The launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S provided companies with an opportunity to charge more for their console games and many jumped at the chance. With Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade and Forspoken, that new $70 price tag is making a controversial appearance on PC, a platform that’s traditionally seen at cheaper price points. Some people are worried it’s the beginning of an across-the-board price hike, even if it’s one that’s been long overdue.
PC players noticed the new pricetag on the Epic Games Store listing shortly after Square Enix announced the RPG port, a first in a competitive ecosystem known for steep discounts. The price, which includes post-release DLC, has since been hidden. The page now only says the game is “coming soon,” despite the fact that the game releases in just a few days on December 16. Upcoming action RPG Forspoken, meanwhile, still shows its $70 price on Steam, and its Discussion page is dominated by an over 300 comment thread arguing about it.
Last year, Activision, Take-Two, Sony and others revealed that the new-gen versions of their next-gen games would have a $10 mark-up over the generally standardized $60 video game price point. Some competitors let players upgrade their last-gen games for free, whereas anyone who wanted to play Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War or Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS5 would need to pay extra to enjoy them at a higher fidelity.
“We announced a $70 price point for NBA 2K21,” Take-Two publisher CEO Strauss Zelnick said earlier this year after the basketball game became the first to adopt the hike. “Our view was that we’re offering an array of extraordinary experiences, lots of replayability, and the last time there was a frontline price increase in the US was 2005, 2006, so we think consumers were ready for it.”
So far, these games have remained at $60 on PC, despite those versions being able to run as well as or in some cases even better than their new-gen console counterparts. PC players also don’t have to pay for monthly subscriptions to access their online modes.
Many gaming executives and designers have long argued that the current $60 price is unsustainable for blockbusters given the exponentially rising costs of big-budget development. At the same time, plenty of the best selling games every year aren’t made by armies of developers pushing graphics and computing to the max. And higher price tags are just as much an opportunity for companies to pad profit margins as pay the people actually making their games.
“There is no reason to assume good faith on behalf of companies who deserve none,” wrote Twitch streamer CaseyExplosion on Twitter over the weekend. “They’ll raise prices if people will pay, and keep all the rest of the slimy, predatory crap too. It’s not a case of either or, and we’re not in any kind of position to bargain with them over it.”
Call of Duty is an annual best seller and Activision Blizzard still routinely lays people off. Just last week, developers there began passing out union authorization cards after the recently announced layoffs for the QA team on Call of Duty: Warzone, the franchise’s incredibly popular and lucrative free-to-play game that generates millions in revenue every day from microtransactions alone. While it’s true that game development costs continue to balloon with every console generation, a price hike would realistically not make a meaningful difference in whether or not these poor conditions continue at the company.
Not everyone on PC is up in arms about the first new domino to fall. Some have pointed out on Steam Discussion pages and elsewhere that discounts are so prevalent anyway that most people can get away without ever paying full price if they’re willing to wait. As just one recent example, Guardians of the Galaxy, which released a couple months ago, is already down to $39 on Steam.
It goes to show how any blanket price ceiling, whether $60 or $70, is absurd and artificial to begin with. Plenty of games could stand to cost less, and do. Many could cost much, much more, and still be completely worth it.