Regardless of how you feel about Bayonetta as a game or as a character. Platinum may have found one thing that we should all agree on, and that is its new pricing model for Bayonetta that focuses on the franchise. Come this February, Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 will both be making their debut onto the Nintendo Switch (buy it this time), offering a few new features and slightly enhanced visuals. While the physical copy of Bayonetta 2—which includes the first game as a download—will be offered at the price of $60, the digital version will be doing something a little different than usual.
Instead, Bayonetta will have the following prices:
- Bayonetta 2 will cost $50.
- However, once you buy Bayonetta 2, you’ll then be able to get Bayonetta for $10.
- Bayonetta will cost $30.
- However, once you buy Bayonetta, you’ll then be able to get Bayonetta 2 for $30
In an industry that seems to be forever stuck in the same pricing model, this seemingly insignificant change is in actuality something that the rest of the gaming industry should take note of.
The Value of The Franchise
Games—especially those developed by third-party developers—have a nasty habit of devaluing themselves. Take for example any of the many franchises developed by Ubisoft and you will find a trend of devaluing games at an extremely expedited pace. As soon as a game is released, a $60 game will quickly become a $30 game. Release a sequel, and now that $30 game is maybe $20 at best. That is, for game franchises, the value is always placed on the newest and latest release.
This method of pricing comes with a drawback of previous products being devalued at such a fast rate that it ends up hurting the perception of the brand. When you are creating a product, and one of the known attributes of the brand is that it drops in price, the perceived value of the brand becomes lower than what it could be. Consider a game franchise such as Assassins Creed during the time after Assassins Creed 3 where entries were yearly. With the exception of Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag, there was a general perception that the other titles Ubisoft was producing were of lesser quality (which they were). Titles such as Assassins Creed Rogue, Assassins Creed Liberation, and Assassins Creed Chronicles all released close to each other and fell in price and value quickly. In turn, this resulted in a downturn of the franchise with Assassins Creed Unity being the bottom of that deep chasm. Even with the success of Assassins Creed Syndicate, it would take until Assassins Creed Origins before the franchise was seen in a different light. These rapid releases were all cannibalizing each other’s value and sale, as soon as one was out, the next game came out, and the next and the next. The short-term gains of rapid releases and discounts in the long run just hurt the franchise as a whole.
In contrast, by using the pricing structure set forth by Platinum Games for Bayonetta, older titles end up maintaining their value. Taking for example Assassins Creed, Ubisoft could have deployed a similar pricing model by maintaining Assassins Creed Black Flag for $30, and maintain Assassins Creed Rogue for $30 or keep Assassins Creed Black Flag for $20, Assassins Creed Rogue for $20, and Assassins Creed Unity for $20. It could take on any number of various different pricing structures, but regardless of which one it could take, it would still benefit from one important factor. It would alter the devaluation of games themselves, potentially offering a unique benefit to both fans of the series and the developers.
Devaluing a game slower does more than just benefit the developer or the one selling the game, it can potentially benefit the fans. Franchises, be it young or old, all reach a point where they have a problem attracting new fans. New franchises struggle to gain traction, they need to entice people to experience this new series for the first time and it can be a bit of a struggle. Couple this with a series that is dependent on the player playing the franchise in chronological order and that struggle exponentially becomes even harder. Old franchises go through periods of disinterest or change that can turn many away from tried and true games that previously, were quite successful. In both these scenarios, the issue that exists is the same; more people need to get on board.
Now traditional thinking would most likely result in discounting the titles; the lower the price the lower the barrier to entry and thus, more sales. This race to the bottom, however, while it may generate more sales, does nothing to preserve the franchise itself. In fact, it does much the opposite. Instead, it becomes a race against fleeting success to generate enough sales to keep the ship afloat as work on the next games are being finalized to be sold; only repeating the process again. If one of the titles performs poorly, it puts the developer in a poor situation. But, if it is the third title of a franchise, and the second doesn’t do so well, pricing the games as a franchise may insulate a developer from this problem and allow the franchise to succeed as a whole. Let’s take the Metroid Prime Trilogy (yes, I know its a tetralogy now) as an example.
In the case of Metroid Prime, the 1st title sold the best, followed by the 3rd, and then the 2nd. Thankfully with Metroid being backed by Nintendo, the trilogy didn’t stop there. For a developer who doesn’t own the same hoards of reserves that Nintendo does, this could have been a problem. So what is one possible way of sheltering from this issue? Pricing your series out like a franchise, rather than individual entries. That is, all the parts together have more worth than each game individually. If Metroid Prime is a smash hit, but it’s on the older side, it could potentially be priced at $20. The title is well rated and of good quality but it still can’t be priced too high so people can easily jump into the franchise. Metroid Prime 2, however, is an underperformer, but is still integral to the story and plot, so it could be priced at $10. Metroid Prime 3 is the latest and greatest, and while it didn’t have as many sales, it’s still a quality title that may have lost some sales due to the previous entries’ poor reception. In this scenario, the value is kept across the franchise dependent on where you are in the franchise. If you are new, then all of these price points serve as a way to break up the cost dependent on the title within the franchise. If you are attempting to buy the latest title at full price, then you can go back and purchase the older ones at an extreme discount, in either scenario the end price is the same.
Effectively, this allows a developer to piecemeal out a franchise at prices that benefit the franchise as a whole. Consumers may pay a little more upfront, but with a higher price tag, one can expect a higher quality game, even if it’s a little older. But by paying more upfront and saving on the end, it can allow a franchise that may have hit a slightly rocky time, a bit more leeway in its development and present consumers a way to catch up with the latest entry.
It’s not to say that this particular method is the best, but rather that it is another option. It is another way to look at pricing, another way to maintain the value of a brand, another way to keep a project afloat, and keeping fans of a franchise from potentially seeing it all fall apart.. For some game franchises, this is exactly what they need, and Bayonetta having the turbulent life that it has, it’s good to see such a model being applied to it. It’s only through exploring these pricing models and different ways to value games that we can see more sustainable and beneficial models not only for developers but ones that can keep fans happy by getting what they want.