The Increase In Game Price Has Left Me Skipping Games

April 29, 2021

For much of my gaming childhood and adolescence I bought games months after release. My family wasn’t exactly wealthy, so I became used to waiting for games to drop in price or I’d heavily consider how long a game was before buying. As I got a little older, I moved to importing games. Exorbitant prices in Australia combined with favourable exchange rates meant that importing from the USA and UK was the cheapest way to buy games. I became accustomed to buying more games earlier, finally getting to part of a game’s release zeitgeist. Now, as game prices have suddenly rocketed up in Australia, I find myself once again waiting months after release to buy games.

One of the big reasons I used to wait for a game to release was due to their initial high price tag. During the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation, it wasn’t uncommon for a game to retail at $109.95 AUD. For someone that had only recently started working part time, a single game could easily cost me the equivalent of two shifts worth of pay. So, I had to wait as long as possible to get the most bang for my buck. After the GFC hit, the Australian dollar basically reached parity with the US Dollar. This meant that those games I would have paid $109.95 for here was basically costing me $60 AUD plus shipping.

As you can imagine, I shifted almost all of my game purchases to imports, going so far as to buy a US 3DS at launch due to its region locking. While I regularly had to wait a week or two after launch for a game to arrive, it was still much sooner than the six-plus months I had waited before. I could join in on forum conversations about new games in a way I hadn’t been able to before and it was amazing.

Jump forward a decade and the price of games in Australia had actually decreased. The retail price for a game was now $99.95 and retailers frequently dropped prices to $69-$79 on launch day. I didn’t need to import anymore, as buying a game in Australia at launch was now the cheapest option. I picked up plenty of games early on now, knowing that between the price decreases, and my own increased income over the years, meant that a bust wasn’t the end of the world. I started taking more risks, picking up genres or game that looked interesting but that I’d previously skipped over because I wasn’t sure. My horizons were expanding.

Cut to today. My PlayStation 5 has been under-utilised, I’m desperately looking for a new exclusive to play on it and there’s one releasing this week. Returnal looks interesting. I’m not a massive fan of rogue likes, but the sci-fi themes looks right up my alley, and so maybe this could be the game to turn me on the genre. Then I see the price tag: $124.95 AUD or $97.44 USD including tax. Checking for cheaper prices online, the lowest price I can find is on Amazon at $106 AUD ($82 USD). Last generation, an equivalent game would have been $79 ($61 USD) at most.

Returnal key art

Suddenly, I’m not so sure on picking it up. Sure, I want a new game to play, but do I really want to spend over $100 on a game I’m probably 60/40 on? With the shift in game prices the conversation has moved from, “Hey, I’ll give this a shot,” to, “Do I really need to try this out right now?”. I imagine that there are many others out there that feel the same way.

What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? The increasing price of games simply means I’ll play less of them. I’ll buy fewer games and so fewer developers and publishers will end up with my money. In a time where publishers are reporting record profits, wage growth is decreasing and cost of living seems to be increasing, this all just feels like a massive cash grab. Sure, there are no doubt some smaller developers who could absolutely use the extra revenue as development costs increase, but the Activisions and Sonys of the world certainly don’t. Will my reticence to buy games shift their opinion and lead to prices decreasing again? Probably not. At the end of the day, the line has now been shifted and I’ll simply reach over in pursuit of a new game less often.