Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Arcade vs Simulation / 15 vs 60

Should Arcade Sports games sell at the same price as their Simulation cousins?


With the recent releases of FIFA Street and SSX, the question regarding the price of games makes an appearance once again. Both games play more towards the non-traditional sports loving audience and yet, both launched in stores with 60 dollars price tags. Is this a smart move? With the increase of digital content, should arcade sports games be released at full price?

Looking back over the last 9 months, it has been an incredible year for the sports genre. There have been a number of great gaming options ranging from sim-focused releases such as NBA 2K12 and FIFA 12 to arcade-centric games like NBA JAM: On Fire Edition and NFL Blitz. While the choice has been vast, the one thing that has been common until now is price. Arcade games have been digital releases with 15 dollar price tags while the simulation games hit retail with 60 dollar price tags.

But why are both FIFA Street and SSX selling for 60 dollars? Both games would be classified as arcade games. In the case of SSX, it contains a lot of unrealistic aspects and over-the-top action. For FIFA Street, while the game doesn’t go with the overboard with unrealistic content, it isn’t as deep when put side to side to its bigger brother, FIFA 12.

In fact, both games released with a lot of scrutiny and uncertainty. SSX was marred early on due to the poor reception of its initial teaser and with a five year gap between games in the series, many people had lost interest or were hesitant to ride down a mountain again. Even with the glowing reviews, we won’t know how well it was received by the masses until March NPD numbers are released in April.

For FIFA, it is a dual-edged sword. While not technically bad games, the original FIFA Street series wasn’t that great, overshadowed by the more popular NBA Street. It also came out at a time when EA’s EA Sports Big branding released so many action and arcade centric sports games that it felt more like a quick cash grab than anything else. Both FIFA Street and NFL Street couldn’t keep with the success of NBA Street and neither managed to last as long. Yes, NBA Street disappeared after NBA Street Homecourt but there is still a vocal community longing for EA to bring the series back, or for someone else to resurrect Streetball in video game form. The closest thing we’ve had recently was the NBA Legends Showcase DLC last December for NBA 2K12, which was a $10 add on.

The other side of the FIFA Street coin is simple: it’s FIFA. EA’s answer to Call of Duty is clearly FIFA, and it’s fair to say that FIFA is more recognizable as a global brand. It is a huge money maker and incredibly popular. EA knows that soccer fans, especially Europeans, will eat up FIFA Street and regardless of how it is received critically, will be among the best selling games for the next few weeks, if not longer.

EA isn’t afraid to release retail sports games below the sixty dollar price point. When NBA JAM went on sale for PS3 and 360 in late 2010, it had a 40 dollars MSRP. February’s Grand Slam Tennis 2 also released at a lower price, 50 dollars. In the case of NBA JAM, that was more under pressure due to the rushed nature of the game and the voices of gamers unwilling to justify a full price purchase of a game originally intended as a downloadable bonus for owners of NBA Elite 11. For Grand Slam Tennis 2, they were releasing a game for a sport they had limited familiarity with. While it may have been even better suited at 40 dollars as well, they were still willing to sell it with a lower price tag in the hopes of enticing gamers to it.

If we strip down every aspect of FIFA Street, chances are it would have worked just as well as a downloadable game. SSX may have been a little bit more difficult to produce as a digital release with the same amount of content it currently has. Had they started development thinking of it as a digital title first, then they could have found a way to do so. Considering the size limitations for digital games have increased significantly over the year, it makes it even easier for developers to publish content digitally rather than packaging them and selling them in stores.

There is no excuse for developers and publishers to not make arcade-centric sports games and release them digitally. The audience is there and the favorable price point gives people even more reason to pick up a game at 15 dollars instead of 60. The future of arcade sports games rides on the success and failure of both FIFA Street and SSX. If both manage to rack up strong sales across all territories, then we can expect more full priced games. But if either fails, hopefully that leads to full content, arcade-sports games at favorable prices.