Why 70$ Next-gen games are bad for the industry (Opinion)
NBA 2K21 is everything next-gen shouldn’t be. I am deeply concerned about 2K Games and what they are trying to pull with next gen. For those unaware, 2K Games has announced that Next-Gen copies of NBA 2K21 will start at $69.99. As ridiculously arbitrary as a pointless unnecessary price hike is for a game that I guarantee you will be no different, (they have been literaly caught just copy and pasting year after year.) What’s worse is a complete lack of upgrade after purchase. They seriously expect players who buy it at launch for 60$, to then spend and additional 70$ if they decide they want a Next-Gen copy months later. Of course for those planning ahead, they can spend “only 100$” and get one bundle that includes both.
They want people to pay 30$ to “upgrade”! They want players to pay 30 more dollars for the same game they already have on Xbox One or PS4 for their new Series X or PS5! That drawfs even the most greedy 10$ upgrades from the last generation transition.
When most developers saw the business benefit of being consumer friendly and offering free upgrades, Microsoft even going so far as to build a system which developers can easily take advantage of to make it easy to offer the best version to players for free, we have 2K games going to the exact opposite. Developers like CDPR and Ubisoft have both spoken to supporting Xbox’s smart delivery despite having massive expensive games like Cyberpunk 2077 or Assassin’s creed Vahalla, that I could actually see costing more, even they support Smart Delivery. 2K21 on the other hand will be the exact same copy and paste game it has been for the past several years. If you were outraged that EA was “only” offering free upgrades within certain time windows, imagine having to pay 30$ for an upgrade.
I will admit something, I hate sports games. You can’t give them to me for free. It may because I don’t particularly care for real life sports. I don’t consider sports games to be “real games”. I mostly dislike them because of the monopolistic cesspool that is their genre of exclusivity deals and non competitive market that has lead to garbage over priced games repackaged year over year with a new label and cover. They take advantage of the fact that a large majority of their players don’t play other games and don’t know how much their being taken advantage of. I know so many people who only play the likes of 2K or Madden. Their limited experience makes them unaware of just how bad the genre is compared to others. In fact sports games are often a black mirror look at the ugly future of the AAA gaming industry. Often Sports games get the greedy manipulative monetization schemes that the greediest studios want so badly to sneak into other genres. EA learned this the hard way when they tried bringing awful sports game genre ultimate team level garbage into Star Wars Battlefront 2 and the industry rallied with a resounding NOPE. Sports games are already a cesspool of gambling casino mechincs and controversies like with their “E rating’s” under the corrupt ESRB not following their own rules on gambling in games. Now, Sports games will be setting a trend that not only should next-gen cost more (without EARNING it first), but also players should pay twice for the same game.
Look, whether or not you think that is shady or bad, or think its fine, there is something worse about this. While I think gamers having to buy the same game twice within months of purchase is insane, we’ve seen it before, and it’s pretty self explanatory why its anti-consumer and bad for business. I wont spend long on the ridiculous upgrade strategy they have. I want to focus on why 70$ is bad for the current gaming industry.
The gaming industry has a problem, one that seems to get worse each year, and it is one that if the rest of the industry adopts a 70$ price point for next gen, I am convinced is only going to get worse. The problem is the execution of the “traditional AAA 60$ model” is already mathematically in trouble. It is under attack by two things.
The Rise of Free to Play
For multiplayer, the rise of free to play has really risen in the post-fortnite era. Games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, recently with Valorant, and now the upcoming Ubisoft’s Hyper Scape, all show that the future of online multiplayer games is FREE. Even the allmighty Call of Duty this year bowed before the god of free to play. They rely on easy access, twitch views, “new and shiny”, and the social nature of cosmetics to get the game into as many player’s hands and wallets as possible. There’s a reason these games make BANK, and it’s because it is hard to compete with free. The ironic thing is free makes them money. I will be the first to admit I have spent more than AAA prices on these games thanks to skins and battle passes. Many huge publisher blamed losses on the rise of Fortnite specifically.
However, while the rise F2P is eating into the yearly revenue of AAA Studios, it obviously doesnt work on all genre’s. There is a second thing, something of greater risk to the AAA industry, something that makes the 70$ Next-Gen concept even more dangerous, and that my friends, is CHRISTMAS.
The Destructive Holiday Gold Rush
That’s right, Christmas. Christmas is awesome, but it is offers a huge greedy trap to major game studios. More specifically, it is the Holiday gaming shopping season. I have spoken on this subject before, and now is the time to address this flaw once again in the gaming industry. The Triple A industry relies on “launch” for their profits. Notable Exceptions exist of course like Witcher 3 or GTA V, but usually the time to make the most money is in the first weeks following launch. This is why many developers have review embargos. This is why they pay streamers to play the game ahead of or at launch. This is why pre-order bonuses, limited editions, collectors editions, steelbook launchday editions, all exist. One of the most touted stats of games now are things like “fastest selling”, recently with games like The Last of Us Part 2 making headlines for fastest selling PS4 exclusive. The gaming industry is like Hollywood that relies so heavily on the first few weeks. There are many reasons why launch week matters so much.
For one, even if your game is bad, getting it out to everyone as quickly as possible can protect your game from word of mouth. Good example includes Anthem which actually sold well despite being universally panned by critics and players.
What does this have to do with Christmas? Another reason it is important to sell fast is because games lose their value faster than a new car drove off a lot. I see this as the biggest threat to the gaming industry that could be made worse by 70$ becoming a new standard. This is just 10$ more reason to wait for inevitable discounts. Christmas, the holiday shopping season puts such greedy 🤑 dollar sign ridden faces on big publishers that that most go for it. Each year, more and more publishers shoot for Holiday release windows of their biggest games and it always ends up in a cluster of too many games. It is impossible to buy and play all the big titles that release in the months of September, October, and November. The past few years this has been a huge issue, and I predict this year is going to be a supercycle of holiday releases thanks to the combination of Covid related early year delays and the Holiday launch of new consoles.
You might be thinking, so what? Why does it matter that most big games launch during holiday? The problem is the resulting aftermath. Each year we see a saturated flooding of holiday game releases, all clustered into three months. What happens next is this over crowding can destroy franchises. To this day I blame Titanfall 2 (a master piece) failing because EA made the idiotic decision to launch it within weeks of Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty. The over crowded holiday window has a inevitable effect on game prices. The last two years I made a point to see how quickly some of the biggest AAA games got discounts. Fallout 76, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Anthem, Hitman 2, and yes, EVEN Call of Duty, are just a few of examples of AAA games thats recieved massive discounts WEEKS after release, much to the displeasure of early adopters.
You see the gaming industry has a problem. There is no buy protection. Please don’t get me wrong. I enjoy discounts just as much as you. But I also hate seeing a game I paid full price and haven’t even beaten yet already recieve a discount. The gaming industry desperately needs a 3 month guarantee on game prices. Right now, Publisher’s Holiday greed is actively teaching gamers to wait to buy new games (something that is devestating when used game sales are taken into account). Many gamers ask, why pay 60$ when they know it will be 40$ very soon.
If 70 becomes the new norm, it will only further exasperate the problem. Why pay 70-100$ for a game when in two months, two weeks, it could be way less? I personally found was finding Hitman 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and three years worth of Call of Duty for 50% within three weeks of the game’s release. The Shadow of the Tomb Raider was especially in hot water as gamers were angry that it was discounted so soon after release, especially those (me) that bought the special edition.
We have an industry that likes to release games unfinished and unpolished with a promise to “fix them later” while at the same time making no promise to protect your purchase price for any period of time after launch. Anthem, while can’t be blamed on Christmas, had a 50% discount within a month of launch, and considering how bad the game was, EA actively punished early adopters like myself. The worse offense I ever saw was Black Desert on Xbox having “standard edition” preorders for 30$, but I kid you not a never before announced 10$ “base version” at launch. To this day I don’t know how they got away with offering the game 20$ cheaper at launch when people we locked into more expensive preorders. They actively punished people for preordering the game.
Until the gaming industry enacts a “price guarantee” promising not to discount a game until at least three months after, gamers will continue to feel cheated and punished for buying at launch. They are being taught that if they wait for not very long, they could recieve a heavily discounted, (and possibly better version) of a game. 70$ will make the inevitable $50, $30, and $20 versions all the more tempting to wait for hurting the over all sales of these games. Not only will more gamers wait and spend less, but they may buy used.
If you still don’t believe me, NBA 2K21 wants 100$ from you. NBA 2K20 is currently free on Playstation Plus. If you don't believe me on the "2020 Holiday Super Cycle" 2020 has only had a handful of major AAA games so far. Doom Eternal and Final Fantasy 7 (under 20 hours), Resident Evil 3 (under 6 hours), and Animal Crossing, and now The Last of Us 2. Compare this time and wallet investment to the end of 2020; where we will see multiple massive 50-100 hour games: Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Cyberpunk 2077, Ghost of Tsushima, Watchdogs Legion. Plus, other hotly anticipated titles, Avengers, Madden 21, TWO new Star Wars games, Godfall, Spider-man MM, Halo Infinite, Outriders, and many more all competing for attention. Major new multiplayer experiences are incoming such as Ubisoft's Hyperscape, and lest we forget, a new Call of Duty. - All of these and more in the span of 3 months, when gamers are already going to want to spend that Holiday money on a new console. If 70$ takes off and the Holiday strategy / lack of buyer protection remains, something is going to snap in the industry.