How Should Remastered Games Be Priced?
Note: This opinion piece reflects the views of the author and not PlayStation LifeStyle as a whole.
I’m a big proponent of remastered games, as they help fund new projects and allow more gamers to experience beloved games. In my eyes, it’s a win-win for both consumers and publishers. That said, whenever a new collection of remastered games is announced, there is always a big debate about how these games should be priced, and if publishers are gouging consumers.
Before I tackle the topic of how remasters should ideally be priced, let’s take a look at what current remasters have been priced at. After all, it’s important to know the landscape of a business before you try to give some analysis. This won’t include any sale prices, just what the set MSRP was when the game originally launched.
While there are exceptions (and I’ll take a look at some those cases below), it seems like the average price of a PS2 or PS3 game getting remastered is $19.99. That seems to be the sweet spot for two main reasons. First, it’s where those who have already enjoyed a game feel good about double dipping. Secondly, it’s a low enough of a price that those who haven’t played a game are willing to give it a shot.
This should come as no surprise as $19.99 has also been the price-point for “Greatest Hits” titles, and has long been considered a budget price for games. Gamers may remember that in a last ditch attempt at competing with Electronic Arts’ Madden series, NFL 2K5 debuted at under 20 dollars, and was by far the most successful entry in Visual Concept’s football franchise. While the move worked out, EA would buy exclusivity for the NFL license, and that’s the last time the pricing experiment occurred.
Selling at a Premium
While $19.99 may be the norm (per game, as three game collections often retail for $59.99), there are several games that were priced higher. The most notable is one of the PlayStation 4’s first remasters: The Last of Us Remastered. Coming out about a year after the original released on PlayStation 3, the game received some backlash due to its $49.99 price point. I thought this got totally overblown since a typical “Game of the Year” release would go for that price, and this version didn’t only include all of the non-cosmetic DLC, but also looked and ran better. For when it was released, and how much work went into it, I have absolutely no issue with that price point.
That’s a very special scenario, though, since it was released at the very end of the PlayStation 3’s lifespan. Another first-party title that went for a higher price was God of War III Remastered, which released at $39.99. By the time that SCE Santa Monica’s game got ported to PlayStation 4 it was already five years old, and could regularly be bought for around $10. That’s definitely a bullish price, but it ended up working out for Sony since the lack of exclusives at the time meant that the remaster sold very well.
Supply and Demand
The success of God of War III Remastered underlines one of the key points about pricing: the correct price is what players are willing to pay. As I’ve written before, gaming is a business, and that’s the reason why the see-through clothes DLC for Gal*Gun: Double Peace is almost $100. If people are willing to pay an outrageous price, then publishers can and will charge it. At the end of the day, the “right” thing to do is whatever keeps the lights on. That same thought process carries over to remasters, and it’s why Batman: Return to Arkham can cost $49.99 despite the games being available on PS3 for less than $20.
Sadly, how much work is put into a remaster doesn’t really matter when it comes to the price. It’s why a relatively bare-bones port like Valkyria Chronicles Remastered can go for $29.99 while Resident Evil 0 received new control schemes and characters and was still only $19.99. It seems like publishers are noticing this too, as Capcom’s remasters went from being very impressive (DmC features new difficulty settings, and Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition has new characters) to adding absolutely nothing (Resident Evil 4 through 6). While it’s disappointing to see, I can’t blame a company for not putting in the extra work if it isn’t needed for sales.
The Price Is Right
While I fully expect to see $19.99 as the standard price (per game) going forward, don’t be surprised when big franchises (or niche ones, as both ends operate nearly identically) get a premium price. It’s not wrong, and it’s not even overpriced, as time after time these remasters have proven to be massive sellers for publishers. There’s no way around it, as the right price will always be what people are willing to buy.