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Thread: Video games used to be EXPENSIVE

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    Default Video games used to be EXPENSIVE

    ...compared to now. Take a gander at some of these catalogs for video game stores during the late 1980s and 1990s. (https://huguesjohnson.com/scans/)

    Keep in mind, $59.99 today = $33.08 in December 1992. That's a typical price for a new video game now. $100 today is $55.14 then; a majority of new games on SNES were going for more than that. Genesis games were slightly cheaper on average but still considerably more expensive than today's games. Even NES games were normally $40-50 ($72.54 - $90.68). New games on a dying console.

    For instance, in the Christmas 1992 Electronics Boutique (EB) catalog, not many games were available for near or under $33.08. Super Mario World was $44.99, but it was a year old and if you had an SNES, you probably already had it. That's $81.59 in today's money. Zelda: A Link to the Past? $49.99 then = $90.66 now. LJN games like Terminator 2 and NBA All Star Challenge were $59.99 then = $108.80 now.

    Street Fighter II would set you back $74.99 then. That's $136.00 today! You could also get a Capcom-designed joystick for $79.99 then = $145.07 today. I don't think very many people today would blow $136 on the latest hit video game, let alone $283 for the game + a special controller. No word on how the controller sold, but SFII flew off store shelves. The Miracle Piano is my favorite. $399.99 then = $725.41 today for a piano that works with your SNES!


    I'm working on getting the statistics together, using the Christmas catalogs from 1988-1999 to get an average price for the games on each system. I could use all the catalogs, but that would take too much time, so I'm limiting my analysis to what the games were selling for in the Christmas season of each year. A game launched early in the year may be cheaper than its launch price, and video games sell best during the holiday season anyway.
    Real collectors drive Hondas, Toyotas, Chevys, Fords, etc... not Rolls Royces.

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    It seems like the general trend is that necessities are skyrocketing while entertainment products have gotten cheaper over time (when inflation is factored in). You can placate the masses who will never be able to afford to own their own home and will spend their whole lives paying off student loans with Black Friday deals on TVs and video games. When you factor in inflation, sure, today's games are cheaper, but I don't think games were necessarily more of a hardship to afford in the past. Wages have stagnated and not kept up with inflation, and when you're paying more for gas and milk and all the little basics of life, you have less to put toward a $60 game, even if that $60 is only $33 in 1992 money. I was dropping as much as $80 on SNES games, and sure, it was a significant chunk of money, such that I'd only buy new games myself a couple times a year, and one new video game was usually my "big" Christmas present, but it still didn't feel like the equivalent of spending $150 these days.

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    Here's the analysis for 1988. Source: Sears catalog.
    The games in the catalog, as well as the system price, were averaged, as well as the price for 10 average games plus the system to give an idea of how much a reasonably-sized setup for the time would cost in total.

    Sega Master System: Average game $31.81 (AFI $67.94) - range $29.99 to $39.99 (AFI $64.05 - $85.40) - 11 games
    System itself $99.99 (AFI $213.54)
    System + 10 games would be $418.09 (AFI $892.19)

    NES: Average game $32.99 ($70.46 AFI) - range $29.99 - $37.99 (AFI $64.05 - $81.13) - 12 games
    System itself $89.99 (AFI $192.19)
    System + 10 games would be $419.89 (AFI $896.74)

    As you can see, in 1988 video games themselves were more expensive than they are today, but the system was less expensive. A system and ten games would run slightly more expensive than today.

    The reference value for "today's average" is a $225 system (the PS4 is available new in the $250 range and the Xbox One runs about $200), and $59.99 for new games, for a total of $825 for the system + 10 games.
    Real collectors drive Hondas, Toyotas, Chevys, Fords, etc... not Rolls Royces.

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    That is true. Video games are cheaper, but we often have less money to pay for them.
    Real collectors drive Hondas, Toyotas, Chevys, Fords, etc... not Rolls Royces.

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    Here's the analysis for 1990. Source: EB Christmas catalog.
    The games in the catalog, as well as the system price, were averaged, as well as the price for 10 average games plus the system to give an idea of how much a reasonably-sized setup for the time would cost in total.

    NES: Average game $42.95 (AFI $82.61) - range $29.49 to $59.99 (AFI $56.72 - $115.38) - 34 games
    System itself (Sports Set) $149.99 (AFI $288.49)
    System + 10 games would be $579.49 (AFI $1,114.57)

    Sega Genesis: Average game $50.99 (AFI $98.07) - range $29.99 - $69.99 (AFI $57.68 - $134.62) - 21 games
    System itself $189.99 (AFI $365.42)
    System + 10 games would be $699.89 (AFI $1,346.14)

    Turbo Grafx 16: Average game $54.37 (AFI $104.57) - range $39.99 - $61.99 (AFI $76.92 - $119.23) - 8 games
    System itself $159.99 (AFI $307.72)
    System + 10 games would be $703.69 (AFI $1,353.45)

    Turbo Grafx CD: Average game $59.99 (AFI $115.38) - all games same price - 4 games
    System itself $399.99 (AFI $769.33)
    System + 10 games would be $999.89 (AFI $1,923.15) (if there were 10 games then)

    Sega Master System: Average game $39.99 (AFI $76.92) - all games same price - 3 games
    System itself $59.99 (AFI $115.38)
    System + 10 games would be $459.89 (AFI $884.54)

    The 16-bit systems cost more, as well as their games, than the venerable NES. Those little HuCards would put a big dent in the wallet. However, the NES games showed a significant jump over their 1988 price.
    Real collectors drive Hondas, Toyotas, Chevys, Fords, etc... not Rolls Royces.

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    Here's the analysis for 1991. Source: EB Christmas catalog.
    The games in the catalog, as well as the system price, were averaged, as well as the price for 10 average games plus the system to give an idea of how much a reasonably-sized setup for the time would cost in total.

    SNES: Average game $57.99 (AFI $108.22) - range $47.99 to $69.99 (AFI $89.56 - $130.61) - 12 games
    System itself $199.99 (AFI $373.22)
    System + 10 games would be $779.89 (AFI $1,455.41)

    NES: Average game $45.48 (AFI $84.87) - range $37.99 - $57.99 (AFI $70.90 - $108.22) - 37 games
    System itself $89.99 (AFI $167.94)
    System + 10 games would be $544.79 (AFI $1,016.68)

    Genesis: Average game $50.89 (AFI $94.97) - range $36.49 - $69.99 (AFI $68.10 - $130.61) - 24 games
    System itself $149.99 (AFI $279.91)
    System + 10 games would be $658.89 (AFI $1,229.61)

    Turbo Grafx 16: Average game $52.49 (AFI $97.96) - range $49.99 - $54.99 (AFI $93.61 - $102.62) - 2 games
    System itself $99.99 (AFI $186.60)
    System + 10 games would be $624.89 (AFI $1,166.16)

    Neo Geo: Average game $194.99 (AFI $363.89) - range $169.99 - $199.99 (AFI $317.23 - $373.22) - 6 games
    System itself $649.99 (AFI $1,213.00)
    System + 10 games would be $2,599.89 (AFI $4,851.86)

    The astounding price of the Neo Geo is shown here; a Neo Geo and 10 games would cost over 3 times as much as an SNES and 10 games; the price of the Neo Geo games was as much as the SNES alone!
    Last edited by WelcomeToTheNextLevel; 12-12-2019 at 01:39 AM.
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    Virtua Racing sticker price was $100 when it came out in 94. $171 in todays dollars

    VHS prices were similarly expensive in the early 80s. people rented VHS a lot more than they bought and you see that with video games from the late 80s and early 90s where people rented a lot more than they bought. my family did at least. many of the cartridges I see are former rentals

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    It's weird how that works. A pound of 100% ground beef in the US was $1.29 a pound in 1984. In 2019 at "non sale" price for 90% lean around my area of the upper Midwest is $5.99-$6.99 at most grocery stores. That $2.44/2.82 in 1984 money with beef in higher production than it was then.

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    Thumbs up

    It might be interesting to also compare production budgets over time. Comparing quality would be most interesting of all, though I suppose that is only possible on a personal basis.

    Still, I think you might find what we all suspect.

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    It's not just about adjusting purchase prices for inflation, you have to compare the wages available at the time as well. I doubt wages have increased by the same rate of inflation compared to then, people had more buying power with their income. Not just comparing minimum wages either, more jobs paid above minimum wage back then and often included benefits that aren't included anymore, meaning those things now have to be paid from their income as well. There's less disposable income today with most people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gameguy View Post
    It's not just about adjusting purchase prices for inflation, you have to compare the wages available at the time as well. I doubt wages have increased by the same rate of inflation compared to then, people had more buying power with their income. Not just comparing minimum wages either, more jobs paid above minimum wage back then and often included benefits that aren't included anymore, meaning those things now have to be paid from their income as well. There's less disposable income today with most people.
    inflation calculators take those things into account. the term is called purchasing power. the most accurate index to measure a commodity's price is by looking at minutes required to work by the average person in order to afford said commodity.

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    Yes, they do, I'm using the one from data.bls.gov so I can get down-to-the-month accuracy.

    Anyway, so far I've found that during the 1988-1991 period video games were more expensive than they are now but not prohibitively so. I have the data for the '92 catalog finished, the '93, '95 and '97 catalogs still need to be done. The '99 catalog was found to be all PC stuff so it isn't going in. I'm particularly looking forward to the '95 and '97 catalogs, I want to see what the new generation did for game prices. From what I remember from the late-1990s things started to shift toward the way they were today with inflation adjusted game prices closer to the $60 we see today (maybe not that low yet, but getting there) rather than the $100 or so of the 16-bit era.

    Anyway, here's the 1992 data from the EB Christmas catalog. This one's particularly interesting to me as I was born on Christmas Day 1992, so this is what people were paying for new video games when I was born. They also had Sega CD but only the system (which was $299.99 - AFI $544.05) but no games.

    SNES: Average game $57.03 (AFI $103.43) - range $39.99 to $74.99 (AFI $89.56 - $130.61) - 46 games
    System itself $139.99 (AFI $253.88)
    System + 10 games would be $710.29 (AFI $1,288.16)

    NES: Average game $43.37 (AFI $78.65) - range $29.99 - $59.99 (AFI $54.39 - $108.80) - 26 games
    System itself $89.99 (AFI $163.20)
    System + 10 games would be $523.69 (AFI $949.75)

    Genesis: Average game $51.90 (AFI $94.12) - range $37.99 - $67.99 (AFI $68.90 - $123.30) - 35 games
    System itself $119.99 (AFI $217.61)
    System + 10 games would be $638.99 (AFI $1,158.85)

    Turbo Grafx 16: Average game $47.75 (AFI $86.60) - range $44.99 - $49.99 (AFI $81.59 - $90.66) - 4 games
    System itself $69.99 (AFI $126.93)
    System + 10 games would be $547.49 (AFI $992.91)

    Turbo Duo: Average game $48.99 (AFI $88.85) - range $47.99 - $51.99 (AFI $87.03 - $94.29) - 4 games
    System itself $299.99 (AFI $544.05)
    System + 10 games would be $789.89 (AFI $1,432.52)

    16-bit games were in the $100 range, adjusted for inflation, for the two market leading systems. The NES games remained surprisingly expensive despite the fact that the console was on its way out.

    (Remember, this price analysis covers NEW games; as in all years, some games released in earlier years may still be available new and in the catalog, for instance SMB 3 was in this catalog)
    Real collectors drive Hondas, Toyotas, Chevys, Fords, etc... not Rolls Royces.

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    I remember not having a job and doing all kinds of statistics and data entry on video games. I dont have time for that now.

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    Here's the 1993 data, again, from the EB Christmas catalog:

    CD-i: Average game $47.45 (AFI $83.75) - range $39.95 to $49.95 (AFI $70.51 - $88.16) - 4 games
    System itself $399.95 (AFI $705.94)
    System + 10 games would be $874.45 (AFI $1,543.46)

    SNES: Average game $58.29 (AFI $102.89) - range $39.99 to $74.99 (AFI $70.58 - $132.36) - 68 games
    System itself $139.99 (AFI $247.09)
    System + 10 games would be $722.89 (AFI $1,275.95)

    NES: Average game $35.99 (AFI $63.52) - range $29.99 - $49.99 (AFI $52.93 - $88.24) - 16 games
    System itself $49.99 (AFI $88.24)
    System + 10 games would be $409.89 (AFI $723.48)

    Genesis: Average game $55.47 (AFI $97.91) - range $27.99 - $79.99 (AFI $49.40 - $141.19) - 50 games
    System itself $129.99 (AFI $229.44)
    System + 10 games would be $684.69 (AFI $1,208.52)

    Sega CD: Average game $52.74 (AFI $93.09) - range $39.99 - $59.99 (AFI $70.58 - $105.89) - 24 games
    System itself $229.99 (AFI $405.95)
    System + 10 games would be $757.39 (AFI $1,336.84)

    3DO: Average game $55.99 (AFI $98.83) - range $49.99 - $59.99 (AFI $88.24 - $105.89) - 13 games
    System itself $699.99 (AFI $1,235.53)
    System + 10 games would be $1,259.89 (AFI $2,223.78)

    The 3DO put a surprisingly small dent in the wallet: while the system was massively more expensive than the competition, games were actually about the same price as SNES and Genesis. I guess the moral of the story is, if you could get a 3DO in '93... load up on games. The Sega CD was surprisingly cheap, all things considered: games were a bit cheaper than SNES and Genesis, the magic of CD technology.

    At only $27.99 (AFI $49.40), Chakan for Sega Genesis is the first game that comes in under $50 inflation adjusted (though not for long). I wonder what made it so cheap? It was even cheaper than any of the NES games! Lethal Enforcers, also on Genesis, was a whopping $79.99 (AFI $141.19). Speaking of the NES, the game prices were finally starting to come down, and the system itself was cheaper than an average new game for the 16-bit systems.
    Real collectors drive Hondas, Toyotas, Chevys, Fords, etc... not Rolls Royces.

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