How to Ease Rising XBLA Game Prices

How to Ease Rising XBLA Game Prices

Have you noticed that prices for games in the Xbox Live Marketplace have been making a bit of a climb lately? In similar news, you may have also noticed some of life’s other small details, like “water is wet” and “the sun rises in the morning.”

In other words, it’s a little difficult to disregard the recent rise in Marketplace content, because it’s hard not to notice when a cheap alternative to gaming becomes less cheap. At the 2011 Develop conference, Xbox Live Arcade spokesperson Chris Charla admitted to GamesIndustry.biz that downloading games in Microsoft’s digital marketplace costs more coin than it did a couple of years ago.

“If you look at Live Arcade, and do the math, and look at the publicly available sales numbers, you can see that average prices on XBLA have crept up over the last few years, which has been an interesting trend because on some app markets there’s been a race to zero as fast as possible,” Charla said.

“We’ve seen a little bit of the opposite happening. I don’t really know where prices are going to go – ultimately, that’s set by the market – but it has been really gratifying to see that people are willing to pay a premium price for digital content.”

But Charla stresses that we’re not paying something for nothing. Though XBLA games demand more Microsoft Points than they used to, the general quality of the market’s fare has gone up, Charla says.

“Sometimes, when [developers] talk about Live Arcade they’re like, ‘We want to do a boxed quality game on Live Arcade’, and I’m like, ‘What does that mean?’ I can point at a bunch of 38 and 42 and 56 metacritic scoring boxed games, so it actually kind of pisses me off. I think the games that we’re shipping – a Limbo or a Castle Crashers – are as good as anything on the market.”

Microsoft’s marketplace is the premiere go-to spot as far as digital downloads for consoles are concerned. The Xbox took alternative distribution methods and online gaming seriously while Nintendo and Sony dallied, so XBLA’s continued success is pretty much assured. Rising download prices won’t knock XLBA off-kilter–but if Microsoft doesn’t make any effort to counter the creep, it could lose some of its customer base to Steam, OnLive, and other alternative markets.

The rising cost of digital downloads is inevitable. True, iOS games are typically 99 cents, but the majority of the App Store’s cheapies are fun little time wasters with a single purpose. By comparison, wome of the high-end titles available for iOS devices–Street Fighter IV, Secret of Mana, the Final Fantasy games–often clock in at $9.99 or better. Not too off the mark for what you’d pay for an XBLA game.

The difference is that the App Store frequently holds sales. Sales don’t come around as frequently on XBLA, nor do they last as long (“One Day Only!”). Summertime is an ideal opportunity for some of XLBA’s best-sellers to go on sale again (Limbo went on sale for a single day in April), but except for some price-chopping in honor of Sonic the Hedgehog’s 20th birthday, the walls of the Xbox Live Marketplace are not ringing with the sound of sales.

XBLA’s closest competitor, Steam, not only hosts sales, but also bundles and sells games at a discount. This is great exposure for independent developers, and would be a welcome presence on XBLA.

The downloadable marketplace isn’t solely for low-cost games: As more developers seek to bring complex titles to XBLA, we can expect an increase in price. But wherever there’s a high-priced game, there’s also the opportunity to offer gamers a reprieve with a well-timed sale. Hopefully Microsoft will remember that as it shapes its online marketplace for the next gaming generation.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

1 Comments

  1. Don’t forget to add in the cost of the Xbox Live annual subscription. Frankly I got tired of paying it and have migrated over to PSN which costs me nothing to play on and download games.

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