When Are Games Worth The $60 Price Point?

In our ever-evolving industry, we’ve seen the rise of a completely new market of games moving in alongside their blockbuster counterparts. They’re the digital downloads,  and of all games on all markets, they’re by far the most flexible in price. Often ranging from $5.00 to the now-standard $15.00, we see them fluctuate and often take large price cuts in frequent sales more often than those sold at retail.

In the retail sphere, things tend to stay pretty static; $60 for initial releases, with a possible drop a few months down the line once sales numbers begin to drop. Typically, retail games reach an all-time low of $19.99, which has become the lowest tier for hard copies.

But with the quality of downloadable games quickly reaching (and sometimes exceeding) that of retail games, when do we consider them worthy of the hefty $60 price point?

The first thought that comes to mind here is length. Are longer games more likely to reach the MSRP standard? Not necessarily, as the campaigns of many popular infantry shooters and some action games have campaigns as short as 4-6 hours long. This is contrasted by some downloadables that have reached upwards of15 hours. So then, is length of a game really an issue?

We can also question other things like art design, mechanics, work put in, studio reputation/notoriety…the list goes on and on, and arguments can branch from both sides.

One possible answer may be found in a game’s overall content. While the campaign for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 might only be several hours long, it has a vast array of multiplayer game modes that provide a seemingly endless amount of gameplay. Add to that a higher production quality due to a well-established studio with a much larger budget, and the game has more content and possibilities than a downloadable game could ever hope to contain.

But then, some games meander toward retail that might be better served in the downloadable sphere. Rayman Origins, for example, is a brilliant platformer from Ubisoft that became critically acclaimed upon its release. But compared to the massive retail games that surround it, it pales in comparison due to its sheer lack of additional content and beefed-up gameplay, making it easier to argue that perhaps the game would have been better served as a download-only 2D sidescrolling platformer on a service like XBLA or Steam.

Of course, this is all subjective and is placed in the hands of the developers and people who know the market and project where their game would fit best. But as we begin the slow process of gravitating toward an eventual all-digital sphere, it does leave one to question where we draw the line between games on the shelf and games in our download queue, and what criteria must be met for a title to qualify for either one.