Rising costs on the Playstation Store

2009-02-08

When the Playstation Store first went online, with downloadable games such as flOw and Blast Factor, the price of the games was such that each, while basic, was quite a tempting prospect. While big game releases required a little thought before purchase, a couple of pounds (the early titles were almost always £3.49) seemed quite excusable as an impulse purchase. Understandably, some of the more snazzy titles (like Super Stardust HD) came in at closer to £5.00, and some of the full-blown titles like Warhawk had prices that reflected both the quality of the game and also the continued server support. However, these fair prices seem to have been largely washed away in recent times, partially - in my opinion - due to the downloadable content craze.

The new norm

Recent titles such as Cuboid are great little games, but with Cuboid arriving at a cost of £7.99, it would appear that something serious has changed in Sony's pricing scheme. There is nothing more complex, advanced, pretty or clever about Cuboid than, say, Blast Factor or Super Stardust HD, which both retailed for around half the price. Lumines is easier to forgive, given the larger volume of content available in the game, but even so, selling for £8.99, it's a significant step up from the 2007 and early 2008 prices. Other examples include Savage Moon and Soldner X, released in late 2008, all costing considerably more than titles a year ago. Crash Commando arguably justifies the expense with good online support, but the trend continues with increasing game costs. A final example: after numerous free updates for Burnout Paradise, the party pack arrived for a whopping £7.99, with little additional content. I would happily have bought the content, almost as a thank you for the previous free updates, but at that cost, I won't go near it.

Who to blame?

Inflation certainly has a role to play in price rises (though less so in the current financial climate), but 200% price increases in just one year stretches that explanation significantly, particularly when disc-based games are still arriving for the same amount. Two other possibilities stand out though. Firstly, with the Playstation Store in its infancy, encouraging people to make use of the service and get into the habit of buying games was a key step requiring low prices. Now that a good number of people are hooked and happy using the service, it's easy for Sony to start bumping up prices, knowing that they still have loyal followers checking the store every Thursday. The downside, surely, is that this will still discourage newcomers, but presumably Sony have run the numbers and worked out exactly how much people can be ripped off before they stop buying (though personally my limit has now been reached, and future purchases will be considerably more thought out). The second factor may be the increase in downloadable rubbish. With LittleBigPlanet churning out new tosh every week, featuring slightly different character designs that, thanks to their resemblance to existing gaming heros, somehow justifiy extortionate costs, my argument previously was that if a full game cost £3.49, how could a single character costume possibly justify the £1.49 price tag. I should have anticipated it, but the counter to that is simply: okay, if a single character costume is £1.49, then how much can we charge for a full game? Depressing. Truly.

Concluding remarks

There seems to be little to halt the increasing prices of Sony's Playstation Store games, but hopefully a limit will be reached soon, or significant sales will be lost. Surely, since no extra work is required once the download is available, developers would rather see a million copies sold for £3.00 than half a million for £6.00? They will have returned the same amount, but sales figures will surely inspire future releases and publisher support. A balance must be reached, of course, but it is my belief that the Playstation Store has lost sight of it slightly, and must work to recover.

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