Right before Moviepass sunset, I wrote an article lamenting the end of a great service. One point I never managed to put in was how I would be willing to double the subscription price to keep the service as was. That would have been $20 a month for unlimited movies.
(That’s exactly what I did with Regal Unlimited, by the way. $20 for movies.)
But it brought something up that both Microsoft and Sony are currently doing – raising prices on their services and games, and it really forces me to put my money where my mouth is.
If you missed the news, a few weeks ago, some AAA games announced a new, $70 price tag for their next gen games. There was worry around the Internet that other studios would take this approach. And now, we know they are. At least a few.
The Demon’s Souls Remake is one of those.
Many times I’ve talked about my love of the Souls / Bloodborne / Sekiro series, and seeing a remake of a 2009 game touting a $70 price tag is…difficult to grapple with. There’s not much precedent as we move into a new gen. Yet Bluepoint Studios, the studio behind the remake, also remade 2018’s Shadow of the Colossus. The asking price? $40. Now, to be fair, Demon’s Souls has way more content than Shadow of the Colossus. But still, I mean…it’s a remake.
It’s a difficult position to take, because I don’t want to denigrate game developers intentionally. God knows it’s a messy industry, but I don’t doubt there was time, effort, and passion poured into this Demon’s Souls remake. Making a game is a monumental task and I applaud anyone that tries (as long as they don’t sexually harrass people, Ubisoft). But you have to ask – what does that $60 / $70 pay for? If it’s a large enough game (as these $70 games are), they already make fat bank. The two best-selling games of 2019 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and NBA 2k20 – are made by the two studios who took the first jump to $70. So I think it’s legitimate to ask – are these games’ raised prices a product of necessity or corporate greed? (I think we know.)
But that was why it was somewhat heartbreaking to see Sony do this. Sony, who has sold a gagillion PS4s and sells pretty damn good numbers of their exclusives, seems to be only doing this because they can, not out of need. Yeah, I know, bemoaning corporate greed is useless, but it’s my rant, so shut up.
It feels like Sony has been building up to raising the price on their games over the last few years now. To say they’ve had some good exclusives come out on PS4 is to say it completely incorrectly. Sony has been knocking it out of the park. Uncharted 4. Bloodborne. God of War. Spider-man. The Last of Us Part II. Horizon Zero Dawn. Persona 5. If you’re like me, you’re love at least a handful of these games. And you want more, right? And dear old Sony is saying “look! I have more! Demon’s Souls, Miles Morales, Horizon: Forbidden West, God of War 2 Logo.” You reach out your hand, more than willing to pay $60 at launch as always, and Sony retracts their hand a bit. “Well…gonna need you to cough up just a little bit more this time around, bud.”
It feels scummy, and god dammit, I’m going to keep buying those games, but I won’t be happy about it. Sony has these extremely high quality games, but wants us to pay more to get them. On top of a $500 console at that.
I don’t even want to think about our poor friends in Europe, where the price is not only rising, but rising higher in value than in the States. It’s all just a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario, and Sony’s got us on their fishing line, seeing what they can put us through. Is this the breaking point? Not at all, probably not even close. But it’s a step towards it, a step that I’ll be watching closely in the years to come.
But let me talk about the other word in my title – inclusivity. The underdog Xbox (never thought I’d write that), who completely bungled the Xbox One’s launch, has done an incredible 180. I love how Chris Plante at Polygon put it:
At the beginning, time and again, Microsoft centered itself. Everything needed to be done on Microsoft’s terms. Execs wanted players and developers to play by their rules, rather than meeting players and developers where they’re comfortable.
The new Xbox strategy, by comparison, is designed with its audience, for its audience.
Xbox Game Pass, as with Moviepass, is unbelieveable and fantastical. It’s too good. Over 400 games on console. Over 200 on PC. Streaming on Android. Cloud saves. Xbox has created a platform that I can’t see as anything but the future of gaming. While Sony has tried its best to ramp up exclusivity, Microsoft is perfecting inclusivity. And with the announcement of EA Play games coming to Game Pass, adding a TON new games, it’s more inclusive than ever. But the comparison (or contrasting, I suppose) of Microsoft and Sony doesn’t end there. Last week, Microsoft announced a price hike for Game Pass. Game Pass Ultimate will be $25, and Game Pass for PC will be $10. And yet…I will happily pay it. Because Game Pass gives me AAA games Day One at no additional cost, like Crusader Kings III and the upcoming Halo: Infinite. I’ve found some great gems on there, like Crosscode and Moonlighter. And with the addition of EA Play, Microsoft’s message is simple, and I understand it: More game, higher price. It makes sense to me. Sony, on the other hand, is saying “same game, higher price.” The math doesn’t hit at hard.
But it doesn’t matter, does it? The $70 games will sell well. Better than ever, probably. And, in time, $70 for a game will become a norm. But if the question is who will win the console war…I wonder what wins, exclusivity or inclusivity.