The Value of Money – A Unique Anomaly

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, or you’ve just come to visit us from the planet Caritunias from the Zohobian Empire galaxy (in which case welcome, and please don’t judge us all based on our politicians!), it’s no secret that the cost of living has risen.

Things cost more. They cost a lot more, and have been steadily rising over the years. A can of Diet Coke has all but doubled in the last ten years. My rent has increased by about 50% and my clothing budget has all but quadrupled (although with losing weight and the inevitable yo-yo effect it has on me at the moment, that’s largely down to buying clothes that fit again every time).

One thing that has not changed though is the cost of games themselves. And this, unsurprisingly, could be the major cause of many of the industries current monetary issues.

The Recommended Retail Price of games in the United Kingdom has remained pretty much static since the early 90’s – £39.99, with some bigger-name and franchised games able to command from £44.99 to £49.99. Collectors Editions and Limited Editions not inclusive, of course.

Let’s take the baseline of £39.99 as an example, and 1995 as a point – this was when gaming started to become mainstream, after all. The Sony Playstation was doing the rounds and opinions were changing, and games were considered a real luxury item, especially some of the bigger named titles like Tomb Raider. £39.99 was a perfectly accepted amount.

Of course, games are still £39.99 – but what does this mean in relative monetary terms? Well, the value of money has gone down in recent years. This means you’d need more money to attain a similar value to something in the past. But that may not mean much to you either, so let’s go with a practical demonstration.

For this, I will be using Retail Prince Index figures.

So let us say you have £39.99 in money right now, in your hand. And let us theorise that you also have a portal to the past in your living room. Woo! Let us go back in time!

So you go back – let’s say your money at this moment changes to reflect the value of it then. You hear a jingle in your pocket – your £39.99 has shrunk! In terms of relative RPI, it is no longer £39.99 – it is now £26.70!

Let us then summarise you can get back to £39.99 at that point, and you bring that money back through the portal today – again, there’s a funny tingly jingly feeling in your pocket as the fabric of space-time morphs your money into the current relative RPI value.

This is the important one. You look down to your money and see what £39.99 then is worth now – amazingly, you now have £60.00! (I’d like to take this moment to thank Measuring Worth for their very nice converter, thank you awesome people!)

This might seem like a silly exercise, but the point here is that £39.99 has been a static value for what is, ostensibly, a valuable commodity. That RRP hasn’t changed with inflation, or monetary value – indeed, if it were to have risen with the standard cost of living you’d all likely be paying £59.99 as an average for your games, a whole £20 more than you would have paid in the past!

What this means in a more sober slant is that games today are worth £20 less than they should be, in real terms. £20 loss on each and every game is, unsurprisingly, a serious amount to lose. In terms of a million sales, that is £20 million that has become conspicuously absent. Think about it. That’s about half of the average budget for a game!

Is it really then any surprise that studios, publishers and retail outlets are trying to find other ways to make up for that loss of revenue? We rightly argue that DLC has become a way to milk us for money – but we forget that we’re not paying the relatively correct price for our games anymore. The industry is furious with second hand sales – but retail outlets also need to make money, and as games have stayed so static in price they’ve resorted to some seriously dramatic measures over the years to make up the shortfall.

And we, as consumers, are surprised we’re being punished for this. We’re angry. But why? If a game should be worth £59.99 now, then why not pay that for it? Relatively speaking, of course. We’re paying more for our food, more for our holidays and generally speaking, more for booze, cigarettes and tobacco and junk food/takeaways. We pay more for basics, and more for luxuries. So why are we so dead set against games – which are luxuries, let us not forget that – going up at least another £10? At £49.99, for your average million seller that is another £10 million more to divide up – retail stores get more to continue, publishers get a bit more and studios get more as a result of that.

The industry is trying to find ways around the fact that game pricing has been static for the best part of twenty years. They need to sell more to earn less, and sell DLC to somehow break even. These are unrealistic demands which are hurting not just the consumers, or the retailers, but the developers and publishers themselves. Currently, everyone loses.

Sure, being asked to pay another £10 may seem harsh – but if things had changed according to retail value, you’d be paying £20 more than you do now. And I think, if we’re all being reasonable and honest with ourselves, most of the games we rush out to buy on day one are games we would, arguably, be willing to spend the extra tenner on, right?

And the great news on paying the extra tenner is the studios make more money, therefore you are less likely to be shafted on DLC, and things being cut from the game to be sold off to you at a later date. That may not happen initially, but if we are willing and able to pay the extra, then we’ve got a much, much more sound case to answer against the current DLC trend.

The industry wins. We, eventually, win with more complete games and more value for our money. Retailers will win.

All for another £10? For me, that’s a complete no-brainer. And if you love games, it really should be a serious no-brainer for you too.

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