2021-05-13 Insert Coin

When I was a kid, a candy bar cost 50¢. A can of soda, the same. I could get a Tootsie Roll for a penny. Because of the way the cash register at the Dime Store was set up for sales tax, 49 Tootsie Rolls was 49¢, but 50 was 51¢. The women who worked there were patient enough to let me count out 49 at a time and buy them that way so as to not lose precious Tootsie Rolls to tax. 50¢ for a candy bar and that was on the high side in 1985.

Today a candy bar is $1.25. That's a 250% increase in price for the same product. Probably a lot of things have increased in a similar manner in more than 30 years. I know when I started smoking cigarettes were $1.25 and had ballooned up to $7.00 when I quit several years ago. The prices on everything just keep going up.

Except on video games.

In 1985 an NES game ran about $50. What does a brand new console title run today? $60. That's not much of an increase, is it? But why? Why has the price for everything else in the world gone up, doubled or more, but video games remain the same all these years later? Are video games cheaper to produce now? Actually, no. AAA titles have budgets on par with a Hollywood movie and feature top talent, sometimes Hollywood actors. They have moving orchestral scores, original music from hot, new artists. They feature graphics so amazingly realistic in some cases that you can hardly tell the difference between what is a game and what is life. So how can they get away with not increasing the price in 35 years?

They can't.

People like to complain about microtransactions and the endless DLC, saying they didn't pay for a complete game, that they had to buy the rest of the content. "I already paid $60!" Or maybe $80 or $90 for the Super Deluxified Mega Version with the "exclusive" skins that will be available for anybody to purchase in a month. It's okay, though, you got all the content... except for when Season Pass 2 drops.

The simple truth is we didn't let them increase the price. The market will only bear what we allow and people were not willing to pay more for a video game. In spite of exponentially growing costs of production and marketing, video gamers absolutely refused to budge on that price point in three decades. Imagine demanding 1985 prices for a car, or a dishwasher, or a television. Every day is Black Friday! More realistically, every day would be a going out of business sale.

But we expect those game companies to make do, don't we? "How dare you nickel-and-dime me?! I paid good money for a complete game!"

The fact is, they can't do it any more. We have pushed them to the limit. No longer can a game simply be a game, it has to be a sales platform. Loot crates, purchasable cosmetics, DLC that maybe should have been included in the base game... The only way a game company can make money on their product is to dupe our lizard brains into forking over the rest of the cash we actually owe them.

That is to say video games should cost 250% more, but who would pay $150 for a video game, right?

So they have to trick you with incentives to spend a little more, here and there. Another feature, another costume, another loot crate. Get you to pay to win, to pay to play, to subscribe to their subscription-based MMORPG. Without these dirty tricks, game companies starve; developers starve. And then there are no more games.

Next time you bemoan a big, evil game company for their shoddy business practices and underhanded methodology and predatory schemes, keep in mind you are getting a product for a fraction of what you should be paying every single time you purchase a video game. The video game companies are only doing what they have to do to survive, and we forced them into it.