2019 was our first full calendar year of covering game pricing and digital storefront strategies for console. In that time, we’ve made various expansions to our work, and published a monthly report covering discounting and retail strategy. With all that in mind, here are five predictions for how we see games-related discounting for digital console games changing in 2020:
1. Switch becomes the biggest platform, by volume of game discounts
An obvious one given the size of game catalogue, plus Nintendo’s usage of automated layers for processing discounts. 2019 is when Nintendo overtook Xbox One in terms of volume of discounted games offered, now on track to surpass PS4 in 2020.
2. The ‘race to the bottom’ picks up speed
More and more publishers will begin pushing up against the extreme end of discounting permitted by each platform/region. Some indies made headlines in 2019 by reducing pricing for their games to just a few cents on the Switch USA store, with the benefit of said titles gaining prominence in the bestseller list, producing sales scale to more than offset the tremendous discount. Publishers such as Soedesco are leading a similar charge on PS4.
3. Time is ripe for super-bundling
Small publishers already produce bundles covering large chunks of their catalogue. As we approach the end of this console generation, we expect to see that expand to be all-encompassing, and even for big publishers to get involved, stacking hundreds of dollars of older games & DLC into ~$100 bundles.
4.Small publishers wielding big power
Some indie publishers specialise in releasing a high number of games at a low price. Some have launched 50+ titles, with more appearing by the week. Over time, this portfolio builds up more and more presence in terms of cross-promotion potential, intensifying the competitive landscape. We’re already seeing examples of this strength being leveraged, such as an ‘advent’ promotion from Qubic Games, that saw it giving games away for free during the run-up to Christmas, provided certain purchases had already been made.
If these kinds of initiatives multiply, it’s possible that ‘small’ but prolific publishers may come to represent major competition for attention and spend. Hurdles in the way of this are the limited resource and/or experience on behalf of said publishers, plus the weak access to user ownership permitted by the ecosystems of consoles.
5. GTA 5 goes free
GTA 5’s generation-wide prominence is fuelled by its necessity as a client for accessing GTA Online, which itself has been regularly supported with successful updates. But also, as of 2017, GTA 5’s various bundles and add-ons kicked off a persisting period of intensive discounting activity, a trend that sees the base version of the game decrease in value, in order to keep expanding the audience.
The natural end-point of this is for it to go free – indeed, GTA 5 has recently released onto Xbox Game Pass, plus the retail version (in some UK outlets) has been replaced with a ‘Premium Online Edition’ SKU.