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Flashback: 1990s Gaming Made The PlayStation 5 And Xbox Series X Look Cheap

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Flashback: 1990s Gaming Made The PlayStation 5 And Xbox Series X Look Cheap

The recent reveals of the next-gen Xbox and PlayStation haven't gone down without any hiccups. While gamers are clearly excited for the new capabilities of the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5, the price of the games themselves has become a talking point, to say the least.

PlayStation announced that the Ultimate Edition of Spider-Man: Miles Morales will cost $69.99 on PS5, and Bluepoint Games' remake of Demon's Souls is set to retail for the same RRP. The Deluxe Edition of Godfall will cost $79.99, and the same game's Ascended Edition is ten dollars more. NBA 2K21 will be 65 quid on Xbox Series X, and the general feeling is that all AAA games are going to be bumped up from the traditional 60 dollars/pounds price point.

Apparently, according to one industry analyst, gamers are OK with that. Our comments, and those posted elsewhere online, sure say otherwise. Some choice picks from beneath our Facebook post, on the subject: "I don't know a single one happy to pay more." "I won't be buying games full price anymore." "I have never met a human being with even a single functioning brain cell that says, 'Gee I'm happy to spend more on games!'" "Not if we all refuse to pay that price. They'll soon bring the price back down."

Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales / Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment, Marvel, Insomniac Games
Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales / Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment, Marvel, Insomniac Games
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You get the idea. Not all the comments are like that; some suggest that's just the way it needs to be, because video game prices haven't changed all that much over the last few console generations, while the cost of making them has sky-rocketed. But a fair amount of people are cheesed off at being asked to pay more than they were anticipating.

But you only have to rewind to the 1990s to see that, actually, 70 dollars for a new video game isn't so bad. In the era of the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive, games would regularly release for between £50 and £60, new - which in today's money is, based on those games coming out in 1992, £90 and £107 respectively. My Mega Drive copy of Delphine Software's incredible Flashback still has its price sticker on it, from Tandy: £44.99, which would be, when adjusted for inflation, just over £80 today.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter / Credit: Acclaim Entertainment Inc, MobyGames
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter / Credit: Acclaim Entertainment Inc, MobyGames

Which might illustrate that it's about time that video games caught up slightly with everything costing more these days. But then you look at the outliers of the 16-bit era, and other mid-1990s releases. Street Fighter II cost about £70 on the SNES at launch - which, remembering back, people were mostly happy to pay to have the biggest arcade machine of the time on their console (and to get one up over their SEGA-owning mates). Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was also £70 when it came out for the Nintendo 64, in 1997, and cost $79.99 in the US (and $129.95 in Australia). Worth it? I mean, all that thick-as-soup mist wasn't paying for itself.

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But the absolute champion of expensive-as-hell gaming in the 1990s was the Neo Geo. Younger players today won't really get the concept of arcade-perfect home ports, because gaming has moved on from that. But in the 1980s and '90s you'd often see arcade games utterly butchered to fit on home consoles and computers. It was sad, but an accepted thing. Today's consoles, with all that power under the hood, rather do away with that level of compromise - if you can play it in an arcade, a current-gen PlayStation or Xbox can probably handle it. The Neo Geo was something else, though. It was arcade games, at home.

I won't bore you with a fuller history because Neo Geo is something of a legendary brand in gaming, already. But long story short, its makers SNK hit upon the concept of making arcades more adaptable, and manufactured cabinets that could have up to six interchangeable cartridges in them. These were called MVS cabinets, which stood for Multi Video System. Makes sense, right? But SNK went further, and produced a home console that could also play these arcade-quality cartridges.

Samurai Shodown II / Credit: SNK of America, MobyGames
Samurai Shodown II / Credit: SNK of America, MobyGames

The Advanced Entertainment System, or Neo Geo AES, released in 1990 in Japan and the next year in the US and Europe, and cost the best part of $650 to take home. That's nearly $1,250 today. Can you imagine the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 being announced as costing a grand? I appreciate the PlayStation 3 launched at an eye-watering $599 for the 60gb model, but it's got nothing on the AES. For that $650 in 1991 you got the AES console, two chunky arcade stick controllers, and a game - you could choose between Baseball Stars Professional or NAM-1975. Wanted to buy another game with it? Oh boy.

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Neo Geo cartridges, designed as they were to be these impressive arcade experiences, did not come cheap. Recommended retail prices for games like Samurai Shodown II, Fatal Fury Special and Windjammers could be as high as $300. Three hundred dollars, for one game - which is about $570 today. Fancy paying that much for Miles Morales or Godfall? Didn't think so. Nowadays, while many Neo Geo games are available in compilations, on a bespoke mini-console or as digital downloads for modern consoles, those original cartridges (and SNK's subsequent CD-ROM versions) remain highly collectible - which is to say, they're still incredibly pricey.

None of this is me saying: you should shut it and accept that video games have to cost more, in the next generation. I don't blame people for being shocked by how RRPs are set to jump up. None of us are made of money But it sure could be worse.

Enjoyed this little reminder of gaming gone by? Check out our recent Flashback pieces on the Super Mario game you never got to play, and the console that Nintendo made exclusively for Pokémon.


Featured Image Credit: Capcom, SNK of America

Topics: Xbox, Feature, PlayStation, Retro Gaming

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