Today, with the exception of the occasional very obviously crappy/old games, it's hard to find anything less than $40 for a console.
Define "old", though. Since console hardware (obviously) doesn't change within a generation, games from early in the generation can still be a very good value in comparison to those from later, while frequently reaching the $20 or less price point.
It just seemed to me that games used to fall in price much faster after release than they do today. This is the same for both computer and console games from what I've seen. Used to be, you could wait 6 months after the initial release was done, and pick up a title for about half the price as initial release. Today, there seem to be two pricing approaches: Anything that is physical media costs about as much 6 months later, or a year later as it did on day one, with downloadable content made available for relatively cheap (which can be smaller full games or extended content for games).
I'll freely admit that I'm not nearly as avid a video game player as I used to and my perception is based almost entirely on swinging through the game sections at Best Buy or Fries and noting that "holy cow, they're still asking $45 for that game that came out 1.5 years ago?" or trying to pick up Wii or DS games as gifts for my numerous nieces and nephews and noting pretty much the same trend.
It's just strange because this effect doesn't seem to be occurring with other media, like film. I can walk through the video section of those stores and easily find films released last fall that were going for $25-$30 are now $12-$15 in most cases (or less sometimes). Anything released a year or more ago is often in the sub-$10 range. So it's not about the media, it's about the market I guess.
I'm not really sure what cheaper memory has to do with it, since that would relate to the console's price and not the games.
Just covering all the bases. It does affect the cost for systems to do development on though. Those games aren't written on optical media. They're just copied to them for shipment to end customers. I was just commenting on the total cost of development.
But yes, programming tools are better and media is cheaper. Consider what else has changed, though. There's now sufficient room on media for a full-fledge soundtrack, which means hiring a music team. Similar for sound effects - you don't have to just reuse a few dozen anymore. Graphics have obviously scaled exponentially, not just in fidelity, but in how many there are. Things that used to be sprited or tiled are getting unique textures now, which takes more time from the graphics team. Higher polycounts necessitate more QA due to a greater opportunity for visual glitches. Ditto for the advancing lighting and shader techniques that come with using modern engines.
Yeah. Some of this I see, some of it, not so much. The music team stuff I get, but then that's part of what I was talking about with more "stuff" in a game that doesn't necessarily add to the actual gameplay at all. I'm more about the actual game, the mechanics, plot, controls, objectives, etc. While I appreciate good sound and some music, it's not the most important feature of a good game, and I think that some projects go a bit over the top with that.
Graphics and more basic sound effects and music falls into the "better tools" category. It's 100 times easier to program graphics, and edit/score music and sound than it was back then. As I'm sure you're well aware of, most games are developed using somewhat standard sets of graphics engine tools. Sure, they push the envelope a bit over time, but that's also spread out over a whole bunch of titles that use the same toolset and engine to create their graphics. The greatest amount of time isn't really spent actually programing the graphics themselves, but on the design of the things the graphics engine shows to the player in that game. And the tools they have for that today make it super ridiculously easy compared to just 10 years ago.
Most of all, though, consider the simple fact that video gaming is finally an industry of its own. With that comes all of the overhead of industries - high level managers who didn't exist in the small teams that worked previously, marketing departments, that sort of thing. Personally, I find the accessible cost of games today to be pretty amazing, and helped in no small part by the much greater volume of games being sold.
Yes and no. While maybe not so applicable to the mid to late 90s era that I was talking about, but game developers used to pretty exclusively work at just a handful of "big" game companies. That actually changed in the 90s as development costs came down enough that smaller outfits could design games and then market them (either through a larger company or directly). This is where companies like Blizzard and Bioware came from. Prior to that time period, it was basically Nintendo, or Sony, or Atari, or a handful of other related companies that did all the games.
What we may be seeing is these smaller studio style companies have now become bigger, with more management layers, attorneys, overhead, and whatnot, and that's having an effect on the efficiency of their own operations and the resulting costs to the consumers.
I completely agree with you about gameplay - the limited resources of earlier days stimulated some serious innovation. I think that's why we're seeing so much great work from indie studios these days. They don't have the budget to compete based on production values, so they innovate instead.
Yup. Which kinda echoes what I was just talking about. I think the guys who were the indie studios 10-15 years ago, are now the "big dogs" of today. So maybe the rule is that things don't really change that much? I guess it's also a timing thing for me. I remember the first console game bubble (and crash) in the late 70s through early 80s, but I was a kid then. And while we were all in awe at the idea of playing video games on our TVs, to be honest, most of the title were pretty darn horrible (and most of them designed mill-like by the big companies of the day). I also watched as console gaming (and computer gaming) emerged in the 90s. The massive increases in technology allowed for a rapid growth of the industries. The existing console folks latched on to that, but still weren't making much of interest. It was in the computer games that the small studio model emerged. And they were incredibly innovative and interesting. These same guys moved into the console arena and essentially forced the old school guys to innovate as well.
It just seems like today, while the production value has increased, it's rarer and rarer to see something really new and interesting come up. It's easier and cheaper to just take an existing title, write a new storyline, toss in some new characters, spruce up the graphics a bit, and sell it than it is to make something new. That's not to say there aren't some interesting titles out there, but most are still rehashes of the same basic concepts. I think the last game I saw that I thought was a really "new" idea was Portal. And it was pretty basic and simple. Didn't need super amazing music, or sound. It just needed a neat concept and to execute it well.
Playing yet another variation of the same RPG long ago bored the hell out of me. Simply changing the UI and story isn't really making a new game. I still find RTS games interesting, but honestly no one's really improved the genre since Warcraft2 came out ( they've just produced modified versions with different resources, things to build, and units to use). Maybe I'm just jaded, but I honestly think that the game industry could do better. And given that they so often *aren't* doing better, I do find the costs a bit higher than I think they should be.
It may also be that I do remember the 80s, when console game were milled out and I really do see a similar trend going on today. The graphics are better, but they're still doing the equivalent of releasing 12 versions of the same game and just changing the name, the levels, and the graphic appearance. And while I suppose the high polygon counts of today make it a bit easier to conceal that it's still just a stick figure with stuff on it compared to the old 8bit graphics, are they really doing anything different? Are game companies really that much more innovative today than the guys back then who actually marketed games by thinking "Ok. It is just another side view game, with a character that you jump or swing over obstacles like the 5 games we released last year, but this time you're playing Indiana Jones! And see, he's got kind of a hat, and a whip. If you squint really hard anyway."?
I do hope you're right and that some new blood will flow in and start producing games that actually innovate. There's presumably no end to interesting ideas that one could incorporate into a game. It just seems like not nearly as many have appeared in the last 10 years compared to the 10 years before that. Edited, Mar 16th 2012 6:11pm by gbaji