Last month, NBA 2K21 was announced at the PS5 event with some gorgeous photorealistic visuals. But 2K Games sparked quite a bit of controversy when they announced the $70 price tag for the game this week. Their justification for the price jump is debatable, but what’s more interesting is that they aren’t the only ones willing to push the pricing boundaries with the launch of PS5 and Xbox Series X.
According to reports, many publishers are considering a price jump in standard pricing moving towards the next generation in gaming. Now this leads to a very important question:
Why with Next-gen?
I don’t remember seeing AAA titles at a price tag lower than the current $60 standard. This is because the last time videogames saw a jump in base price, was over 15 years ago – in 2002, to be precise. This is when the industry first started phasing towards the higher $60 base price, rather than $50.
It’s almost hard to believe that a commodity could sustain at the same price for 18 whole years. So naturally while game prices have stayed flat, the cost of making a AAA game has gone up substantially in that time, along with the quality of games.
Going a bit more in detail, the issue around game pricing was also discussed by former PlayStation exec Shawn Layden during the Gamelab conference last month:
“It’s been $59.99 since I started in this business, But the cost of games have gone up ten times. 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.”
So naturally, pushing the technical boundaries also requires for a push in the prices. Some might argue that the number of sales have also changed drastically compared to two decades ago, and also the addition of microtransactions. That calls for another in-depth research with more statistical data, but we’ll leave that for someone else.
2K’s Justification for NBA 2K21 Pricing
Coming back to NBA, 2K seems pretty confident on their decision. An NBA 2K spokesperson confirmed to Ars Technica that the premium pricing is based on what it sees as the increased value represented by the power of new consoles. They said it was a fair representation of the game’s value, as it had been built “from the ground up for next-generation consoles”.
“We believe our suggested retail price for NBA 2K21 on next-generation platforms fairly represents the value of what’s being offered: power, speed, and technology that is only possible on new hardware”the spokesperson said.
The current gen versions, including PC, will still be priced the regular $60. But they won’t support smart-delivery, forcing you to get the $70 version to have the next-gen experience on the PS5 or the Series X. Although there’s a special Mamba Forever Edition available across all platforms for $99.99, which along with extra content, crosses generations. Basically, getting the current gen Mamba Forever Edition will fetch you the standard edition for next-gen without additional costs, when it arrives.
“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 recognise that it’s our responsibility to prove this value to our fans and NBA 2K players,” says 2K.
While a number of third-party publishers have announced offers for free upgrades from current-gen to next-gen versions, I’d personally be happy to pay $70 for a quality AAA title like Cyberpunk 2077 (although CDPR have already confirmed that players will get a free upgrade to next-gen version). Well-made titles like that are totally worth that price-tag, but I’m not sure about an annual sports series like NBA or FIFA costing $70 for the base edition. Do you think the price jump is justified? Let us know in the comments.