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There has been a growing conversation in the games industry around the cost and value of games recently, partly inspired by comments made by former PlayStation US boss Shawn Layden, who suggested last month that AAA games may need to become shorter or cost more on the next generation of consoles due to rising production costs.
In tweet posted on Wednesday, PlayStation game designer Barlog said he believed the price of games needed to increase.
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He added: “I prefer an initial increase in price to the always on cash grab microtransaction filled hellscape that some games have become.”
Barlog’s comments follow suggestion that AAA games on PS5 and Xbox Series X could retail for $70 / £65. 2K revealed this month that the next-gen version of NBA 2K21 would cost $10 more than the current-gen version. It’s the first indication of what next-gen games could cost.
Speaking at the Gamelab Live conference in June, former PlayStation exec Layden referred to a common theory that development costs have doubled with every new console generation, and claimed that current-gen games had reached between $80m and $150m for most AAA games.
Layden referenced PlayStation’s The Last of Us 2 – a game he oversaw – which is roughly double the length and took double the development time of its predecessor.
“The problem with that model is it’s just not sustainable,” he said. “I don’t think that, in the next generation, you can take those numbers and multiply them by two and think that you can grow.”
Layden added that he believes that the single most important reason why the AAA model is unsustainable is because of game prices remaining relatively unchanged since the 80s.
“It’s been $59.99 since I started in this business, but the cost of games have gone up ten times,” he explained. “If you don’t have elasticity on the price-point, but you have huge volatility on the cost line, the model becomes more difficult. I think this generation is going to see those two imperatives collide.”
Bartosz Kmita, the creative director behind Outriders at developer People Can Fly, responded to Layden’s comments in a recent VGC interview, saying he believes big budget games should continue to provide value for money in terms of the amount of content they offer.
“Let’s be honest: games are not super cheap, so we have to give value for the money that people are paying,” he said. “Games that are short but still full price… I think that is not the way we should go in the industry overall.”
On Layden’s comments, Kmita said: “Of course, you are right: there are these huge companies doing extremely expensive games, but the way I see it, those games are also very profitable for them, so they cannot complain.”