Yesterday's Nintendo Direct came packed with announcements, trailers and the very welcome news that Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games are now available on Nintendo Switch Online, but soon after the broadcast had ended, confirmation arrived that Nintendo would be charging $70 for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, confirming rumours that had sprung up shortly beforehand.
While the general consensus was that $70 for one of the most anticipated Switch games of all time wasn't the end of the world, there were some who took particular issue at the price hike – especially as it's coming at a time when everyone is having to tighten their belts thanks to the rising cost of living.
However, those with longer memories (and the grey hair which goes along with them) might be wondering what the fuss is all about because we were paying $70 for video games almost 30 years ago. And it's worth pointing out that due to inflation, 70 bucks in 2023 isn't the same as 70 bucks in 1994; adjusted to take account of inflation, it's more like $140 in modern money. Yikes. How did we possibly afford it? (And that's for official releases – grey import titles were often even more expensive, due to the costs involved with shipping them from Japan and the high demand. The Japanese version of Street Fighter II on the Super Famicom was famously sold for well over £100 in the UK soon after its release).
There were, of course, valid reasons for video games being so expensive back in the '90s. Cartridges cost more to manufacture back then, meaning that publishers had to charge retailers more per copy, and that meant steeper costs for the consumer. Today, production costs are lower, but the number of staff required to actually create a game – and the development time needed – means that costs have risen exponentially when compared to the days of the SNES, N64, PlayStation and even PlayStation 2. Sony has already hiked PS5 software prices up, and while Nintendo seems to be treating Tears of the Kingdom as an isolated case, it's clear that we have to get used to prices being higher.
It's also worth pointing out that, in many cases, you're arguably getting 'more game' for your money in 2023. While there are a great many vintage titles which have given us decades of enjoyment, few would argue that games from the '80s, '90s or even '00s offer as much value as modern-day releases. Breath of the Wild soaked up over 100 hours of this writer's time, while Elden Ring was an 80-hour quest (and, in both cases, much was left undiscovered). $70 for a game that will give you more than 50 times the entertainment of an average-length movie doesn't sound like a bad deal at all; compare that to $70 (or $136, if you prefer) for a ropey SNES platformer based on a terrible '90s cartoon show, and you could argue that modern-day players have it pretty sweet.
Of course, there are solid arguments as to why video games should cost less today, even when you factor in inflation and the rising cost of development. The industry is so huge now that publishers can make an absolute fortune just on the sales of a single game – take Mario Kart 8, for example, which has been on sale (and close to full price the entire time) for almost a decade, having launched on the Wii U before being ported over to the Switch.
The volume of sales is so huge now that there's a pretty convincing case to be made for game prices to be lower than they are – but, of course, publishers will argue that many titles don't sell as well as that, and they have to cover their losses with higher prices. It's also worth pointing out that aggressive discounting is common today, with some titles dropping to as much as half their original retail price months after launch.
Even so, it does seem a bit rich to be grumbling about a $70 video game in 2023 when some of us were mowing lawns, doing paper rounds and washing cars all summer just to raise the 70 bucks to purchase the solid-gold classic that is Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage. (We've still not recovered from that one.)
Do you think $70 is too much for a video game in 2023? Vote in our poll below and tell us what you think.
Do you think $70 is too much for a video game in 2023? (1,055 votes)
- No, it's fine50%
- Yes, it's too much35%
- I don't really have an opinion either way15%