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["Stop It" is a weekly feature which serves as a forum for me to express my opinions on things in the video game industry or community that need to stop. Despite the fact these things may never stop, this will, at the least, fuel discussion. Got something to say? Hit up the comments and keep the discussion alive. Got a lot to say? Register for a Gamer Limit blog and write a response.]

Let’s face it, there have been a handful of downloadable games for consoles each year where we raise our eyebrows at the price. Whether it is the fact that the game feels unfinished, is downright awful, or is far too short, there are a myriad of reasons why the current pricing structure of downloadable games on consoles just doesn’t work. In fact, there are plenty of recent releases that I can think of – and I’m sure you can as well.

Being upfront, I do consider myself to be a huge fan of Apple products. However, I am more than able to realize the problems with the App Store. What I can’t disagree with though is its pricing structure. More so than any other downloadable market out there, the games available on the App Store either seem just right or feel like a downright bargain. I rarely, if ever see that on XBL, PSN, and Wii marketplaces. Overpriced games are an abomination. Stop it!

To start things off I’m going to go straight to controversy: Limbo. Throughout every review you see the mention of short game length. While for some – certainly not me though – the experience was worth it. And while I can’t and won’t go into specifics behind game length versus value, the fact is, it exists. As unclear and undefined as it is, it exists. For some it doesn’t matter; for others, it does. Unfortunately, factors like this don’t seem to be considered when determining price.

The marketplace available on consoles has defined a pricing structure that leaves little to no room for interpretation as to what a game is priced. Downloadable games, more often than not, are five, ten, or fifteen dollars while downloadable content is five to ten dollars. Marketplaces like the App Store have a much more flexible pricing structure which leaves much more room to assist in determining what the value of the offering should be.

While I understand that the pricing is decided at a much lower level in the App Store than consoles, the fact is that Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have setup flawed marketplaces that leaves gamers with little flexibility – don’t even get me started on Microsoft points. Once the price of a game on one of these marketplaces is established, it will stay that way for months. Sales will come down the road but will usually be overshadowed or too late to spark interest. By that point, most gamers have given in to just another example of a “because we can” scenario.

Speaking of which, Microsoft recently announced that the Xbox Live subscription will be going up in price. We will now be paying $60 a year for a poorly structured marketplace, an online infrastructure that is becoming null and void by publishers forcing online codes down our throats, and demos riddled with little to no perspective behind what a game will truly offer. The future of digital distribution is turning into a scary thing.

Most recently we have seen Shank released on XBL and PSN. While a promising game, it is riddled with problems and is roughly 2.5 hours. This, offered at the same price as a game like Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light? Anyone else see what is wrong with this picture?

Games need to be truly evaluated for their actual value and not be forced into what Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo provide as options. Hey Microsoft, if we are paying $10 more a year for Xbox Live, how about reducing the cut you get from games being hosted on the marketplace and in turn open up the pricing structure a bit. As it stands now, it is safe to say that the problem doesn’t necessarily lie entirely in the corner of the publishers. A scary, scary thought indeed.

Provide more varied pricing options. Give more incentive to purchase a game – more frequent sales, free games for a day, etc. The App Store works so well because of how its pricing structure works. The impulse buying of console downloadable games just isn’t there, but it could be. Instead, we see games forced into being overpriced. And we still buy it. Why? Because we have no other option. Well, these options need to exist. Now!

The downloadable pricing structure of console games is broken. I’ve had enough of overpriced games. Stop it! Better yet, fix it!

  1. I will only say the system breakdown comes when as you say “Instead, we see games forced into being overpriced. And we still buy it.” As long as you still buy it the only logical conclusion is it must not have been overpriced.

    Personally, you won’t find limbo or shank in my game collection.

  2. avatar R.S. Hunter

    I wish there was a refund system somehow. I wouldn’t feel so bad about Shank if it had been cheaper. I’d be tempted to buy more downloadable games if they were priced more like iPhone or iPad apps/games. $2 for a short game would make me feel like I’m getting a great deal rather than being ripped off.

  3. I have the same beef with the physical medium’s pricing structure, but I think that there’s a good reason why games on consoles cost more than in an AppStore… it’s because of the submission process, how much is skimmed off the top by publishers/network, and the extra costs spent in testing/marketing/etc.

    Most app’s on phones/devices can be made, updated, and posted by a single dude/chick who just needs to wait on an approval from the company they submit it too, but on consoles there’s a cost that goes along with that, and the standards they demand for it to reach their actual storefront are much higher. The indie section of XBLA is an example of what happens when the typical pricing and reviewing structure is handed to individuals, and most of the stuff there is garbage compared to what you get in the actual Arcade section.

    It’s easy to say it needs to stop or be fixed, but I think without a solution in mind, we’d just end up with a clusterfuck of a marketplace where we have more garbage than goods and our money will be “wasted” just as often, but across multiple products.

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