to show you how badly they rip people off.
 
I byy veggies in my shop on sale. Does it mean the price is wrong? No, 30 pct people buy games on release. So, the price is absolutely fine. Simply, for many people who aren't big fans of the genre buying on release have no sense, they are smart about money. I have a lot of games to finish and buying additional on release have little sense. I rather wait a couple of months to get all patches, some qol dlc, see more reeves to be sure I have a chance to enjoy the game. Last release titles I bought were tw Warhammer 3 and cities skylines and that only because I'm fan of those franchise and was happy to support them. For anything else, it's same as for veggies - I get them cheap if there is some chance I consumer them, and even if they end in trash im kinda fine with it.
And no. We can't expect games cost same as 10 years ago. Devs have to live as well.
 
"Before the Internet, the gaming market was pretty straightforward. Developers didn't ship a game until it was ready, DLC wasn't there to tempt devs to intentionally leave out content in hopes of an additional payday down the road, and games were sold as physical products that had resale value."

Missing the days when manuals and world maps (cloth ones too depending on game and edition) were a thing. Sigh
 
Here are the last games that I purchased at full, retail price on or near the original release date. List will go from most recent to oldest. It's a long list, so brew some coffee and be prepared to take notes!

  1. No Man's Sky (people can say what they want, but I enjoyed it for about 40-50 hours, got my money's worth out of it)
  2. STALKER: Call of Pripyat
  3. STALKER: Clear Sky
  4. STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl
  5. Crysis

Any other game I've purchased have always been after the price has dropped below original retail price. I used to frequent Best Buy and the local GameStop (I've got 5 or 6 within about a 15 mile radius of me, so hopping between the stores didn't take long) and I'd browse the PC games (until GameStop started opening the boxes and removing the discs to deter theft). I used to pick up easily 3-4 games a month by doing this for a couple of years and I even put Target into the rotation (found a few pretty good physical PC games on their discount shelves).

My rule of thumb has been, $20 or less. If a game I want hits $20 and I really want it, I'll pick it up. In the end, though, I've got so many games in my backlog that new stuff coming out hasn't really been interesting to me. Plus, the outrageous requirements to run some of these newer games needing you to run all the software gimmicks to get playable frame rates, that's a big turn off for me too.

Right now I'm just enjoying going back and playing older games I haven't even played yet or that I have played and really enjoyed. I recently got done playing through The Saboteur again and now I'm playing Call of Duty 2. These games may be 14+ years old, but they are so much better over a lot of the crap that's coming out or has recently released.
 
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If no games came out for the next 5 years that would be great. Would give me a chance to catch up on a grand total of about 20% of the backlog that I've built up. Maybe. If I'm lucky.

Except for a few niche titles that I absolutely love (like Microsoft Flight Simulator), I don't think I've bought a game at full price for over a decade.

So from a purely selfish point of view, the game companies can jack up the price to 100 bucks and I won't even notice for a decade or so.

Would not be good for the folks who have the amazing superpower that lets them avoid backlogs, though (or are early enough in their gaming life to not have one yet).
 
Shawn Knight said:
Before the Internet, the gaming market was pretty straightforward. Developers didn't ship a game until it was ready, DLC wasn't there to tempt devs to intentionally leave out content in hopes of an additional payday down the road, and games were sold as physical products that had resale value.

This. This one sentence summarized the hopeless state of current gaming scene. I couldn't have said it better. This is what I have been trying to say for a long time for the deplorable state of current gaming.

Gone are the good old days when boxed games are released when they are actually done.

Heck, now they even charge you the earth for the boxed (insert your edition)...

And partly no thanks to the zombies buying anything on Day 1, or even worse, pre-order! (Instead of asking for demos like those days when you can decide for yourself if the full game is worth your money or not.)

Those who still defend that they made a good purchase on Day 1 even though the games themselves are ...meh...are those who couldn't eat their words.
 
I will not buy a game that has less than 50% discount unless it is exceptionally good and is a very long game. I would not pay more than $20 for even the best game ever created if it took less than 10 hours to play. Since I have no interest in playing just released games and have a huge back log I usually end up getting AAA titles for 75% discounts and they have been patched so much they actually work pretty well. Also I don't need to worry about having a bleeding edge gpu to play my games.
 
Devs are asking full price for a beta test. No thanks. The only game's I've gotten over the past few years at full price are the new Resident Evil games and the Phantom Liberty expansion.
 
I bought few games at launch or even pre-ordered one of two, but even then I got them with some sales or coupons and never full price
 
"Before the Internet, the gaming market was pretty straightforward. Developers didn't ship a game until it was ready, DLC wasn't there to tempt devs to intentionally leave out content in hopes of an additional payday down the road, and games were sold as physical products that had resale value."

Missing the days when manuals and world maps (cloth ones too depending on game and edition) were a thing. Sigh
Except for Bethesda; they were selling broken games before it was cool; like Daggerfall.
 
Games should be cheaper, there's more of them, they are of lesser quality, companies still swim in cash, no developer will be hungry.

From what I've noticed actually more people are falling for the hype today than ever before. Perfect example: GTA VI. People are already losing their minds a year in advance and I bet they can't wait to preorder it as soon as it's availible.
 
I haven't bought a game at release in like a decade. They get added to the Steam wish list and I will wait for it to drop below $30. I am an adult and don't spend as much time on games as I used to and I can't justify spending the money. Lately, I have been replaying Pokemon Yellow. That says something about how newer games are not enticing enough for me to bother with them.
 
I bought Diablo 4 full price and really regret it now. I feel that most people wait for expensive AAA titles. I got all of AC Valhalla including all of the DLC for ~£34 during Epic's Black Friday sale. Complete edition is now £116.99. Who on earth would ever pay that much for a game!

I'm more than happy to buy some games at full price - but ones that are cheaper. E.g. I bought Ship Graveyard Simulator 2 at release, but is was like £16 and easy got over 40 hours out of that game so far.
I regularly buy DLC for American and European Truck Simulator as I play these a lot.



 
If it's on a Steam sale, I buy it. I'd even wait a year or so. That's what Wish Lists are for at Steam.

There is no (and never will be) a game worth rushing and buying on day 1.

As to pre-order?? I'd rather not say what I think of such people who do that.
 
What's the point of paying for a game that is free when anything you get is artificial...??? Games are meant to be fun, not meant to enrich your life, if you want to spend money on something, buy running shoes, find a few running buddies, make life good, spend money on investment into your future, games are nothing but a distraction of what you are supposed to be doing with your life... don't waste it, buy a burger for a homeless person
 
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