With next-gen Xbox Series X and PS5 games at $70, Xbox Game Pass becomes even more valuable

Xbox Game PAss
Xbox Game PAss (Image credit: Microsoft)

As we head towards next-gen, more and more details about the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are coming to light. We have the full specs and designs of both consoles, and we'll have the full roadmap of Xbox exclusives, hopefully, in late July with the next Xbox event.

Another less palatable revelation came today via 2K, who confirmed it will sell the next-gen versions of its games for $70. I fully expect to see PC games see a bump in price as well shortly, as game worlds and their complexity balloon to accommodate more powerful hardware, across an incrementally more competitive landscape. The bump also accommodates market changes, inflation, and other financial landscape realities.

NPD games industry analyst Mat Piscatella posited that the bump probably should've happened in 2013, noting that initially, game developers were nervous about the low prices being offered by mobile games. It seems though that in reality, both sections of the market overlap, rather than cannibalize each other.

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Still, I feel as though the price hike may be a tough sell, particularly with a looming recession as much of the world struggles with the pandemic fallout. In that scenario, the winner could ultimately be Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Now, and other similar subscription services.

Why is this be happening?

Source: 2K Games (Image credit: Source: 2K Games)

The first developer to effectively break cover on the idea of selling next-gen games at a higher price is 2K, with their upcoming title NBA 2K21. Current gen versions of the game will remain at $60, but if you want a version that will work on Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, you'll have to buy a $70 version. I thoroughly expect we'll see other developers and publishers follow suit in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Sports games, in general, have a fair amount of overheads, licensing deals have to be made, and so on, but they are also wildly popular. Seemingly popular enough that they avoid backlash for their borderline pay-to-win mechanics that would bury a shooter or RPG. The microtransactions in games like FIFA and Madden are a massive driver of revenue for companies like EA and 2K. Still, it's also true that developing these games certainly isn't getting any cheaper, particularly as the industry gets more competitive, with salaries to match.

Zion Williamson in NBA 2K21

Source: 2K Games (Image credit: Source: 2K Games)

At least, this is the mentality publishers have. You could argue big publishers pay their execs far, far too much. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick was recently in the spotlight, accused by his own shareholders of earning too much. Kotick took home $30 million in 2019, which was flanked by 800 arguably needless layoffs at Blizzard, including many roles the firm has since re-hired for. An investment group filed a motion with the US government over the criticism, which included the below quote via Gamespot.

"While equity grants that exceed the total pay of peer companies would be objectionable in most circumstances, it is of special concern in this case because Activision Blizzard employees face job insecurity following layoffs of 800 employees in 2019, and typically earn less than one-third of 1% of the CEO's earnings, with some employees, such as junior developers, making less than $40,000 a year while living in high-cost areas such as southern California."

Whether or not the price of games going up is justified is up for debate, and I certainly don't have the full business knowledge to offer a definitive answer. Whichever way you see it, though, surely Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Now, and free-to-play games are likely going to grow as a result.

Subscriptions and free to play will grow

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Xbox Game Pass is already lauded for its value, with a Netflix-style subscription that offers all Xbox Game Studios title upfront as part of the relatively cheap $9.99 base monthly payment. Also, Microsoft adds a rotation of titles from the smallest indies to the biggest AAA publishers, keeping the service feeling vibrant and exciting. Sony has a competing product called PlayStation Now, but the firm hasn't offered the same breadth of content that Microsoft has with its own service.

I'm in a lucky position to get games as part of my job, but as a kid, I was lucky to get more than a couple of new games per year. Particularly in the case of Nintendo titles, which were often anywhere up to £80 or more in the UK, depending on supply. Xbox Game Pass would have been a godsend as a young 'un (as we say in my town), and those facing economic hardships either as a result of COVID-19 or otherwise will naturally gain heaps of value from services like Xbox Game Pass.

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Beyond Game Pass, we've already seen how free to play can turn a game into a goldmine in the form of Fortnite and countless others. If games are going to $70 across the board, and not just for sports titles that, frankly, seem to have a forgiving fanbase, I suspect more free to play standalone components like Call of Duty's Warzone mode to become more commonplace.

We've even heard some rumors that Halo Infinite itself may ship in a two-SKU format, with a broad single-player campaign linked to a standalone free to play multiplayer client. However, we haven't been able to lock down physical verification of that rumor thus far. Would you be surprised if it happened, though? At this point, I wouldn't be.

Next-gen will evolve the landscape even more

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

With the switch to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, we saw digital game sales and free to play become increasingly commonplace in an industry going through rapid changes. Streaming services like Project xCloud and Google Stadia will undoubtedly have a role to play, too, as Microsoft aims to bring Xbox console-quality gaming to devices that traditionally haven't been powerful enough, like phones, smart TVs, and lower-end PCs. It's going to be a wild ride, and I'm here for it.

What do you think about the possibility of games increasing by $10 across the board when next-gen rolls around? Let us know, down below.

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Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

33 Comments
  • Are you serious? Here the games are 70€ for a looong long time, at least since the launch of the Xone
  • Not in the US one of the reason I buy on the US store...
  • No different to standard Blu-ray discs costing £15 and the 4K UHD discs £25 - newer tech, better quality means higher cost for the 'same' content
  • Worse... Higher costs for bare bone content. Don't mind the DLCs
  • Well I don't want what game publishers think games need to justify their ever growing budgets. I don't want to pay 70 dollars because of endless open world content and photorealistic, movie quality 4K graphics, and professional actor voiceovers. I want good games. And overproduction doesn't equal good games. I see there's people already justifying this. Well just look and see how these price hikes are coming from those who are already moving millions of units yearly with their iterative mainstream games. I don't think this is healthy for the gaming industry.
  • Defining "good" is varied, some of those things like 4k graphics or professional voice actors CAN make a game better. Of course that's not the whole story though.
  • damn you're 110% on point
  • I'm surprised the price of games hasn't gone up since 1991. I remember buying Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis games for $59.99. So the fact that it has taken 29 years for there to be a price increase is mind-boggling to me. I doubt there is any other product that has ever existed that has remained the same price for so long. That's about $115 in today's money. So the cost of games has gone down over time and obviously they have gotten significantly better and more complex. I have no complaint about the cost of games going up because it is completely justified. The resources it takes to create these games is more than I care to think about. I rarely buy games new or at full price anyways so it is unlikely to affect me whatsoever.
  • Dreamcast games and generally new games from that gen were $49.99 wym?
  • Yes, they were. The point is they havented moved in decades. People need to GTF over it, prices go up.
  • But every game is, on average, selling more copies, making up for the costs. Remember many movies have budgets over 300 thousand. They haven't even topped $30 yet. It's because more people go to movies. And more people buy games than ever before. I'll pay 70 for a game that doesn't try to gouge me with micro transactions. Nba2k is definitely not that game.
  • It's more complex than "price goes up". Unlike other products video games as a product has changed a lot. Now so many studios (including 2K Games) are focusing on "how to make more money once you sold a game". Games where you are frustrating you on purpose so that you pay money to get in-game content.
    If they'll make games $70, does that mean the'll stop with bs microtransactions and all the bs? ofc not. It's just adding to the madness. After all what really matters to them isn't providing quality games but making more money for their investors...
  • @zydio
    It's a lot more complex than just looking at inflation.
    The industry today is a whole lot different than what it was 30 years ago.
    There are a LOT of things to consider here $60 as an entry level or shell price, microtransactions, games as a service, various schemes like "get the game late if you don't pay", much bigger audience and market, limited or special editions, exclusive content, DLCs and the dissection of games... And finally let's talk facts and numbers? Here is an old video that considers marketing, development, cost of goods sold and record profits of EA, activision and Ubisoft all adjusted for inflation. The content is still relevant today. We can clearly see that the overall trend is that the cost has actually dropped and there has been record profits.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qq6HcKj59Q
  • I'm a patient gamer. I'll just wait for the inevitable sales seasons. Still have games from 2014 I've not even played yet. No rush :-)
  • I know what you mean, I still have original xbox games that haven't been played yet.
  • Those are basically unopened collectable relics now lol... You probably won't play at all if it been this long already lol 😂
  • To be honest, the PlayStation second-hand market is very profitable for the likes of GameStop. You buy the TLOS Part 2 and play it for 20-30 hours and then resell it. This is true for most PlayStation first-party games as their physical sale has shown that. Personally, I barely buy a game at its launch (except titles such as GTA V, RDR2, FIFA, Cyberpunk,..). The Xbox game pass is already so valuable. Xbox game passes Ultimate is a bargain as I can play games on both PC and Xbox for a fair price. Xbox game pass for PC has been very popular (usually PC gamers play more games and lowering costs for them is a necessity. Nonetheless, just consider the price of AC Valhalla Ultimate edition at full price!
  • My back logs is huge so, I have no problem waiting for price drops.
  • $95 CDN. Pretty steep!
  • I mean, is there going to be something that prevents Gamepass from raising its monthly fee as well?
  • I doubt it if New subscribers are coming at a descent rate. 10million in 2 years is great. If that rate continues then I don't see MS upping the charge.
  • Do you official numbers of the current number, numbers that doesn't take into account the $1 deals we used to have?
    The Ori sequel just got to 2m players. SoT got that in 1 week.
    Considering Covid-19 and how the game is available for more players a whole lot more should have played Ori by now. Considering all this, I doubt the number of game pass members is higher than when SoT launched.
  • I wouldn't count on Microsoft not just raising the price of Game Pass like they've done on Xbox Live in the past. Fortunately for us at least, Game Pass will still be an incredibly good value way to play games either way.
  • Still a way better value than PSNow. That service was a complete joke for $20 a month. That's why they had to drop the price down to 9.99
  • AHAHA I see a fanboy fighting stupid console war.
    How about this. Both game pass and PSNow sucks and are a joke?
  • AHAHA it's funny seeing you Sony fanatics get so upset over video game discussions.
  • Who is upset? I'm having laughing at a stupid company fanboy doing fanboy work.
    Keep trying to invent stuff. Maybe you missed the part where I said PSNow suck.
    Ah but that's what company fanboys are all about. They only see when someone trash they company they worship, ignoring the rest. :D Look at your last few posts. Just all about MS's competition. Whether it's Sony or Google...
    HAHAHA you ridiculous fanboys, spending all your time worshipping a company. :D
    https://i.ibb.co/k9P5fCG/jams.png Move along fanboy, besides making fun of you, I've no time for you...
  • You seem to be. Working hard to defend the company you worship like a sheep. PSNow is garbage get over it. Move on with life. Video games aren't life and death.
    I mean this is a microsoft based website is it not? Why don't you go spend time with your other Sony defenders and worshippers on pushsquare. I'm sure you'll find tons of other fanatics like yourself to keep you happy. That's right you should be busy playing games instead of defending Sony on a microsoft based website. Yet you still get so upset with the truth that you have to reply to my comments. If you don't like my comments don't reply. It's simple.
  • So no Smart Delivery for these publishers.
  • Gaming going to 69.99 will lead to prices being 94.99 to 99.99 Canadian. I guess I'm just sticking to Game Pass and Switch(though some random guy seems to think Nintendo will start charging 69.99 UDS, which I doubt)
  • This whole thing about game pass might be true only if you value renting games and don't want to buy and own games. And that also only considers MS games.
    The tweet by colteastwood is actually quite dumb. Comparing renting games to buying new games at launch is a real dumb way of looking at it.
    I'm don't value rented games that much. I'd rather buy and own the few MS games I want to play than keep paying a monthly fee to MS to be able to play it.
    All the games, that I've been collecting on PS+ just disappeared the day I stopped paying for the service. That's the downside to this type of service. 1) Money is going to MS and not directly to the game makers/publishers, 2) MS are the ones who control what I play and don't play... 3) Game pass encourage quantity over quality. And this whole thing is perfect to have games as a service. Cheap games that you rent and whose aim is to continuously sell content through microtransactions...
  • Game prices were as much $60 in the 90's. So $70 bucks is a "steal" today somewhat. The difference in the 90s when you spent $60 for a game you got everything in the game. To get extra stuff (features) you had to get to certain levels of the game or win certain levels or beat certain figures to earn that extra stuff if you were good enough to progress through the game. You didn't simply have to buy your way into getting extra features. It seems today most games are shells and to get extra features you have to "shell" out more money to get what I use to consider bonus features years ago. For some of today's games it's not about how you play it's about how you pay. So for the $70 bucks today you may still need to budget for another $100+ just to get features you would have received for free in the 90s games. Plus the games of the 90s for those who weren't good enough they could always open up the cheats by manipulating the controls keys on their controls. The good ole days. I had no problem paying top price for games in the 90s because I felt as though you got a "FULL" game.
  • Does anyone know if Xbox Game Sharing feature will be available on the Xbox Series X? I have not seen any news about that.