Capcom: Are Games Really Too Cheap?
You hear that, gamers? Capcom boss Haruhiro Tsujimoto reckons you’re paying too little for your video games – and maybe he’s kind of right.
It’s hard to argue his point too much. In the middle of a cost-of-living crisis we’ve seen increasing prices, increasingly aggressive monetisation, experimentation with AI and NFTs and a whole host of other ways to nickel and dime people who, by and large, just want to play a cool game.
But we have to admit that gaming, as a hobby, is very cheap. And that price increases are very rare. Two little comparisons. The first is that, when taking inflation into account, I paid more than £100 for Super Smash Bros in 1999. I don’t buy games day one very often, and I certainly try to avoid £70 when I do. But that Smash Bros price puts it all into perspective.
Of course, there’s rarely a game where you can’t top out £100 when you include DLC and the like. But at least you have the choice not to buy.
The second comparison is this. For my next camera and replacement lenses, I will be paying more than I spent for my PlayStation 5, Series X, Switch and PC, all combined.
Gaming is a cheap hobby. We hate to admit it, but it is. And it’s a massively efficient hobby, too. In theory I could buy a Series S and have that last the entire generation without ever paying a single penny more. I’m not sure there’s any other hobby where that’s true. Capcom is part of a massively successful but extremely accessible industry. And that’s the thing: they are massively successful.
Capcom is Raking It In
Last year Capcom made £240m in pure profit. For all important context, that’s quite a lot of money.
Epic, who owns Unreal and Fortnite, cut a load of staff this week. They’ll also increase the price of their in-game currency soon.
Ubisoft got rid of people. Embracer is flailing around trying to find profitability. Microsoft were cutting people earlier this year too.
None of these – with the possible exception of Embracer – are unsuccessful companies. Ubisoft is poorly run, but made nearly £350m last year. Microsoft officially has more money than God.
And to clarify, Embracer – who is currently having a meltdown over too many purchases and not enough decent output – made nearly as much as Ubi last year.
My point, I guess, is that gaming is making these people an awful lot of money. Is it enough money? Well, the answer to that is always going to be no. It’s never enough money.
I’m going to finish this by saying this is a very complex subject, and not one you can breeze through in 500 words. The biggest issue, rather than games being too cheap, is that actually games are too expensive to make. There is a base level expected of a blockbuster game and these games become too big and too expensive to fail. And then they fail and everybody pretends to be in shock. Forspoken is a great recent example of this. You can’t make a game that looks like that and then have it fail to meet expectations. It’s just completely unsustainable.
And, yes, Forspoken failed to hit the mark where it should’ve done. But it was a new AAA IP, from an established team. Each fix costs time and money, which means it has to be more successful to claw back funds. And there’s the rub.
So Capcom is right and wrong. They’re making enough money – but the bubble is always at risk of bursting. For every developer, and every publisher. New IPs probably don’t sell, sequels become rehashes because the price to make them bigger and better is too much. Everything becomes Marvel and Star Wars, because they bring with them a built-in audience. Until Avengers happens.
It’s a mess. And for that amount of risk, it’s easy to see why Capcom want more per unit.