The big picture: Gamers can expect a price hike for next-gen console titles as research firm IDG reports that more publishers are exploring the idea owing to development costs increasing two to threefolds over the past several years, with the $60 baseline for AAA games remaining pretty much unaltered. There are reasonable arguments to be made from both sides of the fence, but if the plan goes ahead, it'll be a tough pill to swallow for gamers who already have to keep up with existing industry practices of releasing multiple editions of the same game, microtransactions, pay to win scenarios, and loot boxes.
Microsoft and Sony are yet to reveal the prices of their upcoming consoles, but they're widely (and understandably) expected to be more expensive than their current-gen models. Now it seems the software side of things could also see a bump in costs, ultimately raising the price of admission to next-gen console gaming even further.
AAA titles have remained steady at $60 for quite some time now, that is if you don't count nickel and diming consumers through microtransactions, loot boxes, cosmetic upgrades, and 'deluxe' or 'ultimate' editions that are guaranteed to have more features ticked under their column than the 'standard' version. There's also the odd 'Collector's Edition' that can cost several hundreds of dollars, but remains somewhat of a rarity and is usually pursued by wealthy hobbyists.
Video games, however, have also gotten way more complex and ambitious too, with delays now a usual occurrence for highly-anticipated titles on which devs have crunched and toiled for months, or sometimes, years. Combine this with the increasing costs of research, tech, marketing, and post-release support, and it's a bit surprising that the baseline $60 price tag for the modern AAA title has stuck around for so long.
Former Sony Chairman, Shawn Layden, recently commented on this 'unsustainable' production model and now it looks like publishers, who share the same sentiment, are considering raising prices for their next-gen console games.
Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, game research firm IDG noted that development costs for next-gen titles have risen by 200% to 300%, which could lead to a $10 price hike over current-gen titles. IDG President and CEO, Yoshio Osaki, explained that game pricing had remained flat since 2005 when it jumped from $49.99 to $59.99 during the PS3/Xbox360 era, while TV and movie costs rose significantly during this time.
"Even with the increase to $69.99 for next-gen, that price increase from 2005 to 2020 next-gen is only up 17%, far lower than the other comparisons," he said, adding that although a $10 bump for next-gen software won't cover the cost increases completely, it does "move it more in the proper direction."
We recently saw the first signs of this (soon to be common) trend with 2K Games' NBA 2K21, whose standard edition of the game on next-gen consoles will cost $70. "IDG works with all major game publishers, and our channel checks indicate that other publishers are also exploring moving their next-gen pricing up on certain franchises," said Osaki, observing that while not every next-gen game should launch at the new price point, "flagship AAAs such as NBA 2K merit this pricing more than others."
It remains to be seen how this bump in costs will affect gaming subscriptions down the line. Services like Xbox Game Pass, PS Now, Uplay+, and EA/Origin Access might also revise their fees once more expensive $70 titles begin populating their libraries.
There's also Microsoft's Smart Delivery, which is a boon for players looking to get a free game upgrade to next-gen systems, but even that could lose its appeal down the road as publishers and console gamers increasingly invest their time and money exclusively on the PS5/XBSX.