Sega Collection: The online pricing problem in full effect

Sega sent out word today that they’ll be releasing a collection of old-school Genesis games for PlayStation 2 and PSP. It’ll include 30-plus games, including Altered Beast, Phantasy Star (I assume that means Phantasy Star II and/or III, since the original came out on Sega Master System), and Golden Axe. These are the original games, not updated versions a la Xbox Live Arcade’s Frogger.

The news release doesn’t list a price for the fall release, but compilations like this usually cost $20 or $30. Because of the number of titles included, let’s assume for the moment that this will cost 30 bucks. Depending on your point of view, that either makes sense because the game costs much less to produce than a new PlayStation 2 title; or it’s absurdly high since the production costs are minimal. Either way, it’s consistent with other game prices.

But what happens in the fall when Nintendo releases the Wii and offers these games for download via the Virtual Console? The Genesis Collection disc — the $30 price covers 30-plus games as well as packaging/shipping costs and minor production expenses — argues for less than a dollar per game. That’s highly unlikely, but will Nintendo do the right thing and give us games for a buck?

These old-school games, especially the ones that aren’t updated, cost essentially nothing. Many of us have already bought them several times over. If we can buy them on a disc for less than a dollar apiece, what’s the justification for charging $5 or $10 for them? Digital downloading of music, though it’s booming, has been stunted somewhat because record labels still haven’t explained why music as pure information costs as much as music as actual object. Let’s hope video game companies don’t make the same mistake.

— August 10, 2006

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