TimeShift Dev Says $60 Price Tag is Holding Games Back

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TimeShift Dev Says $60 Price Tag is Holding Games Back

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Saber Interactive's CEO has defended pre-owned game sales, saying current prices force consumers to get what value they can out of their entertainment.

In a piece he wrote for CVG, Matt Karch, CEO of Saber Interactive, wrote, "People in our industry are in a panic about used games, but honestly, can you blame people for playing a game and then trying to get some value back out of it? The only way for many gamers to currently play multiple AAA games is to shell out quite a bit of money and that definitely limits our consumer base."

This is due, he says, to high retail prices on games that aren't innovating. $60 is a good chunk of change to spend on a game, and most of the time only the hardcore gamers are willing to shell out that much dough on a single purchase. Developers who spend many millions of dollars on a game need to make back that money, and if the hardcore gamer is the only one in the market for their game, then they are going to stick with the tried and true staples of whatever genre they are working in. "This means that less risks are taken and games end up being much more "cookie cutter" and innovation is stifled," he wrote.

According to Karch, the answer is smaller, cheaper games that would pose less of a financial risk to developers if they fail, allowing for more experimentation and a lighter impact on the consumer's wallet. The lower price could also bring more people into gaming. "If you want to reach an audience that is not accustomed to spending or can't spend that kind of money," he said, "then you need to give them an alternative. Smaller, high quality digital downloads are a great way to do that."

But many gamers would disagree that shorter, cheaper games are the future. Saber Interactive's latest game, a movie tie-in for Battle L.A. has been heavily criticized for its extremely short campaign, with some people saying they finished the game in under an hour.

Responding to this, Karch wrote that the game, as a movie tie-in, was aimed at a far more casual audience than your usual hardcore FPS-player, but that that is exactly who ended up playing the game. What was intended to be a 2 to 3 hour life-or-death fight against alien invaders turned into a 45 minute jog across L.A. spitting lead at generic alien #552. That's short, even for a $10 arcade download.

Even with the mixed reviews, Karch believes that short and sweet is the way to go with future games: "It will be great to see games that people really haven't experienced before at all, and I think smaller priced titles where the upfront risk is smaller will allow for that."

Source: CVG

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While I somewhat agree, it is also somewhat gamers own fault as well. Constantly buying shovelware, or plain not good games, sends a message that we will buy shit, despite the price. If people only bought games for 60$ that they were POSITIVE they would like, it wouldn't be so bad.

That's what I do, and I can safely say I've never bought a game I didn't like, because I research it beforehand.

Dvd. $15 - 2 hours entertainment.
Game. $60 - 10 + hours entertainment.

What's the problem?

And if you worry that people don't want to shell out on something they may not like then make a DEMO!

While I agree, it's our own fault. They wouldn't charge so much if we didn't keep buying their products on opening day for up to twice the price of a regular game (depending on what "edition" you get).

Yes, it would be wise for games to become cheaper, shorter, and better designed.

But really, saying games should be higher-quality for less money is kind of silly. Or rather, it's useless to say it because it's obvious, but hard to do.

I mean, it's not like you can take a developer and say "Okay, we need you do make a game for X$. (three months later) Okay, it's a pretty good game, but can you make it... better"?

Quality is a fickle beast that is hard to catch.

Scott Bullock:

This is due, he says, to high retail prices on games that aren't innovating. $60 is a good chunk of change to spend on a game, and most of the time only the hardcore gamers are willing to shell out that much dough on a single purchase. Developers who spend many millions of dollars on a game need to make back that money, and if the hardcore gamer is the only one in the market for their game, then they are going to stick with the tried and true staples of whatever genre they are working in. "This means that less risks are taken and games end up being much more "cookie cutter" and innovation is stifled," he wrote.

I agree with him. It seems really weird that most of the schemes Publishers have concocted to shore up their revenue seems to depend on the gullibility of gamers to pay whatever is asked for something that's hardly worth half the price.

I think the reason Publishers complain about used games Now is because they aren't impulse buys anymore, they cost about the same as a new copy and that displaces consumers' disposable income that would go to new games.
Sure, $60 is a lot to pay for a new game but $57.99 is an absurd price to pay for a used game.

GonzoGamer:

Scott Bullock:

This is due, he says, to high retail prices on games that aren't innovating. $60 is a good chunk of change to spend on a game, and most of the time only the hardcore gamers are willing to shell out that much dough on a single purchase. Developers who spend many millions of dollars on a game need to make back that money, and if the hardcore gamer is the only one in the market for their game, then they are going to stick with the tried and true staples of whatever genre they are working in. "This means that less risks are taken and games end up being much more "cookie cutter" and innovation is stifled," he wrote.

I agree with him. It seems really weird that most of the schemes Publishers have concocted to shore up their revenue seems to depend on the gullibility of gamers to pay whatever is asked for something that's hardly worth half the price.

I think the reason Publishers complain about used games Now is because they aren't impulse buys anymore, they cost about the same as a new copy and that displaces consumers' disposable income that would go to new games.
Sure, $60 is a lot to pay for a new game but $57.99 is an absurd price to pay for a used game.

Plus, as Steam sales have proven time and time again, lower cost = lots of sales.

while I'm not one to pick on the underdogs but...

while what the devs are saying here aren't generally untrue or even bad ideas, in THEIR case it simply functions as a bad excuse I think

Yes, $60 is holding back gaming quite a bit, but I thought that was common knowledge. o.O

Wow. I was expecting a more "Activision" themed article where they were saying $60 was not enough.

Anyway the dude has a point. Most of the games I want on the 360 and PS3 are the neat little downloadable games. The big name, big price failures really hold no interest for me.
But why can we not get both? I mean take a look at the latest Lara Croft game. It was a quality game, nice length, decently priced and better than the last 5 Lara Croft games.

Add into it that we can not even return that $60 game if its shit or just so buggy that its unplayable and you have a whole bunch of people now unwilling to take a chance.

I will say it again, as I've said countless times before.

The fixed price situation needs to go.

What you do, is get certain extremely popular genres and jack up the price according to demand. So, say, Call of Duty or Halo will be 80-100 dollars because they generally have a nice inelastic demand (basically means idiots/casual gamers/sheep/not the person reading this comment will still buy them whatever the price, mostly due to the fact that these types of people only buy a few games a year and that price is a large part of their gaming income as opposed to most of us, where our demand is a ton more elastic because we buy a lot more games and anything spent on Call of Duty or Halo would be relatively small).

This encourages smaller devs to lower their prices to compete, since the more expensive games suck out money out of the market and they need to make their products attractive. So you get, maybe 30-45 for games from smaller developers and only medium-top tier developers compete with the 60 dollar game. New IPs will go for around 25-40, encouraging people to buy into the franchise or simply to buy a game they would otherwise not have bought.

Not only does this help all developers and balances out the market, it also helps fight against renting and piracy, taking up a bit of those markets previously thought uncounquerable.

Also, I'm pretty sure artificially keeping your price low if your demand allows you to go much higher is illegal.

That's a double-edged sword.

I'm sorry, but I won't shell out 10$ for an hour-long mediocre piece of gaming entertainment. It would have to be a quality and fulfilling product. But then again, publishers would see that trend, tell developers to spew more and more "small" titles thus getting to the same problem we have, PLUS, we would now pay 100$ for an equivalent 20-hour long gaming experience.

How was that supposed to help anyone again?

That trend was started by EA. Let's crucify EA instead and those other publishers following in their footsteps, not the game companies themselves.

Wait, wait, a competitive pricing market could help innovation? No way!

But yeah, most games aren't worth $60 new.

And please quit with the $ per hour of entertainment comparison. It might be a useful way to justify your expenses but it's not a valid pricing strategy for sellers. I mean look at a $20 DVD for 2 hours of fun. Then a $60 game with a 7 hour campaign. Then a $60 RPG with a 40 hour campaign. How do you justify both games being $60, if you're doing a $/hr comparison?

Items are sold based on cost to produce and estimated sales, with a profit margin thrown in. That's how basically all goods and services are sold (including consoles and PCs) and it makes the most sense. I don't see why games should be so different.

Problem is, yes, every game on the market is 50-60 bucks brand new. Yes. This includes big titles, shovelware, and little titles. Another problem: This was the same 10 years ago. I remember shelling out 60 bucks for a BRAND NEW Majora's Mask game. Correct me if I'm wrong, but inflation has changed things since 2000-2001. SO. Since video games are probably 8 bajillion times more expensive (hyperbole) than they were before, and developers are still selling the brand-new ones at 60 bucks a pop, I'm guessing they're losing money. They've also found ways around this buy releasing a halfway complete game (Dragon Age 2) and forcing buyers to pay extra money for DLC. All of which will finish the halfway complete game (Dragon Age 2) and cause individual gamers to end up paying around 100 to 120 bucks for the final product. (Dragon Age 2) So... What do we do? Gamers won't pay 60 bucks for brand new games, but developers can't reduce prices because games are so expensive, and instead shove out a half-done game and make people pay for DLC.

...Life sucks?

duchaked:
while I'm not one to pick on the underdogs but...

while what the devs are saying here aren't generally untrue or even bad ideas, in THEIR case it simply functions as a bad excuse I think

I agree. Saber Interactive haven't had a good game since Metal Arms: Glitch in the System. Although, I do agree with this guy, completely.

Funny thing is, he developed Timeshift which sold for more than 60$ where I live.

Between Steam and Amazon I haven't payed full price for a game in years, people with access to these services or like ones need to shop around a bit instead of complaining about high prices.

Astalano:
I will say it again, as I've said countless times before.

The fixed price situation needs to go.

What you do, is get certain extremely popular genres and jack up the price according to demand. So, say, Call of Duty or Halo will be 80-100 dollars because they generally have a nice inelastic demand (basically means idiots will still buy them whatever the price, mostly due to the fact that these types of people only buy a few games a year and that price is a large part of their gaming income as opposed to most of us, where our demand is a ton more elastic because we buy a lot more games and anything spent on Call of Duty or Halo would be relatively small).

This encourages smaller devs to lower their prices to compete, since the more expensive games suck out money out of the market and they need to make their products attractive. So you get, maybe 30-45 for games from smaller developers and only medium-top tier developers compete with the 60 dollar game. New IPs will go for around 25-40, encouraging people to buy into the franchise or simply to buy a game they would otherwise not have bought.

Not only does this help all developers and balances out the market, it also helps fight against renting and piracy, taking up a bit of those markets previously thought uncounquerable.

Also, I'm pretty sure artificially keeping your price low if your demand allows you to go much higher is illegal.

And what about the non-idiots you enjoy both Call of Duty and Halo? Gross generalisation for the win, no? And what counts as a medium-tier Dev. Any Dev who doesn't producing a FPS that sells tens of millions of copies? That, is even more flawed and it would probably drive at least some of the "idiot market", as you say away from the games and since they're part of that "idiot" sub-group they won't be interested in the middle or lower-tier developers.

Anyone thats in college and has a part time job knows how hard it is to have your cake, and game with it too. If I can buy used, I will buy used. Simple as that.

As for the arguement that videogames HAVE to be expensive, hogwash.

Most games have a smaller budget than Hollywood movies, which are to make massive profits off of 8 and 15 dollar incriments. You show me a game that has the budget that Avatar had, and WASNT World of Warcraft, and Ill eat my own ass.

The gaming industry is NOT hurting, by any means of the imagination. Their profit margins are extremely high, despite the "woe is me" reporting they put out because their profits arent as godly as they wished them to be.

Games could EASILY sell for $40 a pop and STILL make money. Problem is most of them dont want to. They can sell you a game that took relatively fast to make, make you pay full price, and have it be generic. The problem is, games have very little scale in pricing. Most games are $60 for a few years, than drop down to $20 when the sequel comes out.

Greed. Which is why I applaud GameStop. Their greedy too, but atleast I can get cheaper games from them.

i would love it if games cost 60$ in Australia but they cost 100$ here

I started borrowing games and renting ever since the price tag started to rise. With every other form of media being MUCH cheaper this is the obvious outcome.

It is also a huge shame that the industry is quickly eliminating used games instead of trying something innovative or not crooked.

AnAngryMoose:

And what about the non-idiots you enjoy both Call of Duty and Halo?

They'll still buy CoD and Halo I suppose, but not as much as the casual gamer who only buys a few games a year.

And what counts as a medium-tier Dev. Any Dev who doesn't producing a FPS that sells tens of millions of copies?

Top tier dev would be Bungie, Blizzard, Valve, Rockstar, Infinity Ward, Treyarch.

Medium-Top tier dev would be Crytek, Bioware, Irrational Games, some of Ubisoft's games, Bethesda, etc.

Medium tier dev would be the guys who made Just Cause, some of Ubisoft's games, Gearbox, Obsidian, etc.

Low-Medium tier dev would be guys like Raven Software, who made Singularity, etc.

Low tier dev would be all the guys making small games who aren't indie.

Indie tier is really cheap ($15 games or less) games.

That, is even more flawed and it would probably drive at least some of the "idiot market", as you say away from the games and since they're part of that "idiot" sub-group they won't be interested in the middle or lower-tier developers.

It's also an imperfect system, but a much better one that the one we have now.

He definitely has a point, but you have to consider that it's also all about the optics of the situation. Generally the opinion of the public is that money = quality. That $10 bottle of shampoo has to somehow be better than the $6 bottle even if they have the same ingredients, right?

While the lower price on bargain bin titles has an appeal of it's own (hey, if it sucks it only cost me $10!), this is still valid consideration if you're looking at the standard game store shelf. Let's say you see two RPGs on the self next to each other and don't really know much about either of them except that they've both just been released. One costs $60 while the other costs $40. Despite what we all know about the quality of the experience in a game not being tied to the price, would you honestly not wonder to yourself why the one game is released for a lower price? Would you honestly not think that the $60 game must somehow be a better, or at least more polished, experience?

I would gladly pay 60 bucks for about a 12-15 hours worth of content then 30 bucks for a game that lasts about an afternoon.

Eri:
While I somewhat agree, it is also somewhat gamers own fault as well. Constantly buying shovelware, or plain not good games, sends a message that we will buy shit, despite the price. If people only bought games for 60$ that they were POSITIVE they would like, it wouldn't be so bad.

That's what I do, and I can safely say I've never bought a game I didn't like, because I research it beforehand.

Well you haveto know the full spectrum of people who now buy games, it has become a big casual industry and I'd say about 70% of consumers will simply buy a game because it's new and pretty, throw some 3D on top and they will eat it up anything they get.
This sadly does shoot quality games right in the foot, if developers get 60$ for a bad game why would they bother making a good one...

I think the solution is in developers with some common decency, make one casual game that sells like hot-cakes, then use that money to develop something you really wanted, something new, polished, awesome.

Why is gaming not able to support both?

Have the high priced franchised game and also have the lower priced experimental type game.

If they do well have the sequel become elevated to the higher priced bigger budget franchise type.

Portal was short. It still had enough content to be worth the cheap price.

Battle LA only has 3 weapons and 1/2 enemies so yeah, its 1/2 hours of mediocrity.

maddawg IAJI:
I would gladly pay 60 bucks for about a 12-15 hours worth of content then 30 bucks for a game that lasts about an afternoon.

But what is truly happening is 60 bucks for 6-7 hours and 15 bucks for 2-4 hours

He makes a good point... Now if only they did games that didn't suck I might have some interest in their work.

forsinain42:
Dvd. $15 - 2 hours entertainment.
Game. $60 - 10 + hours entertainment.

What's the problem?

Book $10 - $20 - 5-10+ hours easily, depending on the book.

By that very logic, why are people buying anything else?

Then there's also the "all your eggs in one basket" issue. If you buy a DVD that you end up not enjoying as much as you predicted from the trailer, you lost 15 bucks. If the same happens with a game you lost 60. Same reason you don't go all in every single hand in poker.

Astalano:
I will say it again, as I've said countless times before.

The fixed price situation needs to go.

What you do, is get certain extremely popular genres and jack up the price according to demand. So, say, Call of Duty or Halo will be 80-100 dollars because they generally have a nice inelastic demand (basically means idiots/casual gamers/sheep/not the person reading this comment will still buy them whatever the price, mostly due to the fact that these types of people only buy a few games a year and that price is a large part of their gaming income as opposed to most of us, where our demand is a ton more elastic because we buy a lot more games and anything spent on Call of Duty or Halo would be relatively small).

This encourages smaller devs to lower their prices to compete, since the more expensive games suck out money out of the market and they need to make their products attractive. So you get, maybe 30-45 for games from smaller developers and only medium-top tier developers compete with the 60 dollar game. New IPs will go for around 25-40, encouraging people to buy into the franchise or simply to buy a game they would otherwise not have bought.

Not only does this help all developers and balances out the market, it also helps fight against renting and piracy, taking up a bit of those markets previously thought uncounquerable.

Also, I'm pretty sure artificially keeping your price low if your demand allows you to go much higher is illegal.

The hack publishers will jack up the price to make their crap product look more valuable.

josemlopes:

maddawg IAJI:
I would gladly pay 60 bucks for about a 12-15 hours worth of content then 30 bucks for a game that lasts about an afternoon.

But what is truly happening is 60 bucks for 6-7 hours and 15 bucks for 2-4 hours

For most FPS games and such, but those games make up for it with the use of Multiplayer. Most games that are planned to be released on a 15 dollar budget wouldn't be able to compete with that.

I don't wanna say Multiplayer is the deciding factor that turns the tides, but you probably wouldn't buy Halo or Call of Duty if you were after the single player experience, chances are, if you like to play solo games, you'd be buying a GTA game or a Bioware game and both those companies tend to produce games that last well into the week.

I'd buy more games if the entirety of the content wasn't fucking online multiplayer. Sure there are plenty of games that aren't multiplayer hard core, but face it, every other game is all about online play, and I hate people, so I'd rather spend money on something that's old and cheap that I can play by myself to the full extent of enjoyment, than sixty on something that requires other people and a twenty dollar a month shell out (internet) to fully enjoy.

All in all, the prices on games are pretty variable if you're not into instant gratification. Arkham Asylum was $7.50 during last week's Midweek Madness on Steam, for instance. Great game, and pretty new to boot. Sure, you don't get the whole pleasure of "keeping up with the Joneses" while you wait for prices to drop, but you heavily protect yourself from buyer's remorse.

I've bought $60 games that were worth every penny, and $5 games that were a total waste of cash. All of them had extremely variable amounts of content. Purchase price isn't necessarily tied to the length of a game: Torchlight was only $20 at it's most expensive, and other games like League Of Legends can provide countless play hours for free (though I did blow $30 on the Champion Pack, I've put in at least 500 hours on an essentially free game).

I'm currently in a position where I can barely afford to spend more than £10 on a game every month, assuming I can even scratch up that, so I've only been shopping pre-owned or on Amazon / Play browsing for bargains like new S.T.A.L.K.E.R campaigns for under £5. Luckily I've seen a lot of awesome PS3 games I've been looking for at CeX for £10 and under recently, so the next time I have disposable income it's going on Yakuza 3 or something equally innovative and awesome for a good sight less than the £40 release day titles.

If I can get a job while at university it might ease things a little, but I can't see it changing much, I still see £40 as a serious chunk of wallet weight. The game tends to have to be something that I'm going to play into the ground then through the New Zealand to justify it. Such a shame New Vegas was a glitchy hell.

forsinain42:
Dvd. $15 - 2 hours entertainment.
Game. $60 - 10 + hours entertainment.

What's the problem?

And if you worry that people don't want to shell out on something they may not like then make a DEMO!

The problem is, is that top tier games have similar development costs to movies, i.e. in the tens of millions of dollars range.

Granted, the movie experience is shorter, and most studios hope to recoup their costs in DVD sales, but theatre ticket sales, typically $10 - $15, can make studios huge profits even before teh DVD/Bluray release.

I think you'll be hard pressed to find anyone that believes, or the numbers to back it up, that the gaming industry is struggling with new games at the $60 price point. I'm willing to bet that producers/developers would have profits just as good if not better selling new releases at $40 or even $50 max, just due to the increased sales numbers they have.

At this point in time, publishers are pricing games out of a lot of their customer's reach, which is exactly why piracy remains and many people choose to purchase used games, myself included. Sure, I buy new for games I'm really excited about (like Skyrim. I'll be purchasing that day one) or when the price drops, but I'm not willing to risk $60 on a game that I might hate or might suck or be full of bugs (F:NV, I'm looking at you), nor can I really afford to spend $60 or more every month for one new game just to feed my gaming addiction, when I can easily spend $60 and probably get 2 or even 3 used PS3 games. Or buy a half dozen games on teh PSN.

The game publishers really haven't given me a reason to want to give them sixty bucks a pop.

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