Agreed. If Sony came out and said that they were going to start charging $10 more because games like The Last of Us 2 or Spider-Man were costing so much more to produce, I would not even bat an eye. When EA, 2K and Activision start crying poor, they can just fuck right off until they show that they’ve changed. This has little to do with a generational leap though, and more just the hard reality of rising costs.
I think it has a lot to do with the blurring of the lines of the generations, how people purchase software and media now (digitally), and their expectations surrounding that. I don’t view it as getting a “free” upgrade, but more that I have purchased the game and should not have to worry about which version I bought.
I have an expectation that all my games that I bought on PS4 and XB1 should just work on the new consoles. I have that expectation because I know there is little technical reason this cannot be the case for the majority of games and that in a world of iPhones and digital purchases, this is now how things do work. There is no reason that I should be asked to re-purchase Cuphead to play it on a newer system.
If that is the expectation, then the question of whether they should charge for the upgraded version of a game, and how they do that, starts to become a quagmire of marketing and communication.
When MS started talking about the Xbox family and “no gamer left behind”, my assumption was (hopefully) that if you bought the Xbox version of a game, you were simply buying the Xbox version. It didn’t matter if you had a One S or a Series X, the game would just work and you would get the best version of the game possible for the system you are playing it on.
It is simple, consumer friendly, and means you just need 1 SKU for a game (not counting Deluxe and other editions). The only complication comes in when you inevitably start having system requirements on games and have to communicate that you need a certain system (IE Series S) to run it. But it is still only 1 SKU and only slightly different than it is at each generational change.
I didn’t even want to start to think about the mess that would be introduced if they started having different versions of the same game some of the time, but not all of the time.... but here we are.
Taking NBA2K21 as the example:
I am a PS4 owner. I buy the PS4 version of the game. Presumably this version will also work on a PS5 when I buy one. Will I have an option to upgrade? Will I have to pay? If so how much? If there is no upgrade option does that mean I have to shell out another $70 for what is essentially the same game? Will I just be satisfied with whatever is playing on the PS5 with the version I have? If I have to pay $70 and the difference is minimal, will I feel ripped off and unhappy about purchasing the game twice, and my purchase of the PS5? Will it even be communicated to me that there is a better version available, or will I blissfully keep playing the PS4 version on the PS5 and convince myself it looks much better? Maybe it will look better because my PS4 was a standard version and the PS5 is playing the game as the same level as a PS4 Pro (or even better than that) but not at the level of the PS5 version.
I am another PS4 owner. I buy the PS5 version of the game thinking it will let me play the PS4 version but I will be future proofed for when I buy a PS5 because that’s how other games work, and I know the $99 version includes both versions. I get home to find that the PS4 version is not included and now have to either spend another $60-$100 to play it on the PS4, or try and beg for a refund/exchange to get the right version. I also now discover to “future proof” my purchase, I have to buy the $99 version with all the shitty VC currency.
I am a PS5 owner. I buy the PS4 version of the game not realizing there is a difference, or that it doesn’t work the same as other games that I’ve purchased which includes both the PS4 and PS5 versions. I get the game home, and it runs, but doesn’t look as good as I had expected. Maybe the game offered me an upgrade, maybe it didn’t. Maybe I think the game is just trying to get me to buy some microstransaction for it. Maybe I’m oblivious to the fact that I’m playing the old version. Maybe I go online to complain about how the game doesn’t look any better than a PS4 version and that the PS5 isn’t worth the money.
Now factor in that some games will have different versions, others won’t. Some may have a current gen only version and then a version that is next gen and current gen. Some may have a paid upgrade path, others may not....
I thank god that I don’t work in retail anymore.
If they are going to blur the lines, it needs to be simple to understand what you are purchasing and needs to be consistent. When consumers don’t know what they are purchasing, or what they are getting for their money, or if they feel buckle and dimes, it turns them off of making that purchase in the first place.