Does Price Equal Worth on XBLA?

I’ve been thinking for a while about the price structure of the Xbox LIVE Arcade or more importantly how do we properly identify a game’s worth?  There doesn’t seem to be any definite standard by Microsoft as we’ve seen games range in price from 400 – 1600 Microsoft Points. 

Xbox LIVE Arcade

Is it the name of the publisher or developer on an XBLA title that sets the tone on price?  Should a game from Penny Arcade cost more because it’s Penny Arcade?  NinjaBee has made what I personally think are some of the best games on Xbox LIVE Arcade yet neither of their titles top out over 800 Microsoft Points.  Cloning Clyde was great.  A Kingdom for Keflings is pure, mindless, waste-hours-of-your-life fun.  So is it the content of the title?  The size of the title that sets the price?  The hype?  Hype makes me cringe at how much The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai will cost.

I’ve always been curious as to why there is no guideline made available to the public on how these titles are priced.  Why not (even if it’s from the developer side) give a general outline of how Microsoft and developers come to a decision on a price for an XBLA title?  There was an outline for delisting games so why not this?

The recently released R-Type Dimensions clocked in at a staggering 1200 Microsoft Points.  We’ve seen 1600 Microsoft Points games from the boys at Penny Arcade.  We’ve also seen many 1200 Microsoft Points game that some argue were worth it (Castle Crashers, Braid) while others (Banjo-Kazooie) left a WTF on our faces.  Do you plan to get as much enjoyment out of R-Type Dimensions as you did Castle Crashers?  How much replay value has N+ given gamers at 800 MP versus the replay value in Braid at 1200 MP?  So how should we justify prices on these XBLA games?

When I see remakes of classics (that you could get for free on PC) clock in at 1200 Microsoft Points I honestly scratch my head.  But that’s what happens when you don’t have any consistency or standard behind how these games are priced.  Or perhaps Microsoft does but how are we supposed to know?  Has there even been a 400 Microsoft Points game recently?  The tight-lipped service is growing thin with many people.

Totemball 

The Xbox LIVE Arcade is now on par with buying designer jeans versus the jeans with no name that provide the same comfort at a cheaper price.  Are smaller developer studios being bitch slapped?  Strange Flavour is still the only developer to even attempt incorporating the Vision Camera beyond the “see my naked body” usage yet where’s the price love from Microsoft?

What say you all about how inconsistent the Xbox LIVE Arcade has become?  And how do you personally decide if an XBLA game is worth the points?

About the Author

They call me "The Velvet Voice". I'm a Microsoft Xbox MVP and Author of the Day 8 New Human War book series on Amazon.com. I like sunshine, games and large amounts of money. You can follow me on Twitter @deaconblade. Take a look at my About Me Bio for more on what I do.

36 Responses to “ Does Price Equal Worth on XBLA? ”

  1. I agree with you about the pricing point. Would Braid or Castle Crasher been given the 1200 points treatment if it was for Xbox’s Summer of Arcade promotion? What if they were released individually? The industry is set to make money but consumer’s keeps getting hosed by these high prices. That extra 400 points (or 5 bucks) is a fine line between me buying the game or not. I hope that 1200 isn’t the new 800… otherwise I would probably not buy another arcade game ever again.

    I was always for the arcade games cause it was inexpensive and fun. Now it’s just getting crazy.

  2. In my eyes it seems like what they have been doing recently is going by hype. My reason for this is because when banjo nuts and bolts was coming out and it was kind of a big talk for a short brief they came out with the arcade version and jumped the price on that even though it just doesnt seem worth it. and im sure they jump the prices on games that they believe will sell very well. and games they think that wont sell they will have at 400.. which isnt cool

  3. I have wondered the same thing, Deacon. I think we could set up a spreadsheet based on diferent factors, like:

    * Popularity – how much do you need to pay for the games at the end of the list on xbox.com, and how much for the ones at the top
    * Rating – based on metacritic, the same scale
    * Purchases – based on the list posted each week by Major Nelson (alas, he only post the top 10, but we could start from there)

    Using this, we could get a picture on pricing, and send some suggestions to the team at XBLA.

    Now, what happenned with the statement on shelving unpopular games? As far as we know, the only dud that was eliminated was Yaris…

  4. And no, I won’t pay 1200 points for R-Type Dimensions. The only shmup worth it’s salt is Ikaruga, and that was already released. Everything else, 800 or less.

  5. good list Tyrone…and yeah whatever happened to delisting games?

  6. For me I generally will not pay over $10 for an XBLA game unless it clearly has enough value to be worth the higher cost. At $10 I can easily dismiss a game if I only play it for 2 or 3 hours since that is how much I would have paid to see a movie during that same timeframe. I’m not sure why but when they get over $10 I expect a lot more content in the games.

  7. Microsoft heavily regulates and controls every aspect of XBLA except for the price. It is my understanding that Microsoft makes a recommendation on how the game should be priced but that the decision is ultimately up to the publisher. Personally, I do not see anything wrong with this set-up. Publishers should be allowed to price their games at whatever price they feel is best and as the consumer we can choose to buy these games or not…just like in every other transaction we make out in the real world.

    The matter of worth is a subjective question so while I respect someone who says that is not worth it is not fact, but opinion. I think that a lot of the angst born around the prices is more about wanting something we cannot afford rather than feeling ripped off (not that that doesn’t happen as well).

  8. Intangible if that is true then XBLA Publishers are idiots. I have a 1600 point card I was given last year 2008 and still have not used it b/c I will never buy a 1600 point game and if its 1200 points it better be a top 5 XBLA game.

    I did buy some of the greatest hits XBLA at reduced 800 and 400 MS points. To be honest I used to love XBLA, but now with no 400 point releases and over hyped and over priced 1200 point games I rather not buy any XBLA games.

    Has there even been a 400 Microsoft Points game recently, no and its a damn shame too b/c I’d buy a $5.00 game to mess with even if its just okay. I wont blow $15 or $20 on a game b/c for a few dollars more I can buy a retail game (new/used) and own the game. Meaning I can re-sell it or not have to worry about HD space since I actually own the game and not just the DR< rights to it!

  9. i’m with ya Hartman. although i’m not sure if publishers hold the exclusive right to finalize pricing on games. i’ve heard both sides and it’s all confusing as to how these prices are set. i still wonder why Geometry Wars wasn’t 1200 points when it outshines nearly every XBLA game.

    so who really has final say in pricing?

  10. OK, friend, here’s a quick view, based on the worst of the pack. I took the last 10 on each category. Let’s see their prices:

    On XBOX.COM:

    Lost Cities – 800
    Geometry Wars Evolved(2) – 800
    Penny Arcade Episode 2 – 1200
    Merv Griffin’s Xwords – 800
    Portal Still Alive – 1200
    Interpol – 800
    PowerUp Forever – 800
    Live Draft Tracker – 400
    Live Score Tracker – 80
    R-Type Dimensions – 1200

    On Metacritic:

    Word Puzzle (43) – 800
    New Rally X (43) – 400
    Bliss Island (43) – 400
    Cyberball 2072 (41) – 400
    Screwjumper (40) – 800
    Coffeetime Crosswords (39) – 800
    Rocky and Bullwinkle (37) – 800
    Frogger 2 (37) – 800
    Double D Dodgeball (36) – 800
    Yaris (17) – Gone

    The first list really doesn’t help to the argument. There are a lot of games here that a true 360 player would never miss. It does gives one point: R-Type does not compare to Portal and Penny Arcade 2.

    The second one is more close to what we expect, and for what we see, someone at marketplace should start really making his job and adjust the price of the trash we have seen. 800 points for Screwjumper, Frogger 2 and Rocky and Bullwinkle?!? Give me a break!

  11. Checking on Major Nelson’s recent post, the price for the top ten sellers is:

    1 The Maw – 800
    2 Castle Crashers – 1200
    3 Worms – 400
    4 Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix – 1200
    5 UNO – 400
    6 A Kingdom for Keflings – 800
    7 Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 – 400
    8 Braid – 1200
    9 Banjo-Kazooie – 1200
    10 Bomberman Live – 800

    This show us even more the disparate pricing that we currently find on XBLA (an old Nintendo 64 port as expensive as Castle Crashers and Super Street Fighter, which include HD graphics and multiplayer?!? Them fighting words!!!). No wonder Uno and Worms are so popular, great games with an excellent price.

    P.S. An interesting fact, the top 10 in Xbox.com are:

    Castle Crashers
    Uno
    N+
    Bomberman Live
    5th Grader (?!?)
    Pinball FX
    Worms
    Marble Blast Ultra
    Megaman 9 (I HATE MECHA ELEPHANTS!!!)
    Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix

  12. good finds Tyrone..interesting.

  13. Yeh i feel like if they like the game then they just feel like it should priced higher. especially if it is hyped up

  14. 400 point arcade games are DEAD. I rarely buy any arcade games anymore anyways,after the Summer of Arcade, their quality has been very ehhh inconsistent IMO. The last one I bought was The Maw, which was really solid for only 800 points.

  15. I always thought MS set the prices of games, seems as they do for extra content (like the GoW thing) – I guess nobody knows.

    I got Banjo Kazooie for free, but if I hadn’t I would have thought 1200 was overpriced. It would be £10.20 (or $15) in points, whereas Wii N64 titles are £7.50 (or $10). Yes it has minor improvements and achievements, but I don’t see how that can justify that price.

    If I was responsible, I would charge the points based on the sum of:
    size (100 or 300),
    replayability (100-300),
    extra features like Live/multiplayer etc. (0-200),
    originality i.e. the game can only be found on XBLA (200 or 400).

    Prices should then be cut 20-40% after 1-2 years, with prior warning so as not to get angry people who bought just before the price cut. The reason being the “pushing forward to make new games and experiences” crap.

    I had no idea about games being delisted, I’m not happy about that at all. I’ve never trusted or have ever cared about other people’s scores, to affect the game I will play. Rather than delist a game, why not just make it free (or 100 points or less) and put it in a ‘bargain bin’ category. Sorry for the wall of text :P

  16. It’s pretty complex and now I just check out the demos and hope the games I like are cheaper. Didn’t the price hikes coincide with the opening of some of the game size restrictions? Some games that still fell within the old standards took advantage of the new price point it seems.

  17. I agree with you Nanakai, on the lower price when a game is no longer “on the radar”. Take Word Puzzle, for example. Eventhought it’s not popular, I purchased it last year because my kids love it and it’s a good family game. At 800 points, it’s a little overpriced, as multiplayer online ask for 4 people connected (and if you watch the total of players available anytime by using 360voice, you will see it’s worthless). Maybe we could also find someone that loves Coffetable Crosswords.

    The point is, if you check on the last time they reduced price, there hasn’t been a true effort to sincere the costs for the welfare of us. And that being the case, you just wonder if they prefer catching the “unwise” spending their points on garbage, or trying to get a little more by reducing prices and givings us the chance to reconsider if one can buy a decent or so-so game but with a trully bargain cost.

  18. price reduction is one of those things i’d like to see more of…especially those older (no one plays anymore) titles.

  19. Yes i would love to see price reduction on games that have been out ther to long and no one plays.

    Also! i remember a publisher tried to give the community something free to download for the game but the publisher said they were told NO according to the xbox people so im very sure that its up to the xbox people about pricing and idk i think there starting to get greedy and that greed might lead to the downfall of XBLA

  20. Its an interesting argument.
    Now I DO see the point of 1200ms point games I mean with the likes of Portal and Street fighter II THDR, but at the same time I rarely if at all think i will buy a game at 1200 points.

    800 is defiantly the sweet spot, however unfortunately I believe that the XBLA is losing its identity, the arcade is supposed to be about casual value games. Its a shame it really is because I love the XBLA (i’m a writer at xboxlivearcade.com)

    Now this is where i think R-Type falls down, after playing the demo i really cant see how this is worth anything near 1200 points, in fact i think it would struggle at 800.

    Its amazing how it seems R-Type has brought out discussions like this all over the place!

  21. the prices are an iffy point with me at the moment, I liked Banjo game, I never played it on the N64(didn’t have one), I really didn’t like the price. Again R-Type Dimensions really shouldn’t have been more than 800 MS points, I don’t think an Arcade game should be more than 800 points, I’ve paid more than 800 a 2X grudingly.

    I don’t feel an arcade game should be more than $10, and with this economy, I’m not too sure how many are gonna dish out the big money for games seeing that there is a rumour that the game prices will also drop.

  22. the $10 mark is a good argument. which is why there should probably be some standard in place that the public can get behind. soon these XBLA titles will be priced upwards of retail games the way things are going.

  23. I just don’t understand the logic of saying that an arcade game should not be more than $10. If a game is more difficult to develop and contains more content why shouldn’t a developer be able to charge appropriately.

    I do understand the economic concerns but isn’t that a choice that should be left to the publisher? If their game is too expensive and no one buys it then let them learn their lesson the hard way.

  24. true Intangible, which is why i think some sort of standard should be in place.

  25. OK I’m definitely not understanding your position then :S What do you mean by standard? Are you saying that there should be a price ceiling and perhaps arcade remakes (except maybe the likes of Bionic Commando Rearmed) should all have a set mandatory price?

  26. i’m saying there should be a standard to go by. think of it as a tier system i guess. just something so we dont’ see prices all over the place ya know. much like there is with themes and picture packs. there’s a standard there. it could be more or less depending on the quality but generally, we know what to expect price wise.

  27. ‘If a game is more difficult to develop and contains more content why shouldn’t a developer be able to charge appropriately.’

    Just as if a game has been easy to develop (i.e. a port) and contans no extra content, shouldn’t we pay in points appropriately.

    ‘If their game is too expensive and no one buys it then let them learn their lesson the hard way.’

    It’s not as simple as that. Castle Crashers is too expensive, but thanks to the hype lots of people have downloaded it. So the only lesson learnt there is that if Microsoft can big it up, then people will pay regardless.

  28. Of course just like anyone else I would like to pay the minimum possible for everything I spend money on, but what motivation is there for Microsoft to institute such a policy if, like you said, lots of people buy it anyway?

    If I am to be honest I also have to accept the fact that something cannot be objectively “too expensive”. The right price for you, for me, for Microsoft, for the publisher and for all sorts of other people vary a great deal. So while I would like to see what Deaconblade is proposing happen, I’m not sure that the right pressures exist for it to occur. However, I join you in the hope that prices are more consistently, on average, brought in line with our expectations.

  29. I’ll only pay 800 or 1500 for a good arcade game!

    800 was well spent on REZ HD, love that game so much, always play it now and then!
    800 on Duke Nukem 3D, it was good and bad, the good, made me remember one of the best FPS of all times, bad the online may be dead now since I stopped playing it after Soul Calibur 4 release.

    800 for Worms 3D was a wasted money! I was hoping there will be more weapons and all. Since it said “get the full game for more levels, xbox live multiplayer and much more.” I thought the much more will be that there will be more weapons.

    Now I will be cautious and will only buy games I think will be worth it and last forever. I won’t try and think ahead, what ever it says we’ll get in the full version, will be what we’ll get

    A game that will soon get my money will be Dish Washer. and Battlefield 1943?

  30. “standard” when i see that word i think about how Xbox 360 games are all normally 60$ and then theres the game thats not worked on that hard and there 29.99$

    But then after time games go down in price

    so what i dont understand is why wont that happen to arcade games i mean really if there gonna price something that high there will be a spike in sales if its a good game and then it wil die down.. then people that dont pay that price will wait and pay a lower price and that would be the best way to go

  31. We need better deals or SALES…come on MS make it happen! Who is teh director of XBLA games anyways?

  32. [...] Xbox LIVE Arcade title announced by Namco the other day.  In the midst of our discussion about the worth of Xbox LIVE Arcade titles, I wonder where this one will stack [...]

  33. There shouldn’t be any game over $10.Even the originals are much cheaper on a disk.Now if they released Jedi knight dark forces 2 i would pay since the original still goes for a mint and isn’t BC….grrrr

  34. There shouldn’t be any game over $10 agreed!

  35. hey its all about capitalism, i think worth should equal price, and somewhat based on effort, we do need to make a profit. for example, if you spend a year making a short crappy game, the price should be very low, if you spend a year making a very epic game, the price should be higher (no duh). but on XBLA nothing should be so freaking amazing it would be over $10….

  36. The problem with the arcade is that the games are non-transferable, and 90% of the games are garbage. Burn me once, your fault, burn me twice, my fault. Take Lumines for example… that was complete rip off. I can’t sell it, and I can’t even give it away. So basically I wasted my money.

    And in a REAL economy, you can buy sell trade, and prices naturally go down with time. But since it’s a closed economy and a rigid monopoly, there is no recourse for bad product. People have to pay full price, and take their chances that the features you get by unlocking the demo turns out to be worth the dough. Unfortunately 90% of it isn’t.

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