Recently, Ubisoft CEO Frédérick Duguet was asked during a company call if Ubisoft was planning to increase the price of their games in 2021, to which he responded by saying that Ubisoft was “undecided.”
This came during the call where Ubisoft announced that it saw its strongest quarterly earning in the company’s history. But Ubisoft isn’t alone in debating whether or not to increase the price of their games, with Take-Two and Sony CEOs both arguing in favor of a $70 price point.
Ubisoft, Take-Two, and Sony lead the charge for more expensive games
Gamers are not likely to be happy at the idea that they might have to fork over even more of their money to buy current generation games. The tail end of 2020 similarly saw the greatest increase in average revenue, as gaming was one of the only industries to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic. But this success doesn’t seem to have translated to goodwill from those responsible for running the business side of Ubisoft and other gaming companies.
This isn’t too unexpected as the AAA gaming market has been trying to find new ways to milk valuable revenue out of their customers for well over a decade by now. A decade ago, almost all AAA games seemed to release with microtransactions, day one DLC, content locked behind paywalls, and other strategies meant to convince customers to pay above the market price to have the totality of their games.
The arguments put forward by Take-Two are that modern games are significantly bigger than what they were ten years ago. Take-Two is the parent company behind Rockstar, 2K, and Ghost Story Games (Bioshock series). For context, the last GTA title released in 2013, the last major title by Rockstar released in 2018 (Red Dead Redemption 2), and the last Bioshock title released in 2013.
2K has been much more prolific, though it’s biggest releases are its annual sports series, often criticized for copying much of the same content from its previous titles, though it is also responsible for managing multiple other studios as well.
Sony’s CEO made a similar case, specifically saying:
“If you measure the hours of entertainment provided by a video game, such as Demon's Souls, compared to any other form of entertainment, I think that's a very straightforward comparison to draw.”
Demon’s Souls, of course, was originally released in 2009 for the PS3, but Sony still believes gamers should pay a premium price for a game built on the ideas from 11 years ago.
But what about the developers?
One thing that should be remembered throughout this is that regardless of what the CEOs of these companies say, the developers who actually build these games deserve fair compensation. Inevitably, someone will make the case that an increase in product prices will allow them to increase their developers’ pay.
But even this should be looked at with a healthy dose of skepticism. Game development as an industry is currently subject to some of the harshest and most manipulative practices of any tech industry. Programmers often get paid a fraction of what they could make in a more traditional field, are expected to work long hours, endure crunch times, occasionally illegally forego overtime, and have no guarantee that they won’t be let go as soon as a product launches.
These problems are not the result of too little money going around. These are the problems of poor management and companies that refuse to be content with any success short of the kind of generation defining achievements to the tune of billions.
Sony in particular has a history of launching a game to incredible critical success with millions of sales, only to announce that 3.4 million sales for Tomb Raider (2013) “failed to meet expectations.”
So perhaps what Sony, Ubisoft, and Take-Two should consider is figuring out how to better budget their games, treat their developers more fairly, and set reasonable goals before they start eagerly looking for more opportunities to hit their customers’ wallets.