The $60 retail game model is broken

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5th Cell, the guys behind the ambitious and frankly fantastic Scribblenauts, believe that the games industry is broken.  With boxed retail prices of games hitting $60 a pop, only a handful of games have a chance of making a profit.

That needs to change.

Speaking to GameInformer, 5th Cell boss Jeremiah Slaczka claimed that "The $60 boxed game is a broken model.” Continuing, he said "It was always broken, it’s just more broken now because games cost so much to develop, produce and market.”

"Before the model was tolerable, because the cost was reasonable enough to allow mediocre selling games to make money. Now it’s just insane. If you aren’t going to be a mega hit at $60, you might as well give up before you even try, because it’s tens of millions down the hole."

He cited THQ’s middling FPS Homefront as an example. When compared to Call of Duty, it’s just not good enough to warrant a full retail price.

"Homefront was an okay FPS – not great, not terrible, just okay. But as a consumer, why would I want to play an okay FPS when I can play a bunch of great FPS titles for the same price? While over 13 million people bought Black Ops last year in the US alone, smashing records, less than just one million people bought Homefront in the US. The consumer voted with their wallet, right?"

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He believes that a change of tactic might’ve helped the game fare better.

"What if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console? What if Homefront was only $30 dollars upfront for the single player and if you liked it you could buy the multiplayer for an additional $30?," he suggested. "All of the sudden it’s not a binary purchase option anymore."

"That doesn’t mean all games have to go this route," he added. "There’s still room for the AAA only, but a lot of titles should try a different method. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone involved."

We’ve spoken about a tiered pricing structure in games before – and it’s something I’d really like to see implemented. I’m certainly more willing to plop down money for a good – but possibly not great – game when it’s significantly cheaper than the AAA blockbuster sitting next to it.

Last Updated: November 28, 2011

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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