You walk into a video game retail store and peruse the selection.  You come across a wide array of things for purchase; many of them may even be the same price.  Logic dictates that price should be indicative of quality and/or substance.  You choose to purchase game “X” over “Y” and after playing it for a while you come to the gross realization that you may have overpaid for the product you just picked up.  You thought that something that was would represent the same quality and substance as something else priced equally.  If this has ever happened to you, you may have been a victim of uniform pricing.

Video games are priced according to the publisher’s MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) and any gamer who has been gaming for any length of time knows that not all games are created equal, but for some reason happen to be priced the same.  I get that video games are a business and that businesses like to make money, but I don’t get how some companies go about pricing their products.  The uniform pricing model gives companies legs to stand on when pricing their games, but really who is really benefiting from this?  Sure, the publishers will derive more revenue initially, but is leaving what could be an inordinate amount of consumers jaded really worth it?

While I am arguing against uniform pricing I think having it in place as a ceiling keeps things manageable for the industry.  Do some games warrant standardized pricing?  Yes.  Do all?  No.  I think that games with super high production values, those AAA games if you will, can get away with having a higher pricing tier.  But if publisher X has a game that can be beat in 2 hours, has no multiplayer and really no notable replay value, why is it being priced as something that is conversely much more substantive.  For example at one point in time Hunted: The Demon’s Forge was priced the same as Skyrim, I don’t know about you, but I find that to be a bit troubling without diving too far into explanation.

We have already seen examples of companies acknowledging their own game’s worth and pricing it accordingly.  When Ignition Entertainment published Deadly Premonition, they brought it to market at a mere .  The game was kind of wacky and definitely wasn’t for everyone, but hey for it was worth a spin and didn’t leave me feeling like I was mugged while playing it on my couch.  They knew that game would have sold poorly if they had priced it at , so they didn’t do it.  Most games barely last at the price tag anymore; so why even start them there?  You will make a few extra bucks off of early adopters, but wouldn’t it make more sense to have a larger influx day one, than having to wait a month or two for that sales boom?

A game that was priced right

I think when things all go digital (and they will) the playing field will be leveled.  MSRPs will vanish and companies will have to price their games competitively in order to sell them.  Grandma will not be going to GameStop a week before little Johnny’s birthday to pay $60 for the top game on his wish list.  Instead little Johnny will be given money to put into his digital wallet and it will be up to him how to spend it.  Scenarios like the aforementioned one will put publishers on notice because that will be the reality of an ever changing consumer relationship.  We currently see a myriad of pricing models from the $1 iPhone app to the $15 XBLA/PSN games and everything in between and the retail model will be assimilated in due time.

It is obvious that the industry is moving in a direction that is less reliant on physical media, henceforth making the consumer’s availability to it less.  The pricing of things will change and let us hope that it is for the better.  Let us keep the industry on notice by voting with our wallets and with enough movement the house of cards that is uniform pricing will soon enough come crashing down.