Launching A $60+ Game Seems Like A Bad Idea Right Now

Image: Kotaku / SB Arts Media (Shutterstock)
Image: Kotaku / SB Arts Media (Shutterstock)

While recent big-budget, $60+ games like Suicide Squad and Immortals of Aveum seem unable to find success, many smaller and weirder titles are exploding on Steam and developing large communities around them. Games like Helldivers 2, Palworld, Lethal Company, and Sons of the Forest are all major standouts for this year. And what do these games have in common? A cheaper price tag.

I was recently looking at some of the most popular games released in the last year or so to see what I could play more of as part of my ongoing, never-ending journey to create content for the internet. And that’s when I noticed that so many of the biggest games right now—the ones with thousands of players and tons of online chatter—are being sold for much less than the industry standard $60 or the new normal $70 price tag, and many of them aren’t massive AAA titles overstuffed with content, either. These more affordable games are often also smaller and focused on nailing something very specific. It turns out that right now, that’s what a lot of players want more than some $70 massive, bloated AAA game that tries (and fails) to be everything to everyone.

The success of Helldivers 2 and other cheaper games

One of the biggest blockbusters in 2024 is Helldivers 2. And while the game was published by Sony and has a lot of resources behind it, it doesn’t feel like the usual AAA games we get these days. It’s harder, messier, and not as accessible. Yet, it’s also killing it right now. And a big part of that success, I think, comes down to its $40 price tag. It’s just a more affordable option, and when you combine that with positive word of mouth and strong reviews, it’s easy to see how so many people have been convinced by friends or the internet to give Helldivers 2 a shot. I mean, it’s only $40.

That lower price point really does seem to help these days. In a time when a lot of folks are struggling to make ends meet, to keep a roof over their head, or to even find a job, money is more important than ever. And when looking for a game to buy with those limited funds, stuff under $60 or even $50 is a far more alluring option, especially when those games—like Palword—often let you play with friends, receive new content updates, and feature unique experiences. (Like shooting Pokemon with guns while building castles.)

I know plenty of people who bought Lethal Company— a first-person low-fi co-op horror game—and are having a blast with it. These are people who don’t normally like scary games, too. And the main reason they gave it a shot, besides the positive reviews, was the price point. It’s just $10. It’s hard to feel bad spending so little on something.

In the last few months, Manor Lords, Gray Zone Warfare, and Content Warning have all seen huge numbers on Steam shortly after release. All of these games offer up specific and/or weird experiences at a lower price point than the latest, somewhat predictable, AAA open-world action game.

Meanwhile, big $60+ games like Suicide Squad and Ubisoft’s long-awaited pirate title Skull And Bones seem to have launched and promptly disappeared into the ether. I don’t know anyone who is playing these games, talking about them online, or successfully convincing others to buy them and hop in. That’s partly because they aren’t great, but I also think it’s because they cost so much at a time when a dollar doesn’t go as far as it did before, and when cheaper, better options—like Balatro and Pacific Drive—are available instead.

Hopefully in the future, we get more smaller, cheaper games

I understand that making games is expensive and publishers can’t afford to charge less than $60. But I’d suggest that if that method continues to fail or deliver lackluster results, perhaps charging less and not spending 6+ years developing one game is the better option.

The next main Fallout game likely won’t be out until 2030 or later at this point, but Bethesda game director Todd Howard knows that is too long a wait and promised the team wants to get stuff out faster.

Image: Bethesda
Image: Bethesda

I’d suggest—and Bethesda seems open to this—letting other developers instead take a stab at the series and letting them make smaller, weirder Fallout games that will be sold for far less than $60. People get more games, devs aren’t stuck working on the same thing for the better part of a decade, and entire studios don’t have to roll the dice on one game hopefully being a hit like Baldur’s Gate III. That seems like a better future for everyone, well besides the rich execs in charge of “making number go up” no matter the cost.

As we watch the game industry continue to struggle, with studios closing and developers being laid off en masse, it’s worth it for publishers to look at what’s succeeding. It’s useful to evaluate what games people like, care about, and are willing to buy and play for months, maybe even years, after release.

And the more I look around, the more I’m convinced that in 2024 (and probably even 2025) the best chance at success comes at a lower price point. And if you can offer players something weird, different, or hyper-specific for that amount of money, you’ll likely be the next game I write about on Kotaku with a headline like “Latest Steam Blockbuster Is This Unexpected Card Game” instead of a bad news story or worse…nothing at all.


For the latest news, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.