KEY POINTS

  • With the price of "NBA 2K21" set at $69.99, expect other games published for the PS5 and Xbox Series One to follow suit
  • It's been 18 years since the last prominent price jump in video games, and if prices had increased at the standard rate of inflation, they would currently be at $85
  • A price jump to $70 can help alleviate the high cost of making AAA games as well as make life easier for employees in the video game industry

After 18 years, the prices of video games are finally jumping to $70.

With the announcement from Take-Two Interactive Software that “NBA 2K21” will be priced at $69.99 for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, expect other game publishers to follow suit.

This is the price that must be paid for faster load times and better graphics, and though players will likely bemoan the $10 price jump, it will be difficult to complain in light of those previous two benefits mentioned.

“We believe our suggested retail price for ‘NBA 2K21’ on next-generation platforms fairly represents the value of what’s being offered,” said a 2K spokesperson. “While we are confident that ‘NBA 2K21’ will be a monumental leap forward for the franchise and a standout visual showcase on next-generation consoles, we recognize that it’s our responsibility to prove this value to our fans and ‘NBA 2K’ players. We’re looking forward to doing so and can’t wait to show more in the upcoming months.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly had many people worldwide re-examining their priorities, and a $10 price jump will indeed be difficult to swallow in light of the disaster. Yet it’s been argued on Digital Trends that price increases on gaming software are not just long overdue, the reluctance of publishers to raise those prices has ultimately had a damaging effect on the entire industry.

Aside from special or deluxe editions of games, the last time publishers increased the base price of games was 2002. Back then, the entire industry was pricing games at $50 (or $49.99). It’s pretty remarkable that video games have stayed at $60 in that long amount of time, and had game prices increased at the standard rate of inflation, today they would cost over $85.

Yet even as the base price has stayed at $60 since 2002, the cost of making AAA games has gone up substantially. Digital Trends notes that “these days, the average AAA game costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million to create. Epic, cinematic games like ‘The Last of Us Part II’ or ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ can cost twice as much. That’s before marketing costs, which can range from $30 million to as high as $100 million, depending on how important a title is to the publisher.”

Publishers have resorted to microtransactions and loot boxes to make up the difference. It has become a source of controversy as a bill was even created to ban the sale of games that included loot boxes to children. That bill was not passed.

Yet employees of video game companies aren’t exactly drowning in money either. Video game studio employees make more than the national average, but they’re hardly getting rich. A 2019 survey of the industry by the International Game Developers Association found 17% of respondents earning between $50,000 and $75,000 per year. The same amount made between $75,000 and $100,000 per year.

Raising the cost of games won’t necessarily result in higher salaries or reduced crunch time for those employees, but it’s possible that the extra revenue could be used to make like easier for the people who create the titles.

Therefore, don’t be surprised to find games staying steady at $59.99 or $60 for the PS4 or Xbox One versions of some games while an additional $10 is slapped on their next-gen equivalents.

PlayStation 5 console Sony released this picture on June 11 of its upcoming PlayStation 5 console, without revealing pricing or a launch date. Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc.