Some things in life are inevitable: death, taxes, and $60 video games. But why do new video games cost $60 — a price that has remained fixed for over a decade — when pretty much everything else has gotten increasingly more expensive? What was the first $60 video game, and what did it do to set the precedent that all new games now follow?
If one were to ask game developers these questions, they'd probably explain why video games cost so much to make. Today, a $60 price tag is rarely enough to allow game devs to recoup costs, which explains why even total flops feature additional DLC packs for sale. Not every game can be like Tetris, which was made for free, and the people who create your favorite titles need to be paid.
Even so, this sort of stagnant pricing doesn't appear anywhere else in the entertainment industry. Movie ticket costs vary by theater, time, and location. Books can have radically different prices, as can seasons of TV shows. The fixed $60 price point for new games is an anomaly, and it's bad for basically all parties.
Publishers are making less money per individual game sale than ever, but they haven't stopped making money. The trick they've figured out is that it's important to give people who buy their games used something new to spend their money on; this is where DLC comes in.
When Evolve released a few years ago, many consumers were upset that it cost $130 for the "full" experience. There was the $60 base game, but gamers were encouraged to purchase a $25 season pass and several other DLC upgrades. When ClashTech dove into the issue a bit, they determined that charging gamers for all this extra stuff is really the only way new games can turn a profit. They compared the $10 million budget of Gears of War with the $80 million budget of Evolve; to break even, Evolve would either have to sell eight times as many copies as GoW, or convince consumers to love the game enough to buy DLC.
It's always a risk, but DLC is how several of the most popular games are able to stay alive. If the DLC sucks, then it makes sense to hold publishers accountable, but keep in mind that sometimes publishers are just trying to stay afloat without charging $100 upfront for a new game.
Things are starting to erode a little when it comes to console games' $60 price point. Now that the internet is fast enough to efficiently download massive games, companies like Epic are releasing free-to-play games that make money exclusively from selling optional DLC content.
Fortnite, for example, gained a massive following when it released for free, despite the fact that in many ways it's exactly like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. In turn, PUBG was first released as a beta that only cost $30, nine months before the official, $60 release. These days, people seem to prefer a series of smaller charges to a one-time $60 purchase, and developers have taken note.