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CliffyB Wants Cheaper Games

We've been hearing a lot of talk about ballooning costs of development, larger teams, longer development cycles, more difficult coding and asset creation, and other factors that will basically result in higher price points on games in the coming generation. The first wave of that has already hit us, with a standard $60 price point for major third party Xbox 360 games, a pricing strategy that may very well end up being used across the board. Publishers usually give maddeningly generic answers to queries about the situation, such as this response by EA's Tammy Schachter when questioned about the $10 difference between the company's current-gen and Xbox 360 ports of games: "We believe that premium titles command premium pricing. These are deep, rich, complex games."

Epic's outspoken designer Clifford Bleszinski, currently working on anticipated Xbox 360 title Gears of War, has a different opinion about the whole thing, however. "I think video game prices need to go down," he said. "Fifty dollars is far too much for an impulse buy. Sixty dollars is completely out of the question." Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences president Joseph Olin points out that in the late 80s and early 90s, cartridge-based games were frequently priced higher than we pay for our games today. That doesn't really change CliffyB's mind.

"What other entertainment medium that's mass market is at $60 a pop?" said Cliff Bleszinski. ... So he doesn't want $60. He doesn't want $50. "I would kill to have a [top-quality] game that's jam-packed with an amazing story and amazing moments and four hours long and costs 20 bucks." He said it's possible, if only the industry cut costs by making games shorter and sweeter, but that too many gamers and publishers demand 20-hour games that are filled with the padding of having gamers repeat the same tasks again and again.

For my part, I could not possibly agree with that statement more. It's nice when there's a lot of meat to a game, but quite simply most of the time I do not find myself able to complete games if I actually want to maintain a broad and diverse familiarity with games in general, which is something I try to do. Some don't like the idea of paying the same price for shorter games, but if it really does cost so much more to fund longer development cycles (which I'm sure it does), then it should be true the other way around. Make shorter games that cost less to make, and sell them for less. Unfortunately, it's hard to imagine that Gears of War is going to hit the sub-$50 (it certainly won't be $20) price point CliffyB is advocating, as epic is not publishing the title. Let's just hope somebody takes his statements to heart.