Consoles and video games.
With video games being more of an investment than ever, gamers are starting to demand fairer prices from video game publishers like Microsoft and Sony. (Illustration by Mack Niemietz, Southern New Hampshire University)

Why Are Video Games Getting so Expensive?

Prices continue to rise with the release of new consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. How high can they go until players are fed up?

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Consoles and video games.

Prices continue to rise with the release of new consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. How high can they go until players are fed up?

Remember when arcade games cost 25 cents to play?

We’ve come a long way from the arcade days. In the span of less than 50 years, prices for video game consoles and video games themselves have steadily increased. This understandably comes from the release of brand-new hardware and games that are of better quality. Even though, when adjusted for inflation, video games are actually cheaper than they’ve ever been, the new steep price of $70 a game still shocked the internet.

The most expensive game console in history is the Philips CDi — a console that I’ve never heard of … and I took a course on the history of video games. Adjusted for inflation, the console was worth around $1,200 at launch. Obviously, the console didn’t do very well, with no notable games and unremarkable hardware. Going through more well-known game consoles, the Atari 2600 was released at $771, the PlayStation 3 started at $717 (both prices adjusted for inflation) and the Xbox One with Kinect was $599. These all seem very high compared to what we have these days but when you factor in a few more details, the consoles and video games we see today are just as hard on your wallet.

The steep price of $70 for one game stems from a recent debate about minimum wage in America. A post on Reddit brought up the fact that the $7.25 an hour minimum wage in the U.S. has not changed since 2009 and — thinking in these terms — someone would have to work over 10 hours to make enough to buy one video game. In the post, Reddit user u/Ragnaroknight makes many solid points: “First off, while games were technically more expensive back in the day, most things were incredibly cheaper. The median home value in 1990 was only $79,000 in the U.S. or roughly $154,000 adjusted for inflation. Today the median home price is $320,000 … And if you use inflation minimum wage is actually slightly less than 1990. Minimum wage has literally not changed since 2009.”

Sony, who essentially established the industry price, has defended its position after an internet backlash, stating that its prices are justified. CEO Jim Ryan said, “If you measure the hours of entertainment provided by a video game … compared to any other form of entertainment, I think that’s a very straightforward comparison to draw.”

PlayStation announced that the $70-priced games would only include their bigger and more popular games, while less intense casual games would keep the previous price of $60, which seems to be true when comparing prices listed for both the Xbox Series X games and PlayStation 5 games. Both seem to keep with the previous video game cost of $60, while the $70 price tag is reserved for the special editions of games or more popular games like NBA 2K22 and Call of Duty Vanguard.

The launch of both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X were monumental, with both consoles selling out almost immediately in stores last year. In fact, people are still scrambling to find new consoles for the upcoming holiday season. For instance, a Walmart restock recently sold out online in about 40 minutes. Lots of customers in the long queue were not able to get through to buy the console due to technical difficulties after the website was bombarded with so many people. Both consoles are doing very well in sales, and both are currently beating the sales from their last console launches. The PlayStation 5 has sold over 11.2 million units, currently beating its PlayStation 4 launch numbers by around 800,000 units.

The Xbox Series X looks like it has been doing well, but there is a noticeable gap between the sales of the two. The Xbox Series X has sold 6.9 million consoles so far and is ahead of the sales of the Xbox One by 1.68 million units. Even though the PlayStation 5 has the lead in sales right now, the Xbox Series X is doing much better than the launch of the Xbox One, so both consoles are doing fine in their own ways. The CEO of Microsoft (Satya Nadella) has even boasted that the Xbox Series X has been their fastest-selling console to date. Likewise, Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki said that they are looking forward to the continuation of the PlayStation 5’s success and that the company hopes that the console can outsell the PlayStation 4’s second-year figure of 14.8 million units sold, which I think they will reach very quickly.

As exciting as new console releases are, the consoles that are created are never completely perfect. Both consoles have had a slew of problems that have made some consumers think twice about purchasing them, especially since both consoles’ retail price tag is $500 right now. Pictures online have shown smoke coming out of players’ Xbox Series X consoles and PlayStation users’ data transfers have been glitching and deleting saved data. Most of these problems will iron themselves out, but some players are already fed up. It’s important to remember that consoles always launch with problems, just like the infamous “Red Ring of Death” on the Xbox 360 that reportedly cost Microsoft $1 billion.

As this flurry of new video game consoles and video games comes out, it’s hard for companies to figure out what a reasonable price is for their hardware and software. But as a player, I agree with the rest of the internet in saying that $70 feels too much for a single video game. With the influx of downloadable content (or DLC) and microtransactions, video games have become way too expensive.

With video game prices these days, players can’t just walk into a GameStop, browse, and choose a new game to play that just looks fun. Whenever I think about buying video games nowadays, I have to extensively research them and make sure it’s really something I want to play since video games have become such an investment. I still haven’t bought a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X console and while I’m sure that I will eventually, I currently stand with the majority of gamers that really need to be persuaded into buying into this new generation of gaming.

Writer Profile

Peyton Conner

Indiana University
Interactive and Digital Media with a Specialization in Game Production

Peyton Conner is a student studying game production and graphic design at Indiana University. She hopes to take her passion for games worldwide and create positive change in the video game industry.

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