Microsoft has admitted that the average price of Xbox Live Arcade games is on the rise, with more new games costing 1200 Microsoft Points (MSP) than ever before, but believes the increase is justified by a rise in quality of games available on the service.
Speaking to GI.biz at last week's Develop conference in Brighton, XBLA portfolio director Chris Charla said: "If you look at Live Arcade, and at the publicly available sales numbers, you can see that the average prices on XBLA have crept up over the last few years, which has been an interesting trend because on some app markets there's been a race to zero as fast as possible.
"We've seen a little bit of the opposite happening. I don't really know where prices are going to go – ultimately, that's set by the market – but it has been really gratifying to see that people are willing to pay a premium price for digital content."
Charla is right abour price: in 2009, 21 of 86 games released on the service were priced at 1200 MSP; last year that rose to 27 of 85; and this year has already seen 20 games released at the maximum price. However, he believes this is justified by an increase in quality.
Claiming that the average Metacritic score for XBLA games has risen 12 points since 2008, he said: "Sometimes, when [devs] talk about Live Arcade, they're like: 'We want to do a boxed-quality game on Live Arcade,' and I'm like: 'What does that mean?' I can point to a bunch of 38 and 42 and 56 Metacritic-scoring boxed games, so it actually kind of pisses me off. I think the games that we're shipping – a Limbo or a Castle Crashers – are as good as anything on the market."
The gradual increase in prices on XBLA is certainly out of sync with other digital download services, and mobile app stores in particular. Another area where Microsoft's strategy differs from that of its peers is free-to-play, and while Charla declined to comment on recent rumours that the firm is to follow the lead of Steam and several high-profile online titles and offer free-to-play games and microtransaction support, neither did he rule it out.
"Sometimes people get this incorrect impression about Microsoft, that we're very hide-bound or set in our ways, and just because somebody might not have been seeing everything that we're doing, they might think that Microsoft will never do that," he said.
"The reality is…it's actually a pretty dynamic company, and always eager to look and learn. We want to do things right, so we might take our time, but we're always eager to see the innovations people are bringing us."