The great video game price debate is actively raging on social media. As an increasing number of publishers officially set the precedent of $70 (USD) current-gen releases, players question whether or not these price augments are warranted. Industry giants like PlayStation, EA, 2K, Activision, and recently Ubisoft have seemingly transitioned to elevated pricing for their biggest upcoming titles. This influx of support from publishers suggests that $70 AAA video games will eventually become the norm. However, a few notable standouts have yet to take the escalated price plunge.
For now, Nintendo and Xbox are both clinging to previous generations' $60 price point with their premiere first-party offerings. While Nintendo's approach is understandable, considering the company hasn't revealed upgraded console hardware, the near future for Xbox game pricing seems less guaranteed. As we trek into the bold industry unknowns, let's discuss the various possibilities for Microsoft's pricing strategies and when we might see Xbox start charging $70 for video games.
The current price climate
Ahead of the launch of the Xbox Series X, Series S, and PS5, publishers began communicating their proposed pricing plans to players. Understandably, not everyone was thrilled about paying more to purchase video games. The long-running $60 (disc-based) price tag established early in the seventh generation of consoles with the Xbox 360 and PS3 was being challenged. Infamously, 2K took the brunt of the initial blowback after announcing that NBA2K21 would cost $70 on Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5.
Despite passionate conversations surrounding development costs, digital distribution, and consumer value, this publisher’s decision opened the price increase floodgates. Following in the footsteps of 2K, companies like PlayStation and EA swiftly revealed their intentions to charge $70 for AAA titles on new hardware. While players were still given the option to purchase many of these upcoming games like on Xbox One or PS4 for $60, the proverbial line in the sand had been drawn to justify publishers' future ambitions.
A year and a half into the lifespan of the current generation of consoles, we’ve witnessed numerous titles release and ultimately sell at the $70 price point. Even launch window holdouts like Ubisoft, who was brazen enough to use the $60 price of Far Cry 6 on Xbox Series X|S as marketing buzz, has embraced the newfound cost jump with its headlining Holiday 2022 release Skull and Bones. Many of the industry’s biggest publishers have conditioned audiences to expect $70 video games.
Even the PC ecosystem, which originally seemed impervious to console-driven price trends, has experienced current-gen inflation. When EA detailed its convoluted pricing structure for Battlefield 2042, critics noted that regardless of having the exact same core features, Xbox Series X|S and PS5 versions were $10 more expensive than PC. This seemingly arbitrary fee was referred to by some as the “console tax.” However, with the rollout of the $70 price tag for Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade and Forspoken, it would seem PC isn’t immune to these changes.
Will Xbox start charging $70 for games?
As it stands, PlayStation, EA, 2K, Ubisoft, and Square Enix are charging $70 for current-generation video games. While nothing has been officially unveiled, I firmly believe that an upgraded version of the Nintendo Switch would allow the company to comfortably align its pricing with the competition. It’s impossible to ignore the direction video game pricing is headed. Still, many players invested in the Xbox ecosystem are curious whether Microsoft will raise its first-party big-budget title asking price to $70.
With a marketing strategy centered around value-driven services like Xbox Game Pass, Xbox All-Access, and Smart Delivery, it's apparent the company appreciates its current price distinction in the market. Players have celebrated Microsoft’s commitment to delivering its most impressive games to every supported piece of hardware for one consistent price. Xbox has yet to release a $70 first-party title on its platform. However, outside the console ports of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator and Gears Tactics, Xbox hasn’t released a current gen-only first-party title.
While key figures from Microsoft like Phil Spencer and Aaron Greenberg have touched on the $70 price points for video games, we haven’t received a definitive answer from the team on the matter. "Player choice" is often cited as the reasoning behind many of the decisions being made by current Xbox leadership. In an interview with the Washington Post, Spencer shared this sentiment on the industry's impending price increases: "I know the customer is in control of the price that they pay, and I trust that system.”
Ultimately, I envision a world where Microsoft begins experimenting with $70 video games. AAA development costs are vastly more substantial than ever, and massive releases like Halo Infinite and Starfield require over five years to ship. The compounding demands from audiences for bigger, better, and more immersive video games elevate the expectations from studios. Not all teams within Xbox Game Studios will face this level of pressure and scrutiny with their launches, but as Microsoft works to deliver more platform-defining exclusives, those investment sums will continue to rise.
Subscription services like Xbox Game Pass introduce complexities and nuance to these conversations. Audiences typically cite Game Pass as the primary reason Xbox doesn’t “need” to ask $70 for its first-party titles. It’s safe to say consistent revenue streams from subscription services and GaaS titles offset AAA development costs, and Microsoft is positioned better than most publishers in this regard. However, as Microsoft looks to grow its userbase and pool of Game Pass subscribers, adding $70 titles to your service only strengthens the platform’s value proposition.
For non-Xbox Game Subscribers concerned Microsoft will implement $70 as the standard price for all first-party or Xbox Game Studios Publishing titles, recent trends suggest a more comprehensive range of price options. As Microsoft moves to position itself as a powerful publishing partner for a variety of developers, I believe Xbox will meaningfully consider team size, development scope, and project budget in final retail pricing. Not every single video game costs several hundred million dollars and requires six years to develop. This will allow Xbox the financial freedom to empower its customers' purchasing decisions.
When could a price increase take effect?
After the Xbox Series X|S announcement, Microsoft reassured customers that the Xbox One family of consoles would still be supported with updates and even first-party releases for the first few years of the current-gen lifecycle. Initially, some fans were frustrated that Xbox wasn’t offering standout "next-gen exclusives" for the Xbox Series X|S launch. Now that titles like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 have shipped, Xbox’s upcoming slate of first-party games is looking incredibly focused on the new hardware.
Microsoft has confirmed that Forza Motorsport, Redfall, and Starfield will launch exclusively on Xbox Series X|S and PC in 2023. And according to the recent Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase, all of these titles should be coming before June of next year. As these will be the first newly released first-party exclusives this generation, players are excited to see how they perform on current hardware. Now, the big question is — what could be the first Xbox Game Studios title to sport the $70 price tag?
With Forza Motorsport built from the ground up in the shiny new Forza engine to be a graphical showcase for Xbox Game Studios, this ray-traced racer could be a potential candidate. With Forza Motorsport targeting a spring release and possibly serving as the first major Xbox release of the year, a $70 price point could set a precedent for the Xbox Game Studio projects coming later in 2023. Starfield is another seemingly worthwhile contender for the $70 belt simply due to the scope and likely budget of this ambitious Bethesda Softworks sci-fi RPG. Nothing is official until it’s official, but I’m mentally preparing for Xbox to test the elevated pricing waters in 2023.
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Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.