Microsoft: XBLA game prices are going up, but so's quality

In 2009, only about a quarter of the full games on Xbox Live Arcade cost the premium 1200 Microsoft Points. That number climbed to almost a third in 2010 – and is set to rise further this year, with almost half the titles released so far hitting the 1200 MSP mark. Microsoft's Chris Charla, portfolio director for XBLA, acknowledges that prices have gone up – but argues that the inflation should be seen as a sign of increasing quality and developers pushing the boundaries of what's possible on the service.

“On some app markets there's been a race to zero. We've seen a little bit of the opposite happening,” Charla says, cagily inviting comparison with these unnamed app stores (which may or may not be commanding an increasingly huge portion of the games market via platforms which – hypothetically, you understand – might not even have been built for gaming). “It has been really gratifying to see that people are willing to pay a premium price for digital content."

How can that be good for consumers? Charla points out that while median prices have risen, so has the quality of titles, at least insofar as Metacritic scores go. The average Metascore for XBLA titles, says Charla, has risen by 12 points since 2008. The number of XBLA titles priced at 1200 MSP has climbed by 41% in that time – though the higher price-point was only introduced halfway through 2008, and a fairer comparison might be the 21% by which the number has risen since 2009.

Above: The stupendous Castle Crashers was definitely worth the then-premium 1200 MSP price-point

It's all a sign that XBLA is being taken increasingly seriously, argues Charla. He says some developers don't realize the expectations people have of the service –  “[some developers say], 'We want to do a boxed-quality game on Live Arcade', and I'm like, 'What does that mean?' I can point at a bunch of 38 and 42 and 56 Metacritic-scoring boxed games, so it actually kind of pisses me off” – but that quality continues to improve. “I don't know where prices are going to go,” he says: “ultimately, that's set by the market.”

Oppositely, Charla showed enthusiasm for microtransaction-driven titles like Magic: The Gathering and Pinball FX 2: “We're always looking to be the pointy end of the spear when it comes to experiments, and that's kind of where we're focused right now.” What do you think – has XBLA gotten better as prices rise?

Jul 25, 2011





  • Spybreak8 - July 28, 2011 6:13 a.m.

    I've been extremely happy with XBLA games and their quality. It's easy to nag at the price, esp on the internet, but if you're really want to save some cash wait for the inevitable deal of the week. Many good deals for those that wait 5-9 months after a game gets released. Same goes for DLC.
  • gprime17 - July 26, 2011 12:20 a.m.

    I wish microsoft would just abolish the scam that is microsoft points. Say you have zero points. You cant buy an arcade game withouth first buying the 1000 points, then the 500 points.
  • shadowreaper72 - July 25, 2011 11:45 p.m.

    Yes there had been some really amazing XBLA and PSN titles that deserve the 15$ for them. However I wish they wouldnt just stay at that price forever like they do. At least after a year or something they should at least drop 5$ in my opinion.
  • Yeager1122 - July 25, 2011 11:34 p.m.

    As long as quality matches the price im fine.
  • ThatGuyFromTV - July 25, 2011 10:17 p.m.

    again, it depends on quality and quantity of the game. I probably wouldn't pay 1200 for a quickie arcade game, but a full-fledged game shrunk down to a dlcable experience is something I have no problem buying. It's like the difference between Pac-Man CE or Geometry Wars and Super Meat Boy or Shadow Complex.
  • NullG7 - July 25, 2011 9:56 p.m.

    High quality arcade games are worth a premium cost. I think its great that some arcade games are more fun than full priced box games.
  • inkyspot - July 25, 2011 9:11 p.m.

    I think they are making a projection rather than actual factual info. Some XBLA game were good, most of them IMO was not worth 1200 points. Maybe in time it will get there, but right now, only a handful of games can claim the price is justified.
  • statutoryreparez - July 25, 2011 8:30 p.m.

    I dont mind paying 15 dollars for a good xbla game, what i dont like is paying 15 dollars for some maps.....
  • NelosAngelos - July 25, 2011 8:29 p.m.

    Quality is good, so the price I think will be justified in the long run, gamers will get used to it as we all eventually do. But still, prices go up as more and more people are falling farther into the middle-lower class.
  • Teegro - July 25, 2011 8:28 p.m.

    @idlemindkiller has hit it on the head. There is a lot of quality stuff out there and it's getting better all the time but we really need a big reduction in the price of the older titles. Would you pay day one price for a retail game that's three years old? Didn't think so. The same needs to apply to the games on demand service, £20 for halo 3?
  • xXxsilentassassinxXx - July 25, 2011 8:18 p.m.

    It's not that the prices are increasing, but rather the number of downloadable games that are sold are sold at the higher of the two prices. (1200 rather than 800)
  • xXxsilentassassinxXx - July 25, 2011 8:13 p.m.

    As long as the quality and the time I get out of a game is greater than the price I spent than I'm okay with it. But it's always nice to get an amazing arcade game that was cheap.
  • therawski - July 25, 2011 8:13 p.m.

    So can I expect Shadow Complex 2 soon? My paperweight would like a reason to turn it on.
  • hist - July 25, 2011 7:33 p.m.

    I think the quality has definitely gone up, though I am still hesitant to pay 1200 points for a game. I'll most often wait for it to go on sale before buying it. Thankfully, Ms Splosion Man was only 800 points, so I was able to jump on it. As for the micro-transactions like Pinball FX2, I have to say that I'm *really* addicted to that game, so I guess in that case it's worked.
  • Defguru7777 - July 25, 2011 7:27 p.m.

    I think the last XBLA game I bout was Dead Rising 2: Case WEST. There aren't that many games that interest me on XBLA. But I don't mind the games being 1,200 points. It seems fair to me.
  • SteampunkJim - July 25, 2011 7:18 p.m.

    Oh, good. I don't mind more games being 1200 points. When I read the title, I was afraid we were jumping to 1600 points.
  • idlemindkiller - July 25, 2011 7:11 p.m.

    I dont mind paying the 1200 points for a game as long as it is high quality. What Xbox Live and PSN both need to do is lower the prices of quite a few games that have been out for a while already on both the services. For example, Castle Crashers should not still be 1200 points.

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