Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

The Price to Play


Video game pricing: this is a topic that sparks a lot of debate in the community. In this article I wanted to give you a brief history of video game prices in the UK while I was growing up and give my personal thoughts on the topic. Since this is quite a deep topic I’m only going to spend this article discussing new retail games.  [Editor’s Note: This article uses prices in British Pounds (£).  For reference, at time of writing £1 = $1.48]

I have been quite lucky to see the early days of video game pricing to what it has generally become today. Back in the eighties when I was a very young fellow I distinctly remember seeing ZX Spectrum games being sold for the nice low price of £2.99. This was very common with micro computers, but the ZX Spectrum by far had the cheapest and arguably the most shovel ware as a result. The Microcomputer and PC for that matter would always be cheapest place to get your retail game fix. This is of course back before the internet was even a thing, my family certainly didn’t even have the internet until the late nineties. What was commanding the high price points was the Sega Master System and Nintendo Entertainment system, games would sell between £29.99 to £49.99. Nintendo had quite the reputation for expensive pricing in the UK. What was quite interesting is the used game market wasn’t a big thing at retail at this stage. But you were able to purchase used games from market places or car boot sales along with a ton of bootleg copied Micro computer games. Once the Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo rolled around I started seeing games rock up to prices as high as £59.99. Nintendo once again was the main villian for these prices. While this may sound rather high we just have to deal with it. This sort of pricing became a standard affair for me, hence why my brothers and I would probabaly only purchase just one or two new games a year.

re2_boxIt wasn’t until the Sony Playstation rolled around that we would see a massive change in price. CD-ROMs were much cheaper so games on the Playstation or Sega Saturn would retail for around £39.99 new. It wasn’t long into the Playstations life cycle that this price would drop further to £29.99 as standard for a new game, and then drop even further with the release of “Platinum” titles (greatest hits in US) to £19.99. This is what would make me pull the trigger on most games since I wasn’t earning a whole lot of money in my part time job, its how I was able to eventually get my hands on Final Fantasy 7 and 8 as well as one of my all time favorites Resident Evil 2. In the final years of the Playstation life cycle they also released one more set of re-release titles for only £9.99 and there were some pretty awesome game in this range including the first two Tomb Raider games and the original Resident Evil. Now while most of us were loving these new found
cheap prices in gaming there was one console that decided cartridges were still the way forward. We are looking at you Mr. N64. Since Nintendo stuck to cartridge it of course meant production costs were higher still. But rather than sticking to £59.99 from the Super Nintendo era I remember seeing some new N64 games being sold for as much as £74.99 in a lot of cases double the cost of a CD-ROM based game. This was probably one of the only times where I actually disagreed with the pricing and generally stuck to used games which were significantly cheaper and by this stage something most retailers were embracing. I will admit there was one game I did buy new, I’m happy to admit it and have no shame for it, that purchase was Perfect Dark on the N64, I believe I sunk £49.99 into that game. I had been saving up for ages and I absolutely loved the game. I sunk many hours into both the single player, multiplayer and various other modes so I feel I got my £50 quids worth.
mariokart64_boxN64 did re-release games in what they called the “Classic” series for the lesser price of £29.99 but this was mostly Nintendo’s efforts to compete with the market and very few games were re-released in this category, Mario Kart 64 was a famous example and this was one I purchased new in the classic range. It’s worth pointing out the poor old Dreamcast. These games sold for between £29.99 to £39.00. But Sega’s console really struggled in the UK and brand new games severely dropped in price as retailers were desperate to purge the systems existence in preparation for the PS2 era. One of the few games I purchased new for the Dreamcast was Phantasy Star Online, a game I absolutely loved to play on the system, it was also the first game I played online and still feel to this day no game has come close to the enjoyable experience of the online component. I spent £29.99 and once again I didn’t feel that was too much looking back.

Moving on a generation with the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube. Games across the board on all these consoles were going as high as £59.99 especially around launch. Most games inevitably settled on the general £39.99 price.This would be the price that would pretty much become the standard pricing for games for each generation of consoles to follow including the PS4 and Xbox One. One game I distinctly remember grabbing new was Deus Ex: Invisible War for the original Xbox. I paid the full £39.99 retail for the game, took it home and spent many late nights enjoying it. Just a few years later I remember seeing that game sold for a single pound coin. A close friend of mine used to laugh at me about it but one again I didn’t mind I enjoyed the game. It was this generation where I would actually have regrettable purchases. Gran Turismo 3 on PS2 was a game I for some reason convinced myself I wanted to play and enjoy but despite sinking many hours into it I just could never get into it. Never traded it in though.

Now of course digital is huge and we now have the wonderful opportunity to purchase various games new and old across various online stores at different prices. Since this is quite current I’m not going to cover the prices in this particular article.


Generally speaking I really have never had a problem with video game pricing. While I totally respect that to many, prices can seem high today, but from my own experience video games are now as cheap as they have ever been. Not only that games drop in price very quickly. A newly released game will now be re released for practically half the price in a couple of months, this would have taken years for the PSone era. The other reason I don’t really mind the pricing is I appreciate the amount of work that goes into making these games. I have been quite lucky in my life to experience how films and video games are made first hand and there is a lot of people involved in the process. Of course I’m not here to judge how you purchase these games, whether you buy new, used or even pirate the game. How acquire your games or movies is up to you. I’m just giving my thoughts on the topic. In all honesty I don’t really pick up many new games for consoles since I spend most of my gaming time playing retro games. Usually when a interesting indie title or very unique game releases I will practically insist on purchasing it new just to support the developers in the hope that my purchase will aid the industry to make more unique games.

Now I’ve barely scratched the surface of this pricing topic. I haven’t even discussed the used game market or digital sales. It’s a vast topic that will probably warrant a revisit someday, maybe even a podcast.

Written by jamalais

April 7, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Blog

Tagged with ,

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