Before we begin, a bit of geezer-bitching: sixty dollars isn't that much for a game. I saved up and bought Chrono Trigger brand-new in 1995, and it had a $79.99 price tag. Adjusting for inflation (and the fact that I was thirteen and had no job), we're talking over $100 in today's money.
However, with the economy the way it is and the similarities in many major titles, it's easy to understand why people will balk at paying $60 to spin the good game/crap game roulette wheel. Newly-appointed THQ president Jason Rubin, a former founder of Naughty Dog, believes that console games will be moving away from high-priced packaged product, and aim for a more PC-style product distribution that will allow for more than just the "standard AAA" experience.
"As time progresses, the entire industry will move closer to what we see in the PC model emerging now, which is a lot of different-sized games and different types of games that all get a place in the sun because you can buy things that aren't $60 boxed goods.
"In general, how do you succeed with games that aren't Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and Assassin's Creed? The way the industry has been set up with all titles selling for roughly the same price at retail next to each other is that there's been a race to make the biggest, baddest-ass game. If you walk into a store as a gamer and see a massive $120 million dollar game next to a $30 million dollar game, and a $80 million marketing budget backed that $120 million game up, it's likely you’re going to pull that one off the shelf."
So, let me name six top-selling game franchises or titles: Assassin's Creed, Uncharted, Dead Space, Gears of War, inFamous, and the Arkham series of Batman games.
Every single one of these games focuses on an intense, scripted action-oriented experience that guides you along a set path, no matter how much freedom or how many side quests they give you during the course of the game. Every single one of these games also strives for "realistic" graphics and presentation, not to mention that they all kinda control alike, too.
Betcha ten bucks it'll have a Horde Mode-alike, too
So with all these games "doing it right," what happens when somebody tries to do something different? What about great games like Skullgirls, Catherine,or Akai Katana, which still struggle with niche status while being exceptional games in their own right? Those same smaller titles have had to find other avenues of release--Catherine was released as a sixty-dollar disc version and somehow did very well in sales (especially over here), but Skullgirls was download-only and Akai Katana had a very limited disc release at a discounted price.
With smaller titles moving to lower price points and different distribution methods, how long do you think it will take for major developers to do the same? Or do you think we're going to continue seeing packaged games be the norm, with prices probably going up in the future?