With increased competition from social games, cheap mobile games and the continuous improvement of free-to-play games, the prices of digital games have been decreasing gradually over the last three years. However, there is one exception from that trend: Xbox Live Arcade.
"If you look at Live Arcade, and do the math, and look at the publicly available sales numbers, you can see that average prices on XBLA have crept up over the last few years, which has been an interesting trend because on some app markets there's been a race to zero as fast as possible," Xbox Live Arcade's portfolio director Chris Charla admitted during the Develop conference.
"We've seen a little bit of the opposite happening," he added. "I don't really know where prices are going to go - ultimately, that's set by the market - but it has been really gratifying to see that people are willing to a premium price for digital content."
Charla noted that of the 86 XBLA games released in 2009, 21 were priced at 1200 Microsoft Points ($15). The number of games priced at the same price point in 2010 rose to 27 out of the year's 85 games. As for 2011, 20 games has already been sold at that price point with more than 5 months still remaining till the end of the year.
But Charla believes that the average price increase in fully justified by the equivalent increase in game' quality. The XBLA portfolio director noted that the average MetaCritic score of XBLA games has risen by 12 points since the start of 2008.
"Sometimes, when [developers] talk about Live Arcade they're like, '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."
"I think the games that we're shipping - a Limbo or a Castle Crashers - are as good as anything on the market."