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Video Game Prices - A History

Posted March 17th 2009 by Shawn McMahon.

This complaint has been around since pretty much the dawn of video games. However it has reached new heights in the last few years, and especially in recent months. Before the release of games such as Fable 2 and Fallout 3, the message boards were full of people saying these games weren't worth full price. You would see dozens of quotes like:

"$60 for only 50 hours of gameplay? No Thanks"


"If I can beat Fallout 3 in less than 100 hours it's not worth the money."

Now I have been playing games since around 1988 and although I can't believe I'm about to write something that will no doubt contain the phrase "back in my day", I want to address this. I don't think I'm going to change anyone's mind about the issue, I just want to take you through a history of video game prices.

Atari 2600 – I was really young when we had this so I can't say a whole lot about it. I do know these games cost at least 60 dollars each. 60 dollars for games like Frogger, Pac-Man, Centipede and many more. Games you can now buy on Xbox Live Arcade for around 5 dollars, which many say is still too expensive. I guess people were just excited as hell to even be playing video games at home, so they would pay just about anything.

NES – If my memory is correct, games for the original Nintendo cost around 60 dollars or more as well. It was a reasonable price but the big problem was almost all of these games were blind buys. Aside from magazines, there was no way to learn anything about a game. You couldn't go on message boards and ask if a game was worth getting before you bought it. You just paid the money and hoped. Sometimes you got lucky and ended up with a Battletoads or a Double Dragon. Then sometimes you weren't so lucky and got a Deadly Towers or a Back to the Future. I still remember paying full price for Wayne Gretzky Hockey. It's sheer awfulness actually made me cry. Then again around the same time I cried when American Gladiators was taken off the air. Yea I'm not too proud of younger me.

Even if you lucked out and got one of the good games, often times you would beat it later that afternoon. Even some of the best games like Mega Man can be beaten in less than 2 hours. However we never complained about it. It was money well spent. Usually when you beat a game, you would continue playing it and beat it again and again. Simpler times.

SNES – Ok I want to tell a true story for this one. In the fourth grade a friend of mine took me with him to the mall because his mom was going to let him choose a video game to purchase. Since we hadn't yet realized how terrible the show was, he chose the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers game. The price? $109.99...before tax! I even remember him saying "That's a really good price" although he was most likely lying to convince his mom it was worth it. The kid must have had some dirt on his mom or something, because she bought the game, no questions asked.

We brought the game back to his house, fired it up, and less than an hour later, beat it. He paid approximately 120 dollars, for about 60 minutes of gameplay. If that happened now, people would lose their minds. There would be riots in the streets and EB Games stores would be burned to the ground. But in grade 4, it didn't bother us at all. We loved the game and it was worth every penny in our eyes. In fact that same friend later bought the Aladdin SNES game for the same price and beat it in around the same time. It too was considered a great game that was worth the money.

It's not like these ones were special exceptions though. A whole bunch of Super Nintendo games cost around $90 - $100. Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, each one of those games cost me at least $89.99. They aren't nearly as long as some games today but they were so good that it didn't matter.

N64 – This is around the time we finally started to see some price drops. Not at first however. I still remember paying $84.99 for Wave Race 64, Goldeneye, Harvest Moon 64 and sadly, Mission Impossible. That was the standard price for the games. When the prices finally dropped down to $69.99, it was incredible! I couldn't actually believe how cheap video games had gotten. I remember buying Donkey Kong 64 for that much and was amazed at the deal I had gotten.

So that pretty much brings us up to speed. Now most games cost 50 to 60 dollars for console games, and 30-40 for portable games. It's still a lot to pay for a game, but when I look back at how it used to be, my god we have it so much easier now. You can buy the games used, or trade-in your old games, which I don't remember being very common back in my day (shit). Not to mention the Internet, which has made sure you can read hundreds of opinions on a game before you buy it. Now if you buy a terrible game, there's nobody to blame but yourself.

Like I said I really don't expect to change anyone's minds about prices with this. But the next time you're pissed about having to pay 60 dollars for a 40 hour game, just remember....I paid 100 dollars for Mario's Time Machine. Not so bad now is it?!

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User Comments


I couldn't agree more. People are paying the same or less than what they did for older games, but I think the accessories like xbox live and attachments are what take a hit in our wallets today.

Tuesday, March 17th 2009



Not really. PS1 games were like 40-50$. PS2/Xbox/GC games where like 50$. Now it all goes down to 60$. Not to mention here in europe new games are 70. Which means games cost 91$. It's extremely expensive. If they had done via the normal conversion, games here would cost between 45 and 50 which would be more appropriate. companies like Apple on the App Store did the smart thing for purchases where they decided that 1$ doesn't equal 1. 0.99$ games on the app store cost 0.70 in europe. So I can't say I agree with you sorry. Until games are priced accordingly to US standards, then I will never agree with you and keep bitching about price.

Wednesday, March 18th 2009

J. Edison


Your story sounded outlandish and largely lie-based until I realized you live in Canada. Anyway I've always thought the dollars-to-hours conversion was awkward, mostly because I judged a game's value on the matter of how many weeks I could play it. Back in the Genesis days it would take around a week or two to beat a game, and then maybe a month to get truly bored of it. During the N64's span I bought games by the month almost cyclically, so that became sort of a standard. Now, with the Wii and 360, I play games so infrequently it's almost irrelevant to gauge how many hours or days I get out of each dollar spent. Lately I've been wondering if I made the right decision to buy Resident Evil 5, and all I can think of is that if I play it as much as I played RE4, then years from now when I'm playing through it for the 7th time I'll conclude it was indeed worth it. The thing is, a story-based game that you'll want to play again and again after beating it the first time is kind of rare now. After beating Metroid Prime 3 and Assassin's Creed, I put down the controller and never picked it up again. I guess that brings it all to a head for some people.

Wednesday, March 18th 2009


Yea this is only my perspective as a video game buyer in Canada. These days the video game prices are nearly identical with those in the States but back then we really got screwed. I chose to stop at the N64 because after that the prices seemed to become closer to what they still are today, with the occasional exception..

Wednesday, March 18th 2009


I think the PS1 was the most reasonable console in terms of price. I'm fairly sure I never payed more than $40 for a new game. Even the best games like Spyro or Crash weren't that expensive. The N64 on the other hand cost a mint. Every game was at least $80 new.

Thursday, March 19th 2009

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