Microsoft has become the latest big-name publisher to jump to a $70 asking price for the launch of big-budget games. The company said in a statement to IGN that the new pricing will start in 2023 for games built for the Xbox Series X/S and will include titles like Starfield, Redfall, and the next Forza Motorsport.
A $70 MSRP “reflects the content, scale, and technical complexity of these titles,” a Microsoft spokesperson told IGN.
Despite the price increase for a la carte purchases, Microsoft isn’t currently raising the price of its Game Pass subscriptions, which include launch day access to all of Microsoft’s first-party titles. Speaking at a WSJ Live event last month, though, Xbox chief Phil Spencer said he thought that “at some point we’ll have to raise some prices on certain things…”
A price whose time has come?
Publishers last raised their ceiling for game pricing back in 2006, when big-budget PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 titles started retailing for $60 en masse. Take-Two was the first to break that ceiling in 2020, selling the PS5 and Xbox Series X editions of NBA2K21 for $70. At the time, the publisher said that price would apply on a “title by title basis” going forward.
In the years since, companies like Sony, Activision, Square Enix, and Warner Bros. have begun experimenting with $70 launch pricing for a handful of their biggest games. And in September, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told Axios that “the big AAA games” from the company, including the oft-delayed Skull & Bones, would cost $70 at launch.
While $70 represents the current high-water mark for nominal game pricing, big-budget games used to routinely be much more expensive when accounting for inflation, as we discussed in detail in a 2020 report. And since 2020, the US economy has seen months of rapid price inflation that has made a $70 price more justifiable on a relative basis. That same rapid inflation has been used to justify practically unprecedented price increases for hardware like the Meta Quest 2 VR headset and international versions of the PS5.
Though $70 isn’t as much as it used to be, today’s big-budget games also face strong competition from a wide range of free- or cheap-to-play titles, as well as gaming subscription plans like Microsoft’s Games Pass. Still, as NPD analyst Mat Piscatella told Ars Technica in 2020, “the biggest franchises that drive the highest demand should have no big hurdles with that $70 base price point… and many will choose even higher-priced versions with additional content.”